Our Serve: Adding It All Up
Sometimes, when an initiative or program begins, you can almost see down the road that it will in some way have a significant impact on the growth of this sport. It won’t be the be-all, end-all solution we always seem to be looking for, but it will solidly advance this sport in some way.
I had that feeling 15 years ago when the USTA took its first steps with Tennis on Campus. Has it “solved” all our participation challenges? Of course not. But, now with nearly 700 colleges and universities offering club tennis and involving 40,000 students who simply wouldn’t have an organized place to play tennis after high school, it certainly has led this sport in the right direction. And the same principles that have made TOC a success are now being echoed with tennis for high-schoolers.
The same easily could have been seen 10 years ago with the start of Cardio Tennis, which put tennis in line with consumer interest in health and fitness and now boasts over 1.6 million players in the U.S.
The Tennis Service Rep program, also started 10 years ago, is another example. Lately it is coming on strong with renewed interest, vigor, support and leadership, and I’m certain it will continue to have a positive impact at the grassroots throughout the country.
Now, there’s another program I believe will have a profound impact and influence on the growth of this sport. The USTA recently announced the start of “USTA University,” which will, among other goals, help to create, nurture and support Professional Tennis Management programs at universities and colleges across the country. For decades, observers of this industry have always said we need more PTM programs in the U.S. to train teaching pros, coaches, administrators and other future leaders. We now have the chance to make that happen, thanks to the support the USTA is giving this.
USTA executive Scott Schultz, one of the nicest guys in the business and the person who, back in 1987, created the PTM program at Ferris State University, has been tapped by the USTA to lead the USTAU effort. Already, the USTA has named three colleges that have started up PTM programs, with more in the pipeline. In 15 or 20 years, we’ll look back at this move and realize how significant it was in pushing this sport and industry forward.
And you know, that’s the thing about this industry — it’s never going to be “one” program or initiative that will break open the participation challenge. Our 2015 Person of the Year, Mike Woody, who clearly knows how to grow tennis in a community, puts it best: “You can’t put all your resources in one basket. We have to be multidimensional and use not just the newest tools, but also the ones from years ago. It’s not just one thing that will grow tennis.”
We have to persevere, tweak things when we need to, continue to be creative, and embrace the whole basket. I’m convinced that all these seemingly “small” steps will add up to big gains down the road.
Peter Francesconi, Editorial Director
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About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.
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