Tennis Industry magazine

 

Your Serve: Join the campaign!

The TIA president says while work continues on bringing in new players, we all need to focus on frequent-player retention.

By Jim Baugh

We are approaching the end of the first year of the Tennis Campaign. We launched the largest new-player retention program in our sport’s history. How are we doing? I’d give us a grade of a “B” for the first year.

On the positive side, thanks to the efforts of the entire industry, we have established the largest grassroots network in sport, with more than 4,000 Tennis Welcome Centers. We have had good marketing, great tools for local TWCs to use, and great support by our partners. Teaching pro, manufacturer and retailer support has been outstanding. The major associations and media partners in our sport at the national level stepped up also, all working together in an unprecedented way, which will pave future success. The real results will not be known until we see our participation numbers later this year, but the feedback from many Tennis Welcome Centers has been positive. In a recent poll of TWCs, 62 percent rated the marketing good. And, 51 percent saw an increase in the number of new players coming out to play tennis in the past few months!

We do have some real challenges. We need to push our message and the urgency down to the local level. We found many Tennis Welcome Centers not ready to service new players. We will be focused on quality and not quantity for 2005 and beyond. Probably the most disappointing thing was to see the number of facilities that waited for the phone to ring and didn’t use the great marketing tools provided.

Well, there are three types of people in this world: those who “make it happen,” those who “watch it happen” and those who “wonder what happened.” With this campaign, and for our future, we need to have more “make it happen” people.

This brings me to the future. The Tennis Campaign will continue to be relentless in fixing our new-player retention issue with Tennis Welcome Centers. But we have an equally big issue: the deterioration of frequent players.

Frequent players, while representing only 19 percent of our total players, account for over 75 percent of total play. Frequent players are the power-brokers of our sport. They are our league players, our club members, the ones who take lessons, the biggest fans of tennis, they watch the most tennis on TV, etc. Frequent players hold the keys to our sport!

But we have lost frequent players at an alarming rate — a 25 percent reduction over the past three years! This is confirmed by our TIA/USTA survey and recent SGMA surveys of frequent participants in all activities in America. And, if this doesn’t get your juices flowing, Tennis is now ranked 33rd of all activities in our country by frequent participants.

The Tennis Campaign will focus on frequent-player retention as a second major priority. But, you must take this challenge on, too! In fact, the frequent-player retention war will not be won with marketing and advertising. Research shows the real key is facility owners, pros and local effort. Here are some interesting research findings:

In the near future, you will be hearing about plans to help us win this battle. It will include practical and useful tips, best practices, a greater focus on fitness for our sport, and the use of technology in the future.

But, the key will be you! Tennis needs your help. I don’t want to be the 33rd ranked sport anymore. I hope you don’t, either! Be a leader in the Tennis Campaign. Growing and rebuilding our sport has to be everyone’s responsibility.

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About the Author

Jim Baugh  is the president of the Tennis Industry Association and a member of the USTA board of directors.

 

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