TIA Special Section 2007 -- A Unified Effort
Together with the USTA and industry partners, the TIA is helping to drive tennis forward, for the benefit of all.
Over the last three years, thanks to the unified efforts of many people and organizations in tennis, we’ve seen growth in participation, equipment sales, pro tournament attendance, and much more. All of this has led to an increased awareness of tennis — both on the recreational level and at the pro level.
The popularity of the pro game is clearly helping draw in viewers and fans. We’ve seen increased air time on TV; well-known stars such as Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, and James Blake generating new interest; and an exciting lineup of tournaments in the summer-long US Open Series, capped by the US Open itself.
The various organizations and companies involved in tennis — the USTA, manufacturers, teaching pro groups, retailers, tournament directors, media, and others — are continuing to come together to develop and support the sport with a variety of initiatives designed to generate more interest in tennis, get more people playing, retain them in the game, and, importantly, bring more business to retail shops, facilities, and all parts of our industry. The USTA in particular has stepped up key grassroots funding over the last four years, and that’s continuing to pay dividends with successful programs such as Tennis Welcome Centers, CardioTennis, Tennis in the Parks, and many more.
The TIA, with key support from the USTA, manufacturers, and others, is a driving force behind many of these cooperative initiatives. “Because of our position as the industry’s trade organization where companies and people all come together for the good of the game, the TIA truly belongs to everybody,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “We’re here to serve as the vehicle to help drive growth in all sectors.” Together with the USTA, the TIA is involved in the planning, development, marketing, and research for both the tennis trade and the consumer.
“The TIA is an organization that builds consensus,” adds TIA President Dave Haggerty. “And the streamlined nature of the TIA, along with its focus on technology, allows it to be flexible, adjust fast, and get things done quickly.” That’s important in this industry, because programs, priorities, and campaigns that worked great a year ago may need to be adjusted today to continue to make an impact.
The umbrella for a lot of programs that can really help your business is the GrowingTennis.com website. And it’s easy for facilities to go onto the site to keep their information up to date and manage their program details. Through Growing Tennis.com, the TIA delivers the Tennis Welcome Center, Cardio Tennis, and Growing Tennis 50/50 programs and initiatives, among others.
“Importantly, we maintain the databases, communications with the facilities, and information for the seven websites we manage in-house,” says de Boer. “Not only can we make changes instantly to a website, but also, all facilities in our databases have 24/7 access to the system to update their own information.”
The seven TIA-maintained websites are:
Part of the TIA’s major outreach is to get facilities to go to www.GrowingTennis.com to input their information, programs, facility details, and so forth. The information can be accessed at any time and is managed “live” on TennisWelcomeCenter.com, CardioTennis.com, and other industry sites, including Tennis.com, TheTennisChannel.com, and USTA.com.
Consumers can find a place to play, players to play with, and program offerings. The TIA has been constantly making improvements to its technology since these systems were added in 2003. All facilities have the opportunity to get their message out with a free web presence on these sites to connect with the tennis marketplace.
Tennis Welcome Centers
One excellent example of evolving programs and approaches is with the Tennis Welcome Center and Cardio Tennis initiatives. After a few years of running separate programs, the TIA and industry partners recognized the advantages to be gained by combining resources and synergies with both the TWC and CT initiatives. Now, all Cardio Tennis sites are required to be Tennis Welcome Centers, too.
The push for quality Tennis Welcome Centers continues through the TIA and the USTA. Currently, there are more than 2,000 TWCs in the U.S., with 800 of those located at public parks. Pro sensation Maria Sharapova continues as the spokesmodel for TWCs, appearing in advertisements and promotional materials for facilities to use.
The TWC program continues to receive support from manufacturers. In 2006 there were more than 2.5 million special hang-tags on beginner racquets, along with 25 million special labels on ball cans, and inserts in tennis shoe boxes. More than 2,000 banners are up inside and outside at facilities around the country, supported by 5,000 Maria Sharapova posters.
As a result of these industry efforts and TWC target market advertising, page views on www.TennisWelcomeCenter .com in June and July 2006 increased from an average of 40,000 per month to 150,000 per month. Also, the target market initiative in 2006 included Tennis Block Parties and Business Development Workshops held throughout the USTA sections.
