The fact that tennis is growing rapidly is now common knowledge. However no one has really figured out the main reason for this increase in popularity and participation. Theories abound: more public courts, better equipment, the use of new teaching methods like short courts and soft balls or the the excellence of Federer and Nadal.
However I think the most important factor is the increase in community tennis programming (activities on courts). Tennis associations, clubs, resorts and teaching pros have finally learned that people really like to be organized and participate with other people. The activities can be instructional (camps, clinics, drills, fitness), competitive (tournaments, round robins, leagues) or social. It’s the mix that matters. People want to meet and interact with other people who share their interests. It’s as simple as that.
There has been a change in the focus of progressive tennis associations. Instead of spending all their time planning, promoting and managing tournaments and rankings (which is all they really did until about five years ago), now the USTA and other major associations are trying to take programming to the communityand improving public playing facilities.
The good news is that tennis programming not only helps people play and enjoy more tennis it pays. Wayne Elderton is the Tennis Director at the Grant Connel Tennis Center in North Vancouver and a six time Tennis Canada coaching excellence award winner. In 2007 he was the Coaching Educator of the year and in 2009 the Canadian Tennis Professional of the Year. Wayne realized years ago that tennis programming makes a huge difference in participation and revenue generation at tennis facilities. The six court public complex at the GCTC has been completely filled with huge waiting lists for the past five years. According to Wayne:
“Each quarter we have approximately 600 adults and 180 juniors in programs. We typically have 500-700 people on waiting lists looking to get into the programs.”
Wayne approaches programming from a progressive and social point of view:
“The main secrets of our success lie in our program philosophy which is creating ‘A Clear Pathway’ and ‘Something For Everyone’. These two guiding principles coupled with excellence in coaching have created the large demand. Players know they can improve by being in the programs and have fun while doing it. The more players feel success, the more they will play.”
Its time for our municipal and school authorities to listen to successful tennis organizations and get off the fence and into the field of programming because “good programming provides sustainable year-round income and creates committed players that use the courts”.