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USTA Georgia
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Pro Class is In @ Methodist U.

August 20, 2015 02:03 PM

Unique Program Teaches Tennis Management at Methodist University

Student Morgan Mann teaches the correct backhand grip.

By Rick Limpert/Special to USTA Southern

Photos courtsey of Methodist University

(This article originally appeared in the USTA Southern insert into the September/October issue of Tennis magazine.)

Ask Francie Barragan if a few dozen students out of the current Methodist University student body of 2,400 can help grow and promote a sport and you’ll get a quick answer.

“Yes, absolutely,” said Barragan, the former head women’s tennis coach who now heads the Professional Tennis Management (PTM) program at private Methodist University, one of the fastest-growing institutions of higher learning in the Southeast.

Barragan, who played her college tennis at N.C. State, coached the Methodist Monarch women’s tennis team to seven conference tournament championships and seven appearances in the NCAA championship in her 10 years at the helm in Fayetteville. “If a prospective student wants to have a fun and rewarding career in tennis, we have a spot for them,” she said.

Methodist’s PTM program, previously an academic concentration, is now also a minor administered through the university’s nationally accredited Reeves School of Business. Students seeking a career in the tennis industry have several options, according to Barragan. Methodist is one of just three institutions to offer a PTM program, and the only one in USTA Southern. Michigan’s Ferris State University and Tyler Junior College in Texas offer PTM programs, with Grand Canyon University in Phoenix starting their PTM offering this fall.

Students can earn a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree in a business-related field like financial economics or marketing with a concentration in Professional Tennis Management. Or they can earn a B.S. or B.A. in one of the 80-plus majors offered at the university with a minor in PTM.

“That helps us stand apart as you can get into the PTM program as a minor,” Barragan said. Methodist’s PTM program is accredited by the United States Professional Tennis Association.

Barragan started in her position heading the PTM program on June 1 and has some lofty goals heading forward. “One of my goals is to work more closely with the USTA and all the other tennis associations. We want to be able to provide every resource possible to our students as new equipment and new technology is being released each month; it’s part of my job to make sure (my students) keep current.”

Barragan, who hopes to grow the number of undergraduates to 75, said Methodist students can enroll in PTM classes the first semester of their freshman year. The students are required to do classroom work as well as three internships for a minimum of 400 hours.

Francie Barragan.

“We hit them early on,” Barragan said. “The internships are invaluable, and as juniors and seniors, our students can do most anything that is asked of them.”

Taylor Buchholz, a senior from Sugar Hill, Ga., plays on the Methodist men’s tennis team and has been in the PTM program since his first day on campus.

“My decision to attend Methodist University was solely based on the PTM program,” said Buchholz, who had solid junior and high school tennis credentials in Georgia. “What makes Methodist unique is the fact that you walk away with a respectful degree in the business world as well as in the tennis industry.”

Buchholz, who spent the past summer as an assistant pro at Trump National Golf Club, Westchester, N.Y., callede classroom work necessary and helpful, but said there is no substitute for internships. “The most helpful ‘training tool’ that Methodist’s PTM possesses is the internships, as nothing helps prepare you for the industry more than being in the field.”

Isabella Graf, an international student from Munich, Germany, and rising senior, is pleased to see more women joining the PTM program. “The female ratios are growing every year, which is very nice to see,” Graf said. “I am the only female in my PTM (class) and I have always enjoyed the challenge of proving myself as well as continuing the growth of females in our program and in the tennis industry as a whole.”

In working with the USTA, Barragan says she is fully committed to the USTA’s Youth Tennis format and promoting tennis as a “lifetime sport.” Just as she is reaching out to the USTA on a national, sectional, state and local level, the USTA is returning the favor in promoting PTM programs across the country. To boost tennis awareness and drive applications for these schools and programs, the USTA has started an integrated marketing campaign using its digital platforms as well as traditional methods. The campaign includes a USTA.com/PTM landing page, distribution of an informational brochure and digital ads for Facebook and Twitter, in addition to redirect and newsletter banner ads.

Methodist is not shy in telling anyone interested in the PTM program that there is 100 percent job placement for interns, paid internships at top facilities across the country and a fantastic job placement history for graduates.

PTM undergraduates at Methodist work beyond hard on the court and in the classroom, but Graf says Methodist offers something unique for their PTM students. “The program has a great reputation for bringing its students closer together and creating its own ‘family’ which will benefit each student in the future, due to having shaped close connections with classmates who will be involved in the industry.” Barragan says Buchholz, Graf and the rest of her students “get it” regarding where tennis currently sits on the world sports stage. “We want to get a racquet into every kid’s hands, promote tennis and benefit the community as a whole.”