| By Brian Coleman

USTA Eastern has hit the ground running in 2017. With a strong strategic vision and focused leadership, the organization is poised for success.

The local tennis community welcomed a strong leader at USTA Eastern’s Annual Tennis Conference held in January. During this time, John Klenner was appointed as USTA Eastern’s President following his previous role as the organization’s Treasurer.

“I never really saw myself being in the tennis business, and I still don’t consider myself in the tennis business now,” said Klenner. “I consider myself a volunteer; an advocate for the tennis industry.”

Klenner joined the Board of Directors as Treasurer eight years ago and has been committed to the cause ever since. He is a Certified Public Accountant by trade and a Partner at Marcum LLP.

He wasn’t much of a tennis player growing up in Los Angeles, but picked the game up in his mid-twenties when he moved to New York in the early 1990s. He started playing on a local court in Brooklyn and fell in love with the game.

“I got to a point in my life, about nine years ago, when I determined that I had the resources, ability and time to give back in some charitable manner,” recalled Klenner. “I received an e-mail that Eastern was looking for a treasurer, and I thought there was no better way, for someone who is an accountant, to give back by being the treasurer at a not-for-profit. Little did I realize that it would turn out the way it has.”

Klenner takes over the presidency from Mark McIntyre who helped bring stability and vision to the organization. As President, he wants to continue to build on the initiatives put in place over the last couple of years to enable a sense of continuity and achievement for staff and tennis providers alike.

“I want to make clear that this is not about me. This organization is meant to grow the game of tennis, and that’s what we intend to do. I am not going to come in and make a right or a left turn because I want to do something different,” said Klenner. “We want to continue to devote more of our resources to promoting the game. If we can devote more of our funds from National to promoting and growing the game, and Eastern can become more self-sufficient in terms of running programming, tennis in our section will be in a better position. Throughout our three strategic pillars the common theme is diversity and inclusion, which is to engage populations that would not otherwise have access to or be interested in the sport.”

An example of this approach is Eastern’s application and acceptance of the 2017 Hispanic Outreach Grant from USTA National, becoming one of only eight sections to receive the $10K award.

Klenner wanted to ensure he began his administration surrounded with knowledgeable and experienced individuals. He brings a solid business and financial background and looks to other board members, namely, Vice President Amber Marino and Secretary Olga Harvey to lend their grassroots tennis industry expertise.

“It’s important to note that under Jeff Williams’ administration and McIntyre’s administration, the officers acted as a unit,” he added. “Now, we meet on a regular basis in order to make sure we are aligned on key initiatives. Amber and Olga come from grassroots tennis, and our Treasurer Perren Wong comes from a similar professional background as me, so everyone brings their own talent to the board. I’m there to lead the board, but not be the face of the organization.”

The new board will continue to oversee USTA Eastern’s strategic plan. One of its first endeavors is to re-write the bylaws in accordance with Eastern’s size. In addition, Eastern will focus on developing and creating innovative ways to enhance participation. One aspect of that includes promoting Net Generation, which is intended to facilitate the connection between the player and provider and foster better communication amongst all parties regardless of USTA membership.

Klenner believes that tennis participation in the section is in a good place, but says there is still work to be done, and is ready to take on those challenges with the help of his team at USTA Eastern. For example, while Eastern’s league participation numbers were up by 2,775 players from last January, the section is still looking for additional ways to engage new audiences.

“The state of the game is improving. I think a challenge we face at Eastern is producing the next generation of players. We need more places for them to play and develop,” said Klenner. “We need to make sure that our courts and facilities are able to thrive and I don’t think providing subsidies are a good solution as they rarely create self-sustaining programs. What we need is more people playing tennis. Our major challenge is to generate players and if we can do that than the rest of the tennis economy, including USTA membership, will improve.”


The gavel of USTA Eastern leadership was passed to John Klenner by outgoing president Mark McIntyre 

 


Members of the new USTA Eastern Board were introduced at the USTA Eastern Annual Meeting

 


John Klenner and members of the USTA Eastern board discuss issues with the membership at the USTA Eastern Annual Meeting

 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com