Episode#:31 Bobby Schindler and Shaun J Boyce

In this episode, Joel tells us where the name “T2” came from, what the league was originally supposed to be and we talk about the future. Will T2 offer Pickleball leagues? Will a high school tennis league pop up soon? What would Joel do if he was King of Tennis?

About Joel Ballantyne: Growing up in Nebraska, Joel never missed a single University of Nebraska football game from 7 years old through his college years. Relocating to Atlanta in ~2000, Joel had the first vision of a new tennis league for juniors. When that didn’t work, he introduced T2 Tennis to adults in 2001 and 2002. Joel still believes the good old fashioned hard work of “knocking on doors” and putting out fliers all over town was essential to the success of the league. That and a significant amount of patience.

Joel is very determined to spend more and more time involved with Mustard Seed Communities (https://www.mustardseed.com/) so if you are so inclined, please have a look and consider donating or getting yourself involved.

https://www.t2tennis.com/

https://www.ultimatetennis.com/

Shaun Boyce USPTA: [email protected]

https://tennisforchildren.com/ 🎾

Bobby Schindler USPTA: [email protected]https://windermerecommunity.net/ 🎾

Geovanna Boyce: [email protected]

https://regeovinate.com/ πŸ’ͺπŸΌπŸ‹οΈ

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Transcript
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Welcome to the Atlanta Tennis Podcast.

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Hey, hey, this is Shaun with the Atlanta Tennis Podcast, powered by GoTennis!

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where you can also find deals on equipment, apparel, and members get 10% off our shop.

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So go get yourself an Atlanta Tennis Monster's shirt before everyone else does.

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I've got mine, I wear it all the time.

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In this episode, we talk to Joel Ballantyne,

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founder of the first flexible schedule tennis league in Atlanta known as T2.

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Joel even tells us where the name T2 came from.

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Have a listen and let us know what you think.

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You figured out how to create one of the largest tennis entities in the country.

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So I'd love to hear, and like I said, this is kind of my lead in to get you to say,

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hi, I'm Joel.

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I'd love to hear who you are and what you do.

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And so tell us about Joel Ballantine.

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Well, your question was, who are you and why does Atlantic care?

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Yeah, Joel Ballantine, and I don't think they really do.

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[LAUGH]

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So yeah, I started T2, which is hard to believe more than 20 years ago.

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I'll give you a little bit of the, but anyway, I'm just, I've found it the company.

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I still am involved in it, work with it, a fair amount.

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But I'm not the day to day person.

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We have a whole staff of people that work with us and we have an awesome staff of people that work with us.

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You know, accounting to, but our customer service staff, which is the biggest group of people,

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but they really do a good job and really take care of our customers pretty well.

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But we started T2, I think the first actual lead was in 2001, if I recall, and it was a junior's lead.

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So the very first lead that we put out was a junior's lead.

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And then, then we started rolling it out to, mostly to women, women's doubles leagues,

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and only around alpha red, only around the northern suburbs of Atlanta.

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And then we scrapped the entire website and rewrote everything and rebuilt the website,

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which we've done a couple times now.

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Because the original format of the original format of T2 really didn't work.

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But it's where the name came from, please or not.

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The original format was junior's played in a tiny little mini Davis Cup type format,

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where they played you and your, another kid would be a partner.

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And they would play doubles against another team one week and then play singles against them the next week.

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And that failed miserably.

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It just couldn't get it, couldn't get it figured out it was incredibly hard to schedule, etc.

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And then we rolled out the junior singles league and then the women's doubles leagues,

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only around alpha red, and then from there, we started just building, splitting the women's league

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into two, the working women and non-working women, which were called business women and weeping women.

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Then rolled out men's doubles, mixed doubles, singles throughout the years, which is in a,

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in a probably a pretty organized process that we did it.

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We didn't do it all at one time.

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We really built a, built a following with our core leagues, which were,

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were doubles until we got that really established and then really established in certain pockets

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in certain areas of town before we even rolled it out to different parts of Atlanta, etc.

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So, which was pretty important for our success.

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Similar to the success of Alta back in the 70s and 80s, where it really was a humble beginning.

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We do this one thing, we do this one thing well, we tried something else,

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it didn't, it wasn't great, but we found the thing that does work and do it here.

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And then slowly grow it, where I think a lot of people come in and they want to,

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they have this take over the world mentality and they just assume everybody's going to jump on board.

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Right, and it never works.

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You have, you know, just, you know, fortunately, we were kind of at the right place,

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the right time as well during the first flex league,

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for doubles in Atlanta and kind of filled a, filled a niche, if you will, in Atlanta.

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And, but, you know, you can't, you can't roll it out across the whole, the whole metro area,

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you can't roll it across across all levels until you have enough people or the scale

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to really be able to do it. We really did, I mean, this 20 years ago, when we were first starting it out,

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we had, you know, we thought, you know, anything past exit 10 on 400 was, you know, was,

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was so far away that you couldn't, no one would ever drive it.

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It still is. What are you talking about? Exactly.

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So people drive there, but that's, and that's, and that's a, that's now kind of a hub.

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I mean, I, I jokingly say it still is really far out there, but the, the tennis, I'm curious about your,

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do you have a map of where most of your people, I don't know any league that actually does this,

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maybe it doesn't exist, but where, where most of your players actually live?

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Yeah, I can, you know, within our software, we have all, hold all these mapping tools that are

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completely automated, online, and it's kind of, it's how we do, it's, we use, when we,

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when we create schedules for the players, it's all done on a, on a, totally, on a mapping system.

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That makes sense. I guess I'm curious to see, like, what are those maps with the red and the orange,

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and the, like, where most people are? Yeah, I can, I don't know if I can kill it or not.

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Oh, that'd be cool. This, because I'm curious. I think, I think we have these ideas of where tennis is

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played, and you mentioned exit 10 up 400. I'm hearing rumors is the wrong word, but we believe now,

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there's a bit of that north Atlanta, is there, are there actually more tennis players in certain areas?

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Well, I, okay, that's, that's interesting. I can, I don't know if I, is the, the map, the actual mapping

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software is on a different, which on a different web, but, but anyway, the one thing I do remember is,

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in somewhere I saved the picture, I have to go, I have to, we don't have time today for me to go,

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look through my archives, but I saved a picture of a map from back in, like, 2005 or something like that.

