The mission of the USTA Eastern Metro Region is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, and the organization does so in a multitude of ways. In order to complete that mission, it requires a group of dedicated people who are out in the community, which spans the five boroughs of New York City, and connecting the various links that make up the chain that is the tennis industry in our area.
Joining that team recently was Jerry Rodriguez, who has stepped into the role of competitive coordinator and Metro Tennis service representative, a position he took over in the beginning of August.
“My job is to work within the Metro area and deal with all levels of people to assist and help them with any tools we can provide in order to help them promote and develop the game of tennis,” said Rodriguez. “I’m working with providers, which are essentially the clubs in the area, and it is my duty to develop a relationship with them and make sure there is a bridge between USTA Eastern and them.”
Rodriguez came to the region after working for three decades in the sales and fashion industry, and he says that experience in sales is one of the things that makes him a great fit for his new position. While he isn’t doing sales, per se, customer relations and making sure that your “clients” are receiving what they need is essential, and something he thrives on.
“We work with so many different providers and Community Tennis Associations (CTA), and it’s my goal to improve our connection and our communication, and just help in any way that can make things better for everybody,” he said. “We want all of them to know that they can look to the Eastern section as an important organization that’s there for the community, and wants to help bring people together and use that to grow this great game of tennis.”
He was thrown right into the fire, so to speak, when he jumped on board, as just a few weeks into his role, it was US Open time. Rodriguez played an integral role in helping to coordinate and produce all of the on-court Net Generation demos that are done prior to the start of the day and night sessions throughout the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“It’s been amazing so far,” Rodriguez said. “I started in August, and spent a few weeks learning all about the organization and the role I’d be playing, and then spent about two-and-a-half weeks at the US Open, which was such a great experience. We brought kids from all kinds of programs from across the country to play on court. These kids got the chance to spend a whole day at the Open for free, meet professional players, watch them practice and more.”
The Net Generation initiative has become a key part of the USTA’s mission over the last several years, and will be a key part of Rodriguez’s agenda moving forward.
Rodriguez met with Gustavo Loza, who was in his role previously and is now the Manager of Youth Programs, many times in order to create a smooth transition, and so Rodriguez could hit the ground running when he took over.
“We had several meetings to specifically focus on the important things that need to be accomplished and need to be taken care of over the next few months before the new year,” Rodriguez said.
Many of those things included tournaments and events that were scheduled, such as the Battle of the Boroughs at Ft. Washington Park, and an adaptive tennis tournament that was held at the courts of Riverside Clay Tennis. The winners of that adaptive tournament have the opportunity to go down to the USTA National Campus in Florida to compete in the national championships.
These are just a couple of examples of the array of events that Rodriguez and the USTA Eastern Metro Region conduct, ensuring the game is there to be enjoyed by everyone from all walks of life.
While Rodriguez has come to the USTA having not worked in the tennis industry prior, he is a tennis player at heart. He played in high school and has always enjoyed the sport. He is the father of a current college player, as one of his sons plays at the College of New Jersey.
As both a player and the parent of a player, he is well-aware of what people are looking for and need, which gives him the right perspective.
“I’m here to answer questions. If a family just moves here and are looking for a program for their child, we can help place them in the right program for them,” he said. “We do our best to get them out onto the court. I think I bring a unique perspective to this job, I know the ins and outs of tennis, and what the needs of the parents are. I’m connected to tennis in so many ways, and I really do love the job I have now, and look forward to bringing tennis to as many people as possible.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org