Tennis participation data continues to show there has been an influx of beginner tennis players throughout the United States. According to the Physical Activity Council’s (PAC) annual participation report, more than 21 million people took to the tennis court in 2020. Of that total number, nearly 3 million were new to the sport.
Here in Florida, more than 375 new players participated in USTA Florida’s “Love to Learn” and “Love to Play” adult beginner programs as of October 2021. The programs aim to be a judgement-free zone to help those unfamiliar with the sport feel comfortable on the court and welcomed into the tennis community. The short programs combine professional and mentor coaching to deliver a fun, fast-paced, no-pressure environment for participants to learn the basics of tennis. Despite an extended hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, participation numbers in Florida overall are back on the rise, with the program being offered at 54 facilities across the state.
“We were experiencing phenomenal success at the end of 2019. At the time, 33 facilities around the state were offering the program,” says Director of Adult Tennis Christine Ducey. “Our growth slowed in 2020 due to the pandemic, but fortunately, we’re now back on track and continue to see the exponential growth we were seeing before the shutdowns.”
“Grow the Game” Grants
Organizations that developed entry-level programming to engage and retain new or returning players coming to the game, regardless of age, were eligible to receive a “Grow the Game” grant from USTA Florida in 2021. The grants were specifically developed to help defray the costs of delivering quality entry-level programs.
75 organizations were awarded “Grow the Game” grants from the USTA Florida Section, totaling $70,000. Grants were awarded on a sliding scale depending on the number of new and returning players who participated in the qualifying entry-level programming.
“Florida has seen a wealth of new players coming into tennis during the past year,” said Laura Bowen, USTA Florida Executive Director. “We are thrilled we could offer this grant and our staff support as a way to help providers across the state retain those players and continue to offer positive experiences for everyone who steps onto the court.”
For more information on programs for adult beginners, visit USTAFlorida.com/LoveTo.