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Programming The Future Of Country Club Tennis & Fitness

The Future of American Club Tennis & Fitness is Fresh, Appropriate Programming

How do you reinvent the wheel? How many ways can one create a tennis program that is fitting for a country club while instilling the true desire to play tennis and increase play in our community as a whole?

We have seen programming that we have instituted at various clubs take off on both the adult and junior levels and we believe that this is the future of tennis and fitness programming. The country club serves up several challenges. What are the demographics of the membership? Older retirees or youthful families with juniors? Or both? Are the members mainly seasonal or year-round? How exclusive is the club? Is it an elite club or a club looking to add members and add cash to its balance sheet?

All of these questions affect programming at a club. But the other issue at hand is to build tennis and fitness into life-long activities for members. The short-term goal is to keep the club active and busy, but the long-term goal is to maintain a members’ interest in the activities so that the sport and fitness are part of the members’ lives for years to come and to prolong a legacy at the club, and in fact, in the community.

Don’t Let A Member Go Home Disgruntled

A General Manager once said: “Make sure, as best you can, that each and every member leaves your club happy.” It’s a rule that should never be forgotten. It comes into play when planning and programming each and every clinic or group instruction class. An unwise clinic marketed to the wrong segment of a membership or an individual signing up for a far too advance spinning class can make or break a member’s experience for days or weeks or even years to come. And it damages the reputation of the department and its Director. The first thing to do is clear the air with the member and make it right. But, that’s reactionary. Proactively, a good Director of Tennis or Fitness can create programming and market that programming in such a way as to avoid many of the pitfalls that can damage a member’s experience.

A dissatisfied member is like a small cancer cell. The member talks to another member, and so on. Soon enough, there is a group of members that have taken up the cause and now there is a faction on the Board. Guess who takes the hit? The Department Head… the Director of Tennis or Fitness.

Small Changes Lead To Big Cross Sells!

Making a change such as separating a Cardio Tennis class into advanced and beginners, which can actually double participants across two courts, can lead to additional revenue while also catering to various levels. Why can’t a Pilates studio bring in a “pop-up” store for Soul Cycle in the back warehouse and enhance business offerings while bringing in new clients to your Pilates business. It’s called cross-selling, and every other industry does it. Why do tennis and fitness stay so isolated?

We see the same issue in regards to pickleball. So many tennis directors are against it. Why? Have they scientifically looked at the numbers and who actually plays pickleball? Have they considered the upsurge in traffic through the tennis shop? In our vast experience, we have found that only a small cross-section of tennis players enjoy pickleball. Pickleball is played by a different club segment: mainly golfers. Tennis players, in the end, find pickleball lacking. But golfers, who tend to be more stationary on a court, enjoy this new sport and have flocked to the courts being built at clubs and gated communities across the country.

Perhaps there is an anti-social ethos or environment presently at your tennis club. Clubs are really to foster not only sport, but also lasting friendships. Why not create a drill group and bring in a social aspect? to another level where we make it “social” with members and offer a social gathering with food afterward in the evening has made an enormous difference in turnout across various clubs. On the junior side, we’ve added barbeques to Triples or Touch The Fence events, making it an evening for juniors while the parents have dinner on the porch.

On the junior side, we have offered Cardio Tennis with TRX Training along with personal training – in this way we can work with juniors at a high intensity having them hit hundreds of balls while also really working on their focus and fitness levels.

Cross-selling is what Amazon does so well and why it’s one of the leading companies in the world. In our own small way, tennis and fitness should be cross-selling every hour of every day. Beyond that, we should be looking at generating revenues for our food and beverage department and other club departments. Beyond that, we should be looking at increasing tennis and fitness in the community. Community awareness brings more applications for membership and club growth or more home sales in a gated community. Job done.

Beyond The Baselines is a consultancy aimed at educating both industry professionals and club boards while recruiting and retaining “best-in-class” professionals and maintaining benchmark levels of service at clubs and home owner associations. Please email us at beyondthebaselines@gmail.com or call us at (508) 538-1288.

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The Data Beyond The Baselines

Tennis, once again, is a growing sport in the USA. With an All-American female final last month at the U.S. Open between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, American tennis is at an exciting, yet pivotal point. There are two distinct tracks taking place and it’s important to note each one and the statistical trends that are occurring.

At the grassroots level, the USTA is looking at bringing the game to the masses. With its new National Campus in Lake Nona holding national tournament finals at all levels and ages. The USTA’s work at the grass roots levels with L9 tournaments all the way to Tennis on Campus at the college age shows that the USTA is trying to bring tennis to new players at all ages and levels. That said, tennis participation is up just 1% in 2017, according to the Tennis Industry Association and the core number of players is contracting slightly as the median age is rising. The USTA is winning slowly with the junior participation levels but there are limitations. With tennis being restricted not only by the number of public courts, tennis is a sport that requires initial technical instruction early on. Growing participation is not an easy task for the USTA.

But, that leaves an opportunity for us at the Club level, where we can work individually with juniors and pass them along to the upper ranks and prepare them for tournaments and beyond. In order to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity at the club level to move juniors into a position to play in high school, college, and beyond – it’s imperative that we hire the right instructors and have a handle of the wonderful new programming that is out there. This can only happen if you understand the industry across the the club and public environments.

The position of tennis instructor has been for years a vague one. It’s oftentimes a stop-gap for a player who didn’t make the tour. This doesn’t mean he or she is a good instructor. We see more often than not, great players are not good instructors. We do see that instructors do not always have to be great players. And, what has been the bane of existence for our industry is that we push along a great coach and instructor into a Director’s role, which is a managerial role rather an on-court role at most clubs.

But with more stringent examinations and internships for certification and continuing education being offered by the USPTA and USPTR, the industry is slowly realizing that the key component of increasing the tennis industry and coddling great players to move them along the routes to success. We are slowly learning that a great coach or instructor should stay just that and not become a manager. Management is very different from being on-court and should be viewed as such.

As we consult with third-party institutions and clubs, we are able to collect data from numerous sources across our industry: from country clubs, tennis clubs to home owner and properety associations offering tennis amenities. Armed with this data, we have a singular and special viewpoint of the tennis industry based on data available only to us at Beyond The Baselines.

Consulting with and advising club boards and tennis committees, we bring a new dynamic to the table.  Sharing the data that we have derived from our industry, we can help create not only a fantastic tennis department at the club level, but also enrich the programming and employment opportunities. Gleaning what we have learned from our experiences and bringing actual live data with us to the table, we can bring a whole new viewpoint to any board or committee discussion and move tennis programming in the right direction to the benefit of the club and facility as a whole.