One of the keys to tactical tennis is to plan ahead, to visualize the future, and then use shots to make it happen. Pros and experts say one of the hallmarks of great tennis players is thinking beyond the shot they are about to hit.
We see it in drop shots followed by lobs. It’s evident in shots to the opponents’ “side pocket” (the outside corner of the service box) followed by a shot behind the opponent as they hurry back to center. It’s played out from neighborhood courts to the grass courts of Wimbledon. Players who play within their game but think moves ahead maximize their talents and often succeed.
The same could be said of successful tennis clubs: the successful clubs are the ones who understand their strengths but stay ahead and make decisive moves when it counts.
Such a philosophy has earned the Chapel Hill Tennis Club the honor of being named the U.S. Tennis Association’s North Carolina Member Club of the Year, an honor it also earned in 2008.
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While Chapel Hill Tennis Club manager Alan Rader said the club has kept up with demand through progressive and innovative programing and upgrades to state-of-the-art facilities, but he insists it is the club’s staff and members who really shine.
“Michael ‘Z’ Zaluski is our tennis director, we have a tennis assistant director, and we have two head pro; that rounds out the senior tennis staff, though we do have additional pros on staff,” Rader said. “We make every single decision as a team: the senior staff. That’s worked really well for us. Everybody has a say.”
The Chapel Hill Tennis Club is one of the major tennis, swim, fitness, and recreational facilities in the USTA Southern Section, the CHTC website states. It operates as a non-profit, member-owned organization serving the local community.
Located just south of the NC 54 bypass at 403 Westbrook Drive in Carrboro, the CHTC consists of a clubhouse and expansive grounds, tennis courts, platform (paddle) tennis courts, three pickleball courts, a fitness center, a pool with a waterslide, a pool clubhouse and café, a full service pro shop with racket stringing, and an awesome calendar of events and programming.
The 2014 Member Club of the Year Award is an honor bestowed by the U.S. Tennis Association of North Carolina (formerly, the North Carolina Tennis Association). Founded in 1973, the organization has focused on its singular mission of promoting and developing the game of tennis in North Carolina. All of its proceeds are used to grow tennis in the North Carolina, over 35,000 USTA members currently reside, including over 9,400 juniors and 26,000 adults.
Criteria used to choose an annual Member Club of the Year include community service, hosting of tennis tournaments, seminars, and clinics, special charity events, and involvement in multi-cultural programs. Winners also provide programs for all ages, including team tennis, National Junior Tennis, school play, and recreational programs.
“The Chapel Hill Tennis Club is involved in several different capacities with USTA North Carolina,” USTA North Carolina marketing and communications coordinator Alex Welch said. “They actively promote our league play as well as local tournaments.”
Welch said that a lot of credit goes to Rader who puts effort into everything from promoting the CHTC’s new facilities to the information submitted as an award candidate.
“We have a committee of seven people who decide on these (awards),” Welch said, “and they look at what’s provided by member organizations. Alan put together details on what the club has done throughout its history, what it’s been involved with recently, and how active the club has been with its members.”
“They prioritize communication,” Welch added, “and they really keep their members up to date on everything that’s going on. It’s not about just showing up and playing tennis. They’re really wanting their members involved with as much as possible. They do a great job of that. They’re about as inclusive as they can be. There are a lot of opportunities to play.”
Rader said the club has not rested on its laurels after winning the award six years ago.
“We have 18 clay courts, but in the past four years, we rebuilt 12 of the clay courts – new everything,” Rader said. “They’re in optimal playing condition all day long because of the sub-irrigation system. We also have six hard courts and 16 lighted clay courts that are lit. Six of those hard courts have the 10-and-under lines with one dedicated for 10-and-under play, and we have pickleball lines on three courts.”
Rader said the improvements were simply in keeping with demand for play space at the club.
“We added lighting to our outdoor clay courts because our membership is growing, the number of activities is growing, and USTA leagues are growing every single year, so the demand for lit courts is growing,” Rader said. “We even improved our indoor tennis court lighting. With all of those things working really well, financially, we’ve still been able to improve all aspects of the club.”
Rader said the recession that hit in 2009 didn’t really affect CHTC like it did some businesses.
“Our numbers dropped a little bit, but not significantly,” he said. “And 2010 through 2014 have been record-breaking years. We’ve really never had to take a step back and stop offering anything that we’d traditionally been offering. There haven’t really been obstacles. It’s a tribute to our staff, who work extremely hard, and it’s a tribute to our membership.”
With that philosophy of “grow fever,” Rader is already looking at the next five years.
“We’d like to renovate our fitness facility…and bring in all-new equipment,” he said. “We’re talking about expanding our social area where we’d have additional seating for social events, which are extremely popular. We have dinners, parties, and live music. That’s one of the reasons that the club is doing so well: it’s our tennis social events.”
In the meantime, the Chapel Hill Tennis Club will be considered for the same award on a grander scale, as the NCTA award automatically nominates the club of for the USTA Southern Section Award, alongside similar winners from all nine Southern Section states.”
But that’s at least a few shots into the future. Rader and the Chapel Hill Tennis Club staff and members are hoping this volley ends in an overhead “smash” for the CHTC.