Tennis in the United States is in a decline. Adult players are aging out and youth aren’t learning the game. As top tennis athletes gather at the U.S. Open the tennis industry and its partners reflect on the sport’s perilous state and concentrate on three issues preventing its growth: economics, appeal and adaptability.
For a sport that only requires two racquets and a ball, tennis has essentially priced players out. Tennis has become a sport for the high net worth. A sport based around expensive private facilities, with a high start-up cost, that need to generate revenue to cover operating expenses. Revenue generated through membership fees and court rental fees, so a sport that should only require a racquet and ball, now requires a club pass, making an inexpensive sport expensive, ultimately pricing out the lower and middle class.
And let’s face it, the days of Andre Agassi rebels and Pete Sampras preps are over, now kids choose Team Curry vs. Team Lebron. There is no US tennis superstar battle to follow. Instead, they are turning to Hollywood or other sports where athletes gain celebrity status and live a posh lifestyle in the spotlight that only American tennis stars of the past embodied.
But the largest problem facing Tennis is its inability to adapt how youth learn the game. Numerous sports have adapted rules for kids. Basketball moves the free throw line in and lowers the hoop, baseball provides batting tees and slow pitch, and football uses flags instead of physical contact, but tennis has failed to successfully shrink its courts and lower its nets. Kids across America still learn and play tennis on a 78-foot court, taking the fun of the fast rally out of the game and causing a ‘can’t do’ attitude.
Sport Court acknowledges the problem tennis is facing and is dedicated to reviving the sport. Sport Court has launched an industry wide initiative called ReImagine Tennis, in conjunction with the USTA and Prince, with the goal of taking tennis back to the community. Making tennis a sport that can be played by anyone, anywhere
ReImagine Tennis is getting more kids involved and more families playing together by showing that tennis can be played in non-traditional settings. This means drawing a tennis court with chalk on the sidewalk or street, creating a court in the park by using string as the court lines or playing on a portable ReImagine Tennis court.
For Sport Court, ReImagine Tennis means developing three new brightly colored, portable tennis courts – micro-courts, 36’, 60’ - that allow the game of tennis to be mobile, adaptable and fun. The mobile and portable nature of the courts allows tennis to be taken outside of the chain-link fences and back into the community, making tennis accessible to all.
Along with its portable nature, the range of court sizes allow players to engage with tennis at any age and any ability level. Young players can develop speed, basic tennis skills and hand eye-coordination on a micro-court. Once the basics of tennis have been mastered the player can grow into to a larger court.
The varying court sizes also allows tennis to adapt to older players. As players age they may no longer have the physical ability to play on a full-size tennis court. ReImagine Tennis’ court sizes allow players to move from a standard size tennis court to a smaller playing surface, giving players the ability to continue participating in a sport they love at any age.
Sport Court believes the issues causing the decline of tennis - economics, appeal and adaptability – can be dissolved by ReImagine Tennis’ goal to provide communities and players with cost effective, portable and adaptable courts. Soon, we hope to see tennis on the incline as people of all ages pick up racquets in communities everywhere.