U.S. Tennis Participation Highest Level Since 1992

Despite a down economy overall, the tennis industry is enjoying growth in participation, with more players (nearly 26.9 million) taking to the court this year, according to the annual research survey conducted for the TIA and USTA by The Taylor Research Group. It is the largest number of players in the U.S. in 15 years.

“These increases are great news for tennis,” says TIA President Dave Haggerty. “While people may be reining in spending on vacations and major purchases, they appear to be staying closer to home, getting more involved in an activity like tennis, which is affordable, fun and relatively quick to play. Plus, it’s a great family activity.”

That appears to be borne out by the industry’s “Court Activity Monitor.” Tennis facilities are reporting increases in all categories of play, with the largest (56%) in the number of new players joining the game. And importantly, total “play occasions” in tennis broke 600 million for the first time in 2008, up 13% to 603 million.

“We’ve tried to make tennis as accessible as possible at the grassroots levels,” says Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis, “and will continue promoting initiatives to grow youth and adult participation.” USTA COO Gordon Smith adds, “Tennis is stronger and healthier than it’s been in decades, it’s great to see that all of our collective efforts are producing such good results.”

The TIA/USTA results compare favorably to other research from the 2008 Sports & Fitness Participation Report (SGMA) showing tennis grew 30.6% since 2000, making it the fastest growing traditional sport in the country. These two participation reports along with shipment and other indicators will be weighted together to determine the 2008 Tennis Health Index due in March.

Tennis in the U.S.

This good news, however, is tempered by an increase in the number of “lapsed” players, those who no longer play tennis. The leaky bucket remains with 24 million, a 4.8% increase over 2007.

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