What’s The State Of USTA Membership In Southern California?

RALLYING WITH THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Simply put, at the end of my first calendar year as Executive Director for the SCTA in 2013, SoCal was the 7th largest USTA Section.

At the end of February 2017, the SCTA is now the 5th largest Section. So SoCal has moved ahead of two other Sections in size and that’s good.

This column is a little longer than my usual writing so please bear with me. If you remember Paul Harvey from his radio broadcasts of a decade or so ago, here’s the rest of the story.

At year-end 2013, SoCal had 44,100 youth and adult members and it followed Eastern with 46,719 total members in 5th place and Florida with 45,020 total members in 6th place. As of month-end February of this year, SoCal is in 5th place with 41,825 total members followed by Eastern at 41,703 and Florida at 40,664. So SoCal has risen to 5th place while losing about 2300 members because Eastern and Florida have lost more members. In fact, the entire USTA membership has fallen from 742,340 year-end 2013 members to 675,609 at month-end 2017.

USTAFYIG_SoCal-960

What’s the cause of the drop in USTA membership, a trend that started well before 2013? The decline can be attributed to two broad changes. First, with the advent of the Internet and free content at the touch of a finger, just about everyone under 30 expects to be able to access information, activities and events on a free or pay for play basis without needing a subscription or membership. The USTA is not the only organization that requires membership in order to participate in its activities that is seeing its membership decline. Second, tennis organizations including the USTA, USPTA, PTR and local tennis facilities have not been as successful as we need to be about introducing tennis to new youth and adult players and explaining the physical, mental and social benefits of a lifetime of tennis. The USTA is hoping to change that trend with the launch of its new youth brand, Net Generation, later this year. Stand by for more news about NetGen.

What’s the good news in SoCal about USTA membership? Feb. 2017 was the first month in years when there were more youth members of the SCTA compared to a year ago. The gain was small, Feb. 2017, 13,633 members versus Feb. 2016, 13,600 members; however, it feels like the ship is turning. We believe that the cause of the change is that the SCTA has been focused on providing better customer service for all members since 2013. In the youth market, we have specifically worked to improve the quality of all tournaments in SoCal including those run by SCTA staff and volunteers, increased the number of officials roving courts at tournaments, and raised the bar on sportsmanship. We have fewer youth players and parents on the suspension list now than we did a year ago. We believe this is because the word is out that the SCTA will not tolerate unsportsmanlike behavior by players on the court or by parents and other spectators off the court.

We believe that if the SCTA offers a fun high-quality activity that allows the physical, mental and social development of youth in an environment safe from bullying, cheating and free from injuries like concussions and broken bones, tennis courts will be full and registrations for youth tournaments and Junior Team Tennis should increase. We may not be at 100% of all those goals yet but we are making progress and that’s why I think the youth membership numbers ticked up in Feb. 2017 for the first time in a long time. Adult membership has been holding steady for the last couple years. In Feb. 2016, we had 28,152 members versus 28,024 in Feb. 2017. We need to focus on tournament and league formats that allow players to fit those events in to the shorter periods of time that people have for fitness and recreation at this time in our culture. Half-day and one day events are more family friendly then the two-weekend, all day Saturday and Sunday competitions of past years.

The vision of the SCTA is to make tennis the game of choice when Southern Californians want to play. Its mission is to get and keep Southern Californians engaged in tennis. We believe this because we know that we can make lives better with tennis if we offer quality experiences and first-class customer service. Please let us know how we are doing.

Bruce A. Hunt – Executive Director
Southern California Tennis Association

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