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And somewhere I have it, I'd have to look for it, but the difference in from 2005 to today,

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and it's, you can, we would probably be a great example to show how real estate has developed in

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Atlanta and where it's, where it is, because our, our league is played on predominantly Swim and

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Tennis neighborhoods, right? And so you can see the migration of Atlanta and how, and the migration

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of Atlanta, Atlanta has gone north, very north, and it's gone more. So if you look at the, the population

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of the map, it's really gone north and it's gone probably more, it seems like enough, and probably

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gonna have been some people, but it seems like it's been on more up to 400 or more than it has,

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the 75 and 85 for you. Even though, even though that's grown a lot as well, but it's really

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interesting, because when I look at a map, when we first started, again, I wish I, I wish I could probably

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go find it. I know I have it somewhere, but when, when we first started, literally, exit 10 on 400

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was the end, was that was where the world was flat? You would fall off.

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And I mean, that was where the world of Atlanta ended. And then if you went up 75 to about

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split between 575 and 75, that was really kind of the end of Atlanta, if you will. And up 85,

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a little bit, it's like about where Shateau along is, but even quite a bit, probably Sugarloaf was

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probably, is far out as it went. So if you think of that arc across the top of Atlanta from like,

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maybe Sugarloaf to about Old Milton Parkway on 400 over to the, like that split of 75 and

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575, that was really kind of the end of Atlanta, let's say that Old Milton Parkway would have been the

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top of the map. Today, that's about the middle of the, yeah, it's about the middle of the map.

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So anyway, so that's a little bit of the, like I said, we'd be a pretty good story, we could show you

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how the migration of Atlanta real estate's been developed, because that's where Dennis is playing.

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And I'll bet that's very proprietary and very valuable information. So I'll allow you to share

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that with me and Bobby separate. So I'm not sure if everybody just us, but I'd love to see that

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migration, because that'd be really cool to see. Bobby's always talking up 400, up 400 that, that

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felt like where Dennis really is. I think you have the map to prove it.

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It just continues. I mean, just, I live up on Lake Lanier, so I live quite a bit further north.

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And they just opened X at 18 last week. So now there's a new exit on 400 this evening. So now it's

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taking it up even further. So I mean, it's still kind of a traffic mass, but they, but they opened

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X at 18. So now there's no longer stoplight there. It moves up and they've moved it up another five

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or six miles of freeway. And you're different from Alto. Do you have that, Alto has that core five

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counties and they don't go within too far past that? We have people playing all the way from Gainesville

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into, they will get divided somewhere sometimes Easter west depending on, but probably Gainesville

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and the on that side of, and then when you go up like 75, I know there's people,

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get rid of my names, but you know, it's, it's quite a ways up there, up, you know,

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past Lake Alto and that way all the way up, but you know, we have people register every once in

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all the way from Athens. And they're, you know, so sometimes we can't get them in, but a lot of

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what we'll do when we're, what we'll do is we have a function in our software that can allow a team

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to be, we can either ask them to move to a closer in court and we'll try to get them in, we'll do

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that sometimes. We also have the function to make them a travel team, which they will do sometimes

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if they're too far out, but all of their matches will be away. I just had a genius idea where you have a

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team that only plays away matches because they're too far away, if you thought of that. We have that.

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We, we did think of that. And so it's genius. And some people will do it because they just,

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they want to play and then so we can accommodate it, but they're willing to play all their matches

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away and they understand it usually. They say, you know, this is, we live, we know we don't live in the,

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in the core part of work, but we want to play and we'll continue to do it. So, and especially in

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juniors, the junior parents will do it generally almost all the time if they, if they're, if they're

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living further out to get their kids to play. Yeah, I think there's a market there as well. I know

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Bobby's got some questions about, about some junior tennis and I think Bobby, you want to ask about his,

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his beginnings. He mentioned earlier that, sorry, Joe, you mentioned earlier that the junior version

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failed. Bobby was telling me that he, he heard also that that didn't work. That was the very first

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product of T2, which was, and again, I think I didn't finish that, but that's where the name actually

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came from, T2 because it was kind of a many Davis Cup format where kids would play doubles one

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week and then they turned on the singles the next week. And then, but it was that, that concept never,

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never took off. It was kind of too hard to schedule and that kind of stuff. But that's where the name T2

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came from. It was Teams of two is what T2 actually stands for. And so T, that's, so that's what actually

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what T2 was, was named after as Teams of two. And then we, so then we quickly rolled out doubles,

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so it still works. But I love the, and I think what Charles was saying, it's almost funny that we've

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gone full circle because now I am a big, when you first started, I was like, I've always been a

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finger of the ladies. The ladies have always driven the tennis boat in my eyes in this city. The ladies

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will take the first to take the lessons. If they enjoy you and they trust you, they will present their

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children to you. And after their children, they'll go back to their husbands and say, you know,

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this guy's not that bad. He's kind of funny. He'll talk about baseball and football. You might want

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to give him a try. And that's how you build your business. And I think obviously T2 is firmly

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entrenched with the ladies and the guys who take advantage of it from the flexibility standpoint.

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I love it. The big thing being a heist being very involved with the high school coaches,

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I feel that that level player is a great drill player doesn't get enough matches. They don't

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want to play tournaments there. And as we're the more we're doing these podcasts and talking to

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people in the industry, there's a real void for the idea of Teams. You talk to a lot of ex-college

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players, a lot of professional players, they miss the camaraderie or they want the camaraderie

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associated with Teams. And you know, that's where we're looking at saying, okay, how do we get those

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high school kids who are used to playing with a group on the court more playing matches? Because they're

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not as competitive as we were so they don't like playing against each other, but they will play T2

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now to the end of time. And one of the questions that you guys wanted to get to is, you know,

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if we could change anything in the tennis industry, what would it be? I'll come back to that.

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To exactly what you're talking about when we get to that.

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Well, and you brought up another great one, which, as Sean said, I'm a big believer of the 400

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quarter. You probably have the evidence to present to the truest or the Atlanta open to say,

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this is where your core player is. And yet there's so much resistance to moving that tournament. And

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I get it when one thing was it was truest and the building was right behind you, but that's not the case

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anymore. And considering they're on temporary courts, why don't they move the temporary courts

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to exit 10 and make it something in conjunction with Avalon and sell that thing out?

