The American Tennis I Want To See
Proud To Be A Buckeye
Growing up in Columbus, OH Ohio State Football was inescapable. Everywhere I turned I would see a t-shirt, a hat, a sweater, a bumper sticker, a license plate, a house flag, or a football with the Ohio State logo stamped on it. The Buckeyes consumed all of the available coverage on television and radio. All of my friends and family were Buckeyes fans. We would even exchange gifts on Christmas and on birthdays that consisted of new Buckeyes hats and jackets. The Buckeyes were everything.
This continued from birth until I left Ohio for Florida in 2009. Fortunately, the Ohio State Buckeyes travel well, so I would regularly come across Buckeyes fans in my daily travels. A quick shout of “O-H” would always illicit an “I-O” response. It was a little piece of
home in a faraway place. The same cannot be said of American tennis. Tennis fans are much harder to find.
In my line of work I come across many different people and visit many different places. I visit College campuses, neighborhoods, and shopping centers and can point out the fandom of just about anyone by the clothes they wear. I can tell what city I am in by the merchandise hanging from the racks. Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes, Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Rays are in every store, reminding visitors that they are in Florida. The same cannot be said of American tennis. Tennis merchandise is much harder to find.
Ubiquitous: def. existing or being everywhere; omnipresent.
My Vision of American Tennis
Sports like football and soccer are popular because they are everywhere. The ubiquity of basketball and baseball make these sports a gathering place for the community. The local sports franchise is as much a part of the city as the Town Hall. After work, or after school, if you’re looking for something to do, or someone to hang out with, you can buy tickets to a game or meet friends at the local sports bar. Sports are an experience you can share with your friends. These shared experiences become the memories you carry with you the rest of your life; the glue that binds people together. Individual sports
struggle to live up to this metric; choosing separation and isolation as their chosen method of delivery. My idea of American tennis is very different.
My vision of American Tennis is one where cities across America have professional Tennis teams to represent the people of that city. Players are not playing for themselves, but rather for civic pride. I envision College tennis stadiums full of people supporting players they believe are playing for the “love of the game” or can make it to the next level. I can imagine every Parks and Recreation department in America offering Team Tennis to their residents as a means of bringing people together: players, parents, and extended family. My dream is to see tennis as a Gathering Place.
Ask Yourself These Questions
As currently constituted, and marketed by those in charge (USTA), American tennis is a challenging, individual, adversarial game requiring thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars just to participate. Am I the only one who sees these as reasons why people turn away from tennis? Am I the only one who hears the people saying that tennis is a game for ‘rich’ people? Am I the only one who can see the deluge of football, baseball, and soccer merchandise
at my local retailer while tennis merchandise is mysteriously absent? Am I the only one questioning the brand new, $60 million facility the USTA built in Lake Nona while the tennis courts in my neighborhood have cheerleaders practicing on them? True story. Am I the only one hearing the lack of conversation about tennis in the general population? Am I the only person who hears the cries of “I love tennis. I just can’t find someone to play with”? What’s missing?
Those in charge of the game of tennis (USTA) have positioned tennis as a goal to be achieved rather than a game to be enjoyed. If someone enters tennis and refuses to be ushered along the ‘path to enlightenment’, they are quickly written off and told to find something else to do. There’s no “hanging out” in tennis. You must be prepared to work. On the other hand, Tailgating is a $20 billion industry with nearly 20 million people participating in some sort of tailgating activity on Game Day. Entire businesses have sprung up to meet the demands of those who are as content sitting outside the stadium, eating and drinking with friends, as opposed to going in to watch the game. If I were in charge of tennis, growing the fanbase would be my first priority.
Living Outside of The Top 5 Most Popular Sports
Out of all the sports available to those in High School, tennis is the 7th (girls) and 8th (boys) most popular sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. More boys would rather wrestle, and more girls would rather play volleyball than play tennis. I believe the most effective
way of turning that around would be if tennis told a better story. A story that compels people to pay attention, maybe sit down and watch for a while. People are drawn to things that draw crowd. Think about it: how many of us slow down to see what slowed down traffic on the freeway? (hand raised) If you hear music pouring out of the gym, are you going to swing by to see what’s going on? Yes! Why do football games have cheerleaders? To draw more of a crowd! Increasing your audience means you can then secure sponsors to pay for the stadium, the concession stand, the training facilities, even the bobble head dolls to give away on Game Day. It’s a numbers game and there’s strength in numbers.
My vision for American tennis would see the rise of the Home Town Tennis Team giving residents something to be proud of… Because Life Is A Team Sport! WHO’S WITH ME!?
GO TEAM!Posted on: July 1, 2017coachken