From crisis to opportunity
The coronavirus pandemic hit home in a very real way early this month, when I learned that my primary physician, who I had been seeing since 1987, had died after contracting the virus. Whenever I saw my doctor, he would always ask about the sport, about some of the popular players, and especially about my own tennis game. When he fell ill, he had been caring for a number of COVID-19 patients.
We’ve all been affected by this pandemic in some way—whether you’ve lost family or friends, been ill yourself, lost jobs and income, or are concerned about your business. It’s been a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
But as tragic and challenging as this time is, we also need to look at this time as an opportunity for tennis. Think about it: “Tennis” is being mentioned in mainstream media as a good, socially distanced sport to play now—and we should capitalize on that. We should be getting the word out as much as possible about tennis, and we should be advocating for this sport. Strike while the iron is hot.
For instance, before the coronavirus, the USTA had been running a few pilots in some cities for a “tennis ambassadors” program—where facilities would recruit and empower individuals to be ambassadors for the sport and to help spread the word about tennis, to bring in players and business. Now’s the time to ramp up a program like this.
Already existing in every section throughout the country are Tennis Service Representatives. As states and localities begin to slowly open up around the country, now’s the time to support TSRs in helping tennis facilities, park and recs, CTAs, etc., up their games in promoting this sport.
I’ve long maintained that growing tennis is all about being “local”—it doesn’t matter how great national initiatives and programs are, if we can’t deliver effectively at the local level, this sport won’t grow, and people will miss out on all the great benefits tennis can bring.
No matter what you may do in this industry—facility owner or manager, teaching professional, school coach, volunteer, retailer, manufacturer, etc.—you need to actively advocate for this sport. And you need to do that locally.
We all need to show the world how great, and how fun, tennis can be—one community at a time.
Peter Francesconi is the editor of Racquet Sports Industry magazine.
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