Programming: Healthy Tennis
With 1.3 million participants after just seven years, Cardio Tennis continues to improve and grow — benefiting consumers and providers.
TIA Cardio Tennis Manager Michele Krause just finished running an afternoon of Cardio Tennis sessions at the grand opening celebration of the Montgomery TennisPlex in Boyds, Md., outside of Washington, D.C. She finally has a moment to relax before heading to California for the USPTA World Conference, where she and some of the National Cardio Tennis Speakers Team members will put on morning clinics for the attendees and offer a presentation to USPTA pros.
“Yesterday, we did a great training session for about 20 tennis teachers at the new Montgomery County facility,” she says. “And today at the grand opening, we had a lot of people on the courts.” Then she talks about one middle-aged woman who had never played tennis before.
“She came for the first session, but was very unsure about Cardio Tennis and worried that she would look foolish, or not be able to keep up, or just not enjoy it,” Krause says. “But she loved it so much, she ended up being the first one in line for the second session. We just created another customer for Montgomery TennisPlex’s new Cardio Tennis program.
“Many people think they either need to get in shape to do Cardio Tennis, or they can’t do it because they don’t play tennis,” Krause continues. “That’s just not true. It’s a very safe and healthy workout for any age, any ability level and any fitness level.
“I always refer to ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Two years ago on that reality TV show, Anna Kournikova [now a Cardio Tennis spokesperson] put the 15 contestants through a Cardio Tennis workout. They weren’t tennis players, yet they were smiling and laughing throughout the workout. If those people, weighing 300 to 400 pounds, can do Cardio Tennis, anyone can.”
According to the Physical Activity Council, more than 1.3 million people are doing Cardio Tennis — a remarkable figure when you consider that Cardio Tennis was only created in 2005. (And in fact, participation has been above a million for the last three years.)
“I don’t know of any tennis program that, in seven years, has had that kind of phenomenal growth rate,” says Jolyn de Boer, executive director of the Tennis Industry Association, which manages Cardio Tennis. “Clearly, Cardio Tennis is speaking to consumers and addressing what they’re looking for in a fitness activity.”
Tennis and Fitness
The idea behind Cardio Tennis — emphasizing the fitness attributes of hitting tennis balls in a fast-paced environment — is not new. But the Cardio Tennis program, which got off the ground with support from the USTA, standardized the curriculum purpose and components, gave it a great name, and packaged it for consumers. “From there,” says Krause, “it’s evolved tremendously, and we continue to improve the product. In fact, if you were trained to deliver Cardio Tennis five or six years ago, you need to go through training again, to be able to deliver the proper product, because so much has been improved and enhanced.”
The driving force behind Cardio Tennis was Jim Baugh, a former TIA president, USTA board member and industry manufacturing executive who now is a consultant in the sports industry and heavily involved in the health initiative PHIT America.
“In 2004, Jim was looking at participation numbers and saw that fitness activities were making huge inroads over traditional sports, and he thought about how tennis could compete with the fitness industry,” de Boer says.
“Tennis needs to have a piece of the fitness market,” Baugh says. “Cardio Tennis is all about getting a good cardio workout by hitting tons of balls. The program’s foundation was based on bringing a whole other group of people into tennis, as well as getting players fit and healthy. It’s amazing the success Cardio Tennis has had, with limited resources, and it could be so much bigger if everyone in the industry got behind it. Right now, there’s an inactivity and sedentary crisis, but Americans are starting to get the message that they need to get active and fit.”
“Jim covered a lot of bases to make sure Cardio Tennis would be well-positioned with consumers and providers,” adds Kurt Kamperman, chief executive of Community Tennis for the USTA. “After the initial two- to three-year startup, we’ve continued to fund Cardio Tennis through the TIA, and it’s grown organically. We wanted the health benefits of tennis out there, and to tap into the ever-growing fitness market. It’s definitely succeeded on both fronts.”
A Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA — formerly SGMA) report says consumers want “group exercise” because it’s motivating and has social appeal, plus it is economically attractive. Krause also points to a number of other reasons why Cardio Tennis continues to grow:
- It provides great health benefits: CT is total body and mind engagement, so participants are easily able to achieve their effective heart rate zones; interval training such as CT is the most effective way to achieve heart health and fitness; CT allows players to burn more calories than singles, doubles, and many other fitness activities; it’s a group activity where players of all ability levels enjoy working together; it fights obesity and offers a better fitness option for those not motivated to go to a gym.
- Cardio Tennis will improve a player’s tennis: While CT’s primary goal is health and fitness, the continuous movement, repetition and realistic playing conditions also will improve tennis skills. Cardio Tennis is the way to train for tennis.
- It attracts new consumers to the game: Cardio Tennis appeals to lapsed players, non-players, the fitness market and to active consumers, so it brings in new players looking for fun and a great workout. It’s also for every level of player, including advanced and beginners, as well as any ages from 12 to seniors.
