On Sunday February 26, players from the All American Team Tennis youth tennis league would travel to Boca Raton to witness the Florida Atlantic University Owls men’s tennis team take on the Florida A&M Rattlers. Players had high expectations for this field trip and the FAU Owls did not disappoint. Having personally attended a number of tennis matches in the past, Coach Ken was prepared for an afternoon of college tennis. Armed with his trusty Shade Tech canopies and Coleman portable propane grill, he would escort his players onto the hallowed grounds of the brand new FAU Tennis Complex. Ok… maybe ‘hallowed’ is a bit much. But it is a really nice facility!
There are a number of reasons why Field Trips are such a phenomenal part of any youth tennis program. First, College Tennis is the best and most readily available tennis product for
those most interested in the game. Both players and non-players can enjoy an afternoon at the local university watching some of the best players in the world.
Next, College Tennis teams play all of their Home games at the same location. Which means you have multiple opportunities to take in a match. Compare that with the pro tour where players sweep into town once a year for a week and then they’re off to the next exotic location. As a tennis fan, it feels kind of empty when there’s no tennis going on. Fortunately, the College Tennis season is 4 months long! And it’s 6 months if you count the pre-season matches in September/October. That’s what I call a “Full” season!
Third, giving players the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company away from the tennis court strengthens the bonds they’ve built on the court. From the anticipation leading up to the field trip, to arriving at the gathering place, to driving to/from the games, to the matches themselves, field trips are fun. Plain and simple.
This field trip would feature a matchup of the Florida Atlantic Owls of Conference USA hosting the Florida A&M Rattlers of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The energy level is always high when watching FAU but things really ratcheted up when the third court of doubles would need a tiebreak to see who would take the doubles point (“Why are the doubles only one point?” you ask. We’ll talk about that later). With all of the spectators watching the action on only one court, everything felt much bigger. And when the referee took a point away from the Rattlers
for one of their players hitting the net with his foot, things really heated up. Fortunately, the Owls would keep their composure and hold on to win the doubles point and roll in the singles to take the match 4-0, moving their record to 9-3. The win puts Florida Atlantic in a two-way tie for second place in the Conference USA standings.
There’s much more to tennis than tournaments… and Field Trips are a big part of that. Attending a tennis match by yourself is good, but traveling with friends is what makes Field Trips so much fun. And the FAU Owls appreciate it, too.
So join us on our field trip and see what all the excitement is about!
On April 12, 2016, 100,00 fans packed the Horseshoe in Columbus, OH to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in their annual Spring Game. Yeah! The Buckeyes played each other! On the same day, the Georgia Bulldogs set an SEC record for Spring Game attendance with 93,000 spectators. On Sunday September 4, 2016 the US Open set a record for attendance with 25,000 pouring through the turnstiles for the evening session. Combined with the 40,000 who attended the morning session, Sunday would become the biggest attendance ever with a total attendance of 65,797. Keep in mind: this took place over the course of 48 matches on 15 courts and would include men’s, women’s, doubles, and juniors.
I may be the only one thinking it, but I’m not impressed. If attendance is important enough to keep track of, report on, and set records for, shouldn’t tennis’ numbers
be on par with the biggest sports in America? Shouldn’t tennis attract spectators the way football does? Or the way basketball does? Or the way soccer does? Shouldn’t a city of 8.4 million people (New York City) draw more than 65,000 for the “Super Bowl” of tennis, the “Granddaddy of them all”? Shouldn’t tennis draw more than 65,000 over the course of 48 matches played on 15 courts? That’s only 4300 per court, or 1300 per match. What would the numbers look like if there were only 6 courts instead of 15? 24 matches instead of 48?
If one football scrimmage can draw 100,000, I believe an entire tennis tournament should be able to do the same.
Popularity is determined by a number of different things including (but not exclusive to) audience (see above), participation, television ratings, and word-of-mouth. I’ve already touched on audience, now onto participation: the USTA believes there are 30 million tennis players in the United States. How they came up with that number, I don’t know, but statista.com says that 24.7 million people played basketball, 18.05 million people played football, and 11.12 million people played soccer in 2016 and these are some of the most popular sports in America. Now ask yourself: Does it feel like tennis is bigger than either one of these three sports? And is a sport’s popularity determined by participation? Or something else?
