Take Charge of the Sport
A longtime industry insider says it’s up to all of us to keep this sport vital.
By Jill Fonte
Some years ago, when Kurt Kamperman was president of the Tennis Industry Association, he asked everyone at an industry gathering to stand up if they played tennis at least once a year. Everyone in the room rose. Once a month? Most people remained standing. Twice a month? Some sat. By the time Kurt got to twice a week, few remained standing.
We industry insiders spend a lot of time strategizing ways to get more people playing. We also consider ways to get existing players to play more often. To what extent, however, are we part of the solution? How often do we play? How much tennis consumerism are we responsible for?
As tennis aficionados and avid players who also are involved in this industry, we have an indisputable interest in helping our sport to thrive, especially in these challenging economic times. How can we directly shoulder responsibility for our sport’s vitality? Here are some suggestions:
- Bring a friend, significant other or relative. Put a racquet in somebody’s hand and get them to a court. Take someone to a Tennis Welcome Center and get them started. Stick with them, encourage them and follow their progress. Bring a fitness enthusiast to a Cardio Tennis session. You just might create a tennis player.
- Bring your kids, and encourage others to bring their kids, too. How much soccer and baseball will kids be playing when they’re out of school? QuickStart Tennis and Junior Team Tennis have made it easier than ever for kids to get hooked on the sport of a lifetime their first time out.
- Donate your time. You may already be involved in this industry, but now it’s time to step it up even more. Volunteer for your local Community Tennis Association. Don’t have one nearby? You could start one. Are you a USTA volunteer? Contact your USTA section’s office to see how you can help.
- Talk it up. Don’t assume everyone knows how good it feels and how much fun tennis is to play. Talk about the great workout you get playing tennis. Make sure your non-playing friends know the sport’s benefits.
- Consume the consumables. Keep tennis at the forefront of your leisure activities. Buy tournament tickets; take a tennis vacation; take some lessons, update your tennis wardrobe; replace your racquet; buy balls; subscribe to a tennis magazine; subscribe to the Tennis Channel. Get into gear and become an avid tennis consumer.
- Help with junior clinics. You don’t have to be a teaching pro to help kids enjoy the game. Feed balls, help with round-robin play and encourage kids to keep having fun.
- Play! Whether it’s a gathering of the USTA, TIA, USPTA, PTR, USRSA, IHRSA, CMAA, ITA or any other of tennis’ organizations, make sure you show up as part of the solution when you’re asked how much tennis you’re playing.
If you’re reading this publication, you’re likely earning some or all of your living from tennis. Perhaps you own a club, work in a pro shop, sell equipment, resurface courts, string racquets, give lessons, consult, write, or work for the USTA. No matter what hat you wear, please ask yourself, “What more could I do to bolster the health of our industry?” At the very least, get out and play.
Let’s see everyone remain standing when asked whether we play at least twice a week.
See all articles by Jill Fonte
About the Author
Jill Fonte , who plays tennis at least three times a week, has had a lifelong love of tennis on both a personal and professional basis. She was the owner and executive director of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association for 20 years and has served on the TIA board of directors for many years. As an executive coach and business consultant, she is currently a Principal in Business Visions Group and has addressed tennis audiences throughout the country through her involvement with the USTA, USPTA, PTR, TIA, USRSA, and various global suppliers. A longtime local and national volunteer, she currently chairs the USTA's National Tennis Innovation Committee, and serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Communication and a member of the governance, strategic planning and personnel committees for the USTA Middle States Section.