Tennis Industry magazine

 

Is Your Facility a Tennis Hangout?

It may not take much to make sure your courts appeal to your clientele.

By Mary Helen Sprecher

What makes tennis courts kid-friendly? Teen-friendly? Senior-friendly? In many cases, it’s a combination of the court itself, and the accoutrements. And while you can’t turn your courts into a trip to Disneyland for children (or a trip to the mall for teens, or a cruise for your seniors), you can put a few key elements into place that make those same courts a pleasure for the specific populations you’re trying to entice.

Child-Friendly Courts

The QuickStart Tennis format has revolutionized the way tennis is being taught to — and taken up by — children across the U.S. With its shorter courts, lower nets and low-compression foam balls (not to mention shorter racquets), the game is more approachable, easier to teach and more fun to learn.

Many facilities have already built permanent QST courts for kids, others have permanent QST lines on regular-size courts. Contact a court contractor about building QST courts or putting down the playing lines for various age groups. (Contrary to what you may have heard, adding QST lines to a regular-size, white-lined court is not confusing for players. If the QST lines are in the same color family as the court surface — say light blue QST lines on a dark blue court surface — adult players probably will not notice them at all while they play. Go to usta.com to find out more.)

Already have QST? How about a few other things that make tennis fun for kids? Is there a hitting wall or backboard? How about designing a target on it, with various areas kids can aim for? A fun graphic with various “spots” can entice kids and make grooving their shots less of a chore and more of a game.

Seen one too many children who prefer Little Debbie to Little League, and who think Wii Tennis has taught them to play? Hold a Cardio Tennis Kids challenge and see what develops. The program challenges children, using music and fun games, and (bonus round) is done in short bursts so as not to overexert kids.

Tweens and Teens

Here’s a challenge. Try to excite kids in an age group that doesn’t want to look like they’re getting excited about anything. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to amp up the level of play.

“Some clubs with a younger membership may prefer faster, all-weather surfaces (asphalt, concrete) that lend themselves to a serve-and-volley style of play,” says Dave Marsden of Boston Tennis Court Construction Co. in Hanover, Mass.

(While many builders agree with the younger players/faster courts theory, Randy Futty of Lee Tennis Products in Charlottesville, Va., notes, “We’re seeing a growing trend where national tennis organizations such as the USTA, Tennis Australia, and the LTA (UK) are investing in building clay courts at their training facilities in an effort to better develop their top junior talent.”)

Think about games to help clock players’ serves, using a radar gun. Post the “high serve” score and invite other teens to try to beat it. Hold special clinics to help teens work on their serve (and other strokes).

Have vending machines so that kids have a ready supply of snacks, sodas and other beverages. (Don’t forget the trash cans and recycle bins). A radio that can be tuned to a popular station may also be a good amenity. (Depending upon the players’ tastes and the proximity of other courts, you may want to keep the controls for station and volume at the front desk, in the pro’s office, etc.)

Since teens will probably have cell phones, iPods and other equipment, small lockers can help keep personal possessions safe.

Plenty of seating will encourage teens to relax and watch matches in progress. A pro shop that includes some edgier selections may also be useful. A ping-pong table (if it’s an indoor or sheltered area) will encourage kids to stick around and challenge one another as well.

Seniors

With senior players on the court, it’s easy to identify one thing that might come up in discussions: the playing surface.

“Seniors generally prefer soft courts such as clay, fast-dry, synthetic turf or roll-down synthetic carpet-type surfaces,” says Marsden. “Also, they generally prefer a slower surface pace with a higher ball bounce, which gives them more time to reach the ball. We’ve found that members of higher-end clubs prefer a clay-type surface for the ease on the body plus the fact that the club handles the maintenance aspect of clay courts.”

Other things seniors tend to like? Shade shelters with plenty of seats that will keep them out of the sun, and allow them to enjoy matches in progress. Many players like to use tennis as a social activity, and if encouraged, will sit and talk and relax both before and after matches.

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About the Author

Mary Helen Sprecher  is the managing editor of Sports Destinations Management Magazine, a niche business-to-business publication for planners of sports travel events, in addition to being an RSI Contributing Editor. She is the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and works as a newspaper reporter in Baltimore City.

 

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