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Yeah, I mean, you know, it's interesting. I like that tournament. And I really enjoyed going,

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but since they moved it downtown, I've never been again. Yeah. I went to it probably every year when

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it was out where it used to be at what's it called? Lifetime model used to call Rack Club of the

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South. It was there and it was at Atlanta athletic club. I probably went every year when it was there.

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And I really enjoyed it. But when it's since they moved it downtown, I haven't gone probably a little

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bit out of laziness, but it's just difficult, you know, to get down there. And, you know, it's a pretty

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good hike for me to get down there. And so if the, anyway, I kind of miss it, I always enjoyed the

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tournament. So I got to meet Isner one time and he's literally a foot and a half taller than I am.

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And I, I'll, I'll, I remember I got to meet him and I sat pretty close to the court when I was

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watching him play and watched how great a doubles partner. He would be because he fills the entire

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box of the doubles of whatever side he's on on the on the on the doubles court. I was just watching that

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but anyway, we progressed. So, John, did you guys get into an iPodge? I couldn't pull it up for the

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majority of my trip back. You talk about how good a tennis player Joel is. I know. Joel likes to

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Joel likes to be in the shadows. So he didn't start out and say, hey, I'm Joel and I'm a very great

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tennis player and then he doesn't just operate that way. So Joel Bobby tells me you could play. You

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mentioned in your bio that you played in high school. Went to the University of Nebraska. Did you play

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in college? I, I walked on for one semester and got, um, got completely beat up. And bear, you know,

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and, and I, um, and I think my dad at that point said, I think it's probably time that you maybe go

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a little more time in the books and study. But I, I, you know, I walked on. I probably wasn't going to

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make the team but I got to hit with, I knew that one of their players pretty well who I played with,

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as a junior quite a bit and in the coach and et cetera. I was kind of a sparring partner for the team.

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But Nebraska is Division one, right? Yeah. So walking on and hitting with those guys is no small feet.

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But I'm gonna, I'm gonna date myself here, but, you know, way back when that was, you know,

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when I was in college when they didn't have, you know, just, you know, electricity was just came out

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and all that kind of stuff. But, um, when I start, that's when they started recruiting guys from Europe,

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pretty heavily. And the kids that came over from Europe were basically professionals coming over

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here to play. And so, um, us, you know, small town Nebraska guys who played tennis on, um, you know,

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a city park with, with all my buddies. Um, I, I wasn't gonna make it, but I hit with them a little bit.

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It was fun. And then, um, then I, then I kind of actually stopped playing for, um, a while during

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the college years. And that's not true. I played, I played like in the inner Merle. They didn't have

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club tennis back in those days, but you had inner Merle. So I played that, um, some amount

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of that was fun. Um, I think I want a t-shirt. I enjoyed reading your biojoke is usually I'm the

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brunt of the old age jokes. So I was like, well, we're, we're relatively close in age. And I figured I

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could probably narrow it down if I just went through a history of Nebraska football. So, you know,

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far as how do you feel about Turner Gill and, you know, the fumble Ruski? So I was like, okay,

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we can get, we can get close to when he graduated from college just by what he references with Nebraska.

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Because yeah, you guys were pretty good back then at football. They were really good back in

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those days. Um, it was fun. It's kind of been sad to see what, you know, now we're the poster

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child for hiring bad coaches, I think, but, um, or, I don't know, they're bad coaches, but it hasn't

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worked, but, um, it hasn't worked. But, um, it hasn't worked. But, you know, it's, you know, yeah, I,

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I think I, I said as a joke, and which is a true story is I went to every home game from

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when I was probably about six or seven years old till I graduated from cut to I love college.

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And I, that's a true story. I didn't miss a single game. And, um, every home game. And so, yeah,

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they were really good back in those days. That was, you know, the Tom Osborne era when they were,

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I think that my daughter, um, went to Alabama and she, she graduated around 10 years ago, eight years

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ago, something like that. But, you know, Nebraska was kind of the Alabama of college football,

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which, and when then when she went, she kind of experienced the same thing that that I went through,

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you know, in a different, in a different world, but they were, you know, I think every year I was

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in school, they were ranked number one at one point. So, it was fun, but, you know, times changed.

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And you mentioned your daughter, you have an, I haven't asked about family kids. She said,

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they've been married 30 something years. And I have, my, I've been married for way longer than anyone

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should probably put up with me, but, um, for 37. And I have a daughter, she's a nurse at Scottish

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right for, um, children's health care of Atlanta and have a brand new grandson, she's named Ms. Graham,

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and he's, he's 10 months old. And, um, last night I was actually the official baby sitter because I,

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when they have me, baby sit in her husband is when they've reached the bottom of the list that no one,

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all, no one else in the family will, is available, will do it and say, okay, we'll get grounded at

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it. We'll get dad to it. And so, I, so I got to spend the night with him last night. It was,

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it was most enjoyable. So, yeah, so I, I just have one daughter. And, um, then my,

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I still, my, my parents and family still lives, lives in Nebraska.

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Congratulations on, on the grandson. That's fantastic. Did your daughter play tennis?

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I mean, did kids play tennis? Yeah, tennis world, right?

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She does play tennis. She, and both her and her husband do, they play, um, mixed, get mixed together.

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Do they play T2? Oh, yeah. Do they get free access? Do they know somebody or they still got to pay,

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like everybody else? I make her pay, I think. I don't know for sure. I think she probably,

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goes through the back door and gets a hold of one of our, one of our staff and says, hey, this is,

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this is hand on this is make this go away.

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But, um, it's actually, she just asked me a question. She just met a new friend.

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Actually, she met someone on an all to team last season and they're, they're playing T2 together.

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This coming season starts next week. So, yeah, that happens all the time.

