I’ve Always Wanted To Learn How To Play Tennis
by Ed Shanaphy, USPTA, PTR
My father, a professional piano player, continuously relates to us how listeners come up to him at gigs and concerts and simply say: “I just would love to play piano. I never took it up,” they say. Then they ask, “But it’s never too late, is it?”
From that question, Dad built a publishing powerhouse with DIY music books, two magazines and produced a sheet music library for one of the greatest names in publishing: Steinway & Sons. He took the idea of all those people wanting to learn to tinkle the ivories and started a business. So, no, it’s never too late to learn piano. And, it’s never too late for tennis.
Improving Ourselves While Serving The Desire To Improve Others
How many times have we, as tennis instructors and professionals, heard the following as we come off court and talk to someone watching us instruct:
“I would love to learn how to play tennis.” I have heard it so many times as a professional in the industry. How lucky can we be as a professional in our industry? It’s a sport of a lifetime and it is loved by so many.
Covid-19 has given tennis, and golf, a gift. Two of the sports that are more socially distanced more than most, golf and tennis have gained in play and have added new players over the past 6 months. One statistic that is floating around from coverage of golf’s US Open is that the PGA has measured over 10 million additional rounds of golf year-on year. That is an incredible number. I wait to see the numbers that the USTA has to offer for 2020 play on court.
Our new students don’t have to join a team. They don’t have to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment. They don’t even need a club. All they need is a racquet and a can of balls. And they don’t always need a partner – a cement wall can serve as quite the backboard.
Data we have collected from recreational facilities and private clubs across the nation has showed us that tennis play is on the rise. Public facilities, which were closed for the most part across the nation most of March and April, have seen a bigger demand for courts since opening in May. On the private club side, reports across the nation from Directors of Tennis we work with have this past summer as a barnstormer – “One of the biggest and best summers on the court” – has been a continuous theme.
With the new rise in cases just these past six weeks, we might see the sport slow into the colder, winter season. But we predict an early and strong start in March and April, 2021 as we head outdoors again for most of the Continental 48.
The Power In Learning
What Coronavirus has proven is that people want to learn a new sport. Although, of course, there are those who already were regular players simply playing more in 2020. But tennis has added new players like never before this year. What is apparent is that people, deep down, want to improve themselves. Even in this age of Corona Virus, we as individuals want to better ourselves. Learning a sport is just one way, just like learning the piano is another. Improving ourselves in an escape from uncertain times.
How can we, as instructors, keep up the momentum? Through marketing the beneficial fitness aspects and health of tennis, we can combine that healthy outlook with staying healthy through the pandemic. Many in the industry say that adding players and keeping the momentum in tennis at an all-time high comes down to the individual professional, head pro, and director of tennis. We here at Beyond The Baselines tend to agree.
We can hope that the large organizations like the USTA will help finance new facilities, upgrade inner-city parks, and add a helping and “investing” hand to resurfacing deteriorating high-school courts, but it’s the individual that brings the energy, the passion and the marketing wit behind getting more and more people to take a racquet in hand. We as instructors need to dig in deeper and look outside the box to bring programming, activities and joy to our courts. It’s a sport we can still play rather safely in one of the toughest years, if not the toughest, in the last 100 years.
We Should Be Thankful and Forward-Looking
On this day of Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for all that we still have. The desire to make ourselves a better person and a better ambassador for our sport, the realization that improving ourselves improves the world around us, and that as tennis instructors, we still have the opportunity to teach and grow our sport. There are thousands of people who enjoy our game and want to improve their strokes, or take up tennis for the first time. We have an opportunity here to make our sport more encompassing, our students better players, and ourselves ambassadors of a game that starts the score with love.
Ed Shanaphy wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. He serves as Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com, an internationally recognized management consultancy for tennis and fitness facilities, private clubs and public facilities.