Career Profile: USTA Director of Community Tennis Digital Products
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Alanna Broderick has previously worked as the USTA National Manager of Junior Play. She is currently the USTA Director of Digital Products for Community Tennis. In this Q&A, she chats about her career path and her prior role at the USTA.
How did you choose this career path?
I’m originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and started playing tennis when I was 11 years old. It turned into a pretty serious journey for me, as far as Junior Tennis is concerned. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world playing international events. Then, I played in college and on the Pro Tour, so tennis has really steered the course of my life and opened a lot doors for me.
How did you get interested in tennis?
My father, who was a tennis enthusiast and fan, introduced me to the game. He was one of the first black tennis players to join Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Tennis Team near London. Tennis opened a lot of doors for him, and he wanted to pass down his love of the game to me. I rebelled and refused to play for a while, but finally started playing when I was almost 12 years old, which is considered a late start. Once I decided that I wanted to play, it was “all hands on deck.” I started practicing almost every day either before or after school. The commute to our local tennis court was far, so my father decided to build a tennis court in our back yard. From that day my life was consumed with tennis and I wouldn’t change that for anything!
What exactly does a National Manager of Junior Tennis do?
I really work to help unify tennis across the nation by working on standards, practices, policies, and programs. From a national perspective, getting all of our sections to align and be consistent has been challenging. Trying to get so many different people to be consistent in delivering programs and formats, when every section is used to doing their own thing and having their own governance, can be tough. But we’ve got some fun, new programs to help with that. One of the initiatives we’ve just launched this year is a project called Youth Progression that can be used at a national level. It’s been a two-year project developing standards and consistent sets of recommended events players should play in, and we’re giving all 17 regional sections the opportunity to opt in to this. There is this really cool gamification interface that kids will be able to be a part of. So, just by giving them this incentive to be a part of this program, it’s really helped with the consistency and delivery of what Ten and Under Tennis looks like across the nation.
How did you get to where you are today?
I got a tennis scholarship to the University of Miami. After that, I got to play on the Pro Tourfor about four years. Then, after playing on the tour, I was kind of lost as to what, exactly, I wanted to do with my life after tennis, so to speak, and I fell into coaching in Long Island, New York. I thought that was going to be just a temporary thing, but it turned into a five-year period of coaching nationally-ranked Juniors. At that point, I wanted to try something
different. Through one of my clients, I got a position at an NFL sports agency working in their marketing department. I did that for two years, but soon realized that I missed tennis. Although I didn’t want to be on the court from 9 to 5, I definitely wanted to get into the business side of tennis. And that’s when my career in the business side of the tennis industry started. I ended up at the Mid-Atlantic section for three years before I was recruited to work here at USTA National Headquarters. I’ve been here at USTA National in Youth Competitions for four years now.
What skills or interests are important in your career?
There are three areas I think are really important in this job: relationship, communication, and presentation skills. Whether you’re an on-court pro or working on the business side, being personable and outgoing is key – because it’s all about forging relationships. If you’re a surly individual who doesn’t like talking to people, this probably is not the industry for you. Second, it’s definitely a verbal, communicative career, because you’re constantly talking and being the cheerleader for other people, so your energy has to always be “up.” You have to portray this passion every day and it can be tough for some people to do that on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time on conference calls, making contacts, and doing workshops, so I’d have to say that communication is a really big part of my job. Presentation skills are also a big factor. I spend a lot of time developing resources for our sections and doing training. I also host webinars and do a lot of on-site presentations to explain the programs we offer. There’s also speaking to groups and running meetings and workshops, so good presentation skills are definitely required.
What’s the best part of the job?
For me, it’s that the day-to-day is very different. Sometimes I’m on the court teaching coaches how to coach young kids, or the next day I’ll be in a committee meeting, or doing a webinar presenting to section staff. So, there’s a lot of variety. It’s not mundane. I get the opportunity to travel the U.S. to visit all of our sections. For me, the best part is the privilege of having the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for the sport and trying to make it better for theJuniors who are coming along now.
What are some of the recent innovations you’ve seen in your field?
The application of gamification principles to tennis for children ten and under is a really awesome new development we’ve been working on for the Youth Progression project. It’s being driven by this IT platform that encourages kids to go through each ball color level. So, we tell them, “You have a mission. Your mission is to clear each ball color level. The way that you do that is by collecting 20 virtual stars and/or trophies at each level. Then, you can move up to the next level.” So, they’re not allowed to go to the next stage until they’ve collected those stars and/or trophies. In the past, kids were given a ranking. They could go to our website to see what their ranking was, or what their standings were. But now, we’re using these gamification principles to incentivize them to play more. The way that they collect the stars and trophies is by participating in USTA events like Play Days, Team Tennis, and Tournaments. So, this is a huge stride in terms of being innovative, in the way that we’re applying gamification principles to drive competitive behavior. It’s the coolest thing I’ve worked on so far at USTA.
Can you share any advice for high school students?
I would encourage them to go to college and get an education. There are new Professional Tennis Management programs coming on board, and if you’re 100% sure that you want to be in tennis, I would definitely encourage you go to a college with P.T.M. focus. If you have a love of tennis and you want to share that love of the game with other people, this is a career that’s always giving back, and is never boring. Taking a career in tennis is a very different path, but it’s a path that could lead to lots of happiness. It’s a great career choice for people who are enthusiastic. Very few people can really say that they love their job. It really gives people the opportunity to share their passion for this amazing sport.