By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com
Another successful session of youth play events held this March in celebration of World Tennis Day has put racquets in the hands of more kids than ever before and introduced them to the sport for a lifetime.
More than 1,500 Play Days and Play Events were held across the country, a 32 percent increase from March 2014. In addition to exposing thousands of families to tennis in a fun and welcoming environment, these events also served as a platform for organizers to boost their participation numbers and grow their overall programming.
“The Play Day we held in March was a great success and a lot of fun for our players,” said Katie Orlando, director of tennis at the Towpath Tennis Center in Akron, Ohio. “Our Play Days have evolved into Match Days and kids of all levels and ages are learning to compete.”
Organizers also hosted and registered their programs on YouthTennis.com, the one-stop source for information and registration for youth programming and events. Giving millions of families who visit the site the chance to easily find a place to play in their community, while also letting organizers promote their program at the local level with customizable marketing materials, produced a win-win for both sides. And everyone took notice, with event registration clicks jumping by 136 percent from a year ago, while consumer sign-ins saw an 83 percent increase.
“I like having our events listed when a potential customer goes to youthtennis.com to search for events,” said Cindy Harkins, the park supervisor at Seminole County Parks & Recreation in Florida. “The national promotion and marketing campaign reaches a different market. It’s great for newcomers to our community that don’t know what’s available in our area, but can find out through the national site.”
Organizers have also credited the social elements of play events with increasing registration and retention in their other programs, leading them to make the play events a central part of their year-round programming.
“Youth players attending Play Days are afforded a unique opportunity to play with other youth players of similar skill and ability. This often leads to future friendship and additional play opportunities,” said Tara Dominguez, 10-and-under tennis coordinator for the Florida Panhandle area. “Play Days have also proven to be a great way for players to learn more about clinics and programs in their area that can help improve their game.”
There are three types of events that can be hosted year-round to increase interest and program retention for youth tennis businesses:
- Play Days provide kids with a fun introduction to competitive tennis without the pressure, resulting in overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants.
- For kids who are already able to serve, rally and keep score, Team Play events allow them to form lasting friendships by competing with each other in a supportive environment.
- And finally, hosting a USTA tournament can bring top junior players to a facility, providing greater awareness of programming and drawing attention from local media outlets.
With more families excited about tennis than ever, hosting a play event this September – in conjunction with Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month – will keep them active and engaged while also promoting tennis businesses at the local level.