And TWCs are receiving support from the USPTA and PTR, along with the media and U.S. tennis writers. The TIA and USTA recently recognized the Top 50 TWCs across the country. Recipients, who were listed in various publications, received wall plaques to display at their facilities.
TWCs also receive a boost from the “Growing Tennis 50/50” program — a joint effort by the TIA and USTA that provides more than $200,000 in matching funds for facilities and programs to use for advertising and promotional efforts to attract new adult and junior players. These funds are only available for TWCs, which can receive up to $2,500. (For more information, and an application for funding and sample ads you can run, visit www.GrowingTennis.com.) There also is a new TWC electronic newsletter and a new internet-based community site under development for sharing practices and event searches.
Target marketing through TWCs is focused on providing resources and support to individual facilities that are committed to promoting entry- level programs and transition programs for new players. And workshops for TWCs include the Cardio Tennis model.
Through surveys and followup calls to facilities, TWCs have consistently improved over the last few years. “Staff is much more aware that programs for new players are going on at their own facilities, and they are handling these first-time callers more effectively,” says de Boer. Other quality assurance programs include TWCs receiving automated feedback from their websites if information is not available when consumers are searching for a place to play tennis.
Cardio Tennis, officially launched a year and a half ago, continues to gain momentum throughout the country — and, in fact, the world — as more and more people realize that they can’t take their health for granted. Cardio Tennis is a fun, active way to get in shape, and to help hone tennis skills.
And the popular demand for a fitness program such as Cardio Tennis is certainly prevalent. Take, for instance, the phenomenal growth of the fitness chain Curves. In just seven years, Curves opened more than 7,800 locations in the U.S., and 10,000-plus worldwide, answering a demand for programs that lead to improved fitness and lifestyles. By comparison, it took fast-food giants McDonald’s and Subway more than 25 years to open the same number of locations.
Cardio Tennis, which includes both drill-based and play-based exercises, is designed to keep the heart rate in the ideal zone, giving players of all skill levels a healthy workout in a fun environment. “Cardio Tennis is all about variety, and that’s what I love about it,” says fitness guru Denise Austin, who will continue as the Cardio Tennis spokesperson. Currently, there are 1,600 Cardio Tennis sites in the U.S.
And new this year to the Cardio Tennis National Speakers Team is Luke Jensen, former pro player and current ESPN tennis analyst. “Cardio Tennis is a perfect fit to grow tennis among the fitness crowd,” says Jensen. “The program, in my opinion, is what needs to happen for people who take step aerobics and kickboxing and want to try something new and get fit.”
Data from surveys of Cardio Tennis sites and customers prove the effectiveness of the program, and show that facilities are realizing increases in lesson revenue, program fees, pro shop sales, court bookings, memberships, and participation. There is also increased interest in delivering Cardio Tennis to kids, through schools and other programs.
But most important for your business, Cardio Tennis can be a huge moneymaker for facilities and pros running the program. “People just can’t wait to get into classes,” says Hector Mendoza of the Vancouver Tennis Center. “They get a great workout and they have fun.”
In addition to the interest generated by sites and players within the U.S., Cardio Tennis has also garnered a large following overseas. At the request of Tennis Europe, Cardio Tennis Manager Michele Krause, along with members of the Cardio Tennis Speakers Team, have given well-attended seminars to spread the word globally about the health benefits of the program.
Cardio Tennis is also gaining exposure nationwide through participation in Better Your Body fitness expos. In 2007, the TIA will feature Cardio Tennis in at least three of these fitness-related sports shows.
Better Your Business Workshops
Cardio Tennis will also gain a boost through the TIA’s new Better Your Business Workshops. These daylong seminars — focusing on helping teaching pros, facility managers, retailers, and others to boost their business overall — will also spend time on the Cardio Tennis model and how to implement a successful Cardio program.
The BYB Workshops go beyond Cardio, too. They offer tips to improve customer service, deliver effective tennis programming, p.r. and marketing to gain and retain players, reach out to the community, deal with the media, and much more. The workshops, presented by seasoned industry presenters, deliver the best practices from proven sources to improve your business. The goal, of course, is to help you improve your business. Mike Woody, tennis director at the Midland Community Tennis Center in Midland, Mich., will be one of the main facilitators for the BYB Workshops.
“I recently attended the first Better Your Business Workshop on Hilton Head Island,” says John Hill of Raintree Club in Virginia. “Although I’ve been in this business for 30 years and have owned my own facilities, I was impressed with the new ideas that I took away. Also through the training offered, I gained the confidence to start Cardio Tennis at my club.”
