Tennis Industry magazine

 

Tennis to go

With the 10-and-Under Tennis initiative, you can help bring tennis to kids, and bring in more business for you, even if there are no existing courts.

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Thanks to a lot of great instructional materials, we know how to set up QuickStart Tennis courts on existing tennis facilities. Thanks to a lot of positive publicity, we know the push for 10-and-Under Tennis works to bring kids, and even adults, into the game. But what about setting up shorter courts in places where there are no existing tennis courts? USTA Tennis Service Representatives (TSRs) have been ahead of the curve, understanding that bringing tennis to the uninitiated means just that: actually bringing tennis. Now it’s time for clubs, rec programs, camp directors and others to step up. Getting brand-new players into the game is going to require you to think outside the box, and outside your facility. Go out into the community and convince newbies how much fun tennis can be by using QST in some new and unexpected settings. A court builder can help you with ideas for layout and design, or with any technical questions you might have regarding the surface you are thinking of using. Here are some ideas, courtesy of TSRs, whose job it is to help grow tennis locally. Take Tennis Out to the Ball Game: In Ohio, a Cincinnati Reds game was the scene of a tennis promo by TSR Jim Amick. The program included the setup of a QST format playing area in the “FanZone” along the first base line between the pregame and third inning as well as an information booth. About 500 youngsters and adults wound up trying tennis for the first time, and others took home promotional materials on where to find programs, lessons and more. (In addition, the 27,455 fans in attendance during the game saw the QST demonstration, either in person or on the StadiumCam screen).

Players Without Borders: In Miami, USTA Florida TSRs Shelly Licorish and Cathy Nordlund set up QST courts at street fairs in order to reach out to the 4 million-strong Hispanic population in the state. They also wanted to increase USTA Junior and Adult membership from the Hispanic population. It is a community, Nordlund notes, “where children often play baseball or soccer, but most never even enter a tennis court.” In March 2009, Licorish and Nordlund were part of the Carnival On the Mile, a two-day event in Miami that included jazz, art, food and children’s activities. The booth set up by the TSRs included information on USTA Florida programming as well as on QST, and a QuickStart court. “It was a great idea,” said Nordlund, “and everyone loved it. The line was so long; everyone wanted to try to play, and we had kids coming back over and over.” Children who participated took home foam balls and a bandana reading “Juega Tenis” (Play Tennis) as well as literature on a QuickStart party that would be held in two weeks. The following month, Licorish and Nordlund set up shop at the three-day Hispanic Business and Consumer Expo in Orlando, with similar results. They used e-mail, phone calls and the QST parties to follow up. As a result, both children and adults have become involved in lessons and league play and USTA membership has increased. According to Licorish and Nordlund, Region 4 had its largest monthly increase in membership in the months following the promotions.

After-School Special: When the Milwaukee Public School System (MPS) had to make cuts to P.E., the local rec department had been scrambling to create programs that would encourage students to remain active. TSR Erika Wentz worked with MPS to implement an after-school QST program at 20 local Community Learning Centers (CLCs). All participating sites received a USTA Organizational membership, one mini-net, 20 racquets and two dozen foam balls. Each instructor received a USTA Schools Curriculum Guide. A total of 1,150 children participated in the community center program, which has continued to flourish.

Playground Games: The Tennis Patrons of Santa Monica, the local CTA, had created after-school tennis classes on the playgrounds of seven elementary schools in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, but lacking courts, was unable to help kids visualize and focus on the game. Using the guidance of TSR Diane Brooks, the school district applied for a USTA Facility Assistance Grant, and with it, was able to paint permanent QST lines on the playgrounds. P.E. teachers who helped with the program reported immediate improvements in students’ enjoyment of the sport, and an easier time organizing games overall. In fact, it wasn’t long before the kids were ready to take the next step and enter TPSM’s QuickStart Tennis Rallyball tournaments at their local recreation center. In addition, there are now two USTA JTT teams competing in Santa Monica. Brooks says the program has two goals. The first was to create enough excitement among after-school tennis players to encourage them to stick with the game and graduate to USTA JTT. Next, she would like to see kids play on their high school teams.

In addition, tennis court builders have played a role in bringing tennis into the community. Tom Hinding of Hinding Tennis in West Haven, Conn., helped build a temporary court in a parking lot in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins was on hand for the festival, which introduced tennis to a large number of inner-city children.

Hinding notes that he has also put QST courts in such nontraditional settings as a warehouse associated with a health club, which can be rented out for tennis parties as well as other recreation and health events. “We’ve even done quotes on rooftop courts for QuickStart,” he adds.

QuickStart courts on top of buildings? Sounds like the sky is the limit these days.

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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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