The former TSR manager says drilling down into communities is the way to get more people playing tennis.
By Mark McMahon
“How can I help you today?” This is the credo of the 90-plus team of USTA Tennis Service Representatives (TSRs) as they visit tennis providers in communities across the country. TSRs asked this question, or a variation of it, more than 36,000 times in the past three years, as they visited more than 10,000 facilities inquiring if there was anything they could do that might help a provider increase play.
Originally envisioned as a “national sales and service force” for tennis, TSRs have changed the way the USTA provides support to individuals who deliver tennis at parks, clubs, schools and service organizations. Beginning in late 2005 and for the past three years, it was my privilege to navigate the TSR initiative from its original concept to the positive results our sport has achieved during this period and which this group helped accomplish.
Results of the latest Tennis Health Index suggest tennis, especially participation, is in the best shape it has been in the last 30 years. While there are many individuals and groups who can take some of the credit for this, I have no doubt the creativity and hard work of local TSRs has played a significant role.
Without the presence of a TSR in Akron, Ohio, for example, it is unlikely that 165 children under the age of 10 would have had the opportunity to play tennis, on a team, in a league organized in cooperation among the park district, the local CTA and the USTA section. It is just as unlikely that more than 50 children in Huntington, Pa., would be participating in a play-based after-school tennis program without help from a TSR.
True increases in participation begin at the local level, and that’s exactly why TSRs are so important to this sport. TSRs have contributed to literally hundreds of local success stories, including:
- A pizza company in Miami providing more than $5,000 in sponsorship and support to a local JTT program.
- Convincing a reluctant mayor in Puerto Rico to have tennis court lines painted in the parking lot of the town’s sports complex, then to considering four new tennis courts.
- Establishing a Tennis on Campus club at the University of Utah with 30 founding members.
- Creating an after-school program in Kearney, Neb., featuring USTA Junior Team Tennis.
- Los Angeles and Santa Monica park agencies working together with a school district and local CTA to establish two JTT leagues, a new after-school program, and a summer novice tournament.
For the past three years, I was fortunate to have been in a position to witness the evolution of these ideas into real programs and projects. At the conclusion of the 2008 US Open, however, I ended my TSR role with the USTA. Now, I’ve stepped into the world of tennis consulting and find myself working with many of these same communities again.
My first consulting project has me working with the USTA Community Tennis marketing team and partnering with CTAs across the country in support of the largest youth registration initiative ever. “Youth Registration Night” events are currently being organized by CTAs and planned by facilities and will be held on Monday, March 2, which is “Tennis Night in America.” Once again I find myself in a supporting role, working for the people who do the heavy lifting of growing tennis participation and promoting tennis in their local communities.
By leveraging the excitement of pro tennis matches televised live from Madison Square Garden on HBO on March 2, those who organize youth programming have an opportunity to bring an early springtime tennis focus to boys and girls everywhere. Early March is typically a time when parents decide whether to register kids for soccer or Little League as spring and summer sport options. Now, with Youth Registration Night on Tennis Night in America, tennis will be on that list of options. More information, and ways you and your facility or organization can participate, can be found at tennisnight.com.
For more than 25 years, as a teaching pro, facility manager and volunteer in this business, I’ve been fortunate to see — and help — this sport evolve at all levels. I hope that TSRs will continue to play a pivotal role in community tennis development as the USTA supports local tennis providers, teaching pros and volunteers. And I look forward to contributing to Tennis Night in America as it brings in a new generation of recreational players.
See all articles by Mark McMahon
About the Author
Mark McMahon has led the USTA’s Tennis Service Representative initiative for the past three years. A recipient of numerous industry awards, including Facility of the Year, Tennis Director of the Year and USPTA Professional of the Year honors, he now runs McMahon Tennis Consulting and can be reached at 404-271-3088 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.