For facilities and pros, Cardio Tennis is a money-maker, Krause says. “Some clubs are making $20,000 a month with Cardio Tennis. Most, though, are offering four or five classes a week and bringing in about $3,000 to $4,000 a month — which is a very reasonable goal.”
Midtown Tennis in Chicago brings in $250,000 a year with Cardio Tennis, averaging about 900 participants a month, says Alan Schwartz, who founded the club. “Interestingly, many of the non-tennis players end up being converted to regular tennis players” through Cardio Tennis, he adds.
To deliver Cardio Tennis properly, so participants are getting the full benefit of the program, pros need to go through CT training where they learn how to work with all ability levels, the importance of playing music during CT sessions; using heart-rate monitors to make sure participants are in their ideal zones; “cardio blasts” to keep participants moving; and using the right Cardio Tennis balls — the red ball is used in the warm-up and cool down, and the orange ball is used for games, which keeps players moving and hitting more
“Using the orange ball is a great equalizer,” Krause says. “For lower skilled players, it makes it easier, and for advanced players, it’s difficult to hit a clean winner, so the ball stays in play longer. The more touches an individual has on a ball, the better they get and the better the workout.”
About 70 percent of a Cardio session is game-based, and 30 percent is drill-based, notes Krause. “Ball-feeding skills are still important, but not to the extent they used to be. You’re doing drills to get participants’ strokes warmed up so they can play games.”
“The TIA recognized the importance of placing Cardio Tennis on a technology platform that would allow providers to connect with players online, fill their classes and effectively manage and grow Cardio Tennis at their facility,” de Boer says. The result was the Cardio Tennis Invitation System — the same successful invitation system powered by TenCap Tennis is now powering Cardio Tennis.
“We also recognized the need to make sure those providers offering Cardio Tennis stayed current with the program, which has evolved since its inception,” she adds. Starting last year, Cardio Tennis introduced Authorized Providers, which are locations, facilities or individual pros authorized/licensed to offer CT classes (visit CardioTennis.com). “Our goal is to maintain quality control so the consumer always has a safe, healthy workout and an enjoyable experience.”
One of the major benefits of becoming an Authorized Provider is gaining access to the Cardio Tennis Invitation System. “I wish I had this technology 20 years ago,” says Krause. “This automated system takes so much of the administrative workload off of the tennis professional.” Also available to Authorized Providers is a new Cardio Tennis Marketing Support Site offering direct mail pieces, posters, fliers, brochures and more.
Cardio Tennis has also partnered with Total Health Interactive for “Cardio Tennis Interactive,” a tennis wellness program that has been in trial markets across the country. CTI allows participants to track their exercise, nutrition, goals and results; participate in Cardio Tennis fitness challenges; receive customized programs designed to enhance CT enjoyment, weight loss and more; and gain reward points that can be used to purchase health-and-fitness products.
Earlier this year, TRX Cardio Tennis debuted, combining CT with TRX Suspension Training to provide a calorie-burning, ball-striking, aerobic workout that incorporates strength, muscle endurance, balance, and flexibility.
And Cardio Tennis has expanded into 30 countries around the world, most notably Tennis Australia, Tennis Canada and the LTA in Great Britain, each of which started national Cardio Tennis programs. In fact, in Australia and the UK, Cardio Tennis is being used as one of two programs in a major drive to increase tennis participation.
“We think Cardio Tennis is going to be a staple for tennis teaching professionals,” says Dan Santorum, CEO of the PTR. “It’s a good money-maker, and it’s a good way to diversify your lessons — you can get another group of people who are more interested in fitness. It’s definitely here to stay.”
“When you look at all that Cardio Tennis has to offer consumers and every segment of this industry, it’s really a no-brainer,” says Krause (right). “It will make money for you, it will help create more tennis players and more frequent players, and it will grow our industry. And yes, it will get you fit, healthy and make you a better tennis player.”
Cardio Tennis By the Numbers
- There are about 1,800 Cardio Tennis sites in the U.S.
- 75 percent of facilities with an established Cardio Tennis program have been offering it for at least three years
- 79 percent of facilities say CT has benefited them financially, mainly through increased program revenue (72 percent) and increased lesson revenue (65 percent). But CT has also increased revenue for courts booked, membership sales, pro shop sales, and food/beverage sales, too.
- Facilities offering Cardio Tennis average 4 sessions per week.
- The average number of participants per class is 7.4
- Cardio Tennis brings players to facilities: on average (over the last two years) 24 new players and 23 returning players are coming to facilities for CT, and 22 players are playing more frequently because of CT.
To find out more about Cardio Tennis, visit CardioTennis.com. The website has information on how to become an Authorized Provider, including all the benefits available; training courses; provider tools such as music and heart-rate monitors; TRX Cardio Tennis; Cardio Tennis Interactive and “Get Fit” Challenges; and more.