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Well, what does, uh, Bobby and I talk about this a lot when we talk to, when we talk to, I say,

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people like you, industry insiders, people who know Atlanta really well. And I'm curious about T2

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and ultimate because in combination, you're the, make sure I get this right. The second largest

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entity in the country next to the USDA, that correct? From what we know, yeah, from a number of

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participation and sector going on that were, um, you know, the, the combination of the, of us too

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is probably the second largest tennis entity of recreational tennis players in the, in the US,

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that point that playing leagues. And you're looking at the multiple hundreds of thousands just from

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the website numbers of that level of participation. Is there anything? I'm curious. I don't, I'd,

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put, putting you on the spot a little bit to say, is there anything that, that you would need? What is,

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what is an entity that large like we have lots of ideas to what USDA needs? A lot of, a lot of the

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complaints there are top down, but it sounds like you were doing really well. The last we spoke,

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you've got a solid customer service team, you get a lot of, a lot of helpful people on your staff,

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because that's a lot of what this business is and people probably forget that. But is there something

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where the, where are the things that you might expand to? What, do you have any ideas on maybe what's

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next for T2? I feel like I'm jumping into this early, but I'd love to know if, if there's a, if there's

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a target, is there a vision for the next five years? Or does it just do what it does?

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We only go into markets where we know that we can provide a good product and, and a good, you know,

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and that we will, and there's a need. And, and there's also in the flex lead, you know, our leagues are,

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are flexible scheduling leagues. It takes a pretty big tennis market for it to actually work,

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to begin with, because, you know, there's people that come and go and, you know, they don't play

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every season and that type of thing. So it takes you, usually a pretty large metro area for,

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for it to be supported, because it's, it's, it's, it's operated very differently than, than, than the

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team leagues, if you, but, so what's next is, currently where is, we're, we're making some improvements to

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the websites. There's actually the, both websites are being rewritten again. And that's,

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probably to the player, to our customers, that's not, that's not really that big a deal, but,

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you know, it's time because some of our software is, is, is operated on, on over platforms,

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and you just have to do that every once in a while. So that's, that's a pretty big deal to us,

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is upgrading the, the course software that is running on. And then that, that will take us out

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for the next 10 years or so, and we'll be done with that, we'll be done with that on, on, more

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technology. And one of the things that will be an advantage to players is, is a lot more mobile

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friendly. Both, both the, ultimate and T2 websites are semi mobile friendly now, they work, they

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work fine on iPhones, they work phone, fine on phones and tablets and stuff, but the software was not

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written in, in, in mobile friendly, um, we've, we've adapted it as best we can, but now we need to

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take it to another level. So that's being worked on behind the scenes right now. And, in it's, it's,

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it's a, it's a big project, it's, but it's, it's something that need, need it to be done. Again,

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that's not something that the players will, will see, you know, an immediate impact, but once we get the,

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you know, the mobile stuff, they'll be able to, it'll be, it'll be more user friendly on, on phones,

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in that, that type of thing. So that's, that's going on as far as expansion goes, we'd open,

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Philadelphia a year ago, two years ago, of course, right, but, no, it was a little, it was before that,

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because we opened, we opened Philadelphia as a market, which is as far and or at this we've,

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we've ever gone, um, and of course, then the pandemic came right out and our time in English was great,

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but, but that's, um, but that, um, that's gone pretty well. Um, we continue to do a lot of, um,

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growth and marketing work and et cetera in, you know, in all of our Florida markets, um, and that

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that continues to be, um, um, a good, a good product in it, you know, in a, in a big challenge down

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all the Florida markets. We operate those, don't know, um, in probably every city in Florida,

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every major city from Jacksonville to the whole Southwest coast from Tampa all the way down through Fort

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Myers, um, um, Miami, Orlando, um, et cetera. So that continues in, you know, the, the whole Southwest

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Florida has been a, has been a, has been a challenge this last year because of what happened at the

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hurricane, the hurricane, because we lost a ton of ten of them, you know, a ton of tennis courts down

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there, you know, there, it's almost all clay and all the clay courts are out in the middle of the golf now.

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This Fort Myers is not the same. 150 mile hour win is just takes that, takes that clay, um,

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stuff and just sweeps it right out into the ocean.

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So Sean, since we have really good questions, I just want to give and I apologize if you went over it,

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but I doubt you did because as Sean told me last night, he said, Joel, you're the second most

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unidentifiable person on the web next to me. He said, there's two pictures of Joel. He said,

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which, you know, compared to, I said, no, my daughter's 17. I said, we take one a year. So there's probably

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at least 10 pictures of me on the web, but and if you listen any of our podcasts, you'll hear repeatedly.

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We've been, you and I have been in the same space for 25 years together. I, I reference everybody,

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the only company that I've seen successful and sustainable with a outside tennis idea has been T2.

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T2 is the model for how to be successful. And I know you guys were touching on it as I was walking in

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about the slow growth, which was, you know, contrained to what most people do and obviously

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unbelievable, successful. But I love the little things you did through the years when we would talk

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and say, okay, so how are you marketing? You do, the majority of your marketing was loyalty marketing.

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So you went out and bought a t-shirt firm and a chachky firm to be able to do that. You're,

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the majority, your, your, in post, you know, not the traditional things that you think of. So you've

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always been so ahead of everybody in that capacity, which again, speaks to how well you do. And that's

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why we're so interested in seeing where you think it goes. But the other one that early on, I remember

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you did surveys, everybody thought the driving was going to be the big thing that people would,

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we're going to rebut, but your survey said what? I remember a clear, you know, and I might be wrong,

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but I remember that you came back to nose. It was sandbagging was the, the, the number one thing that

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people identified about that they didn't like and you guys have a great, you know, always a bit if

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you get a sandbagger, you're not going to last real long and T2 with that level. Right.

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I'd say sandbagging was was probably a subset of what we heard from our players,

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which was, it's kind of a subset, but playing at the correct level. And, and, and, and, you know,

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people will mislevel, some people will mislevel on purpose. You know, it's, it's a fact of life that

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it happens. And, but so one of the things that we did, this was years and years ago, it's okay. So we

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just kind of followed a leveling methodology, if you will, but then when we, when we did survey,

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and we did talk to a lot of players, and this was a long time ago, and realized how important

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playing at the correct level is. That's when we got kind of scientific about it, and went in and,

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and, and rode into our software, our leveling mentality, which now is kind of, is been adopted in

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many different ways. And some people have tried to use it and you've had to tell them that they can't.

