Our Serve: It’s About Advocacy
Whether paid or volunteer, if you’re in the tennis business in any capacity, you also are, and must be, in the business of advocating for the sport. Advocating for tennis is possibly the most important thing we can do for this sport. It crosses all lines, all departments, all committees, all organizations — and all businesses. And it builds for our future.
The definition of advocacy is relatively simple — ”active support, especially of a cause.” But when it comes to tennis, advocacy seems to be a somewhat slippery term to define in a way that can result in meaningful action.
About a decade ago, the USTA ramped up advocacy efforts, hiring staff and pushing out messaging and resources. But last fall, the USTA disbanded its Public Affairs & Advocacy department. There still is a volunteer Advocacy/Public Affairs Committee, and the USTA urges its committees and departments to continue with advocacy efforts. However, since the specific staff department is gone, I sense a diminished urgency and coordination.
What’s tended to muddy the waters within the USTA is there are two advocacy avenues: There’s the big, attention-grabbing efforts like lobbying lawmakers in Washington, D.C., courting celebrities, and promoting tennis at the White House. Then there’s advocacy on the local level, decidedly less glamorous, but truly the heart of what it takes to grow this game.
Both avenues are important, but I’m advocating for better advocacy focusing on the local level. We need a more coordinated effort. Advocating locally means getting schools, governments, parks, and community groups to realize the benefits of tennis. It involves giving local groups and CTAs a comprehensive toolbox to state the case for tennis in all situations.
I’m hoping the loss of the USTA advocacy staff does not mean the Advocacy & Public Affairs Committee will also go away or lose focus. The USTA committee not only needs to continue, it should be split to more effectively address both avenues. The side dealing with grassroots tennis advocacy needs to coordinate with other committees, departments and even outside groups so that effective, consistent tools and resources reach providers, so they can push for tennis locally and meet any challenge or barrier the sport may face in their communities. In many cases, these tools and resources already exist (especially within some of the sections). We need to pull this together and make it clearly available and usable nationally.
As I’ve said many times, we can have the best national initiatives in the world, but growing this game comes down to being local. Advocating for tennis in your community is big. After all, it’s our future.
Peter Francesconi, Editorial Director
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About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.