What Do Accessible And Affordable Mean To The Sport Of Tennis?

RALLYING WITH THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

In a prior column, I’ve written that there are two and a half times as many accessible public tennis courts in the United States as there are private tennis courts. 

That fact defines tennis as a sport accessible to everyone and not a country club only activity in my opinion. 

When we discuss affordability of tennis then we need to define terms to make sure we are all on the same page.

Tennis is definitely affordable if you mean that it is possible to pick up a reasonably-priced used racket at a garage sale and a can of yellow balls which has been $3 since the 1970’s.  You could head to the local courts if there is a hitting wall or put the garage door down and hit away until your arms get sore.  If you could talk a friend or family member to make a similar investment in a racket and you shared the balls, then you could rally with someone instead of a wall or a garage door and probably have more fun.

I’m often asked how a person can get started playing tennis when I have social occasions with non-tennis players.  Whether they are asking for themselves or for their children, I always tell them to look for a group clinic or group lessons provided by a certified teaching pro at their local community tennis center.  If you want to experience the joy of running and hitting tennis balls with a friend in the great SoCal outdoors, you don’t need to wait until you’ve had a half dozen lessons at $50, $75, or $100 a pop.  You can start having fun right away even though you may not hit every ball over the net or you may send a ball over the fence on occasion.  The USTA is piloting Parent Organized Play (POP), a parent-based tennis play to learn activity much like other youth sports such as T-ball, soccer and basketball where the first coach a player may have is his or her Mom or Dad.  Look for POP coming to your neighborhood soon as the SCTA tries out this innovative way to grow tennis.

On the other hand, if you or your child wish to reach an elite level of tennis play because tournaments, leagues, high school or college tennis may be in the future, then you will want to graduate from the group lesson format to the private or semi-private lesson to master the subtleties of topspin and slice groundstrokes, various spins on serves, the overhead, drop shots, and tactics.  Don’t kid yourself though if the only time you work on your game is when you take a lesson because even Vic Braden couldn’t have made you a star with that little court time.  Practicing your skills and competing five or ten hours for every one hour of lessons is probably not understating the proper ratio between play and instruction when a player is starting out.  As you move higher on the scale toward the elite player status, the use of a professional coach during practice time becomes more critical and more costly, too.

In my opinion, tennis is accessible and affordable for entry level and social players.  After all, one only needs to know how to score, serve and keep the ball in play to be able to play tennis and enjoy the sport on one of the many public tennis courts in our local communities.  Tennis is like many individual sports where it costs more money to become an elite player than compared to members of team sports.  The SCTA Foundation offers Kramer Future Champions Grants and Henry Talbert Summer Camp Grants to help players with high aspirations and limited budgets strive for the elite playing level.  If you would like to make a tax-deductible charitable donation to help the SCTA Foundation assist more players 18 and under achieve their dreams about playing high school, collegiate or professional tennis, please mail your check payable to the SCTA Foundation to P.O. Box 240015, Los Angeles, CA 90024, Attention: Executive Director.  Or you may give online here by clicking on the orange “Donate Today” button.  Thanks for your generosity and your willingness to make lives better through tennis.

Bruce A. Hunt – Executive Director
Southern California Tennis Association

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One Response

  1. Hi Bruce-I think USTA is missing an opportunity by not offering a “sustaining” or “I no longer play tennis but would still like to support” membership. The senior membership is for players who still take advantage of USTA services.
    I have belonged for the last 20 years and have not played due to my knees. I do not want league emails etc. For a fee equal to the “introductory junior membership” I think we could keep a lot of seniors who love tennis but no longer play. I hope all is going well.
    Barbara Mathew

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