Coach Rob Allen has a background as a player and professional coach with many years of teaching experience. He is full-time tennis instructor and founder at Utah Valley Tennis Academy, which focuses on youth team tennis. He works as the head tennis coach and program director at Provo High School. He is also a tennis instructor at BYU. Coach Allen recently led his league team to the national tournament, and has years of experience working with various ages and skill levels. He brings both his passion and his expertise to the court every day, helping young athletes believe & achieve!
You can read an overview of the interview with Rob Allen or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: Tell us a little about what you're working on at the moment?
A: For the last couple of years we’ve been building a middle school team tennis league. That was something we saw that we needed in our community, to make Tennis more affordable and accessible to kids who want to learn and compete. So that’s been growing pretty rapidly. And then also this season we are expanding to even younger ages. We’re starting team tennis clubs for younger, elementary school kids. So that’s kind of what we’ve been working on.
Q: What is the vision and mission behind Utah Valley Tennis Academy and how did you get started?
A: So it started because with my work as the high school tennis coach, I just saw a big gap in our feeder programs. You know, every sport, they’re working with the middle school kids and working with the clubs in the area getting them ready for when they join the high school team, and we just didn’t have a program like that. And so I just started with the kids in my area that feed into my high school and contacted the middle school in my area and said you know I want to start a little club team, and have them practice together, play a couple matches. And I was just blown away by the response. And it just showed me that this was really a need we had in the area… And it’s just been growing that quickly. It’s just been a huge need, because up until now, if a mom wants her kid to play tennis, her options are go find a private instructor, or go to some expensive tennis club and become a member...So saw the need and filled it, and there has been a huge response.
Q: Tell us a story about some of the challenges you faced in your coaching/athletic career and how you overcame them, or maybe you still are?
A: Yah a big challenge was really what started the company, was just a lack of affordability and accessibility in Tennis. And so starting this program was a big way to meet those needs. As far as challenges in my program space, often it’s just getting the word out that this program exists, because it’s still so new. So we relied heavily on the support of the schools and the cities, and working with them. So really building relationships with the administrators of the school, that’s a huge part of what I do...
Q: What wisdom have you picked up over your years of working in the sport industry?
A: I think three things that have helped us a lot is, 1) It has to be fun. Kids will join because they’re interested or their parents want them to learn, but they’ll stay if it’s fun. And especially with my target market, you know I’m not looking into making players the next Roger Federer. That’s not what we do. So we have more of the casual player who’s just starting out and it’s so important that it’s fun… The other thing is you’ve got to be real about what your program is and what it isn’t… And then the last thing that has helped us be successful and I think is really important, is to keep the parents involved. Constant communication with the parents. They’re just as much your client as the child is, so keeping them a part of the whole program is super important.
Q: How do you think technology is changing the way you work and coach?
A: So from starting out when I was just teaching 1-on-1 private lessons, the biggest hassle was scheduling and receiving payments. A lot of that was just cash or check at the lesson and trying to keep track of who has paid and who hasn’t and if they paid for multiple lessons in advance. And then finding times that work with everyone’s schedule between my students. And so as we’ve grown to this team Tennis league, and more institutionalized with the process, having technology like the software with Upper Hand run payment and scheduling has been super helpful.
From a more practical standpoint on the tennis court something that we started to use more with the high school teams is statistics. Statistics has grown so much in tennis. There is so much you can evaluate, and it’s super helpful actually to be able to see what your first serve percentage is and how many errors you’re hitting vs. winners. And there are so many great apps on our phones these days that will track all that for you. And so we’ve been wanting to and we’ve started implementing more...
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring coaches who are just starting out?
A: Just go for it you know. Even if you’re just starting out, start small. You know my first coaching, I decided I wanted to get into coaching so I put an add online and my first students were a couple of six year olds. And you know I was super nervous and I didn’t know if I knew what I was doing, but they had a good time and I saw great progress. And we got more and more students and then it’s just grown from there. So if it’s something you want to do just go for it. Start small. Gain experience. And then seek ways to grow.