Tennis ‘State of the Industry’ conference
April 7, 2016
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC — More than 300 tennis industry leaders, who gathered recently at the 2016 State of the Tennis Industry Forum held in Miami, heard about the future of the sport, including key information and statistics that pointed out the challenges and opportunities tennis faces today.
Among the challenges are a national “inactivity pandemic,” in which 83 million Americans of all ages self-report as having “no physical activity.” Tennis, however, is faring better than most sports, according to data from the Physical Activity Council. Over the last eight years, tennis remains the only traditional participation sport to show growth, at 6% overall; all other traditional sports declined in that period, said Tennis Industry Association (TIA) President Jeff Williams, managing partner of the Tennis Media Co.
The total number of tennis players in the U.S. is 17.96 million, which is a .3% increase from 2014, noted Keith Storey, vice president of Sports Marketing Surveys USA. “Core” tennis players—those who play 10 or more times a year—increased .5% to 9.96 million.
“While these slight increases are positive signs in this economic climate, we look to develop ‘future thinking’ initiatives to attract and retain more adults and youth into tennis, along with efforts to improve the tennis marketplace,” said Jolyn de Boer, the executive director of the TIA, which presented the State of the Industry Forum, held during the Miami Open professional tennis tournament in late March.
Among opportunities for the sport is the new USTA National Campus, expected to open in Orlando’s Lake Nona community in December. The facility, with more than 100 tennis courts, will be “a learning lab for anyone who delivers tennis,” U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) executive Kurt Kamperman told the audience, which included more than 200 tennis facility owners and managers, who were not only in Miami for the Forum, but also to attend the TIA’s Third Annual Tennis Owners & Managers Conference, a three-day event.
Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis, recently expanded his responsibilities to include oversight of the development and operations of the USTA National Campus. “The facility will be the center for innovation for how we deliver tennis,” he said.
Not only will the USTA Community Tennis and Player Development divisions be housed at the Lake Nona campus, but the facility will be the headquarters for the new USTA University (USTAU), which will focus on education, including helping to create more Professional Tennis Management business degree programs at colleges and university around the country. “We have to drive the next generation to our industry,” Kamperman noted.
Kamperman also announced that the USTA will be testing a short-court version of tennis called POP Tennis, played on 36- and 60-foot tennis courts (vs. the full-size 78-foot-long court) with Red, Orange and Green lower compression balls and short racquets or paddles. “We believe POP Tennis can be a ‘feeder’ system into tennis for kids and a ‘keeper’ for keeping adults and seniors in the game,” he said.
Prior to the Forum, POP Tennis was demonstrated on a 60-foot court set up in the hotel ballroom of the Hilton Miami Downtown, where camera crews from three Miami TV stations for CBS, NBC and ABC filmed the action while their on-air correspondents took part on court. The morning also included a “Tennis Tech Fair,” which highlighted the latest products, trends and interactive resources in the sport.
Other speakers at the State of the Industry Forum included Mark Byrd, chief customer officer for RetailNetGroup, and John Suchenski, senior manager of programming & acquisitions for ESPN.
The Forum closed with Dr. Jack Groppel, renowned health and wellness expert, who delivered a passionate plea for the tennis industry to do a better job of telling its own story in regard to ease of play and the benefits of an active lifestyle.
“We are good at intellectualizing about [getting people playing] and creating way too many initiatives, but not at changing behaviors,” said Groppel, who stressed that the industry needs to do a better job of marketing available health benefit data to decision-makers outside the tennis industry. “There is too much preaching to the choir—we need to utilize the ‘science of storytelling’ to reach legislators and change the minds of the people in power.”
Groppel, who started his career teaching and coaching tennis and is now the co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, also touched on alarming statistics regarding individuals spending all-time-high amounts of time staring at screens during the day, leaving little time for fitness or health. “No one has taught the American people how to set boundaries and make time to stay active,” he said. “We settle for these conditions, then say we have no time for exercise or activity. The No. 1 way brain growth happens is exercise and activity.”
Following the State of the Industry Forum, about 250 tennis facility and club owners/managers took part in the three-day Tennis Owners & Managers (T.O.M.) Conference, also presented by the TIA. The T.O.M. Conference brought together leading experts in facility management, programming and other key areas to provide vital information to grow tennis businesses and bring in more tennis players.
Among the featured speakers at the T.O.M. were Dr. Gerry Faust, an expert in executive coaching and strategic planning; Cliff Drysdale, former professional tennis player, member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and longtime ESPN commentator; Jim Baugh, the founder of PHIT America; Gigi Fernandez, former tennis champion and member of the Hall of Fame; Emilio Sanchez, former pro player and owner of a high-performance junior tennis academy; Casey Conrad, a health and fitness industry sales, marketing and communications expert; and P.J. Simmons, founder of The Tennis Congress and Tennis Legacy Fund. The conference also included many other well-known and respected presenters in the tennis and sports industry.
For more information on the 2016 State of the Industry Forum, Third Annual Tennis Owners & Managers Conference, and the tennis industry in general, visit the TIA’s website at TennisIndustry.org.
About the TIA
The Tennis Industry Association, the not-for-profit trade association for tennis, is THE unifying force in the tennis industry whose mission is to promote the growth and economic vitality of tennis by working closely with the U.S. Tennis Association and industry partners to develop and implement initiatives to increase tennis participation and improve the health of industry businesses. Core TIA activities include producing more than 70 research reports annually on participation and consumer/trade research, in addition to Grow the Game Initiatives such as PlayTennis.com, Cardio Tennis, 10 and Under Tennis, the GrowingTennis System™, and Careers in Tennis. Visit TennisIndustry.org or call 866-686-3036.