Sport and business have always been two sides of the same coin for Pascal Kamp, Senior Manager at the Royal Dutch Lawn Tennis Association (KNLTB). We sat down with Pascal to talk about the big changes in tennis and what it's like to be a forward-thinking and progressive person in a traditional organization that has been around for a long time.
Why do you particularly enjoy the combination of sports and business?
I have always had a passion for sports. So, it was my dream to combine this with my work. To make this dream a reality, I started working at Puma and, afterwards K-Swiss. But it wasn't until I discovered the KNLTB and their vision to ‘get more people moving’ that I knew I had found the perfect fit.
Recently KNLTB has merged with the Dutch padel association. Did the explosive growth of the padel surprise the KNLTB?
Well, it didn't surprise us that much, as the sport had already steadily grown since 2016. What did surprise us was the boom during and after the pandemic.
Do you think padel will ever take over tennis in the Netherlands?
That is a question that we definitely discuss in our internal organization. However, the answer is difficult to give because how do you define a padel player? Tennis players are usually a member of a tennis association.
Padel is a lot easier to learn and way more accessible than tennis. I’ve heard people describing padel as a ‘lifestyle’ or hobby rather than a sport. Many padel players do not belong to an association and only play padel a couple of times per year with friends on a ‘pay per play’ basis rather than through a membership.
Don’t forget that currently, 600,000+ people are members of a tennis association. With that number in mind, I believe padel still has a long way to go.
Society has become more individualistic, and people don’t want to commit to sports associations as much as they used to. Do you think traditional sports clubs are doomed?
I think the sense of community traditional sports clubs provides has a future. And you know what? Even old-school clubs and new-fangled padel places can teach each other a thing or two. Padel's very good at getting young city-dwellers involved with DJs and parties and all that, but traditional clubs are ace at bringing folks together. I reckon we'll see a mashup of both worlds in the future.
The KNLTB has a long history with tennis and is now adapting to the changes padel brings. Do you have any advice for change-makers operating in an organization with a long history?
There are three lessons that any change-maker should be aware of. First, get to know your target audience inside and out. By talking to people and doing research, you will know what’s going on. Secondly, to convince your stakeholders using the facts you gathered about your target audience, gather a group of people around you who share the same vision and plans. Finally, be aware of your organization and its preferred pace. Some folks want to enact change fast, but if you work at a traditional place, it might not happen that way.
Last question: what's the biggest misconception about the KNLTB?
Lots of people think that we're a slow and stuffy organization, but that’s just not true. We're actually a very modern company, and quite advanced in various aspects. I find the KNLTB a very intriguing organization: where else do you represent 630,000 members with an organization of only 90 employees? To be fair, it’s a big responsibility for a small team, but we take it seriously and are proud of what we do.