Milos Vasovic, the Director of Racquets at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, Ga., offers a dozen tips to help your tennis program keep up with the blistering pace of pickleball and padel.
The last few years have been great for racquet sports. We are seeing great participation numbers across the board, especially in pickleball. In our program at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, Ga., pickleball has seen a 90% increase over the last 12 months and I am confident we can grow it even more in the future.
We are also seeing padel making a huge leap in the US over the last few years, after showing incredible growth all over Europe, initially in Spain and more recently in Italy, Belgium, and Sweden.
While it is great that those two sports are growing and have a bright future, we cannot forget about tennis, and we need to do our best to keep tennis numbers strong and try to keep up with pickleball and padel. Tennis is the sport that most of us started with, and we need to do our part to keep participation numbers strong for the many years to come. We are lucky in Atlanta that tennis is very healthy and ALTA league is strong as ever, but we are still doing our best to keep that momentum going and provide a great tennis experience to our members.
It is our job to try to introduce tennis to as many people as we can and provide a healthy pipeline for the future. The focus must be equally on juniors and adults, and we need to offer quality programming to keep players engaged and to keep them playing.
Some of the ideas to consider:
1. Tennis 101: Introduction to tennis, usually 4-6 weeks long. Focus primarily on proper technique.
2. Tennis 102: Continuation of the program, focusing more on strategy and tactics.
3. Rusty Racquets: Clinic for people that are returning to tennis after a longer period of not playing the game.
4. Offer POP Tennis: A great game especially for older players, and players new to the game. It is easier to start playing as players use underhand serve and can be successful and play points faster.
5. Starting 2.5 Level Team: We had a great success with this during my time at Quail West in Naples, Fla. We had 16 new players that started playing league tennis and all of them are still active.
6. Offer free introductory lessons to all new club members, especially ones that have never played tennis.
7. Only hire certified teaching professionals. No club would hire golf instructor that is not PGA certified and we should apply the same standard to tennis professionals. We should only hire USPTA or PTR certified professionals who took initiative and are taking this profession seriously. After you hire them, keep investing in them by allowing them to attend conferences and attain new certification. That will keep them more engaged and motivated and in return you would have a better program with more educated staff. I firmly believe that staff can make or break the program and we need to take care of them in order for them to take care of our members.
8. Mommy and Me Clinics: Introduction to tennis for parents and young children. Our target group at Cherokee are children ages 3 and 4.
9. Cardio Tennis: Great fun clinics that focus on working out and having a good time and are much more relaxed, easier entry points into tennis. It is critical to use low compression tennis balls and have a quality instructor, as that can make or break the cardio tennis experience.
10. Comprehensive Junior Program: It is important to offer quality programing for all ages, from five-year-olds to high-school players. In my opinion, you should put some of your best pros to work with children and help them develop properly from the start. Unfortunately, many clubs and pros see junior program as an afterthought and that is why so many are struggling.
11. Promote your events and clinics during golf events. Use a few minutes before the group starts their round to address them and promote activities in your area of the club. Golfers historically migrate more towards pickleball, but you can’t get new tennis players unless you explore every option.
12. Offer social events in your area of the club that would bring golfers, fitness enthusiasts, bocce players, etc. to your part of the club and expose them to tennis in a more relaxed way.
Whatever your approach is to attract new tennis players, make it fun! Focus should be on our members enjoying themselves and learning our wonderful game and not so much on profit and making a quick dollar.
If we provide a fun environment and great experience, they will keep coming back and the financial aspect will take care of itself.
Let’s keep this beautiful game as strong as possible and I hope to see you on the courts.