U.S. tennis participation surges in 2020, Physical Activity Council (PAC) report finds
Tennis is the perfect social-distancing sport—and the numbers continue to prove it.
Tennis participation in the U.S. increased by 22% in 2020, with 21.64 million people hitting the courts, according to recent data from the Physical Activity Council’s Participation (PAC) report produced by Sports Marketing Surveys. The survey and report monitor more than 120 different sports and activities participated in by Americans.
Of the more than 21 million Americans saying they played tennis last year, 6.78 million were either new or returning/lapsed players. Nearly 3 million of those were first-time players, a 44% increase over new players in 2019. Additionally, the 3.82 million Americans who returned to the sport after time away was a 40% increase over the same measure in 2019.
“We are thrilled that so many new and existing players came back to the sport—especially in what was such a challenging year for so many people,” said Mike Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “These new participation numbers are a testament to the hard work, passion and commitment of a united industry that worked together to ensure that tennis not only survived, but that it thrived.
“Even though we continue to face challenges, it’s evident that many people recognize tennis as the ideal social-distancing sport, which puts it in a great position to continue to grow and allow people to stay active and social in a healthy and safe manner.”
In addition to the increase in participation highlighted in the PAC report, the Tennis Industry Association—the trade association that assists in monitoring the entire U.S. tennis industry—reported that racquet sales in the entry-level category have seen significant year on year growth of nearly 40%.
With its inherent social distancing, along with many other health benefits, tennis continues to show strength in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. To that end, the USTA—with input from the USTA Medical Advisory Group—established in 2020 a series of recommendations and guidelines on how to play tennis safely for both players and facilities. Additionally, a recent study, which analyzed the surface of balls used in various sports, showed that tennis balls used during normal play are unlikely to put players at risk of developing COVID-19.
Tennis’ positive health impacts are well documented, and have recently been further highlighted by one of the largest sport-specific studies to date. The study, published in the July 2020 edition of the Journal of Medicine and Science in Tennis, showed that those who play the sport have higher general, physical, social and mental health scores than the general population.
“We are excited to see these positive trends and such significant growth in our sport,” said Craig Morris USTA Chief Executive, Community Tennis. “We are energized to continue putting forward key industry partnerships and quality programming to ensure new and existing players of all ages and abilities have the best experience playing the sport for a lifetime.”
In order to capitalize on the momentum surrounding participation, the USTA collaborated with leading manufacturers and mass retailers to include a “Net Generation” hangtag on over 400,000 youth racquets sold by various mass sporting goods and tennis retailers across the U.S. Beginning in early Q2, the hangtags will include information about Net Generation, the official youth tennis brand of the USTA, via a QR code announcing local play opportunities and access to the free youth USTA membership, all aimed at making it easier for kids to get into the game.
After fulfilling more than $10 million in funding to combat the pandemic in 2020, the USTA will continue to provide resources to certified providers and facilities across the country to ensure new and existing tennis players have access to quality programming that is safe and fun.
Each year the Physical Activity Council conducts the largest single-source research study of sports, recreation, and leisure activity participation in the nation. The PAC is made up of eight of the leading sports and manufacturer associations that are dedicated to growing participation in their respective sports and activities. To download the recent PAC report, please visit the council’s official website.