The Tennis Industry Association (TIA) reported that overall tennis participation rose 1 percent in 2014 to 17.9 million players. The data also show growth in the number of youth tennis players, and indicates more than 14 million Americans, while not tennis players currently, express an interest in playing the sport.
The research, which is part of the TIA’s annual “State of the Industry” and based on year-end numbers from 2014, also indicates the tennis industry faces a number of challenges, including a slightly lower “core player” participation level along with an aging base of core players.
In terms of overall participation, there are 17.9 million tennis players in the U.S., up 1 percent from 2013, according to data from the Physical Activity Council (PAC) 2015 Participation Study, the largest single-source independent sports participation project in the U.S.
Core tennis players, who play 10 or more times a year, dipped 1 percent to 9.91 million in 2014. Core tennis players account for an estimated 90 percent of total expenditures in the sport. Also, the percentage of adult core players in the 18-to-24 age segment dropped nearly 3 percent, while core players ages 55-plus increased 1 percent.
“While it’s gratifying to see overall tennis participation moving in the right direction, the key to sustained growth in this sport is to keep creating ‘core’ players, who will be on the court more frequently, taking lessons and buying equipment and apparel,” said TIA President Greg Mason.
“The good news is a significant opportunity exists with the 14.6 million Americans who indicate they are interested in playing tennis,” Mason added. “Plus, research shows there’s another 12 million who consider themselves tennis players, but haven’t played in the last year. As we move ahead with our collaborative efforts to grow this sport, we’re looking at effective ways to capture these consumers to create more players and more core players.”
A collaborative industry effort over the last several years, led by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), has helped to increase the number of youth tennis players in the country. In 2014, the number of players in the 6 to 12-year-old age bracket increased 4 percent to 2.14 million, while 13 to 17-year-old players grew 9 percent to 2.23 million.
“Growth in youth tennis participation is a key to the future of this sport and industry,” said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive of Community Tennis, USTA. “By using lower compression Red, Orange and Green (ROG) tennis balls, along with shorter courts, shorter racquets and modified scoring, we’re bringing more kids into the game in a fun, social way, so they experience success and want to continue with the sport.”
“While there remain challenges in the tennis marketplace,” said TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer, “we are focused more than ever on collaborative efforts to address these concerns and position the industry for future growth, including supporting the USTA’s priority to increase youth tennis participation, along with new efforts to target adult players with a focus on new players and families.”
The Tennis Industry Association is the not-profit trade association for tennis. It works closely with the U.S. Tennis Association and industry partners to develop and implement initiatives to increase tennis participation and improve the health of industry businesses. Core TIA activities include producing more than 70 research reports annually on participation and consumer/trade research, in addition to Grow the Game Initiatives such as PlayTennis.com, Try Tennis Free, Youth Tennis, the GrowingTennis System, Tennis Welcome Centers, Cardio Tennis, Careers in Tennis and Tennis Tune-Up Campaign.