Jono's Return: Strong Clubs Pt 2

Learning from each other

Jono Spring · 4 May 2022

I have spent enough time in businesses and organisations over my years to understand that there is one way to go about things… and then there is often a ‘better way’.

I was lucky enough to work for a company called Toyota New Zealand at a stage in my life where I was still figuring out how the world works.  Well to be honest I am still figuring out how the world works, but I know a little more now than I did then!

One of the biggest and most important lessons that I believe made the greatest impact on my next couple of decades in the work force, was that there was no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ but instead seek constant improvement by using all resources.  This approach was referred to as ‘Kaizen’ and I quickly learned to understand that the team approach to continuous improvement enabled the greatest opportunity to achieve positive growth.  ‘Kaizen’ is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement”.  It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees.

If we relate this back to tennis, I understood early on that as a professional coach, that I could only do so much for the club, schools and individuals who I was involved with at the time.  If I wanted the sport to grow, I needed to utilise the help of others and better systems.  It wasn’t just the physical help of these people over the years that made the difference however… it was the fact also that I could learn from all of these people, and I think that not only did I benefit as a result, but so did all of our clients and associates.

In simple terms I grew, the clubs grew, and the schools grew… well heck the whole sport grew.

We have an opportunity in this sport to learn and grow from others on a National scale, by learning what other clubs and organisations are doing by using Tennis NZ incorporated programmes like ClubSpark and Book a Court.


At my old club Manawatu Lawn Tennis Club, I have seen first hand how the implementation of these systems have altered things.  The obvious improvements are the elimination of time-wasting activities like chasing members for their fees, etc… but also small things that used to affect the likes of myself when I was a professional coach, which was the need of policing the courts for non-members while I was trying to instruct at the same time.  The club courts were often easily accessible while members were utilising them, simply because gates were open… so any old Tom, Dick and Harry could waltz on in and help themselves to a court unless they were checked up on.  Even though I used it as an opportunity to introduce myself and get to know them, it did cause a few headaches here and there.

The greatest issue here I believe was the ‘wasted opportunity’.


Other clubs such as Mãpua Tennis Club at the top of the South Island, have also shared how ClubSpark has had a positive influence on the way their club operates.  Bridget Miller has reinforced the membership maintenance difficulty with her quote, “ClubSpark has transformed our administration – we used to operate a very manual membership system and it required a lot of volunteer time to keep track of members and payments.”

This is a commonly shared sentiment throughout the clubs that operate using this system.  Let’s face it, volunteers are increasingly hard to come by, let alone assigning them challenging tasks like chasing members for details, payments and the like.  We have seen other sports like squash for instance, use similar based systems for years with great effect, and quite simply tennis has needed to catch up in this capacity for a long time!

Look I get it… trust me I really do.  I know first-hand that even contemplating making the shift from ‘tried and true’ manual systems to an electronic and online one is not just a little daunting, but also involves a bit of work initially setting it all up.  But that’s where communicating with those who have already gone through the process is invaluable.  It can take the pain out of change.

 It was the same throughout my coaching career, a lot of what I felt myself doing was encouraging people not to make the same mistakes that I had made when learning the sport and sharing many of my experiences… it worked a treat.

Bridget also remarked that her club were, “We are pleased that we can open up our courts to members of the public and make tennis as accessible as possible in our community”, also suggesting that members were, “appreciating the ability to book courts and the reliability a booking brings.” 

This is perhaps the opposite, but equally important facet, of what I mentioned earlier about protecting members rights.  I talked about making sure that opportunists weren’t taking advantage of an open gate, but in this case the Book a Court system enables easy access for those non-members who want to take advantage of the club courts and book them for a tennis session.  In this case both the end user, the tennis players, and the club are winning.  Perfect.

lake pupuke

Roger Watson from Lake Pupuke Tennis Club reiterated all of the points that were expressed above, but then went on to acknowledge that the “electronic gate management system is far superior to the old physical keys we used to use…”.

I hear ya Roger, yes, the old ‘club key’ proved to provide constant issues in my old clubs, where it was incredibly difficult to track down members keys if they decided to move away or end their membership… and in some cases those keys were being passed on to friends and family who then had access to all sorts of things that perhaps they shouldn’t.  The amount of time wasted on this area, and the money spent changes locks, etc, when things eventually got out of control, could have been certainly better spent on something else for sure.

A really good news scenario that has unfolded for LPTC is that Book a Court is proven to have resulted in a “steady income and has resulted in gaining several new members.”

There is no doubt that this would be an outcome that all tennis clubs across New Zealand would love to experience, and by consulting clubs like Mãpua and Lake Pupuke as mentioned above, perhaps we can all achieve just that.

I look forward to hearing more examples from other clubs and administrators throughout the country, and am both humbled and encouraged by the number of people who are continually reaching out to me to share their positive stories and experiences in tennis.

Have a great week team.

Jono Spring 

jonos return for site page

Jono is a Manawatu based (former) coach, player and administrator who has been involved in tennis for over 35 years and held nearly every role you can think of in our game. Over the next couple of months Jono will be sharing his perspective, and those of people in the tennis community across New Zealand on why working together and striving to modernize the way we deliver tennis is so important. He contributes popular articles for the Manawatu Standard and Stuff on tennis, known as Jono’s Serve…keeping with the theme, his new series of articles are now called Jono's Return!

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