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But, you know, we, we basically now mathematically correct, mathematically calculate everyone's

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performance from a season to season. And, and so, so how it works is you can self-level for the first

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season. And after that, then our software takes over and levels you. And it's worked out, and it works,

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you know, we have literally more than millions of matches of data to, from which to go back and,

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and correctly level people. And, and, and, and, and the other thing we can do, which, if people ask us,

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and by the way, when we do our rewrite, this is another thing that we're going to do is we're going to

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make it easier for you to inquire about the right level, so making it, taking it one step further,

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but you can ask us, and you can, we can find if you, if you give us some friends or something,

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that we can tell you where they're competitive at and where to plug you in, as well. So, so leveling was,

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was something that we wrote into our software years and years ago that his, has worked and does continue

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to work extremely well. And so, we're moving through the level. And the other thing that allowed us to

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do, which is pretty unique to T2 and to ultimate, and this has to do with numbers of people to,

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to make it work as well, is where the ones that started and continue to have the half levels.

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So, we can make our, make our leveling more granular. So, we, you know, we, we adopted by name the, the, the,

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the NTRP, the, you know, 3035, et cetera, but we're the, we actually started the half levels,

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which is 35 minus, 30 minus, you know, so, you know, which makes it more granular.

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And so, we have 11 levels or 12 levels, can't remember. So, anyway, 11 or 12 levels that people will,

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will, you can graduate up or you can move your way down to, but, and I think we're the only one

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that can actually fill the half levels and make it work, which puts people even closer, in a closer,

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in a, in a closer competitive with each other. So, that's worked really well. And ultimate has, um, you

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know, it was, it was interesting, and ultimate, and did, it's very, did a very similar calculation

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effort, and that was actually before the two of us came together as one company.

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So, you've had amazing success doing that. And the USDA kind of went in the other direction,

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where they used, you have to get, you used to have to get rated to get on a USDA team,

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because they looked at their numbers compared to Alton said, well, we're going to allow people

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self-rate. Now, they do track better than Alton does during the season for that reason,

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but it's astonishing to me that, again, you have the empirical data that shows this is important to

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people. And yet, you know, an organization running the sport went a different direction.

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We constantly talk to our customers about what's important to them, and try to, try to provide that

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in our products. Now, I can give you another example. One time it was mentioned that,

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that the, quote, individual leagues are flexed. The leagues you play the same people over and over.

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And I said, when we said, really, no, that's not true, because there's, there's so many different

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people playing. So then, what we did is, so, you know what, that's something that we should put

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into our software. So now, when we schedule people, we look at a division before it gets published

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to the player. Now, we can tell you how many times you played that, how many times you played that,

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that opponent. And if it's too many, we move you to a different division. People don't even know we

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do that. And so it's part of our software that says, we can check for how many times you play to,

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do, you, how many times you've duplicated this match. And if it's too many, we'll move you,

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or even if it was just last season, because, no, when we do scheduling, when we put people

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schedules together, it's done by level and geography, right? And we try to put people in divisions

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in the same part of town at the same level. No, that's what we do. So sometimes, you know, you're going to

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put the same people together, but so we put into our software an ability to scramble them around

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to make sure that they aren't playing the same people over and over. That was another thing that was

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brought up to a, brought up to us through just talking to our customers. But talking to customers,

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isn't that while USDA or you listen, yeah, out there, you listen and talking to customers, wow,

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that's it. Yeah, all just offense. This is one of the things that people will bring up to us. And

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we have to explain it to them on leveling. T2 is an individual leap. No, we keep track of you two

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as partners together or you individually, and you'll have your own individual ratings as a team

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and we keep track. So if you have, if you're playing T2 with three different partners,

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like like, we keep track of you three, those three teams individually. That's all part of our

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part of our software. But all to, and people will say, well, this person's playing B5,

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all to, but they're playing, you know, they shouldn't be playing this level in T2 or vice versa.

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Right? But people, when we, when we explain it to them, then they, then, ah, I didn't think about that.

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All to is a team. Yeah. And you're being rated as a team, not as an individual. And so from that

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perspective, it's, you can't, it's not an apples to apples comparison. So there can be a

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three O person on an all to team and a four O person. And this perfectly legit. And one will

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probably play line one and one will probably play line five. But in T2, you're ranked, you're rated

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in your level and you're leveled as an individual, not as a team. And so all to us, whole teams move up.

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It hold, whole teams move down and whole teams are put together. There's some individual rating on it.

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But generally, it's rated as a team, not as an individual. And that's perfectly okay. And once

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one of the things I think it's good about all to is it allows people of different abilities to be

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on the same team socially. And that's good. But it doesn't work for an individual team. So that's why we

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have to rate people individually, that makes sense. And so those were some of the things that we

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asked and drive time, by the way, was another one that came up is, you know, that's what's really

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important and what's great about T2 is that we have, since we have enough such a large scale people

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playing, you're going to play people of your same level pretty much in the same part of the same

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part of town. And, you know, the higher up levels you get, sometimes it gets a little bit more of a

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challenge, but generally speaking, you know, that's, you know, people say, I don't want to, I don't want to

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drive an hour to play a tennis match. And we respect that and we understand that. And I especially

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don't want to play a drive an hour to go play a tennis match that's not competitive.

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And those are what people tell us in that, you know, so we get that as well. So when you combine geography

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and leveling together in a pretty good mix, then it all works. We've got some questions offline. We

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want to talk about an idea. Bobby's working on, because it sounds like your software is able to plug

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in as long as the market's already there. And you mentioned how thoughtful it, I would use the word

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mindful when you expand and very, very mindful of what's next. Because a lot of, a lot of companies

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will jump into the next thing or like I said, have this take over the world mentality, kind of a

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universal tennis point of view, where kind of missing the idea of listening to the customer, which

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you seem to be doing really well. What benefits T2? What's the, what's the thing that's from,

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from an already established point of view, focus on metriotlana, because that's the majority of our market.

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What's the, what's the thing that helps T2 grow the most and do what it does? You've got your algorithmic

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system, I don't know if it's an algorithm yet, but you've got your, your ability and your software

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to make it as good as you can. Are you still in the word amount? I don't see a lot of advertising.

