- Dave Haggerty, First Vice President, USTA Board of Directors
- Andrew Feldman, Senior Manager of USTA Learning & Leadership Development
Why they're facilitating:
Responding to the call for more interactivity in the conference, the USTA executed the framework of an open forum in 2011, at least year’s CTDW in Washington D.C. and received extremely positive feedback from the organizers, coaches and volunteers who participated. Previously called "Open Space," attendees utilized the downtime in their workshop schedule to express their thoughts on topics both present on the CTDW docket and ones that didn’t make the list – for a few hours in a large forum, no concern about the state of American tennis was disqualified or omitted.
"For once, the USTA is not setting the agenda – you are," said Feldman to the hundreds about to participate in "IdeaNation," the New Orelans version of the exercise. "We’re the tennis version of the Iowa Caucus. Everyone in this room is a citizen of this great, expansive tennis community, united now in one area with the power to elect topics that are important to our group and take action to bring change to what we want to see changed.
"Ideas come out of the nation of tennis providers!"
Haggerty sees that effective, positive leadership is formed from those willing to speak up at all levels, not simply those at the executive level.
"It’s a great way for anybody to come up with an idea that’s important to them and to talk about it with other people who care about that same idea," said Haggerty. "From there, they can develop and strengthen the idea as a group into something truly big."
Feature Idea: Four Core Truths for IdeaNation
The set-up begins with any attendee standing up and approaching the stage, where they may fill out an idea card with any topic of their choice. Once done, they place their idea card on a large board in the back of the room. Each attendee is then asked to view the board and elect to sit at the numbered station where the card was placed, meeting like-minded partners in the quest to improve programming and events.
In 2012, examples of these groups included:
- How to begin as a new tennis program and run events
- Starting small, growing big: How to make the biggest impact with limited funds
- After-school educational curriculums
- In-school tennis programs
- Cost effectiveness of erecting a facility bubble
- Feeding NJTL kids into Jr. Team Tennis
- Finding & keeping inspiring volunteers
- Grant writing
- Starting a tennis program in a community park
- Fundraising through tournaments
- Making the most out of free courts
- 10 and Under Tennis and finding space to play a new format
- Supporting tennis in Hispanic communities
Many subjects above are not actively being workshopped, while those that are might not be answering the all the questions and concerns of the attendees – thus, IdeaNation serves not only as beneficial for attendees, but for the USTA staff developing the event for this year and beyond.
The facilitators then take the time to break down the four core truths about IdeaNation while the audience is still seated:
1) Whoever comes to your group are the right people.
Feldman: "Whether its 2 or 20 that find a chair, these are the people that you want aligned with you. Though they may have different viewpoints on the topic at hand, their ideas are reflective of the state of that idea. If they’re uninformed, you’re likely dealing with a large population that’s uninformed. You can help them, and they can best help you."
2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Feldman: "Don’t try to force a bow unto things – if at the end you still have more questions than answers about starting a Kids’ Tennis Club, it was meant to be. If anything, it’ll encourage all of us to be proactive going forward in seeking out others who can provide the information we need to be successful."
3) Whenever it starts is the right time.
4) When its over, its over.
How to Improve: Law of Two Feet
The facilitators imparted one last bit of advice before groupthinks began in earnest: "You are responsible with your own two feet for your learning."
As the IdeaNation session progressed, often groups would have turned over fully in the course of an hour – attendees had taken their cue from Haggerty and Feldman and proceeded to use the session to move into conversations that helped knowledge growth. Effectively, the nation was becoming adept at exchanging ideas more effectively within a short time period. With traffic, newcomers needed to be filled in on the major topics at hand, which also increased comprehension and forced incumbents to determine and describe the true issues at hand.
"If you’re not getting the education you need, get up and go," said Feldman. "We can put our egos aside and handle if someone decides to leave. Remember again, whoever comes to your group are the right people."