In today’s day and age, running a business in almost any industry requires more than just a brick and mortar operation. And the tennis industry is no different.
Being able to not only provide quality programming, but creating a recognizable brand to showcase to potential customers, is essential to success, and embracing the Internet and social media as a way to promote is integral.
That is just one of the many reasons why New York Tennis at Great Neck brought Jonathan Raude into the fold last summer. Raude is the club’s Managing Director and Head of 10U Tennis and High Performance, and has brought his tennis and business acumen into the fold.
Raude goes way back with the directors and coaches at the club, knowing many of them through his own playing experiences, beginning as a player at Bay Terrace Tennis in Queens, where Howie Arons was the Director. Arons, a fixture in the Long Island and New York tennis communities, would eventually go on to run the New York Tennis Academy at Great Neck Estates where he took on many of his coaches from Bay Terrace.
“I’ve known them since I was nine and started training for the first time,” said Raude. “At that time, most of them were at Bay Terrace in Queens, which is where Howie Arons was the director and had an outstanding reputation.”
Raude was one of the many people Arons had a profound effect on before he passed away in 2016.
“I learned a lot from Howie. And as I got older, I took a lot of the on-court lessons he taught me off the court as well,” said Raude. “I was around him for four or five days a week for more than eight years growing up. He was able to connect with people unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. He went above and beyond for each family, and helped so many players get the most out of their tennis. As you get older, you really recollect on those memories and how he put his players first, and genuinely cared for them.”
Through that training, Raude would go on to become an excellent junior tennis player, and never forgot some of those values instilled in him by Arons. He played his college tennis at Boston College, and upon graduating, began working as an Account Executive at IBM.
“I managed a portfolio of marketing and financial transfer solutions, and covered a territory of private sector and higher education clients,” said Raude. “It was a great experience. But I always stayed involved with tennis after college. Whether it was playing, volunteering or coaching on weekends and holidays. I even did some coaching on the weekends while working at IBM.”
Unable to shake the tennis bug, Raude left IBM towards the latter part of 2017 to start his own company, and launched MatchPoint Entertainment, which combined tennis experiences with live music events. He was integral in both getting the company off the ground, and establishing the brand and business plan to make it work.
“We had events that took up a lot of time in the summer, so I had to build the business and really focus on that,” Raude said.
While busy with running his own company, Raude also volunteered on the Board of the USTA Metro Region, where he further cemented his spot on the New York tennis scene. Through USTA Metro, Raude was part of the group that helped launch New York City Aces, which began as a way for young professionals to meet new people and play tennis, but soon shifted to a non-profit organization that gave back to the community.
“We were trying to bring young adults in New York City together to play tennis, but we started to see we had a lot of people coming to the events, and we saw an opportunity to make this something bigger than just some people playing tennis,” said Raude. “We decided to make it a non-profit to help underserved youth in Queens and New York City. We wanted to offer high quality tennis programming at little to no cost to families who didn’t have the means to afford it. And throughout 2018, we provided tennis to more than 300 kids in Queens.”
Despite being pulled in many different directions, Raude could not pass up the opportunity to bring his life in tennis full circle by joining Managing Partners Brian Stein and Chris Tasso and running the program created by a mentor of his.
“How I spend my time here is really multifaceted,” said Raude. “There is a lot to do on the business end, like marketing, sales and business development. But I also want to be on the court as much as possible, and seeing the programs and coaching going on, from 10 and Under through high performance. I think it’s important to have a good feel of everything that’s going on.”
One of the first things he had to do when he started was to get to know the players in the program and their families, as well as his colleagues. Next, and maybe most important, was establishing a structure and pathway for its programming, and bringing more exposure to the club. Raude knew he had plenty of good players and outstanding coaches in order to do so.
“I think we are a hidden gem in the New York tennis landscape,” said Raude. “The staff we have had here in the past has been phenomenal, but flew under the radar. We are now promoting and getting the word out to more people that there is this awesome place in Great Neck that is minutes from Queens and easily accessible from most areas of Nassau County. It’s a public club that has everything. We have amazing junior programs and fun, high-energy adult programs with a coaching staff that’s experienced and truly knowledgeable. We have a great story to tell and just want to tell it to more people.”
Coming at the situation with his business and marketing experience, Raude has brought a lot of brand awareness to the facility and has established a reputation on social media, which helps provide a digital presence beyond the club itself.
“We did some rebranding off of the court, including creating a new logo that is symbolic of our club,” said Raude. “And we just went through the first phase of redesigning our Web site.”
As we head into 2019, Raude and his team will continue to bring New York Tennis at Great Neck further into the 21st Century and embrace the digital age, while not forfeiting the values and principles that Arons, the club’s patriarch, instilled in him and his longtime coaching staff.
“Our goals are to continue to, most importantly, provide a great and fun experience, with high-quality instruction for the players in our programs,” said Raude. “That’s first and foremost. When people come to the club, they know they can come to relax in a laid back, fun atmosphere, but also work really hard and learn.”
With a programming structure now in place, New York Tennis at Great Neck is ready to continue thriving.
“We now have a curriculum, lesson plans and assessments we provide to the parents. We want to grow the number of our 10U players and built from within,” Raude said. “We have confidence in our coaching staff and the results are going to come from our kids. We are developing more tournament players, and playing some team matches against other clubs on Long Island and New York as well. Things like that are big in terms of development. And we will just continue to build a bigger digital presence, so people can understand about our great facility, staff and environment.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org