Tennis Ambassadors can help grow your business
Oftentimes, the best way to draw participants to a sport is by harnessing the enthusiasm of passionate players, and for tennis and the USTA’s Tennis Ambassador program, this is proving to be the case. The program was launched in 2018 and currently has 120 tennis ambassadors serving 93 facilities and CTAs in 18 states.
“We expect a significant increase in 2020 as facilities reopen nationwide and will be focused on attracting new and lapsed players,” says Marilyn Sherman, National Promotions Manager, USTA League. “The number [of tennis ambassadors] will greatly increase as we promote the option throughout the tennis industry.”
Initially presented as an option to all 17 USTA sections, the Tennis Ambassador program has so far generated a huge response from USTA Midwest, with 61 ambassadors selected in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. USTA Southern facilities and CTAs have also appointed 35 ambassadors in its nine states and there are plans to expand the initiative in 2020. The Florida, Missouri Valley, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Southern California and Texas sections have also participated or shown interest, and involvement in the program is expected to be nationwide by the end of this year.
To bolster the effort, the USTA has developed a Tennis Ambassadors Best Practices Guide, and a Facebook group allows ambassadors to share their successes and challenges. A Tennis Ambassador onboarding video and quarterly webinars are also in the works for 2020.
Tennis ambassadors encompass all ages, genders and ability levels. The common denominator is a love of the game that is nearly irresistible to the friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances that the ambassadors encounter in daily life. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, tennis has emerged as a particularly attractive sport due to its natural social distancing characteristics, and as more people gravitate toward the game, the influence of tennis ambassadors will be increasingly important in helping clubs and facilities get back up and running.
And tennis ambassadors truly embody the grassroots tennis movement and are doing wonders for facilities. Just ask Robin Henders, Director of Tennis at Five Star Tennis Center in Plainfield, Ill., who points out that ambassadors have done more than any advertising or social media campaign could ever accomplish. The key is to have the ambassador focus on the needs of the particular facility. For example, “If a club has a huge adult program but is struggling with attracting Red Ball players, that club should be looking for someone who is connected to the young families in their community,” she says.
Dallas Aleman, a provider at Towpath Tennis Club in Akron, Ohio, agrees, and advises the tennis industry to better support ambassadors by thanking them and giving them little perks: “Tell their stories and give them some acknowledgement and publicity for what they do. Focus on these ambassadors and on increasing participation and frequency of play. The COVID-19 pandemic has given tennis an edge over other sports. Let’s do a reset and work on the grassroots.”
Overall, says Craig Morris, USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis, “The tennis ambassadors provide a great service for local facilities and organizations who want to connect with more people in the community. In today's times and with the ease of playing tennis safely, we are excited to support this partnership with facilities to encourage new and returning players to get out and play.”
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