A look at the television ratings for the US Open gives a very clear picture of the interest in our sport from the nation as a whole. An organization like Major League Soccer topped out at 1.4 million viewers for the MLS Cup, which is on par with the 1.7 million people who watched the US Open Men’s Final. But what about a ‘UFC on FOX’ card on a random Saturday is December that draws 4.8 million? Or the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors that drew 30.8 million viewers? Or the Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers reaching 114.4 million viewers? What do these numbers say about tennis’ popularity?
Those are the television ratings, and those are important, but what does this mean to those of us on the local level? Are people talking to each other about tennis? Are they buying merchandise of their favorite player/team? Are they getting together with friends at the local sports bar to watch the big game? People talk to each other about the things they are passionate about, both good and bad. Are they talking about tennis? Ask around. The answer is ‘No’.
Chuck Sullivan, a member of the family who owned the New England Patriots before Robert Kraft bought them, says that “the professional sports team is a community asset.”
But what does that mean? It means that the team belongs to ALL OF US, not just one person, and is the reason Robert Kraft did everything in his power to keep the New England Patriots in New England. But how many times have we heard a professional tennis player say they only play for themselves? In my humble opinion, that is self-centered, self-serving, and one of the many reasons the public, at large, is unable to identify with tennis players and the game they play. So while cities across the country are building new stadium homes for their sports franchises, tennis tournaments bounce around from city to city, never remaining in one place for more than a week or two. How are the citizens supposed to wrap their arms around the sport when the players are only here long enough to cash the check?
When a professional sports league brings a franchise to a city, the players on the team become a part of the community. They represent the community on the field of competition. They live among the people of the community. Their kids go to the same schools and play for the same little league teams as your kids. They shop at the same grocery stores that you shop at. They eat at the same restaurants you eat at. They visit the same doctors you visit. They live in your neighborhood. They become one of US. And they’re here to help MY TEAM win.
The same can not be said for tennis tournaments. Professional tennis players are globetrotters, visitors, tourists, drifters, nomads; people who swoop into town once a year to receive our adoration, stay in our best hotels, eat at our finest restaurants, avoid the public as much as possible because they have to focus on their play, take their prize money, and move onto the next city. It’s no wonder tennis does so poorly in attendance and ratings when compared to other, mainstream sports. But there is a better way.
The Home Town team belongs to the Home Town. And the players on the team belong to the home town, too. And we currently have, in very large numbers, teams and players representing the people of their Home Towns: College Tennis Teams. In South Florida, alone, there are the Hurricanes, Owls, Seahawks, Sailfish, Panthers,
and Fighting Knights. Not to mention the teams in other major cities around the state and the country. All of them playing on behalf of the students, alumni, and citizens of their home town. They live in our neighborhood. They go to our school. They shop at our stores. They support our other sports teams. THEY are one of US.
So let’s support them in what they do for us. Attend their matches. Cheer them on. Buy their souvenirs. Because they’re not just playing for themselves… they’re playing for all of us!
Why would Indiana Pacer, Paul George, take a picture of himself on vacation wearing his OWN jersey?
Why would John Wall, who plays for the Washington Wizards in the NBA, be criticized for wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey to watch the Cowboys against the Washington Redskins… in Washington, D.C.?
Why would a grown man be seen walking around town in a jersey with another man’s name on it?
Why is that kid wearing her softball uniform as she walks through the Wal-Mart?
Jersey sales are an indicator of an athlete’s popularity. In the NBA, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson are the Top 5 jerseys sold on NBAstore.com. How many of these names sound familiar? Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady, Odell Beckham, Jr., Cam Newton, and Rob Gronkowski lead the NFL in jersey sales according to NFLshop.com. How many of THESE names sound familiar? In addition to listing the Top 5 player jerseys sales, overall, NFLshop.com also lists the Top 5 selling jerseys by position: QB, RB, WR, TE, and Def. That’s a minimum of 25 jerseys being sold on the NFLshop.com website. Can you name the Top 25 players on the ATP tour? Or on the WTA tour? I didn’t think so. How about the Top 5? Maybe. Jersey sales are an indicator of an athlete’s popularity. But tennis doesn’t sell jerseys.
The jersey also has tremendous psychological significance. It not only represents a personal accomplishment; the ability of the individual to overcome adversity and to pass the test of “tryouts”. In terms of jersey sales, it represents a player’s overall popularity. But more importantly, the jersey represents acceptance by the group. When an Ohio State Buckeye fan sees another fan in an Ohio State jersey, there’s an instant bond between the two of them. They have something in common. They’re on the same team. But when they see someone in a Michigan Wolverines jersey, their eyes glow red. Just kidding. It’s ‘scarlet’.
