|Steve Wood- CEO, Tennis Australia|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 15 June 2012 14:05
Born in Melbourne and educated in Australia and the United States, Steve Wood combines a successful track record in business with a lifelong involvement in tennis.
As a top state player in the 1980s, he was a contemporary of Pat Cash and Wally Masur and represented Victoria at junior level before embarking on the professional ATP [Association of Tennis Professional] tour from 1985 to ’87 prior to moving his career aspirations into business.
He was appointed in 2005 by Tennis Australia as its new Chief Executive Officer to take on the responsibilities for day-to-day administration of one of Australia’s most successful sports.
Before joining TA, he gained extensive business experience as the chief executive of information, communications and technology companies in Australia, across Asia-Pacific and around the world.
I’ve always been a big fan of the sport from a very young age. My parents were both involved in tennis coaching and as a player, I was a contemporary of Pat Cash and Wally Masur in the 80’s, which I still hold very fond memories from.
How did you get into the industry?
Before I joined TA (Tennis Australia) I was fortunate enough to work 16 years in communication and technology. At the time, Australian tennis was looking for its first full time CEO, with someone who had both corporate and practical experience in the sport, which was how I got the job seven years ago.
My best memory was probably representing my state of Victoria in a cup competition against the others states in Australia. Pat Cash was my double’s partner at the time, who then went onto win Wimbledon and was a great player. We have remained good friends and keep in touch when our busy schedules allow us too. Tennis has brought me so much happiness and I just love how it brings everyone together as it almost acts as the social fabric of society. That’s the most important thing.
How has your practical experience in tennis helped you become successful in your current role?
People can forget how much they can learn on the tennis court. I think it teaches you some great skills, which can benefit you in business and in life, as it is an individual sport. I personally have taken so much from my tennis background and have learnt what it takes to be a professional tennis player. I then transferred these skills into the business world and I really believe the sport has helped me achieve some of the things I have worked for, and ultimately made me the person I am today.
I never had plans to be a CEO when I was starting out in sport, as I was always involved in the sales/marketing side and reported to someone in a higher position to me. I was open to looking at an Australian based job, rather than travelling Asia-Pacific all the time, which I found myself doing on a regular basis. It became apparent that I had the right ‘cocktail’ of skills that Tennis Australia was looking for and I subsequently applied for the job. The rest is history as they say!
I am responsible for all things tennis, from grass roots to Grand Slams. The responsibility is centered around community, player development, professional tournaments, and everything that goes in-between, so it’s a very diverse role I operate under. It keeps me very busy, but it’s something I enjoy doing, which is the most important thing.
What are the most challenging and, equally, rewarding aspects of your job?
It’s enormously complex because we are involved with community programmes, professional tournament rights, broadcast rights, sponsorship, corporate hospitality and so on. So, all the business angles are covered. Furthermore, there is a very large amount of stakeholders, which can be challenging. The fact is that there are 75million tennis players worldwide, which obviously comes with a lot of opinion, so managing this public opinion can be a challenge in itself.
The most rewarding, and arguably most exciting part of the job is that you get involved with some of the greatest tennis players in the world at the Grand Slam, which is a huge boost. Also, we are always eager to see what emerging talent is coming through the youth ranks, watching their development into becoming future stars of the game, which of course is very motivating as well.