Among the bright spots in the most recent annual tennis participation study by the Physical Activity Council is a 7.2 percent increase in youth tennis players and a 16.7 percent increase in Cardio Tennis players over the past year.
A total of more than 4.53 million youngsters between ages 6 and 17 took to the courts in 2016, according to a statement from the Tennis Industry Association (TIA). The increase was driven by the youngest players, ages 6 to 12, which were up 11.7 percent, while ages 13-17 increased 2.7 percent.
Within the total number of young players, “core” youth players, those who play at least 10 times a year, increased, by 3.8 percent to 2.68 million. And importantly, “new” youth players rose 17.8 percent in 2016—up 21 percent in the 6 to 12 age category and 11 percent in the 13 to 17 age group.
“It’s gratifying to see our base of young players continue a five-year increase,” says Kurt Kamperman, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for Community Tennis and the new National Campus in Orlando, Fla. “As we begin to launch our new ‘Net Generation’ initiative, we’ll continue to make tennis more accessible and engaging to youth across the nation.”
Of the 118 sports and activities measured in the PAC report, Cardio Tennis was ranked No. 1 in year-over-year growth in 2016, increasing to more than 2.12 million participants. Cardio Tennis has seen a 156 percent increase since first being measured in 2008. Cardio Tennis is a high-energy fitness workout that combines the best features of tennis with cardiovascular exercise, delivering a full-body, calorie-burning workout.
“We’re thrilled with the increases for Cardio Tennis and youth tennis,” says Jolyn de Boer, the executive director of the Tennis Industry Association (TIA). “Overall, tennis participation for year-end 2016 also increased slightly, bringing the total number of tennis players in the U.S. to 18.08 million.”
PAC data shows total U.S. participation grew 0.6 percent from 2015 to 2016. The sport’s five-year average growth is up 0.4 percent and the total number of participants continues to stay above 2007 numbers.
“Despite tennis participation remaining fairly constant over the past seven years, the sport is experiencing its challenges,” de Boer adds. “’Core’ tennis participants—those who play 10 or more times a year and who account for 81 percent of the money spent in the ‘tennis economy’—declined 1 percent in the past year to 9.86 million. This slip in core players is in line with a trend toward more casual play for sports overall, rising inactivity levels, aging baby-boomers, and new generations of players who are ‘samplers’ of multiple sports and activities.”
Since core players also account for 93 percent of all tennis play occasions, it’s no surprise that overall play occasions also declined year over year, down 4.8 percent to 425 million for 2016.
PAC data indicates that opportunity continues to be found in the “latent demand” for tennis. There are 15 million non-players who are interested in taking up the game, according to the study. Also, aside from the current 18.08 million players, the research shows there are another 12.7 million consumers who consider themselves tennis players and may not have played in the past two years. For them, 35.8 percent said the primary obstacle to participation continues to be not having anyone to play with.
About 48 percent of all tennis players in 2016 describe their fitness level as good, compared to 25.4 percent of the U.S. population overall, and 63 percent of tennis participants termed their overall health as good, vs. 42 percent of the U.S. population.
The 2017 Physical Activity Council Participation Report surveyed 118 sports and activities. The annual report is produced by a partnership of eight of the major governing bodies and trade associations in the U.S. sports and leisure industry (NGF, SIA, OIA & OF, TIA & USTA, IHRSA, USA Football and SFIA). Each partner produces more detailed reports on its specific areas of interest. PAC produces an overview report that summarizes “topline” data to establish levels of activity and identify key trends in sports, fitness and recreation participation in the USA.
The full TIA 2017 Tennis Participation Report produced in partnership with PAC is available to purchase.