Your Serve: Welcome to the Family!
With teaching pros leading the way, Tennis Welcome Centers can go a long way toward bringing people into their local tennis communities.
I recently returned from the NCAA Division II tennis championships where I was fortunate to coach some wonderful young men and women. Their enthusiasm for the game and commitment to hard work paid off, and in the case of the women’s team, ended in a successful conclusion to a long and challenging season.
Having had a few days to recover from the intensity of the tournament, I have been considering the incredible opportunities that the young people involved in college tennis have made for themselves. Although many of these student-athletes receive scholarships to pay for part or all of their educational expenses, I believe that the greatest benefits they receive are less tangible. They have traveled to places and met people that without tennis would have been unavailable to them. They have learned to excel in an individual sport and to be constructive members of a team.
I could go on at great length about how these players are propelled into success as adults owing much to the sport of tennis, but most of us understand that. What’s interesting to me is that these young people began playing tennis at an early age and kept playing — for countless hours, through lactic acid buildup in their muscles, despite painful losses, and at the expense of many other diversions available to young people. Why?
It is very important to know why people play. But it is equally important to know why people who have tried tennis quit and don’t plan to play again. Thankfully, the TIA asked why. The research shows us that the majority of people who were dissatisfied with tennis had never experienced a formal lesson with a qualified instructor. That’s where the USPTA professional and the industry-supported Tennis Welcome Center program come in.
A big part of the business of tennis teaching professionals is to give newcomers a great first lesson and then to turn them into regular tennis players by providing events and programs to keep them interested and involved. Every day USPTA professionals share our passion for the game with new students and lifelong players alike.
Ultimately, the tennis professional is the solution to the industry’s challenge to increase the number of people who make tennis a part of their lives.
Today, tennis professionals have unprecedented support when it comes to bringing people in for their first high-quality lessons. The entire industry is solidly behind the Tennis Welcome Center concept that will drive would-be players to our facilities.
You’ve read it in these pages before, but the numbers are worth repeating: 2.5 million racquets, 25 million cans of tennis balls and 1 million shoe boxes and hang tags will send people to TennisWelcomeCenter.com. Eight-page advertising inserts will appear in national magazines including Men’s Health, Shape, Vibe and Travel and Leisure. The message is broader than all of the parts that speak it: Tennis is a great sport for fitness and recreation. It’s worth learning and it can be learned fast at a Tennis Welcome Center.
The efforts of our tennis manufacturers, retailers and associations have never been so powerfully joined. We have made collective grow-the-game efforts before. This one is more inclusive and bound for more success for one reason: The leadership at the USTA has mended fences and shown a new will to be both a true leader and a partner to the rest of the industry. Never before have we had such an opportunity to work together for the good of the sport.
Tennis professionals are doing our part, registering more than 3,800 facilities on the TWC website. USPTA members are leading the way at 67 percent of those facilities. When the message about tennis reaches our target audiences and they log on to find a place to play, we will be ready to accept them into the tennis community and make them feel at home.
After all, the feeling of being wanted and included in a community is one of those intangible benefits of being a tennis player that most college players surely recognized long ago. With the right introduction to tennis from qualified professionals, new players will soon enough realize how to have fun, be competitive, and get fit through tennis.
However, we will have found real success when we make these new players feel like they’re part of their local tennis communities as well as a popular worldwide sport. Experiencing the social, physiological and competitive benefits of tennis will add these new players into the growing number of lifetime tennis addicts.
See all articles by David T. Porter
About the Author
David T. Porter , Ed.D., is president of USPTA and the men's and women's head tennis coach and a full professor of exercise and sport science at Brigham Young University - Hawaii. His Seasider women's team has won three straight NCAA titles and five in the past six years while accumulating a dual match record of 204 wins and 1 loss.
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