Finding the silver lining
When buried beneath an avalanche of adversity and uncertainty, it can be challenging to see a silver lining. The current crisis has brought pain—economic and otherwise—to the tennis community. Even when restrictions are relaxed, hurdles will remain as this sport tries to recover its footing. But to paraphrase the frequently used pearl of wisdom: In the midst of chaos, there is often opportunity.
As the coronavirus pandemic crept into our country and private fitness facilities in many areas were compelled to shutter, public parks remained a safe haven. People flocked outdoors to seek physical activity while still observing safe distancing guidelines.
One of the unintended consequences was tennis courts became more alluring. The lack of physical proximity, healthful exertion and opportunity to take out some pent-up frustration on the ball were undoubtedly some of the main attractions. The four public courts at my local park, which generally lay dormant this time of year, actually had a mid-afternoon waiting list.
In a recent conference call with journalists, USTA CEO and Executive Director Mike Dowse made reference to people gravitating toward tennis during the initial phases of the pandemic before the widespread shutdown of all facilities.
“Sales of tennis balls, what we call recreational racquets that are generally around $50, were up double-digits,” said Dowse. “People saw this as a great alternative to sports that are not as safe and not as conducive to social distancing.”
Once we emerge from the current stay-at-home mandate required in many states and communities, people will naturally still be hesitant about where they spend their free time. Families will undoubtedly stay close-knit. They will want to socialize and have fun, but do it in a safe and secure environment with people and facilities they trust. Tennis stands uniquely positioned to provide such an outlet for recreation and competition. Not only at the parks level, but up and down the game.
It’s difficult to see now, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. And it could be brighter than you think. Who knows—maybe we’ll see another tennis boom.
Jon Levey is a writer for Tennis Magazine and tennis.com.
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