Tennis Is the No. 1 Traditional Sport

Tennis participation is growing. In 2007, more than 25.1 million people hit the courts, according to the USTA/TIA annual Tennis Participation Study. It's the first time since 1999 that participation has topped 25 million players, and it continues a more than five-year growth trend in the sport.

But don't just take our word for it. Research from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, which tracks 114 sports, again puts tennis at the No. 1 spot when it comes to traditional sports that have gained in participation from 2000 to 2006. According to the SGMA, tennis participation has grown 12.2% in six years, 10% more than its nearest rival — golf — and well ahead of other participation sports such as baseball, basketball, swimming and soccer, all of which saw declining participation in the same six years.

What's more, the number of frequent players in the U.S., which are your key customers, has been increasing. The latest figures put the number of frequent players, defined as those who play at least 21 times per year, at 5.3 million. Since 2003, the overall number of frequent players has increased by 15 percent. In 2007, about 5.7 million people began playing tennis for the first time.

And the good news continues. Across the board, tennis equipment sales are up, too. Since 2003, racquet shipments to retailers have increased by 42 percent and ball shipments are up by 15 percent. And, in a sign seen as very promising for the future of tennis, sales of youth racquets have shown the biggest gains, up 80 percent since 2003.

Along with these increases in participation and equipment, there's also been a surge in adult league programming, as reported by tennis facilities, from an average of 11.6 hours per week in 2005 to 13.3 hours per week in 2007. The USTA, which has a record membership of 720,000 — and rising — reports that the number of league players continues to break records.

And industry-wide grassroots initiatives have been bearing fruit for everyone in the tennis business. For instance, each Tennis Welcome Center, on average, reports 39 new players and 34 returning players, and 82 percent of TWCs report increased lesson revenue. Cardio Tennis continues to make significant gains in both the number of facilities offering the program and the number of participants, and CT received more than 280 million media impressions in the last two years, including coverage in major magazines and newspapers and on TV newscasts.

The newest launch is the QuickStart Tennis format, an industry-wide effort to help kids 10 and under play the game.

Technology continues to play a huge role in connecting players to the game. No other sport uses technology better than tennis does to boost participation, and the TIA is at the forefront of this revolution. The "GrowingTennis" system (www.GrowingTennis.com) is one of the industry's best tools for increasing your business.

This past December, there were nearly 1.5 million queries made to the "informational postcards" that appear on consumer tennis websites in the GrowingTennis system (such as USTA.com, Tennis.com, TennisChannel.com, etc.). That was more than double the number of inquiries made in October. Also, there are more than 20,000 facilities listed in the free national database, and that number continues to grow every month. Importantly for your business, online enrollment tools are now featured in the GrowingTennis system, which allow for easier consumer signups and fee collection.

As if all this weren't enough, tennis has been booming as a spectator sport, too. In 2007, US Open attendance hit 715,587, surpassing the previous all-time high by more than 55,000 spectators. The US Open remains the highest attended annual sporting event in the world.

With participation, equipment sales, programming, attendance and more all showing significant gains in the last few years, your business should be poised for a great year.


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