Tennis Industry magazine


Machine Ready

Generate more revenue by using your ball machine to the fullest.

By Joe Dinoffer

Ball machines are one of the most underused assets at tennis facilities across the country. While the benefits of ball-machine use are broadly understood, only a small percentage of teaching professionals, tennis coaches, and facility managers use them regularly. Not only are your players missing out on a great chance to improve their games, but also you’re missing out on a potential revenue stream.

Consider this: In a normal tennis match, you hit the ball about 150 times per hour. But against a ball machine throwing the ball every 4 seconds, you’ll hit about 650 balls in an hour, including down time for ball pick-up. In addition to using ball machines in lessons and renting your machine to players for regular practice, here are 12 ideas to get more bang from your machine.

Ball Machine Fund-Raising

If you want to raise money for a top-flight ball machine in advance of purchasing it, here’s a winning idea. Prominently post a picture of the new machine in your facility, describing all the bells and whistles. Then offer to pre-sell blocks of time using the machine at a substantial discount. Try offering six- and 12-month blocks of time during specific hours of the day.

Lesson Packages

Every coach will agree that to increase student improvement, you should get him or her to practice in between lessons on a ball machine. The first step is to use the ball machine regularly during the actual lesson. The second step is to include scheduled ball machine rental time within the lesson package itself. The result will be ball-machine practice in the lessons and in between lessons. Then, once they see the benefits of this type of drilling, offer additional ball machine rentals at a discount for their on-going use.

Weekly Ball Machine Clinics

To generate excitement about ball-machine use, schedule a weekly drop-in ball-machine drill session. It’s a great way to introduce and get players hooked on training with ball machines. But be careful, you may find this weekly session becoming so popular that you’ll have to purchase extra machines!

Ball Machine Mini-Lessons

It happens all the time. A recreational player rents the machine and ends up enthusiastically getting a great workout, but practicing the wrong technique! How about promoting a 10- to 15-minute “Mini-Lesson” at a nominal cost for the beginning of their one-hour ball machine rental? The benefits are tremendous: The coaches can develop relationships with more players, it generates increases in overall lesson taking and, most important, it’s a unique service that really helps players improve.

Target Training Services

Players renting ball machines are the “cream of the crop,” those dedicated souls who are self-disciplined and highly motivated. How about charging 10 percent more for all ball machine rentals? Then, have a staff member go on the court with the player to set up a target system for them — an air target, ropes, rubber lines, cones, or whatever you want to help them become more visually focused during their workout. They will really appreciate this extra touch.

High-Visibility Court for Ball Machines

This little trick works wonders to generate increased ball-machine interest and use. Instead of setting up your ball machine on a back, low-visibility court, how about putting it up front, on the most visible court of your facility? Another benefit besides generating increased onlooker interest is that it allows your staff to notice and quickly respond whenever a user may need assistance.

Use Videos to Generate Ball Machine Interest

Almost every facility has a public area where players congregate or at least pass through. In this lounge or pro shop area, try playing various videos to generate and increase interest in a specific program. For example, how about playing the popular ball-machine drill video “Millennium Tennis” to generate interest in ball-machine use? Just remember to put a sign by the TV and VCR with a catchy phrase like: “Ball Machines are the No. 1 training partner in the world. Contact the front desk to arrange a convenient time for both of you!”

New Member Perk

If you work at a country club or facility charging initiation fees and dues, try offering an incentive or perk to new members. In addition to the typical 30-minute introductory lesson, how about a one-month or three-month pass for ball-machine use. But remember, it’s not enough to hand new members a piece of paper, call them to set up a time for their first ball-machine session to make it a friendly first experience.

Rent 10 Times, Get 11th Free

This basic but consistently winning promotional idea can easily be adjusted to all situations. For ball-machine rentals, simply promote that a certain amount of rentals entitles the player to one more rental free. Options to this would include the reverse: Take 10 lessons and receive a ball machine rental free. Just use a little creativity and the interest you can generate will be significant.

Team Rentals

Practically every club or facility has teams: women’s teams, men’s teams, junior teams, and so on. The attraction of these teams is the fun that comes from group interaction. How about extending that fun to ball-machine rentals with a group rental program? For example, have a league team rental price that would allow any member or combination of members to rent the machine. It’s a winning idea that’s sure to generate some enthusiasm along with additional income.

Ball Machine Raffles

Radio promotions use it all the time. You know, the sixth caller receives a trip to Hawaii. Well, forget Hawaii, but how about promoting that the sixth person to sign up for a clinic or the sixth person to have their racquet restrung in a certain month gets a free ball machine pass. This promotional idea is very versatile and can help put some added pop into any program.

Beat the Machine

At a club party or special event, put your machine on your highest visibility court and play “Beat the Machine.” Just divide players into A, B, and C groups. Create three target areas, appropriately challenging for each level. Have each person hit 10 balls. Offer prizes if they hit eight out of 10 in the target for their level of play. Have them pay $10 to enter and give them a gift certificate in the pro shop for $20 if they win.

But, here’s the way you can guarantee that a lot of people sign up for the challenge. Even if they lose, give them a gift certificate for $10 in the shop. This way, everyone wins and since you have double mark-ups on most pro shop items, there is no risk on your part, either.

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About the Author

Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the HEAD Penn and Reebok National Speaker's Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.



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