There are billions of people on the planet. Each of us is unique in some way, but we all have one thing in common: a desire to be noticed. We need attention. For some, the desire leads to a loving, caring, long-term relationship full of family and friends. For others, that desire leads to jumping out of a hot air balloon at 25,000 feet without a parachute hoping to land in a net 100′ square (what?!?). But for many of us the desire to be noticed leads us to tryout for the football or volleyball team. And we stick with our sport for a very long time because we like the people on our team. And they like us, too. Sport is something we have in common, and a friendship grows out of that.
But how do you know who to be friends with? Look at your jersey. What starts as an obligation to work together for the good of the team can blossom into lasting friendships where players spend time together away from the playing field, at a birthday party, going to the movies, or on a trip to Walt Disney World. The more time people spend together, the more their friendship grows. But the same is true when teammates split up.
LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to play for the Miami Heat. The “decision” was met with mixed reactions. In Miami they welcomed him with open arms, believing they now had what they needed to bring a title to Miami. And while the Cavaliers’ fans felt the same way about their chances of winning with LeBron on the roster, losing him was equally devastating. There was outrage coming from every corner of
Cleveland, from the fans to the front office. Even the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, wrote a letter expressing his disappointment. Cavaliers fans were seen burning ‘LeBron James’ jerseys. It was a very dark time. LeBron would go on to win 2 titles for the Miami Heat and return to Cleveland in 2014 and the reaction was very much the same, but in reverse: Cavaliers fans were excited to have him back, while Heat fans were devastated, vowing to hate him for the rest of their lives.
Why the visceral reaction to someone coming or going? Why did one person’s “decision” affect so many people to the point of lashing out and destroying property? Because LeBron James was a part of their Team. It’s really very simple: if you can help us, we like you. If you can not help us, we hate you. It’s not about you, it’s about ‘Us’. This is true not only for really good players, but for the not-so-good players, too. Like when a player is under-performing, the fans ‘boo’ him and take to social media calling for the player to be traded because he’s hurting the team. The same reaction is not witnessed in tennis when a player is playing poorly. Why don’t tennis fans ‘boo’ the bad tennis players?
Professional tennis players do not represent the fans. But rather they play only for themselves. And as a result, tennis fans are much less animated when a player wins/loses a match. Of course, the USTA/ATP/WTA will show snippets of crowd reactions that make tennis appear to be as exciting as a soccer match, but that’s all stock footage, and isn’t necessarily tied to any one player. How do we know this? Tennis players don’t wear jerseys so you never really know who the fans are cheering for. Sports fans wear their hearts on their jersey. I guess tennis fans wear their hearts… in their chest?
That is why, when All American Team Tennis takes its players on field trips, we go to see college tennis teams: because they play on a team! We know who to cheer for. They are playing for all of us. And since I can’t be out there, they’re playing for me, too. And as a show of support for what they do for me, I wear their jersey. And if I can’t find one, I make my own because…
We’re on the same team.
The state of Florida has a number of very good tennis teams to pay attention to including the Gators, Hurricanes, Seminoles, Seahawks, Owls, and Sailfish. But we have a number of great players playing for the Buckeyes, Hurricanes, Sailfish, and Seminoles of Palm Springs, too. And you can find the jersey of your favorite player’s team at franchiseteamtennis.com. So take in a match. And remember to wear your jersey to the game.
The two things that separate All American Team Tennis from your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill tennis program are the two things kids enjoy the most. Remember the feeling of excitement when you would wake up on Saturday morning and put on your football pants and shoulder pads for Game Day? Remember the feeling of anticipation when your school was planning a field trip to the aquarium and you needed your parents to sign a permission to go with the class? Or maybe when the baseball team was entering a tournament out-of-town? Or when the marching band was scheduled to participate in the Citrus Bowl parade in Orlando, Fl and in addition to marching in the parade they were planning a visit to Epcot and staying in a hotel on the east coast just a few miles from the beach? (That last one happened my freshman year of High School). More than anything else, children enjoy spending time with their friends doing the things they find fun.
