The USTA National Campus reopened to the public in June, offering limited programming options in order to maintain a healthy and safe playing environment. In what is usually one of the busiest times of year for programming at the campus, anchored by its annual summer camp, the tennis staff has had to adjust.
Leading the USTA National Campus staff of teaching pros who deliver tennis at every level through lessons and classes is director of tennis Simon Gale, who began his role in late February just before the campus was forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A mere few weeks into what he considers to be a dream job, Gale, along with campus leadership and his core team of head professionals, had to completely scrap their programming plans for the remainder of 2020 and, instead, put forth a plan that emphasized safety and minimized physical interaction in preparation for the campus eventually reopening.
Gale is originally from Perth, Australia, and came to Orlando after more than two decades of tennis coaching and administration experience in the Northeast. The following is a brief Q&A with the campus’ new director of tennis.
USTA: How did you get introduced to the sport of tennis?
Simon Gale: When my family moved from Melbourne to Perth, my dad joined the local tennis club as a way to connect with the community. The club was a five-minute bike ride from our house, and my brother and I would often tag along when my dad would play. Our elementary school started a program offering tennis lessons at the club, and from that point on, I was hooked. I would ride my bike to the club before school each day to hit against the wall, and the rest is history!
USTA: What attracted you to the director of tennis job at the USTA National Campus?
SG: I had visited the campus multiple times through Net Generation (the USTA’s youth tennis brand) training and other conferences that were hosted there, and there is truly nothing else like it. When the campus is in full flow, the mesh of programming, tournaments, people playing, and pros practicing creates an energy that is infectious.
The opportunity to be the director of tennis at the USTA National Campus and play a role in influencing the growth of tennis was exciting for me. One of my passions is developing a team and helping young pros grow into valuable contributors in the industry, and the National Campus provides the perfect opportunity to do that as a hub of tennis innovation.
USTA: What are you most looking forward to as part of your new role?
SG: I truly believe that we are delivering a sport that changes people’s lives. When you think about what tennis does for people, it is quite unique. When a new player picks up a racquet and starts the tennis journey, it is amazing to watch what unfolds. We have the ability to bring people together and create a connection that can last a lifetime. I like to use the saying “it is more than just tennis” we provide, and making sure our team understands why people play tennis and how it impacts them is why I love what I do.
USTA: What kind of program offerings can guests expect in the near future?
SG: We have reopened with one goal: to provide the safest possible environment for both our staff and customers. Our sport is perfect for both kids and adults to try and has natural physical distancing built into it. We are adhering to all of the campus’ health and safety protocols, but when it comes to programming, we have instituted reduced class sizes that will not exceed a maximum of four players per coach.
That being said, we have our full menu of programming available, catering to all ages and ability levels. We will transition to our fall programming in mid-August, which will include all of our traditional options for both children and adults. Players are encouraged to visit www.ustanationalcampus.com, where they can find the latest updates on programming offerings as well as safety protocols.