‘Fish Where the Fish Are’
I am in complete agreement with your Our Serve on “Catching More Players” in the November/December issue. As tennis professionals and providers, it is one of our duties to grow the game, and while national initiatives are great, it is the local level that will have the greatest impact on the sustained growth of the sport.
I recently spoke at the USPTA Middle States Conference on “Working With Large Groups and Growing The Game” and my focus was similar to the idea of “fishing where the fish are.” As an avid fisherman, I know that even though my line is in the water, I will not catch any fish if there aren’t any nearby.
At the club where I work, Birchwood Tennis Club in Clarks Summit, Pa., we have successfully run programs targeting large groups and brought more players into tennis. Perhaps one of the largest groups is high school tennis players. In Pennsylvania, we estimate, conservatively, that over 25,000 play fall or spring high school tennis. As we know, many put their racquets down when the season ends. In addition, every one of those players has family, friends and neighbors who watch and support them and just might want to play themselves if given the opportunity. That’s a lot of fish!
During the cold winter months, in between the boys’ and girls’ seasons, we run a series of low-cost clinics for high school players and we recruit high school coaches to volunteer as well. Instead of focusing on the top players, we target the rest of the team. It is fun, social and the kids improve their tennis. After these clinics we offer Junior Team Tennis, camps, clinics and Play Days to keep them playing!
My 8-year-old daughter is involved in Girl Scouts and we did a tennis clinic for her troop as a fun activity and a badge. I registered it as a USTA Play Day, had 60 girls that first year, and the event grew. Soon other local troops wanted to participate. The idea has become so popular that the head of the local chapter asked me to move the date outside of cookie season so that even more could participate.
Catching more players is not that difficult if you know where to look. Thanks for the great article.
Tim Haus, USPTA
Birchwood Tennis Club
Clarks Summit, Pa.
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