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Let the play begin!

January 13, 2014 02:49 PM
This March, in connection with World Tennis Day, kids across the country will hit the court in a series of local Play Events.

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

In March, tennis organizers across the country will be hosting thousands of kids and families in local Play Events, introducing a whole new generation to the sport for a lifetime.

But while these are one-time events, their benefits have proven to be lasting – both to the players and the organizers who host them. With tennis sized right for age and ability, more kids are coming back to play again and again. That means more kids on more courts throughout the country, along with a strengthened bottom line for the parks, programs, schools and facilities that invest in youth tennis.

“These events help support all of our other Youth Tennis programming,” said Mike Woody, executive director of the Midland (Mich.) Community Tennis Center. “The reason to offer Youth Tennis is to get kids playing, and these events encourage them to bring their friends from school, church groups and different youth organizations to just play. More kids become interested in tennis and seek out ways to play through you!”

In fact, defining success for Youth Tennis has never been easier. In recent years organizers have used their events to support schools programming to help combat childhood obesity by getting kids active and simply to grow the number of kids in their own programming.

There is no right or wrong model, only an increasing number of ways to grow the game while also growing your programming and creating deeper, lasting ties with the local community.

“It’s an opportunity to create partnerships within the community with the schools, local businesses, health providers, etc.,” said Cindy Harkins, park supervisor of the Seminole County Parks & Recreation in Florida. “It provides a fun, healthy alternative for the kids in a fun, safe environment. With the right programming formula, the whole family can participate. From a business perspective we have created a program delivery plan that generates revenue to meet the cost recovery standards set by the county.

“The tennis courts are busy, families are active together, the kids are having fun and it’s offsetting the cost of operating the park. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Most importantly, providers and organizers – from CTAs and NJTLs to Schools and Parks & Recreation agencies, and even to clubs both public and private – have not only been able to grow their programming, but to maintain that growth as the years have gone on. Equipment designed to meet the size and ability of the young player means kids can enjoy success the first time out, and team competition that allows them to play with their friends means they have every reason to stick with the game – developing into lifelong players and fans, and perhaps even future champions.

“The kids had a blast and were asking how they could play more tennis after school,” said Marcy Rubenstein, executive director of Bridgeport (Conn.) Tennis, Inc. “I know that they’ll play with more confidence – and seek out more play opportunities – as a result of attending this event. It was a thrill to see them get active and enjoy tennis.”

Added Vance Exley, the founder of Vance Exley Tennis in Decatur, Ga., “We had a bunch of different activity stations and kids of all ages and abilities were engaged and had fun. We had an amazing turnout, and many of the kids wanted to sign-up for more tennis programming after the event. It was a huge success!”

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For those interested in hosting a Play Event any day in March to celebrate World Tennis Day on March 3, the USTA provides a number of free resources to get you started. Welcome families new to the game or offer a Play Day to introduce the thrill of competition; you choose the event that works best.

Register your event to reach millions of parents who are being driven to YouthTennis.com. You'll get customizable marketing materials, access to best industry practices and a Celebration Pack for your event including a banner for you, bracelets and a supply of Bounce to share with kids. Click here to register or call 1.800.990.8782 today!

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