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What helps you the most? By far is our, who can tell our story the best is our customers, right?

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And one of the, one of the things that we put in, which I don't know if you've ever even seen it is,

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we do, most of our marketing comes from players telling other players about,

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and play. We have a, a program within that our customers use all the time that we give away

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Amazon gift cards. So if you, if you, if you refer a player when they sign up, you would, you,

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you get a, you would get a $20 Amazon gift card that you can use to buy almost anything you want.

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We've given away thousands of those. And we have actually a whole corporate deal with Amazon,

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that we're one of their largest corporate gifters of gift cards, Bluebirdon.

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And it works really well. So, you know, so, but that's, we've relied heavily on

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our customers to tell our story because it's, it's just, you know, if you're playing key too,

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and you tell your friend to go play to, play T2, that's, that's going to go way further than me telling

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you to play T2, you know, of course, because we're all, you know, every company is always going to be

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about self-promotion, right? And so, but when a customer actually says, hey, I, I played in this league,

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I enjoy this league. And here's why I enjoy this league. That's how our story gets told. And we have

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hundreds of new players coming in every season because of that.

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Well, it's fun, Joe. And again, we'll come back to, we've been in the same space a long time,

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and Joel, through the years, has been very kind to share a lot of the behind-of-things

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that make T2 special and make it work, as I said, the loyalty programs that he developed,

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the fact that one of his business biggest expenditures was mailing these loyalty products to

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his customers. But the one thing that I have not heard, and this is a cultural phenomenon that you

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have created in Atlanta, which Sean will tell you, I try to figure out what is the neck is the card

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magnet. That was genius. It literally, you know, and maybe my daughter wasn't in the right space at

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that time, so I, but everybody now does a card magnet. You were the first card magnet,

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and you would see that everywhere. And like you said, there's your customers speaking to

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the loyalty, but that was, that's a cultural phenomenon.

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That was a good idea. That was, you know, one of the, we're actually kind of funny because we're,

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we actually, we just started sending out now windows stickers instead of car magnets. One of the

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problems we're having is cars now are being made with steel anymore. And so, I went out, it was my,

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one of the late, some of the works for us, and we was thinking, can you don't have a car magnet on

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your car? She goes, I don't know, I just never put one on. So we went out, put it out, why don't

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stuck on the back of her car that fell right off? Because the back of the car is aluminum. And so

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cars aren't made. So there's, you know, car magnets, no work as well as they used to because of that

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reason, because, you know, people, they're not making cars with steel anymore. But so we came out with

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windows stickers, but I'm not sure people are liking them, be honest with you as much as the car magnet.

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So we're gonna, we're gonna continue to put out car magnets and, you know, they put them on the

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roof or whatever, but yeah, that was a, that was a good idea. It was just basically, you know, one

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time, we said, you know what, when people win something, let's let them, let's let them be proud

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about it. And so division winners car mains, we started putting out and they, people, you know,

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were proudly displaying when it was turned out to be a pretty good decision for us.

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When the bag tag, bag tag is a little more echo chamber, right? We all walk onto the court and

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we all say, hey, I want to match. Hey, I don't want to match too. We're all kind of talking to ourselves.

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The car magnet is a display everywhere you go. It's fantastic. Yeah. All right,

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John, I think he's set up. Now I want to see, now I ask him where we go in the future. Now I'm

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interested in what's the future holds. When I think about the future, I, you know, I always think

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about the present, which is, you know, continue to do a good job, you know, I think, you know, I think

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our software and scheduling and all that stuff, you know, like, we're, it's kind of, we're scheduling

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our spring league today, actually, or this week, and so which starts next week. The amount of detail

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that we go through to make sure people, because the, when we schedule people, that's ultimately the

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product, right? That's what gets delivered to them. We do painstaking detail to make sure that every

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single person out there has got the, is the best that we can make it is that, you know, we've done

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the best that we can do. We have all sorts of little tools in our software that, you know, that

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we said is, you know, have we done the best that we can do? We have a great review process and a staff

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everyone that does that puts that together is the best that we can do. Is it always perfect? No,

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sometimes no, because we don't, you know, we have to, we want to fit another person in that's

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maybe a little bit further than we would like or that type of thing, but generally speaking, but I,

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but I can assure you that when we put out our schedules, it has been worked the best, best possible

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for every single player. You know, and the other thing that I think we do pretty good job of is

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customer service. We, we, you know, we have our customers communicate with via email and that works

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because of the short volume of different people that we have to deal with on different issues.

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You know, a lot of issues that we deal with with players and customers is, is emotional.

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And email is a great, is a great way to diffuse the emotion and, and provide, you know,

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a response back to them. You know, we get sometimes as much as, I know we've had as much as

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2000 emails a day coming into our customer service teams and they answer every one of them.

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And so, and will I answer every one of them pretty quickly? So, you know, I think that that's one of

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the things and if our customers have questions or concerns or comments, you know, we get positive

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comments as well sometimes into our, it's not always complaining about the other team or whatever,

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but, you know, we like to hear from them. And that's we, we learn a lot from, you know, we can talk

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about, we almost get a survey almost every day from our players, right? Because just because of

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the response or the, you know, questions that come into us, so anyway, so I think those are two

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couple things that are pretty, you know, customer service, producing our scheduling amount of detail

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that we put into that, about an effort we put into it, our people, our staff and our people and

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myself, we all care. We care about what our customers think, we care about that they have a good

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experience and we care about that they continue to have a good experience. And if they do that,

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you know, that's the future, right? Like I said, we're rewriting some software, we're doing some

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mobile friendly stuff. We've got a couple of initiatives that will be a couple software

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advancements, stuff coming from players, et cetera, that we're working on. And so, you know, that's,

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that's the core of T2 and and and continue to do what we're doing. We're working on some growth

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markets, like I said, we opened Philadelphia last year so that that takes a pretty, you know, we're

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fairly limited staff. So it's not like, you know, I have this huge, this huge staff of people

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that's been going to go swarm the whole new market, et cetera. So that's that's that's that's what we

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we continue to do. I'm going to ask, I'm going to answer one question that everybody asked me,

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you guys will probably ask me. My next question, go ahead, is pickle ball, right? Yeah. I know you're

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going to ask that, so I'm going to answer it at a time. We're a tennis league. We, we, we, you know,

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we've looked at it, we think about it, we, we toss it around here and there, but at the end of the day,

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we're a tennis league and we do tennis really well. And tennis, by the way, is is strong. It's going,

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it's, it's doing well. I mean, I know that art, you know, since, since COVID, you know,

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the T2 product is we've grown, we continue to grow and we can, you know, so that's, that's kind of what

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we do. Pickleball is not played the same way T2 is played is pickleball is a group gets together,

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you play pickup or you, you know, you play around robin type mash and then you go home play.

