You played your favorite sport growing up. Even made your high school Varsity team. You still love and understand the game. Still comb through the sports page each morning like a Wall Street analyst pouring over Bloomberg figures. But sadly, there was that day of reckoning when you realized you couldn’t play professionally. Somehow, some way, you’d love to blend that love for the game with a paycheck.
Gayle Bradshaw is a perfect example of taking a sports passion and transforming it into a career. After playing collegiate tennis and working nine years as a club pro he decided to get into the non-playing, business side of the game.
“During that period as a club pro, we hosted a Satellite event on the original Southern Circuit. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t a Masters Series event in Paris -- but it was a start.” Bradshaw caught the eye of the United States Tennis Association and began part-time work as a Circuit Tour Director.
From there, his career blossomed. “In 1984, Brian Earley (current U.S. Open Referee) and I were hired by the USTA to supervise the USTA Satellite Circuit [which is like a single A circuit for future stars]. When the ATP Tour was formed in 1990 I left the USTA and went to work for the ATP Tour as an ATP Tour Supervisor. My current position is Vice President, Officiating / ATP Supervisor.”
And now he’s a sports ghost. Meaning this: Bradshaw is one of those unseen individuals who makes the action on the court, field or rink look smooth and effortless.
Without the sports ghosts? Chaos. Who’s got the game ball? Where are the referees? Who’s even keeping score? That’s precisely where Gayle Bradshaw comes in. “The ATP Supervisor is responsible for everything that has to do with the playing of the matches, from making sure that the court set-up meets Tour standards to being the final authority on any rules issues that may come up during the course of the match.”
Although he may attend tournaments in Monte Carlo and Tokyo, it’s certainly not all glamour. He’s not drinking champagne in the locker room with Andre Agassi after a huge five-set win. “There are many administrative tasks involved in the day-to-day managing of the event,” he says. “But once play begins, the main focus is watching the matches to make sure that everything is running smoothly.”
That’s when he becomes a ghost.
Bradshaw says these are only some of his responsibilities on site: “assigning the chair umpires for each match; acting as head of the scheduling committee (producing the order of play); making sure that the results of each match have been properly and accurately recorded; determining if a player is to be fined for misconduct during the match; evaluating the performance of the chair umpires; working closely with the Tournament Director to ensure that the matches are presented in best possible way to both the on-site spectators and the television audience.”
Don’t forget the long hours. Fans tune into a sporting event and catch the first pitch or opening kickoff. Not Bradshaw. “A usual day begins by arriving on site approximately two hours prior to play each day and remaining until usually one hour after the last match has been completed.” Keep in mind, a day of matches can start at 10 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. This leaves very little time for sightseeing or entertainment.
Bradshaw, like many who speak about their sports-related jobs, insists those entering the field possess a passion. “You have to have a love for the sport to start.” Without that? Then those 15-hour days spent roaming the grounds of a tourney in Houston will seem overwhelming and tiring instead of exciting and gratifying.
If you want in, Bradshaw says a summer internship may be your window of opportunity. “To enter the business side, either a tournament or a sports agency such as IMG or SFX would get you started. For the officiating side of it you must start at the local level and try to work your way up. It is a long path with very little pay and much competition for the few full-time officiating positions that are out there.” But look at Bradshaw. It all started with overseeing a small tournament. He took a part-time job in sports and eventually turned it into a career of tennis bliss.