Tennis Growing in New Hampshire Public Parks
There is no denying it, tennis is on a meteoric rise in our country. Since the start of 2020, the sport has seen an increase of nearly 6 million Americans, with last year alone boasting 23.6 million people playing the sport, according to the Tennis Industry Association.
The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) of New England, one of 17 regional sections of the USTA, the national governing body of tennis, is riding that wave of momentum at a local level. The organization, whose mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, has, and continues to implement grassroots programming on public courts and recreation centers, where more than 60 percent of tennis in New England is played.
Tennis in the Parks is USTA New England’s introductory tennis program for youth and adults run in partnership with the city or town’s recreation department. Since 2018, Tennis in the Parks has given thousands of new players the chance to try tennis for the first time or get back into the game, all at an affordable cost.
New Hampshire continues to be a leader in the USTA New England region, featuring 11 recreation department partnerships in 2022 and 16 since 2018.
“So many New Hampshire recreation departments have had the need for and seen the value of this program in their communities and have truly embraced it. We’ve been fortunate to have made partnerships with so many great communities and been able to attract terrific coaches of all backgrounds to lead our new and beginner players,” said Eric Driscoll, USTA New England Tennis in the Parks Manager.
The City of Manchester ran one of New England’s first Tennis in the Parks pilots and has seen programs in the city every season since (excluding spring and summer 2020 due to pandemic protocols). More than 200 area players have been introduced or re-introduced to tennis through Tennis in the Parks.
“Eric approached us in 2018 at a conference, and we didn’t have a grassroots tennis program at the time, so we jumped all over it,” said Manchester Recreation Supervisor Erik Bukowski. “How the program is built is very attractive for new players and families. It’s tailored to the grassroots player. Plus, getting to play in a familiar place with people of the same ability level has been why the program has had so much success.”
Each session typically runs for six weeks and ranges around $65-$85 per session. All players are given a new racquet to keep as part of their registration, one of the program’s biggest selling points, according to Bukowski.
“Getting that racquet is huge, as it’s one of the main barriers to entry for players. Rather than figuring out what size and style they need, they just show up and the coach gives them the racquet that fits best,” he said.
Tennis in the Parks features red, orange and green ball sessions based on age and ability, adult lessons, and in some cases, parent/child classes.
The program has a curriculum focused on physical activity, skill building and applying learned skills into match play.
“Everyone I’ve coached seemed to have a very positive experience. Both the kids and adults want to be there and are eager to learn,” said Carla Breton, who coached the Exeter program for the past two years. “The curriculum is designed so you are always doing something and aren’t just standing in a line. This keeps players engaged and taps into their desire to continue learning.”
Tennis in the Parks has three seasons of play, spring, summer and fall, and is always seeking new coaches, players and recreation partners.
Coaches do not need prior experience, however they must be 18+ and Safe Play certified.
If you’re interested in coaching or playing or starting a program in your area, please visit the Tennis in the Parks homepage.