Much like the club and fitness industry, the tennis industry also faces the challenge of tapping into the millennial market. While tennis participation and interest continue to grow steadily, there is a large decline amid a segment of the tennis-playing population that is worth noting.
Of the 350,000 kids that play high school tennis, only 6,000 move on to play collegiate tennis as freshmen. After college, there is an even greater drop off in participation among young adults. As the millennial crowd leaves college and gets out in the working world, they are dropping the sport. Players struggle to find a place to play and a partner to play with.
But the tennis industry is looking to reverse that trend by galvanizing industry partners to encourage the millennial age group to stay in the game through a variety of new and innovative programming. These programs are intended to attract a younger audience by establishing defined times of play, co-ed leagues and a different scoring format that is easy for people to understand with a fun, social theme around it.
Younger people want a club that meets their needs for social, recreational, family and business purposes. These tennis programs, designed to increase the pool of active tennis players, provide club managers with a business opportunity to attract that 18- to 40-year-old audience to join their club and patronize its restaurants, pro shops and other amenities the club has to offer.
There are various programming options you can implement at your clubs. Establish a young adult social tennis club for all skill levels. Include a variety of match formats, such as teams grouped together by what college they attended or are a fan of, and create a fun and social program that welcomes both new and experienced players. Host welcome and end-of-the-season parties, which give participants the opportunity to meet other players and experience more of your club’s amenities.
Reach out to adults who have never played tennis by starting an adult introductory league that uses modified equipment (such as the 10 and Under Tennis red and orange balls) to help transition adults into learning the game in a fun, playful environment. This gives adults a way to socialize, stay in shape, have a good time and meet new people.
Implementing these social tennis programs at your club or facility offers your younger members a place to continue enjoying tennis in a social environment and provides numerous business opportunities for club managers. Participants are encouraged to join or keep renewing their membership in order to keep playing, take tennis lessons from your tennis-teaching professional, purchase equipment at your pro shop, etc. Host events, leagues and round-robin tournaments with music, fun games and a place to hang out after the match. These activities help generate revenue for your clubs. Additionally, these leagues and events provide opportunities for recruiting prospects when your members bring their friends to play.
More than half of beginners who start in a structured program continue with tennis. One of the key factors for players either playing more or less tennis is having the time or having someone to play with. These social programs fulfill both of those needs. Focus on developing these beginner programs to tap into the pool of people interested in taking up tennis by giving them a place to play and a partner with whom to play.
John Embree is CEO at the United States Professional Tennis Association and can be reached via email at email@example.com or 713.978.7782, X 117. For more information on USPTA, visit uspta.com.