Your Serve: Creative Solutions to Filling Open Court Time
For years, tennis clubs have struggled with keeping courts filled during off hours and vacation times. Directors of these facilities have tried numerous methods to solve this dilemma with mixed results. The problem is that too many hours are being unused, with revenue opportunities frequently wasted. But in my experience, here are a few unique methods you can use to remedy this situation.
Local Corporate Involvement
Bringing in the business community by organizing events can be an entree for gaining new members, and increasing visibility. This is often an untapped sector, which if actively targeted, should be a consistent income producer for clubs. Corporate tennis outings, clinics, and leagues are all examples of embracing this market.
Businesses benefit in this relationship as well as the club. For companies, it is a great way for employees to network, and develop rapport in a relaxed environment. Plus, a corporate Cardio Tennis program is another way clubs can attract business. With such a program, healthcare costs can go down, and employee morale boosted. This could be a significant part of a corporate wellness program. Why not be the club that is known for promoting healthy lifestyles for its members, and the community?
Workshops and Seminars
When I was the director of tennis at an indoor/outdoor club, I ran a successful tennis coaches and teachers workshop. I invited all the local school and club tennis instructors to the workshop, and three previously unused courts were utilized for a number of hours, and I was able to employ a few of our club’s pros. The fee we charged was reasonable, and it generated significant revenues.
Bringing in outside experts to run seminars or workshops is another method of developing new income streams. For instance, Gary Adelman, a well known teaching pro from Long island, N.Y., is a prime illustration of someone who offers clubs a unique presentation on effortless tennis. He is a certified teacher of the “Alexander Technique,” and he runs “Tennis Without Tension” workshops. The interest Gary’s program generates attracts new and potential members.
I have long believed that camps are too often an unrecognized benefit for clubs. They are offered in the summer, and that will be it for the year. But there are a lot of additional opportunities where camps can prove a benefit to your club or facility. Vacation dates and weekends are usually excellent times for tennis camps.
Instead of members taking expensive vacations, why not host adult camps during holidays? Once clubs make it enticing for their members to stay home, this can be a consistent income stream. Adult camps on off-court times can be organized throughout the year. These camps should range from seniors to young parents looking for exercise and competition.
Working with local colleges and high schools also will bring in extra revenue. I used to run high school clinics on Sundays for school players. It was split between instruction and competition. The school coaches would support the program because it kept their players in competitive shape during the off-season.
Additionally, clubs should develop relationships with colleges, because athletic departments frequently have funds allotted for indoor court time. By offering discounts, tennis facilities can attract teams to use their courts during inclement weather, or for training purposes — and even if the college has a Tennis on Campus rec program.
Awakening a Dormant Membership
If your club has a segment of its membership not using the facilities, you need to find out why. Then you should consider programs geared toward bringing them back to the courts. If this lack of activity is due to work commitments, offer early morning or late evening clinics. Members may not be aware of programs offered at these hours.
“Snowbird tennis events,” says Scott Gilmore, a pro in northwest Florida, help to bring members back to the courts. This, of course, refers to those tennis clubs in warm geographic climates. Having diverse programs offered to these “snowbirds” gives them options to be consistent club participants.
While you should always continue to use tried-and-true methods that continue to fill your courts — such as running tournaments, round-robins, multi-level leagues, parties, etc. — you should also try some of these options to deal with times when you have open courts. The key is being creative, and finding out what the club’s clientele truly desires. Then you need to deliver with first-class programs. That should fill courts, and add new income streams.
Bruce Knittle is the president of consulting firm Knittle Sports Solutions Inc. (knittlesportssolutions.com), which offers advisory services to tennis and sports organizations. A former highly ranked player and captain of the Florida State University tennis team, he was a successful tennis camp owner, college tennis coach/pro, and director of sports programs.
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See all articles by Bruce Knittle
About the Author
Bruce Knittle is president of the sports consulting firm Knittle Sports Solutions. A former sports camp owner, he also was a college head coach and directed sports programs for many years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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