Building a Healthy Roadmap for the Future
The TIA’s executive director says while the good news in participation is very positive, we are also focusing on the issues challenging our industry.
Tennis participation has been on a healthy growth trend, thanks to the combined efforts of everyone in this industry — and of course, to the simple fact that tennis is an attractive, affordable, healthy activity and a sport that one can play for their entire life.
It still amazes me every time I receive the Southern Tennis yearbook and see 95-year-old ranked tournament players. What other sport has that level of competition? It also amazes me when I look down the courts to see women of advancing years in their lycra stretch tops and short skirts with toned legs and arms. And families, out on the court together, not only being physically active, but also enjoying their time together. Why isn’t everyone playing this sport?
I think the recent growth in tennis participation indicates that we’ve been doing a good job over the last few years of building our tennis infrastructure in the U.S. Obviously, we have much more to do in this area, but every day, we are connecting more and more consumers to the recreational game by helping them find places to play, people to play with and programs to learn in. Through our focus on technology and our simple online search features, we’re bringing more players into their local tennis communities.
With the help of all industry partners, we’ve created more and more programs and initiatives for consumers of all ages. Just look at how QuickStart Tennis has taken off, bringing children under 10 to this sport. Combine that with USTA Jr. Team Tennis, the No-Cut coach initiative and successful Tennis on Campus program, and thousands of kids and young adults have tennis opportunities they never would have dreamed of 10 years ago. Then adult leagues and teams, plus the popular Cardio Tennis, along with the myriad of other programs that run on the local level, keep people playing — for the rest of their lives.
We must continue to increase the player/consumer base and ensure that it is healthy. But our participation growth, while extremely important, is only one part of this equation.
There are other parts of our industry that are not as healthy, and in fact, are very much struggling. As consumers tighten their belts in this economy, sales at pro/specialty retail stores are declining — some stores have had to close, others are trying desperately to stay afloat. As product sales slow, tennis manufacturers lose money, advertising and marketing is reduced. Staff is being cut at tennis businesses and organizations, in efforts to shore up revenue streams.
We are facing unprecedented economic challenges — not just in tennis, but everywhere. And this has great potential to undermine what we’ve gained in the last few years. We are responding by accelerating our focus on industry issues and on finding ways out of this economic morass.
One main component is to recognize that our consumer marketplace has been changing — it demands online technology, social marketing, instant gratification, 24/7 access, mobility and novelty. It has been evolving, and those that don’t change and adapt will lose out. In your own businesses — whether as a retailer, facility, manufacturer, publication or other tennis-related company — look at what others are doing to bring in customers and increase sales. They’re taking advantage of this changing marketplace. And so must you.
The TIA is committed to building a roadmap for the future health of the industry and to engage all areas of this industry — manufacturers, retailers, court contractors, tournaments, facilities, media, organizations and others — to identify and help define areas for new growth.
Below are a just a few of the issues we are looking to address while continuing our joint focus on growing participation.
- New technology services to help tennis pro shops and specialty stores take advantage of the online community to help their businesses.
- Improved research analytics plus establishing benchmarks that identify a healthy industry.
- A succession plan to address the aging of industry and teaching professionals.
- An improved gateway for communication to spread the word of tennis and education to help businesses.
While participation growth is paramount to the health of the industry, we need defined and actionable plans in place to address many of the issues facing our businesses in these challenging times. And, based on the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that we’ve achieved, we’re confident we’ll emerge even stronger in the years ahead.
See all articles by Jolyn de Boer
About the Author
Jolyn de Boer is an avid player, and has been in the tennis industry for 26 years and is the executive director of the Tennis Industry Association.