Recruit Volunteer Leaders
A Tennis Service Rep says bringing in more volunteers will unleash a giant sales force for the sport and vastly increase participation.
By Kevin Theos
Recreational tennis participation is on the rise. We see that not just through the player research that the TIA and USTA do, but also through leading industry indicators such as ball and racquet sales. This is great news for all of us in the tennis business.
But what if we could find a way to increase tennis participation that would dwarf the increases we’ve seen in recent years! The solution may be easier than you think.
Some of my Tennis Service Representative colleagues and I believe that we can greatly increase tennis participation by actively recruiting more volunteer leaders to help organize, administer, and sell tennis programs, especially on our public tennis courts.
Our tennis sales force consists of individuals who earn their living from tennis programs — such as tennis pros — as well as volunteers who love tennis and just want to share our sport with others. While teaching pros do a fabulous job of promoting tennis, most teach at private clubs, not public courts, because private facilities appear to provide greater income and stability.
Unfortunately, this leaves the 70 percent of people who play tennis on public courts without the opportunity to benefit from the organizational services of a tennis teaching professional. Moreover, even where pros are available, they understandably tend to focus on programs that are the most profitable. Pros have relatively little time to devote to programs that generate less revenue, but that might increase participation, such as USTA Junior Team Tennis.
Volunteer organizers compliment the work of tennis teaching pros because they can operate programs that are not particularly profitable for a teaching pro. Volunteers also can stimulate play on our public courts — where most individuals first experience tennis. Relatively few public courts, however, are ever likely to generate sufficient revenue by themselves to sustain a tennis professional.
Examples of volunteer organizers are everywhere. In fact, you probably know of a volunteer in your area who has done an outstanding job of organizing adult and/or junior play. We are fortunate to have the involvement of many such individuals. But imagine what we could accomplish if we could motivate many, many more people to become such exceptional volunteers.
The USTA already assists volunteer leaders in a number of ways. The USTA trains volunteers in how to teach tennis through its Recreational Coach Workshops, and it provides training on a broad spectrum of other topics at its annual Community Tennis Development Workshop. Andrew Feldman, who is the USTA Volunteer Development Manager, is also an outstanding resource for volunteers. More recently, the USTA has begun providing advocacy training to volunteers who wish to access resources in their communities to support the construction of new and/or expanded tennis facilities. These resources benefit existing volunteer leaders greatly.
In addition, some of my TSR colleagues and I are crafting an approach toward recruiting far more community tennis leaders than we currently have. During the last few months, we have been surveying volunteer leaders in order to learn how their volunteer commitment evolved. The preliminary answers that we have received indicate that virtually all of our top volunteers began after being asked to get involved.
We don’t know how committed a particular individual will eventually become. But, perhaps, by more frequently inviting people to volunteer, we not only will accomplish more, but we will give ourselves greater odds of developing community tennis leaders.
Observing volunteer effectiveness in other youth sports as well as within tennis indicates that tennis would benefit from having more volunteer organizers. By actively recruiting greater numbers of volunteer leaders and guiding them toward available resources, we will multiply the number of people in and the effectiveness of our tennis sales force. Given the chance, volunteer leaders can augment the work of our teaching pros by promoting programs that pros cannot afford to promote, especially on our public tennis courts.
Think again of a specific exceptional tennis volunteer. By vastly increasing the number of similar volunteers, we can reach toward our staggering potential for tennis participation, and encourage more people to have the audacity to think, as I do, that tennis can one day be the most popular participation sport in the country.
All you have to do is ask.
See all articles by Kevin Theos
About the Author
Kevin Theos is the USTA Southern Section Tennis Service Representative for Alabama. He is a USPTA pro with more than 15 years teaching experience and is the former executive director of the Birmingham Area Tennis Association. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.