Let’s Keep This Sport Moving Forward!

by Jon Muir

Our sport has experienced strong growth from a participation standpoint over the past five years. In fact, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) just released the results of its national survey for all sports participation, which shows that tennis is once again the fastest growing traditional sport in America (from 2000 to 2008), with 9% growth in 2008 alone.

Our separate TIA/USTA annual participation survey confirms this study and, more importantly, reflects a 7% growth in frequent players (to 5.62 million) along with total participation reaching nearly 27 million — the highest it has been in 15 years. This is great news and it validates the ongoing efforts of so many throughout this industry over the past years, including the USTA’s Community Tennis division, the push of various programs by both the USPTA and PTR organizations, and all the “stakeholders” for our sport working together on a range of programs.

But given the current conditions, there is an opportunity now to elevate tennis further and more clearly define the go-forward goals for our sport, with all of us working even more closely together. This growing participation base certainly strengthens the foundation of our sport, but we must also consider more directly the health of our industry from a business and economic standpoint. Establishing and communicating our strategies and initiatives to support the ongoing growth of frequent playing consumers is paramount to help us emerge as a healthier and economically stronger industry in the years ahead.

While the TIA continues to be the central source of market data and research for our industry, the TIA has also been instrumental in developing and executing several initiatives that continue to support the growth of participation and retention in tennis. In addition, the TIA has developed business tools for facilities and retailers and has also established strong online information resources that everyone can access to support local programs. But we must go beyond these areas and build on our strong industry network if we are going to continue the momentum for our sport — and strengthen our industry.

On the back cover of this section is a simple visual summary that represents the key focus areas for the TIA. As each of us work to adapt our own business or organization to weather the current economic storm, the TIA must also evaluate how we can adjust our focus to have a stronger industry impact while maximizing our resources. Within this special TIA/RSI section, you will find updates on the initiatives, on the marketplace and on how you can get more involved. We have also provided some key talking points to support how tennis is positioned given the current challenging economic conditions.

We will continue to evaluate our focus areas while actively discussing and communicating our strategies. It is imperative that we continue to align our strategies and initiatives and improve our communication with everyone in the industry to support these combined efforts and common goals. No other sports industry has pulled together like we have to improve our participation base, and now we must work even more closely in order to emerge from this economy stronger as a sport and an industry.

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