Our Serve: Re-Evaluating What We Do
Among the highlights at this year’s USTA Annual Meeting in March was the chance to hear from Craig Morris, who the USTA hired in November as the new general manager for Community Tennis & Youth Tennis. Morris came from Tennis Australia, where he served in the key role of director of participation.
Morris said things many of us have been pushing for years. When it comes to getting people, especially kids, into tennis, he stressed that everything needs to be seen through the eye of the consumer. “This is not about us; it’s about the next generation of players.”
What is it about tennis that appeals to children? How easy is it for them to find what they need to get into the game? What will make them choose the sport, and continue to play it?
And then he said the magic words we too often ignore in this industry: “We have to keep it simple.”
Many of us have hammered on that theme over the years. To me, part of keeping it simple is using all the tools at our disposal to grow the game, no matter where they come from. Let’s not duplicate efforts and waste more time and money. Let’s no longer fall victim to the “not invented here” syndrome.
The USTA’s influence and resources are vast, but many things in this industry that may well help grow the game — sensibly, simply and cost-effectively — just won’t happen if the USTA isn’t behind it. This isn’t any sort of revelation; we’ve all known this.
With Morris on board, I’m hopeful on many fronts that we can “use all our tools” to grow this sport. Let’s take Cardio Tennis. Yes, the USTA helped fund it in 2005, but back then it was all just the TIA promoting it, with limited budget and resources. Now, Cardio Tennis has 1.8 million participants — no program in tennis has ever had that kind of growth. In Australia, Morris realized the value of a tennis product that focuses on health and fitness, so they licensed Cardio Tennis from the TIA. With Morris now part of the USTA, I look forward to the organization seeing the value in using Cardio Tennis to reach new consumers.
In the keep-it-simple and not-duplicate-efforts categories, let’s look at PlayTennis.com, an unbranded website simply devoted to getting and keeping people playing. Again, with limited resources, the TIA has grown PlayTennis.com to hundreds of thousands of users and registrants who can find partners, matches, lessons, coaches, courts, etc. — but there is more to do. I’m hopeful now this industry can come together to grow participation for all ages through PlayTennis.com, rather than trying to re-invent it.
I’m looking forward to the future, and to what I hope will be a constructive re-evaluation of what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.
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