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USA Tennis Summit highlights challenges facing sport

The US tennis industry’s summit held in California was a platform for the tennis industry to review, discuss and debate some of the major challenges facing the industry

In Roehampton, London as the LTA unveiled a new four-year strategy aimed at addressing the decline in participation in British tennis key industry personnel in the USA were gathered in Indian Wells, discussing the similar issues.

Tom Cove, CEO and President of the US Sports and Fitness Industry Association, highlighted some key trends affecting not only tennis, but sport in its widest sense.

“In the last few weeks I have been at NFL, major league baseball and everyone is looking at how we can get kids back into our sport, do we need to change the sport, mostly they are trying to figure this out.  I believe that the tennis industry has been at the forefront of this and has been better for a longer time at trying to address the challenges”.

The major challenge facing the sports industry in attracting youngsters is the sheer number of inactive people. Cove revealed that research among a sample of 40,000 people suggested that in the last 12 months 80 million Americans, which equates to a quarter of the population, said they had not participated in any activity from of a list if 120.

It is his belief that tennis is an accessible sport and the introduction of technology across tennis is helping to make it more amenable to young people. He pointed out that fitness trackers were one of the hottest selling products at a recent show in the US and that five per cent of Americans now own a smart fitness device and that most tennis manufacturers are doing something with smart technology.

Speaking at the Summit, Keith Storey, Vice President of Sport Marketing Surveys, highlighted that between 2008 and 2014 1.5 million fewer rackets were sold in the US and that the biggest decline was at entry-level rackets costing around $25. Premium level racket sales have increased a little.

He also highlighted the ageing nature of the US tennis-playing population. In 2008 18.8% of adult frequent players were aged 55 or older, by 2013 that figure had increased to 27.4%.  The 18-34 demographic accounted for 40% of players in 2008 and in 2013 it was 30%. “We have flipped from being youngish to being old,” Storey said.

TIA Executive Director Greg Mason commented that the average age of tennis teaching pros in the US is 47 years and urged, “we need to get young people involved as the delivery system is reflecting the player type”.

In May 2015, the US tennis industry will unite to offer tennis for free. The United States Tennis Association is behind the initiative, and they will promote it alongside all of the tennis industry.

After the summit finished there was a separate meeting, the Tennis Owners and Manager conference, where Nick Bollettieri was a guest speaker.