Building Our Future
Net Generation, the USTA’s new youth brand, is designed to inspire and engage a new wave of players, parents and providers.
Craig Morris says he came to the United States from Australia 18 months ago with a major focus on a specific agenda: “to get more kids playing tennis.”
When he was with Tennis Australia, Morris ran the successful Hot Shots program, designed to get more kids out on court. Now, as the USTA’s general manager of community tennis and youth tennis, Morris faces a similar challenge in the U.S.
There’s little question that getting more youngsters into the game of tennis is crucial to the sport’s survival. Serving this new generation of players — in truth, creating this new generation of players — is important to all areas of the industry. This is where Net Generation comes in.
As Morris explains, Net Generation is the new youth brand of the USTA, embracing all aspects of youth play for kids ages 5 to 18. “The objective of Net Generation is to have millions of kids connected to the sport,” he says. “It’s a singular, consumer-facing brand for youth tennis.
“The way we position tennis to the consumer and the way people try to find tennis has been challenging. When I moved to the U.S., I tried to find programs and places to play for my own three children, now ages 5, 8 and 11. It was a frustrating, often unsuccessful process.”
According to the USTA, Net Generation will make tennis:
- Easy to understand
- Easy to find and engage in playing opportunities
- Tailored to customer expectations
- Fun, relevant and exciting
Using All the Tools
“We’re trying to make sure that growing the game is an all-encompassing business initiative,” Morris says. “If we’re getting more kids into the sport, then we need to use all our assets. So you’ll see Net Generation integrated at the US Open and the US Open Series events, with our Player Development team, with the USTA Foundation and the NJTL network, with our Diversity and Inclusion team — across all departments and areas.”
But crucial to the success of Net Generation, and to growing the game in general, are local tennis providers.
“There are incredible things going on around the country to grow tennis,” Morris adds. “We want Net Generation to be the movement that unites all this great stuff and is a point for the customer to connect to local programs.”
The website NetGeneration.com will be the first step of this initiative. Before reaching out to consumers, the push over the next few months will be for local tennis providers to go on the website, create an account and build a profile. There is no charge or membership required to create a provider account and list available programs, which will then be searchable by consumers looking to find opportunities and places to play for youngsters.
In May, tennis providers will be encouraged to go back into their profiles to upload information about their programs. This Program Management Center will also have tabs to curriculum, so providers can receive guidance in how to teach and engage youngsters at various levels and stages.
Then, around the US Open in late August and early September, “We’ll go live to consumers,” Morris explains. “They’ll be able to view various classifications that relate to their own kids, look at all the things the sport of tennis offers, find places to play in their areas, and much more.”
“Net Generation is a real industry-wide initiative to grow the game,” Morris notes. “It’s important that the industry unites around one message to make sure it gets to the consumer.
“We’re not looking for local providers to change the names of their programs. Their programs will fit under the Net Generation umbrella, so if a parent is searching for a program in his or her area, whatever name a local provider uses will come up.”
Both the USPTA and PTR are helping to get the message out to teaching pros.
“The certified coaching component is an integral part of Net Generation,” Morris says. “We’re trying to engage all aspects of delivery so consumers find what they want.”
An important part of Net Generation will be required background screening of all providers listed on the website, to ensure the safety and well-being of all children involved in tennis programs.
Morris says the response from the tennis industry has been encouraging.
“We really need to continue to build strong relationships with those delivering tennis, being a resource for them, and supporting them,” he notes.
“At the end of the day, it’s the people delivering tennis at the local level that will make Net Generation a success. We want to work with them as much as we can to support them in doing the best job they can.”
Key Local Drivers for Net Generation
- Certified Tennis Coaches — Net Generation will consist of a comprehensive development program ranging from player competencies, a turn-key curriculum and activities and drills linked to development.
- School Teachers — The USTA is committed to supporting teachers in introducing tennis through PE curriculum and after-school programs.
- Parents and Volunteers — Net Generation will provide resources and support to make sure they have a great time in delivering tennis to kids in their local community.
- Team Tennis Coordinators — Through Net Generation, coordinators will help to provide team-based play, allowing youngsters to have fun playing with friends and fellow students.
- Tournament Directors — Organizers of local events, from small to pro tournaments, will be encouraged to engage local children.
Net Generation Registration Platform Rollout
Net Generation 1.0: Provider Launch
- Website and Provider Registration Platform
- Account Creation & Registration
- Provider Profile Management
- Provider Safe Play Background Check
Net Generation 1.5: Provider Program Launch
- Provider Curricula & Program Management Center
- Expanded Public Provider Profile
- Account Management
Net Generation 2.0: Consumer Launch
- Search Available for Net Generation Programs and Certified Professionals
- Parents Register for Access to Search and Benefits
- Parents Can Contact Program Coordinators and Coaches
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.
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