Currently, the TIA has scheduled 10 Better Your Business workshops in 2007. For more information, visit GrowingTennis.com.
The workshops are also geared toward building your business via technology. Everyone who attends a BYB Workshop will receive a free website builder through TennisConnect, which also includes TennisCollect, a new payment system that allows you to get paid faster and easier by your customers when they sign up for court time or clinics online.
Growing at the Grassroots
Serving as a national sales force for tennis, the Tennis Service Representative program has proven to be a great success in helping to connect local tennis providers with the resources needed to grow the game at the grassroots level.
“The TSRs are helping facility operators to see what opportunities might exist to help them develop their businesses,” says Mark McMahon, the USTA’s national coordinator for TSRs. “And importantly, they’re not just pushing USTA programs, but the brand ‘tennis.’”
Currently, there are 90 TSRs, which are employees of their USTA sections, with support from the USTA national office. In 2006, TSRs visited thousands of facilities, helping them connect with programs, possible funding sources, and more to keep the game growing.
A new way to deliver tennis to kids 10 and under is being developed by the USTA and is tentatively called “Project 36/60.” The numbers refer to the size of different “courts” for kids to play on when they’re first introduced into the game (and these “courts” can be set up on parking lots, in driveways, in gyms, etc.). But the project involves more than just mini-courts; it includes using appropriately sized racquets, along with foam “transition” balls, to help kids realize immediate success in the sport, helping to ensure that they’ll stay with tennis.
“The buzz has been incredible about this,” says Kirk Anderson, the USTA’s director of recreational coaches and programs. “Everybody’s talking about it.” Look for much more on this program in the future, as the USTA and industry partners begin a rollout in the fall.
This transition equipment is also helping the USTA revamp its school tennis program, including a new “in-school curriculum” designed to make it easier for physical education teachers to deliver tennis to their students.
Connecting with your business
Throughout all of these areas, and much more, the TIA remains committed to not only helping you boost your business, but also elevating your position within this industry and with your customers. And one of the main tools the TIA is using to do this continues to be its focus on technology.
Recently, the TIA revamped its website (www.tennisindustry. org) to better serve your business and you and your customers. “All areas of this industry need to be connected,” says de Boer, “and our website is doing this.” Key in this effort, as mentioned, is the comprehensive www.GrowingTennis.com website. There, you’ll not only find information on Cardio Tennis, Tennis Welcome Centers, Growing Tennis 50/50 Co-op Funding, and Better Your Business Workshops, but also a link for your free listing that will enable thousands of players to find your facility.
The website also has links to one of the most powerful online tools for businesses through TennisConnect.org. This product has transformed the way hundreds of facilities do business by offering a website presence, interactive calendar, player matching, court scheduler, group email system, and more. Last year, 790,260 online court reservations were made through TennisConnect, and the testimonials from both facilities and their members support the benefit of this innovation.
Another technology advancement is the service provided by TennisWire.org. Industry “Newsmakers” can upload their press releases to the site, where they are categorically displayed and archived. A bi-monthly newsletter generates the features and is distributed to more than 12,000 industry contacts, including the media.
But the TIA’s main connection is in providing the online research tools that makes information about the tennis marketplace easily accessible (see page 26). The TIA, along with its research partner, Sports Marketing Surveys, produces 70 research reports and surveys annually. In addition, quarterly census reports are also generated (through W & W Services Inc.) that show shipment and sales for tennis racquets, strings, and balls, a leading indicator of recreational play.
More than ever, the TIA is focused on finding ways to help the industry’s vitality by working together toward growth, prosperity, and fitness to keep tennis No. 1.
TIA research on the more than 2,000 Tennis Welcome Centers shows that:
- 73 percent offer league play.
- 68 percent offer USTA Leagues.
- On average, 31 new players were created, 29 players returned, and 36 players were playing more frequently.
- Lesson revenue increased at 77 percent of the facilities.
The Team Behind Cardio Success
The National Cardio Tennis Speakers team was formed at the inception of the Cardio program in early 2005 to help educate the industry and serve as the official National trainers. Today the team consists of a diverse group of 24 who are some of the most well-respected tennis teaching pros in the U.S.
