Tennis Forum Sets Path for Future

The third annual TIA Tennis Forum, presented by Tennis Magazine, took place in New York City during the US Open. Industry leaders and many others interested in the future of the tennis business heard about the state of the industry, various TIA and Growing Tennis initiatives, and plans for moving the sport and industry forward.

TIA President Jon Muir said the sport still faces many economic challenges. “The general feeling is that we kind of bottomed out in the third quarter [2009] in terms of racquet shipments,” he said. Tennis ball sales, he added, are now trending relatively flat. However, sales of transition balls are up 63 percent over a year ago. “We’re starting to see the impact in sales and distribution of QuickStart Tennis products.”

Muir referred to recent, continued increases in tennis participation: “What else can we do to build on the momentum from a participation standpoint?” he said. “Frequent players are the ones that fuel the majority of the economic drivers of this industry. If we could get 1 million people — a 20 percent increase in frequent players — to become frequent players, it will have a huge impact.”

Addressing frequent-player growth is the subject of one of the three ongoing Task Forces that came out of two TIA “Tennis Summits” held earlier this year, he said. Other Task Forces deal with communication/positioning and economic benchmarks.

Key in the communication/positioning area is the promotion of the website, a new consumer site still under development (and “soft-launched” through the recent “Racket Up, America!” promotion). The website is designed to be a simple portal that will serve as a central “clearing house” for the mainstream audience to learn more about tennis, to join the sport, and to get on the pathway to becoming frequent players.

Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis, gave an update on QuickStart Tennis, designed for kids 10 and under. “We have to be training 20,000 parents a year” in QST, he said, emphasizing that the training is not designed to take over from certified teaching pros.

“The biggest challenge,” he added, “is that there’s not enough organized play and competition” on QuickStart courts. He said there needs to be a sound progression that will lead to Jr. Team Tennis and tournaments on the shorter QST courts.

Key initiatives to increasing and sustaining growth in the industry include increasing the number of frequent players, promoting QuickStart Tennis, and developing a single tennis website portal for consumers.


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