Our Serve: The Local Connection
“All politics is local,” said former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. He coined that phrase because, when you get right down to it, politicians need to appeal to the simple and everyday concerns and issues of their constituents.
In the often highly politicized tennis industry, I suppose it’s apt to steal a phrase from politics and modify it for our own use: All tennis growth is local.
Think about it. For most of us, success in this industry stems from selling more racquets and equipment, doing more restringing, giving more lessons, filling more courts, having more members and players … all of these mean connecting with local, grassroots players.
We can have all the big programs, initiatives and national objectives that we want (and we have some excellent ones in this industry), but when we get right down to it, success in the tennis business depends on how effective we are at reaching the grassroots. Will it play in Peoria? Will it play in the thousands of other towns and cities across the country?
Manufacturers spend millions developing new racquets and paying high-priced pro endorsements, but if they can’t effectively get their product to local retailers, then into the hands of local players, everyone loses out. Teaching pros have some wonderful resources and programs they can access from various groups in this industry, but the money is made when they connect with local players for lessons and clinics. The same for tennis facilities — it’s all about those local connections.
Even huge national initiatives, such as the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis, will be judged not by how much money has been invested, but by how many kids get into the game, and stay in the game — and that of course is all about making local connections to this sport.
It’s great to be able to play up wonderful success stories or show that famous athletes and entertainers play tennis, but that alone is not going to drive the participation increases in this sport that we all need. What will create sustained growth will be this industry’s ability to go to local teaching pros and coaches, local retailers, local facilities, local media, local schools, and local park & recs to connect with local players.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.