Game Day + Field Trips = All American Team Tennis
On Saturday February 20, All American Team Tennis held its first Car Wash Fundraiser in Greenacres, Fl, and it was a huge success. We’ve toyed around with fundraisers in the past (t-shirts, shoulder buddies) but this was probably the most visible fundraiser we’ve conducted because in crossing paths with so many new people it afforded us the opportunity to introduce them the the Youth Tennis League. The players and parents worked hard, we washed a bunch of cars, and received almost as many donations as cars washed. The atmosphere surrounding the event was very positive as the community really appreciates what All American Team Tennis does for the children of Palm Springs and Greenacres. But it doesn’t stop there.
The Car Wash Fundraiser was geared towards raising money for our upcoming field trip to Orlando to watch the University of Central Florida Knights Women’s tennis team take on the Green Wave of Tulane (they’re from Louisiana. I didn’t know that, either). The trip is scheduled for Friday March 25 and includes a visit to Disney Springs for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.
Now, this isn’t the first field trip our players have attended. In fact, this will be the 2nd of 3 field trips we are going on this season. And it isn’t the first time we’ve traveled to Orlando to watch UCF play or visited Disney Springs. It just so happens, our very first field trip was prior to the start of Season 1 back in November 2011. UCF hosted an Invitational with Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, and Florida Gulf Coast so I invited the players and parents I was working with at the time to drive to Orlando with me.
It was a memorable experience as rain interrupted play, causing 10am matches to start at 2pm. This would push back everything we had planned for the day including dinner at the T-Rex Restaurant at Downtown Disney. Looking back, I don’t remember who won the Invitational, but I do remember the animated dinosaurs and simulated meteor shower during dinner at the restaurant and spending more money than I had budgeted. (I learned so much that day.)
Since then we’ve been to see the Miami Hurricanes play Florida State in Miami, the Florida Atlantic Owls host the Owls of Kennesaw State in Boca Raton, and the UCF Knights host Florida A&M (FAMU) followed by lunch at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. We’ve taken players to Dave and Busters in Hollywood, FL, Boomer’s in Boca Raton, the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World resort, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where Florida State now hosts their November Invitational (my personal favorite).
And we are not stopping. As All American Team Tennis continues to spread across America, children everywhere will be given the opportunity to witness some of the best tennis available: College Tennis. Players from around the world are filling college tennis rosters and these players play not only for themselves but for their team and their school. They understand the importance of being surrounded with a good support system. They realize what cooperation and teamwork can accomplish. They are always available for pictures and autographs. And they play for more than just one week out of the year. Yes, I believe, college tennis is a superior consumable product when compared to the professional game as far as accessibility is concerned because one week doesn’t compare to 6-7 months. So we will continue to schedule field trips to college cities so players who participate in All American Team Tennis can be inspired by what could become their Alma Mater.
You’re invited to join us on our next field trip. It could be the beginning of your child living out their dreams.
Every season of All American Team Tennis presents another opportunity for the children of America to enjoy tennis the way it was meant to be. Let’s face it, with so many activities like soccer, baseball, basketball, and video games all vying for your time, tennis tends to get lost in the shuffle. But not any more.
When you visit your local Parks and Recreation department and register your son/daughter for a Season of youth tennis, they enter a world of community and camaraderie, Game Day and Playoffs, fun and friends! For one low price players are assigned to a team where they are encouraged to learn the game in a group. They receive a jersey with THEIR name and number on the back. They grow and develop as players by participating in Game Day every Saturday. And they’re rewarded on a regular basis for their accomplishments with lollipops and other awards. Tennis has never been this much FUN!
But that’s not all!
When was the last time you took your kids to a LIVE sporting event? Maybe shared a hot dog or bought a souvenir hat? How about a tennis event? Well, we’re here to help you with that, too.
Every season our players travel all over South Florida in search of the best tennis around. Season 13 is no different. In fact, this season we are planning THREE field trips to College tennis matches. Spring is the perfect time to take in a tennis match as there are so many nationally-ranked Division I colleges who play their Home games right here in South Florida: the Gators, the Bulls, the Seminoles, Hurricanes, Knights, Owls, Eagles, Ospreys, and Sailfish all call Florida home. And this season we’re traveling to see the Owls, Knights, and Hurricanes play. It’s my favorite part of the season!
So be sure to visit your local Parks department in Palm Springs, Greenacres, and Riviera Beach or call 561-578-9914 for more information and we’ll see in Season 13.