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NEWS

March events drive year-round programming

April 7, 2014 09:35 AM
More than 1,000 play events were held across the country this March in celebration of World Tennis Day.

By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com

This March, more kids found their way onto more courts than ever before, capping the most successful session of youth play events yet.

In all, more than 1,100 play events were held across the country in celebration of World Tennis Day, more than double the amount in March 2013, providing thousands of families with exposure to tennis in a fun and welcoming environment – and serving as a great launching point for organizers looking to grow their programming.

“It was great exposure,” said Cindy Harkins, the park supervisor at Seminole County Parks & Recreation in Florida. “It also provided an opportunity to show tennis as fun, easy to learn and a great activity the whole family can play together.”

Added Vance Exley, owner of Vance Exley Tennis at Oakhurst Tennis City Courts of Decatur (Ga.): “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!”

Families were able to easily find local play events by visiting YouthTennis.com, the one-stop source for information and registration for youth programming and events. And they came out in droves. In fact, daily visits to YouthTennis.com on World Tennis Day, March 3, were up 600 percent from a year ago.

Hosting and registering programs on YouthTennis.com provides organizers – be they clubs, park and recs, CTAs, after-school programs and more – the opportunity to reach millions of families who visit the site to find a place to play close to home. And it does so while enabling them to  easily promote their programming at the local level with customizable marketing materials.

One provider, Ryan Redondo, the director of tennis at the University of the Pacific Hal Nelson Tennis Center in Stockton, Calif., said his program was “able to connect hundreds of kids to tennis” through hosting a single youth event.

Not only have tennis providers across the country made play events a central part of their year-long programming, they’ve crediting it with increasing registration and retention in their other programs.

“These events help support all of our other youth programming.” said Mike Woody, the executive director of the Midland Community Tennis Center in Michigan. “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.”

There are three types of events that can be hosted year-round to increase interest and program retention for youth tennis businesses:

Play Days provide kids with a fun introduction to competitive tennis without the pressure, resulting in overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants. “Play days definitely increase player retention,” said Trenton Alenik, manager of Lorenzi Tennis Club in Las Vegas. “If [the kids] are having fun, they want to come back and play more and more. This program is growing tennis at the grass roots and building our base of players for our program.”

For kids who are already able to serve, rally and keep score, the second option, Team Play events, allows them to form lasting friendships by competing with each other in a supportive environment.

And finally, hosting a USTA tournament can bring top junior players to a facility, provide greater awareness of programming and draw attention from local media outlets.

Now that families are more excited about tennis than ever before, hosting a play event this September – in conjunction with Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month – will help keep them active and engaged while also promoting tennis businesses at the local level.

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