Growths in ethnic diversity behind latest surge in tennis participation, study finds
The recent surge in tennis participation has been driven by an increase in players from diverse populations, a recent study by the Physical Activity Council Study on Sports and Physical Activity (PAC) administered by Sports Marketing Surveys USA and the Tennis Industry Association Participation and Engagement Study (PES) found.
As announced earlier this year, tennis participation increased by 1 million players in 2022, marking the third consecutive year of growth by one million or more new participants for tennis in the U.S. The 23.6 million people playing the sport represents an increase of 5.9 million, or 33 percent, since the start of 2020.
With this new data, the USTA can now report that these increases have largely been the result of a significant uptick in participation amongst Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American and Asian/Pacific Islander populations. The growth was most dramatic amongst the Hispanic/Latino population, which has seen a 90 percent increase over the last three years, and saw a total of 3.8 million players in 2022. Black/African-American participation has increased by 46 percent over the last three years, with 2.3 million players in 2022, and Asian/Pacific Islander participation has increased by 37 percent over the last three years, with 2.4 million players in 2022.
People of color now represent 38 percent of the U.S. tennis-playing population, up from 32.5 percent in 2019.
In addition to increase ethnic diversity, there were also increases in age diversity amongst adult players over the last year. Adult players aged 55-and-over also grew by 1 million in 2022, a 17 percent increase, and have grown by 1.7 million since 2017, a 94 percent increase. This follows two years of significant growth in young players aged 6-17, which had grown from 4.6 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2021, though this number decreased in 2022.
Overall, the number of people playing tennis (23.6 million) is more than the combined number of people playing racquet sports like pickleball (8.9 million), badminton (6.5 million), racquetball (3.5 million), and squash (1.2 million).
In addition, 4.2 million players ages 6 and over tried tennis for the first time in 2022, with beginners accounting for 18 percent of the total tennis-playing public.
USTA Chairman of the Board and President Brian Hainline said that these increases bode well for the long-term health of tennis.
“One of the goals of the USTA is to make tennis ‘look like America,’ and to do that, we need to help make tennis available to people from all walks of life, in all communities,” Hainline said. “Tennis is the ideal sport for individuals and families of all ages and abilities, with extensive health and wellness benefits, and we are pleased to see that a more broadly diverse group of people are becoming active and healthy through this wonderful sport.”
To this aim, the USTA has also undertaken a variety of key efforts and initiatives focused on increasing access to the game, and making the overall tennis experience better for all players in areas including health and wellness, facilities and public parks, and schools.
Over the aforementioned three-year span, the USTA provided $9.4 million in funding for facility assistance and grants in an effort to ensure that the sport would be able to properly capitalize on this significant increase in participation, and facilitate a successful delivery system moving forward.
In the last year, for example, the USTA worked with more than 100 facilities across the country to provide technical assistance to build or refurbish courts at public parks and tennis facilities. More than $750,000 was awarded to more than 45 total projects, with $285,000 going to new construction projects. These efforts represented more than 585 courts completed, and an impact of more than $50 million in tennis infrastructure.
Tennis was also offered in more than 20,000 schools across the country as part of their overall physical education programs. Since the start of 2017, the USTA has donated equipment to more than 8,300 schools, including donations to nearly 1,600 schools in 2022, giving 5.9 million children access to the sport. Meanwhile, the USTA Foundation, the charitable arm of the USTA, contributed more than $7 million in support, services and funding to National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters, and awarded more than $435,000 in scholarships to 46 student-leaders in 2022. In total, the USTA Foundation assisted more than 130,000 under-resourced youth from nearly 270 NJTL chapters across the country last year through free or low-cost tennis and education programs.
Looking ahead, the USTA Foundation has also pledged $6 million in grants over the next three years targeting participation growth, as well as infrastructure and facilities projects, at NJTL chapters.
These participation increases also bode well for the long-term health of the American public. According to multiple sources and studies, tennis has been shown to have a significant positive impact on the health of participants. Tennis players on average lived an additional 9.7 years than sedentary individuals. This figure ranked highest among all sports included within the study, beating out soccer by 5 years (4.7), cycling by 6 years (3.7), swimming by 6.3 years (3.4) and jogging by 6.5 years (3.2).
Participation in racquet sports, including tennis, reduces risk of all-cause mortality by 47 percent and cardiovascular-related death by 56 percent.