Earlier this spring, I received an e-mail that would completely change my life for the better. It was an email from the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) introducing their National Career and Leader Mentoring Program. The mission of the program aligned with my goals of creating a clear career plan, polishing up my resume and enhancing my job fulfillment. Let me just say that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and the program did not disappoint! Although I already had someone who I viewed as a mentor at work, my Director of QuickStart Pavel Bednarzh, I instantly wanted to become a part of something much bigger than the scale of my community, and the USPTA National Career and Leader Mentoring Program was it.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I was furloughed like most of tennis coaches at the time. During the quarantine I started to feel that I was drifting away from my creativity and passion. I wanted to stay vibrant and optimistic during the times of distress and uncertainty. I needed to find my spark again, and try to create a different path for myself. For me, life is about continuously trying to evolve and progress. It’s about being with the people who bring me joy, the work that sparks imagination, and the desire to become better for me and the people that I teach. I felt that I lost that inspiration, and I needed to reignite it.
I didn’t think twice when clicking the apply button, and honestly, I wholeheartedly hoped to be accepted into the program. In mid-June, I was one of the lucky 30 candidates to get accepted by the USPTA to join their program, and was immediately introduced to my wonderful mentor, Charlie Hardman. We didn’t waste any time! Shortly after we were paired, we set up a call to get to know each other, and start our mentoring journey. I was incredibly eager to learn new skills, techniques, and any other tools Charlie thought would help sharpen my vision, and set clear and realistic career goals.
Those of you who know me are aware of the many hats I wear in the tennis industry. The variety of skills that I’ve gained in the last ten years range from marketing and project management, to running 10& Under tournaments and Junior TeamTennis events. Since this article is more about Charlie, and not my personal accomplishments, let me just say that I love the game of tennis, and I am truly passionate about contributing to its evolution and diversity.
After hours of deep self-reflection, I recognized that my palette of broadly diverse skills needed some structure and constructive direction. During the pandemic shutdown, I took advantage of the time we were granted, and for the first time in four years, I chose to invest my time into myself. I knew I wanted to be different post-pandemic and this was my opportunity to reinvent myself. One of the aspects I wanted to focus on was coaching philosophy, and developing the ability to plan for the future, while staying in the present and being grateful for what I have achieved so far.
During our first conversation, Charlie told me that he knew why I was paired with him. It was not to create a better resume (I already had not one, but two), it was to help me tailor all my skills into a comprehensive professional, to help me see the big picture, feel my worth, and recognize my value. Over the course of the program, I learned a great deal about the tennis industry, how it works and what influence it carries. I now understand that what I do does not define who I am. Charlie helped me create a vision for myself that reflects my passion, and values, both of which are guided by a particular belief system: coaching philosophy. He also helped me realize that I am not alone in my constant desire to learn and improve. I now understand that being a tennis perfectionist complements my creative marketing side, and makes me a better coach at the same time. He said:
“A coaching philosophy is important because it is a statement of what you believe and covers your purpose as a coach and how you will approach player development and enjoyment versus winning and losing. It will help you make decisions based on your values, the needs of your athletes, and the environment in which you coach. It is a guide for how you will behave as a coach and how you interact with the athletes you work with and will reflect who you are and who you want to be based on your experiences, knowledge, values, opinions, and beliefs.”
Charlie became a mentor because tennis has given him so much, and felt it was his civic duty to share those valuable skills and lessons he acquired himself. He has been mentoring coaches for more than 25 years, and enjoys helping them achieve their goals through tennis. At the start of the pandemic, Charlie was furloughed like many other coaches, including myself. During the time off he did a great deal of coach education through both the USPTA and PTR and enrolled in the Certified Racquets Sports Executive (CRSE) program.
Although Charlie became a USPTA member in 1993 and I enrolled in 2017, we still share the same values.
“I became a USPTA member in 1993,” Hardman said. “I had already become a PTR member in 1989 and believed the next step in my education, as a tennis coach was becoming a certified member of the USPTA. I was correct because being a member has opened many doors for me as a tennis professional and I have been a member ever since”.
The best part of working with Charlie is his passion to build people up, not being afraid to share his knowledge and his genuine interest in one’s personal and professional growth. It’s natural for me to want more, but with a mentor like Charlie I developed the right toolset to stay present and focused, set achievable and meaningful goals, and identify what is most important.
The most important lesson Charlie has taught me did not come from a tennis manual or goal setting exercises (and there were many of those). It came from a phone conversation when I hit a rough patch. Charlie told me that he believes that he could be most useful to me when I am going down a bumpy road. He asked me to call or text him whenever I needed help. His genuine and immediate desire to help was not something I was used to receiving throughout my career. The USPTA National Career and Leader Mentoring Program did not just pair me with the right mentor, and my experience in the program has shown me the true value of a USPTA membership, and that is having trusted relationships.
This summer I am going to become a Certified Mental Game Coaching Professional with Dr. Patrick J. Cohn from Peak Performance Sports. I’ve always been interested in psychology and finally decided to take a leap of faith and do a deep dive into mental skills. I am hoping to better understand tennis psychology and help my athletes improve their performance.
I want to thank Charlie for helping me find my inspiration again! He taught me to hold my head up high, look forward take risks and stay true to my values and dreams.
Khrystsina Tryboi is currently the director of marketing and a 10U tennis coordinator for MatchPoint NYC. She is a former Division II tennis player from Belarus, and is currently working for MatchPoint NYC in their QuickStart tennis program and is leading their marketing team. She is highly involved with USPTA and USTA to help grow the game.