Tennis Industry magazine

 

Family Fun

10 and Under Tennis can be a key to bringing families back to taking tennis vacations

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Ah, the tennis vacation. A happy couple or a group of friends head out to some great resort destination and hit the courts. Amazing matches against gorgeous beachfront or mountainside backdrops, nice facilities with a variety of surfaces, and all kinds of fun amenities. Clinics, lessons, Cardio Tennis, social matches, tournaments, round-robins — then drinks by the court afterward. It made for some great memories for them, and some nice income for you and your tennis facility or resort.

But then those couples had kids, and now they think tennis vacations are a part of their misty past. Bye-bye, backhand practice with the ball machine, followed by Bloody Mary’s overlooking the courts, hello, costumed fairy tale characters and chicken fingers. So what can you do to bring these people back, and convince them their vacations don’t just have to consist of visits to theme parks and beaches?

Well, you can’t babysit, but you can try marketing 10 and Under Tennis to parents and kids as part of a tennis vacation. Many facilities are already using the QuickStart Tennis play format — hopefully you are, too.

We’ve already seen the all-day or half-day “kids’ club” model at work at ski resorts. It includes lessons in a fun format interspersed with downtime for snacks and play, walks around the resort to look at the local wildlife and more. (Bonus: It gives parents an opportunity to get some serious slope time in, knowing their kids are in good hands). For the day, or part of it, parents can enjoy some downhill and some apres-ski time, then rejoin the family unit in time for dinner.

The best part? It works on all levels: Kids love it. They learn a new skill they can show their parents. Parents love it because their kids grow as athletes. And in a few years, everyone in the family is skiing together on vacations. And where are they skiing? Right back at the same resort that gave them such a good experience and such great memories.

So, why not bring that concept to tennis? Maybe your resort already offers daytime recreation for guests’ kids, but does that program include tennis? It definitely should. Working at a resort means that 10 and Under Tennis can be one part of your kids’ programming component.

Kids might be too young to understand the way a different surface can change the game for them as a player, but we as adults already know the low compression and foam balls used for 10 and Under Tennis work on all of those surfaces, and can yield a fun experience. If the kids already play, it’s a chance to improve their game. If they haven’t yet played — well, what can we say about QST and 10U tennis that hasn’t been said before? It’s the perfect way to get them started.

The sports travel industry is in a unique position right now. Yes, the economy has made many people rethink their leisure plans and cancel or downgrade their standalone family vacations. What we’ve seen happen at the same time, however, is that they continue to pay their dues for their fitness club and take advantage of programs offered there.

What’s more interesting? Those parents are traveling to their kids’ out of town tournaments in sports like soccer, wrestling or lacrosse, and they’re going to their own events like marathons. They’re also bringing their families along for the ride when they go to any of those sporting events. In fact, they’re extending those trips for a few days in order to get a family vacation, particularly if the area has historical, cultural or other significance, or if it’s just plain fun.

The thing we have to do here is harness people’s enthusiasm for sports — and their priorities for spending time with their families — and show them how much fun a tennis vacation can be again. If you can implement that kind of value-added programming that provides fun for the kids, and keeps them active and happy, you’ll stand a better chance of getting your adult tennis players back, and (bonus points) of raising a whole new generation of players who love the tradition of a tennis vacation.

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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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