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That's not how T2 is played. And so they're, you know, I don't, I don't know. And so, and so, our,

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we look at it, we think about it, but at the end of the day, we always kind of come back to,

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is you know what, we're a tennis league. And that's what we do and we do it well and we're going to

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continue to do it well. Pickleball is a great product. It's a great sport. I mean, I get the attraction

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of pickleball. It's easy to play. It's easy to learn. It's quick. It's, it's fun. But it's a different

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product than what we do. If that makes sense. So, so, you read my mind. So that, I guess a lot of jokes

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that doesn't take long. I understand. But, but no, you're, you're exactly right. I think in this,

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taking from a different angle, because I always people ask me, well, you know, what do you have, what

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draw with, what would you say if you had something to complain about T2, my complain always goes back to,

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I truly believe when we met in this success, I thought you'd someday be the tournament director

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of what, let's say, truest and, you know, the sky was the limit. And you sit there. So I think it's,

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it's out of respect and admiration that here's a company that did something so well. We want you to

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go into other things and do that equally well other places. So, you know, it's, it's a backhanded

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compliment when people say, well, why aren't you doing pickleball? Well, because we want you to,

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because you've done this so well, that's the expectation. That's what we want to deal with. Same

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thing with the tournaments. I can say that I always, I said, Joel's going to be the tournament director.

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If he wants to be, he'll be the tournament director someday. And, you know, it didn't, but you said,

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why? And obviously, you're hugely successful. Why would you want to take on something even? But,

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you know, it's, I think it's, it's a compliment really. Everything you've done is so well that we

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want you to do more. So. Well, thank you. But, you know, we do what we do well. And, you know, like I said,

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a minute ago, we're a fairly small company, you know, we're, we're limited and, you know, and staff

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and what we do. And so, and I like it that way, to be honest with you, I like, you know, when we hire

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people and I, you know, you can go talk to some of our staff sometime, but, you know, I've always said to them,

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is who the person is that works for us is more important than, than, there, sometimes that even

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they're skill level, we can teach you the job. What's important to us is, do we want to work with you?

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Do we want you as part of our team? And we, we, we emphasize that all the time because we're a small group,

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pretty close, talk to each other all the time, you know, we have to live with each other if you will.

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And so, that's always been important to us. And so, you know, anyway, so, but that's, you know,

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we're in the tennis business and that's, well, that's, you know, the space that we're good at,

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you know it. And if you try to expand and, and go off into different directions that you, you know,

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I think, I was, you know, I came out of a big corporate world and you see it, you see people trip up,

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trip up over themselves all the time by not sticking to what they do and do well. So, that's just one of my

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philosophers. Plus, I'm getting old and tired and I can't do it. So, I'm doing so much I can do as well.

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And that grants is going to get worse once they start really walking and running for, I have a three

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year old and forget it. He, all he, all I do is chase him. So, you just started crawling. So, um,

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you got to, you got about another year before it really gets interesting. Right.

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Well, Bobby, you were asking about, I think, uh, conversation, Bobby, you had a question about Atlanta

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specifically from Joel's, Joel's opinion about the uniqueness of Atlanta. Was there something

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there you wanted to talk to him about? Well, I mean, he could speak on if you want. I, you know, if you

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listen, I think he said it's obviously the density of the number of players contribute. What, let me

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take from a different standpoint, Joel, outside of that, what, what do you see in the tennis experience

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for your players outside? I mean, obviously, Florida is similar that I would imagine predominantly

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HOA driven. What, what, what my, I'm alert, you know, Sean's talking about is the difference we see

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nationwide between how it's so HOA driven here as opposed to, as you go to the northeast,

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it's more clubs and a lot of these leagues and stuff are, that role is fulfilled by the club.

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Other places. Yeah, actually, Florida is a lot more club than you think about it than you think as well.

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But Atlanta is totally unique. Um, it's, um, probably the closest that I've seen to Atlanta is Charlotte

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a little bit and Denver, believe it or not, will operate leagues and Denver as well. There's a lot more

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neighborhood type tennis. But even in like, for example, even in Denver, um, the neighborhood,

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the neighborhoods will be more like a winward where there's, where there's, they maybe have 10,

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and 15 courts in a big neighborhood and then maybe neighborhoods around them will share

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some, a little bit larger facility, but the two, four, six court neighborhoods, um, with two,

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four, six, six tennis courts in every, in every neighborhood is very unique to Atlanta. Um,

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I don't think there is another city that's like that. And this, this will, this will be interesting.

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This will take, this goes back years and years ago. I was traveling to, I don't remember

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if it was another city where we were expanding to and we were going around and doing our marketing

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show and talking to people and all that kind of stuff. And I was sitting in the hotel in the morning,

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and I got a real estate brochure, right? And I said, what's the difference between, I was with

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somebody that worked for us is what's the difference between this brochure here and Atlanta?

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So we were paging through it and it basically, the brochure was all about the houses.

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Our houses, mice or bedrooms and better this and better that and that type of thing. And in the back

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corner of the magazine or the last page or something, there was this little tiny blurb about

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amenities. This is an oh, by the way, we've got, we've got an amenity package, this type of thing.

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And when you looked at it, looked at an Atlanta brochure, this was back 20 years ago,

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the entire brochure was about the amenities. We have the best, we have a new pool, we have this,

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we have swim, we have tennis, we have all these amenities and oh, by the way, we sell houses as well,

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you know? And that was completely the difference in a different market in a different city

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than Atlanta was. Atlanta, you know, it was interesting that swim and tennis kind of dictated how

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real estate was developed in the city, you know, 20 years ago. And that's not the same, that's not the

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case in other markets, that makes sense. That's very unique, you know? We, I'll give you an example in

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Denver, which is not too much smaller than Atlanta, it's in a similar size. We're played in probably

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about every tennis facility in Denver and it's about a hundred. There's about a hundred different

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courts that facilities that that T2 has played on in Denver. Atlanta is like 1500.

