Starting company tennis leagues in your area can be lucrative for your business, fun for employees, and beneficial for the corporations.
An increasing focus on the growth of corporate tennis programs not only stands to benefit companies across the country, but also tennis teaching pros, facilities and retail shops. And, in addition to promoting the healthful attributes of the game, corporate tennis programs will bring new players into the game.
At least 30 corporate tennis leagues currently exist in the U.S. — both intercompany leagues where different corporations play each other, and intracompany leagues made up of teams within the same company. This year, the USTA and World TeamTennis are joining forces to grow corporate tennis programs, with a goal of finding 10 metropolitan markets this year to start leagues. The partnership has already proved fruitful — a new league has begun in Atlanta, under the auspices of the Georgia Tennis Association.
“World TeamTennis is fun, exciting, quick and co-ed,” says Delaine Mast, WTT national program coordinator for the recreational leagues. “The USTA has a desire to grow the game. So it’s a very good partnership.”
As a teaching pro or facility manager, you should look for companies in your area that are ripe to start corporate tennis. It could be a lucrative venture for your business, and there are a lot of advantages to everyone involved, including employees themselves and the companies they work for.
Good for the company
Corporations that offer employee-fitness programs benefit in a number of ways. The Health Partners Research Foundation has found that increasing physical activity to moderate levels can lower health care charges by $2,000 per employee. In addition, physically fit employees are known to demonstrate better job performance. What’s more, adds Glenn Arrington, USTA product manager for Adult Tennis, is that “these programs provide a really nice platform for team-building within an organization.”
Meanwhile, facilities that host such programs also see substantial benefits, most obviously in increased revenue from equipment and retail sales, league fees and court fees. Tennisport Incorporated, a private facility in Long Island City, N.Y., is the home of “Corporate League Tennis,” a program that brings 26 New York City companies together for tennis competition and camaraderie. According to manager Doris Sterling, approximately 25 percent of league participants over the past 10 years have become club members. In particular, the facility’s pro shop has noticed that the number of racquets they’ve restrung has increased substantially as a result of the corporate program.
Another benefit of corporate tennis for a community and/or tennis facility is the potential for sponsorship opportunities. “When a business participates in the corporate tennis program, and sees the benefits to its employees, it is more likely to support the cause of tennis,” says Julie Pek, executive director of the USTA Kentucky district. Kentucky Fried Chicken, headquartered in Louisville, has participated in a corporate tennis program for the last five years. “Because of this awareness of tennis, and some very influential employees, KFC was a major sponsor of the USA League Southern Sectional Championships in 2001 and 2002,” says Pek.
Find the right format
Corporate tennis play formats are flexible. Arrington suggests that facilities interested in hosting a corporate tennis program look into what the company wants from the program, and use that as a guide to achieve a balance between the league’s needs and those of other members and visitors. According to Sterling, the corporate league takes over the Tennisport courts between 8 and 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 6 and 8 p.m. on weekends, a time convenient for other members.
There are several ways to market a tennis program to a company and its employees. “We have 32 courts that we need to fill, so we need to look at every avenue,” says Michael Woody, managing director at Midland Community Tennis Center in Midland, Mich. To get companies interested, he appeals to their human resources or personnel representatives, pitching the center’s “Play Tennis Fast” program as a healthy lifestyle program for employees.
Going straight to an existing tennis player is another way to start or grow a corporate league. One employee could bring in a group of colleagues to participate in a league, or approach his or her employer about sponsoring a program or a team.
Woody has found offering corporate tennis to be an effective tactic in growing the game and his business — the program yields about 200 new players and 100 new members a year. He considers it an “important piece” in a collaboration of programs that help build the business’s bottom line. “If we didn’t market to corporations, we’d lose 1,000 hours” of court time, he explains, which equates to about $10,000 in revenue.
Arrington sees the promotion of corporate tennis as an efficient way to market to a group quickly and get a substantial return. “I think corporate tennis is an untapped market at this point,” he says. “It has enormous potential to reach the 25-to-45 age group.”
How to Start a Corporate League In Your Area
- Contact a company’s Human Resources department: Tell them of the benefits a corporate league can have to both the company and its employees. Most companies, especially large firms, should find the health-care cost savings and increased productivity of workers quite appealing. See whether the company can subsidize all or part of the cost of the league for its employees.
- Get the word out: Once you have the OK from H.R., use every resource available to get the word out to company employees. Try to find a “point person” in the company who can act as your liaison for the league; possibly someone in the personnel department or maybe a tennis player from that company that you already teach or know from your facility. Then have him or her send e-mail blasts to fellow employees and have notices posted on bulletin boards and in company newsletters and corporate-wide memos. Have your point person manage the sign-up list for the league.
- Find out the best play format for the new league: Contact your USTA section, district or CTA or World TeamTennis to figure out which format will work best for the league. Some formats are better for beginner players and may also include clinics and practices to help them improve their games. Make sure you can carve out court time that is compatible with the employees’ schedules.
- Hold a welcome party: Pick a date and open up the facility, or at least a few courts, for a party for the employees. Have snacks and beverages (see if the company can help fund this), organize round-robins, drills and clinics. Make sure you address all the different levels of play you may get, from rank beginners to advanced players. And above all, keep it fun and make sure that employees have a chance to socialize with each other when not playing.
- Work the league season: Be in constant touch with league members, through e-mails and notices on bulletin boards and in company newsletters. List the league standings each week.
- Hold a season-ending party: Give awards, and encourage current players to bring new people into the league. Also take this opportunity to have them sign up for the next season.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.