The volunteers who make up the team are certified pros from both the PTR and USPTA. Each member runs a successful Cardio Tennis program and exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding Cardio Tennis pro, such as passion, energy, great feeding skills, and a strong belief in the program.
Team members work with TIA Cardio Tennis Manager Michele Krause (above) to promote the program. Their contributions take on many forms, such as writing articles, education and training through Cardio Tennis workshops and at industry events. Most important, they play an ongoing role in the continuous development and direction of the program.
“The Speakers Team is an amazing group of people,” says Krause. “Cardio Tennis would not be where it is today without their dedication to the program.”
Besides Krause, the National Cardio Tennis Speakers Team consists of:
J. Webb Horton
Rosie Baries (not pictured)
A recent survey of Cardio Tennis providers shows that:
- Lesson revenue increased at 71 percent of facilities.
- Program fees increased at 47 percent of facilities.
- Pro shop sales increased at 23 percent.
- Court bookings increased at 22 percent.
- Membership sales increased at 18 percent of facilities.
- On average, facilities said Cardio Tennis caused about 20 players to play tennis more frequently.
- 15.4 new players came to the average facility because of Cardio Tennis.
- On average per facility, Cardio Tennis attracted 15.1 former players back to the game.
Sign Up to Better Your Business
Take advantage of all that the Better Your Business Workshops have to offer. (To sign up for a BYB Workshop, visit GrowingTennis.com.) For the remainder of 2007, the schedule includes:
- May 4, San Antonio Country Club, San Antonio, Texas
- May 18, Las Vegas Hilton Resort & Tennis
- May 20, El Conquistador Hilton, Tuscon, Ariz.
- May 21, Meadow Creek Tennis & Fitness Club, Denver
- June 9, Center Court Tennis Club, Fond du Lac, Wis.
- June 24, Lexington Tennis Club, Lexington, Ky.
- Oct. 1, MidTown Tennis Club, Chicago
Also, Cardio Tennis will be featured at three “Better Your Body” fitness expos in the U.S., each of which attracts more than 12,000 consumers:
- May 5-6, Dallas
- Sept. 29-30, Chicago
- Nov. 3-4, New York
Tennis In Public Parks
One key to growing the game in the U.S. involves building — and rebuilding — tennis in the public parks. The USTA, together with the National Recreation and Park Association and other groups, is continuing with its Tennis in the Parks Initiative to enhance public tennis facilities and improve their program offerings.
Research shows that parks are by far the No. 1 place where Americans play tennis, followed by play on courts at schools and colleges. More than 70 percent of all tennis played in the U.S. is played at public facilities.
Through its public facility funding effort in 2005 and 2006, the USTA awarded grants totaling more than $3.5 million to help build new or renovate existing public facilities. These grants benefited over 85 public facilities and 700-plus tennis courts. And, more importantly, the USTA’s investment was a catalyst for an additional $30 million in public facility funding from other sources.
“Our public facility funding grants have been a huge success,” says Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis. “Not only can we effectively leverage our dollars, but in providing these grants, we require that all recipients follow through with sound local tennis programming. The end result is better public facilities, offering local grassroots programs that will attract and retain more players.”
Research on Block Parties in Tennis Welcome Center target markets indicates:
- 90 percent of consumers gave Block Parties the highest rank in terms of enjoyment, which is key, because the TWC initiative is designed to be welcoming and fun for new players.
- More than two-thirds of the participants said they would play more tennis as a result of participating in a Block Party.
- 48 percent said they would likely participate in future programs.
- 19 percent signed up for programs on the spot.
With TennisConnect, facilities can create and manage their own websites, web hosting included, with features to promote and support their business, such as an Online Tennis Court Scheduler, a Player Match feature, a Group Email Engine, an eCalendar feature, and TennisConnectForums, a learning tool that allows facilities to ask questions and share ideas.
So far, more than 400 facilities have purchased and used the TennisConnect.org software. For consumers, the number of visits to facility websites using the software has been growing — from about 80,000 unique visits in the month of January 2006 to nearly 300,000 per month by year-end, with nearly 9 million page views. For the past four years, court reservations using TennisConnect were in the millions, says Charlie Ruddy, developer of TennisConnect.org.
“We will be using this impressive database as part of the new Court Monitor System to analyze play habits and court usage for the research provided in the Tennis Health Index report,” adds the TIA’s de Boer.