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And so, I mean, I think we, we schedule people on something like

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1500 different courts in the Atlanta metro area. So that gives you, and I said Denver is probably one

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of the cities that's most like Atlanta in the swim and neighborhood. So it's the tenth, there's a tenth,

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the number, you know, maybe the courts, I don't know if we're sure the exact court count, but

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but numbers of facilities is probably 10% is what the resident Atlanta. So it gives you an

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interesting statistic. Well, and you mentioned the amenities and that's, it's a good segue. We were

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having a conversation, I say, we, my wife and my stepdaughter on the way home, we were talking about

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pickleball, we were talking about tennis and I was talking about the conversation coming up with you.

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We weren't sure. I think everybody's kind of dancing around the pickleball question right now.

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And my stepdaughter looks at if she's 22, graduated, do big brain on the girl. She says, Sean,

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we've got a pickleball court right behind our house in the neighborhood, our brand new neighborhood,

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put in two tennis courts and a pickleball court. I think we have our sign. I think we have what's

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with the, what the direction of the area is right there next to our house because they threw in a

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dedicated pickleball court. I think that says something, but if that's, pickleball is a fast growing,

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I think I heard once where they say it's the fastest growing activity in the, um, in the winter,

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etc. It's, you know, it's a good product. It's, it's, it's, you know, I get the, like I said, I get

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the attraction of, of, of the sport. Um, um, and it will can probably, to continue to do well.

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I don't think right now the league participation in pickleball leagues has matured yet.

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All right. And, and because, because there's that, that is, is still kind of being figured out.

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Again, today pickleball is, you know, there's a group in my neighborhood here. We converted one of

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our courts to pickleball court as well. And, um, and, you know, there's a group they get together,

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they play one night a week, they all show up, they play around Robin. I played with them a couple

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times, but they play around Robin. He's very social and then they lead. Um, some of the guys actually

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went and participated in a league, so that playing around Robin and they just, it just didn't work out

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very well for him. Um, it was different. It just was, it just wasn't quite matured yet. So,

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then I think the whole pickleball league concept is still being figured out, but the participation

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in pickleball is doing really well. Yeah. I think we'll let it land. We'll let out to figure out.

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They just came out with their pickleball league. We'll let out to test that. If they can, if they can

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figure it out, that's fine. We'll all watch. But, but at some point I need to, I need to jump into my

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question. You said you'd already put some thought into my king of tennis question. But I'm curious if,

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Joel, the, the, the founder of T2, the guy who figured out the uniqueness of Atlanta and tell me

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if I'm blowing too much smoke, but the guy who figured it out is there, is there something you would do?

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If you were king of tennis, is there something you would do or change whether it's Atlanta or anywhere

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in the world about tennis in general? Um, one thing comes to mind when we, we took out, we started

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to talk about this is I would, if I was the king of tennis and I could get all of you tennis

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pro types out there in, in one session and convince you is I would get junior kids playing more

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recreational tennis. Um, and, um, you know, I just think back, you know, of course, now here, here,

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here we go back to, you know, when I was a kid, you know, when I, when we walked uphill both ways and

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eight feet of snow to, to school and all that kind of stuff. Um, but, you know, I played tennis with my

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friends all the time. That's what we would do. We would literally walk to the tennis courts, go play

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and we'd play for a whole afternoon, you know, we would play some games, we'd do sets, sometimes we'd

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do, but we played recreationally with each other. And this isn't just tennis, by the way, this is kids

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junior sports in total. We've gotten into this, um, um, call it, um, camp mentality, um, where,

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and the one of the frustrations and one of the things that I see with, with juniors, and it's not

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just tennis, it's all sports is the special, is specialization. I'm either going to go get really good

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or we're going to quit and there's no in between. And, um, and so what I would like to see if I was

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king tennis would be let's get kids playing tennis more for fun. Just recreational, go out, you don't

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have to go, um, be the best kid all the time, but you can go play, play recreationally and have fun.

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I think tennis is a good sport for that for kids, you know, but again, I'm, I'm, I know tennis and I

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that's, that's where I grew up is and it's the same in football, it's the same in basketball that

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we get in this mentality that we're going to go to drill camp, we're going to go to, um, we're going

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to go specialized in these sports and we're going to, we're going to run our kids, um, hard, hard, hard

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chasing the college scholarship or whatever. And they don't have fun. And what I see in tennis is,

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and this is one of the, one of the challenges that we have for the future of the sport is kids

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will go to about 12 or 14 years old and they, and they, um, you know, and if they don't get go,

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we'd get, get on the really good path then they just quit playing. They don't, there's no in between.

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And, um, and so, and I think that's going to hurt our sport years down the road. So if I was king

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of tennis, I would get kids playing tennis more recreational, just having fun. Um, and not, you know,

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they don't have to go to the, um, you know, the, you know, five hours a day drill sessions all the time.

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And that's one of the things I would like to see us as a tennis community promote.

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That's my, that's, that's number one thing. I see it happening in the adults sometimes. There's a lot

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of, a lot of new adults that are picking up the game. And, um, and, and it's, you know, it's hard to do as an

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adult. And I give you, I give credit for that. And I think T2 is a good product for people learning,

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the learning the game, um, out, um, um, for the first time or is in that type of thing. But I'd love to

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see us spend more time with, with the juniors just, um, promoting the game as a, as a, as a place to have

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fun, a place to enjoy, you know, get out and, um, and play recreational tennis. It's not, doesn't have to

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always be about, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna be, what's my ranking?

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Well, there you have it. We want to thank Rejovenate.com for use of the studio. And be sure to hit that

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follow button. For more tennis related content, you can go to Atlanta tennispodcast.com. And while you're

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there, check out our calendar of tennis events deals on equipment, apparel, and more. And you should

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feel good knowing that shopping at Let's Go Tennis.com helps support this show. You can also donate

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directly using links in the show notes. And with that, we're out. See you next time.

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[Music]

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(gentle music)

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