Tennis Industry magazine

 

Your Serve: What’s Your ‘Why’?

A dedicated industry supporter says what we celebrate needs to show why we find this sport so inspiring.

By Peg Connor

Tennis is a great sport, one that should be growing by leaps and bounds. Yet, according to the latest participation report, there are some challenges. We’ve seen a dip in the number of core players, which fuel the economic engine of our industry. And while research shows there are 14 million more people who say they want to play tennis, they haven’t yet been moved to participate. How can the industry address these challenges?

We must recognize there is a general decline in the number of active people in the U.S. The Physical Activity Council estimates that more than 30 percent of Americans will be inactive by 2018. Tennis should increase efforts to grow the pool of potential players by working collaboratively to support initiatives to get more people active.

What else can we do? A great first step is to identify our “Why” for tennis. In Simon Sinek’s powerful TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he defines “Why” as the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do and how you do it. Most importantly, your “Why” is essential for inspiring others to follow your lead.

I cannot imagine my life without tennis. Tennis has helped me get healthy, build a career, make lifelong friends, spend time with family, meet my spouse, travel the world … the list goes on and on. So much more than a sport, tennis is a priceless gift that changes lives, and I feel compelled to share it so others may have the same experience. This is my “Why.”

Those of us in the tennis industry are fortunate to have the opportunity to promote the gift of tennis. So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we effectively sharing our “Why” through the things we celebrate and elevate?

For instance, at industry conferences and events, in addition to honoring such things as playing prowess, or years of service, or levels of certification — all very worthy of celebration — why not also give out awards to incentivize the industry to grow the sport? How about an award for developing new formats that attract and retain new players? Tennis in school programs, possibly the best way to reach the most kids, absolutely should be recognized. Let’s create a scholarship program for young people interested in a career in tennis to help them afford to attend industry workshops and meetings, bringing their fresh eyes and ideas. The possibilities are endless if a bit of creativity is applied to incentivize what we want to accomplish.

Facility owners and managers can present tennis as the centerpiece of a healthy lifestyle in which families can participate together. This message is far more compelling than an offer for lessons or clinics. What a gift to give a family … a sport that can build a foundation for generations of fun and fitness.

Think about the visuals on your facility or office wall. In addition to the wonderful shots of tour athletes and events, what about including recreational tennis images? Great photos of league players, kids or seniors on court would support our mission. I’ve heard so many stories about how tennis has changed people’s lives — let’s share these inspiring stories and images.

Pro athletes are powerful brands in their own right. How great would it be for the grassroots game if these pros could reach their millions of followers with messaging about the many physical, mental and social benefits of tennis!

There will never be a superhero waiting to swoop in and save the day for tennis. And change always is easier when it is our choice and not forced upon us. Now is the time to rethink our approaches to growing this sport, on both micro and macro levels.

As an important member of this industry, ask yourself: What is my “Why?” Is my “Why” reflected in my words and actions? And are these priorities helping to sustainably grow tennis?

Our sport’s future depends on it.

Peg Connor has been involved in some aspect of tennis ever since her first lesson in a parks & rec program at age 10. She has held many roles in the tennis business including that of certified teaching professional, collegiate player and coach, USTA clinician/volunteer, marketing and promotions executive for a major tennis manufacturer, professional tour events manager and industry advocate.

We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to info@tennisindustrymag.com.

 

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