In early 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) made its way to the U.S. and has since claimed more than 200,000 American lives. Like many industries, tennis and racquet sports were hit hard. Since then, the racquet sports industry has come together and responded to the crisis by providing relief and resources for both facilities and professionals. As a result of this swift action, we’re not only seeing signs of recovery, but we’re also seeing great momentum and opportunity.
If your private club offers tennis/racquet sports, and if you seek to continue operations during this (or any) pandemic, boost participation and keep members and guests safe in the process, consider five key strategies:
1) Promote tennis/racquet sports as a safe outlet for exercise: Regular exercise is good for the immune system and can lower the stress of coping with life during a pandemic like COVID-19. Tennis has been deemed one of the safest activities during this current crisis, so encourage your membership to schedule court time 2-3 times per week. Also, keep in mind that some gyms may not be open, or are slowly opening back up under restrictions. If your facility has a fitness center, do what you can to package tennis and fitness together with your sibling department. At the end of the day, you might be able to introduce new people to the sport—and experimenting with new programming could potentially expand your menu of offerings for the long term. Generating shared departmental revenue contributes to your facility as a whole.
2) Maximize usage of your ball machines: Believe it or not, the ball machine is probably your safest tool. Similar to a touring pro workout, a coach is typically on the same side as their player, and on the opposite end of the net is the sparring partner. Create your own version of this scenario by swapping out the sparring partner with the ball machine. As a coach, you are able to use a smartphone as a remote to implement various pattern drills; you can make technique adjustments and discuss strategy when necessary. Not only will your student get a good workout, but they will never have to touch a tennis ball. Invest in a ball mower device and have it readily available for ball pickup. As the pro, make it your job to replenish the machine for the next drill and clean up when time is up.
3) Embrace technology throughout your tennis/racquet sports operation: As you identify different ways to engage with your membership, consider adding lectures, chalk talks, pro player interviews and town hall meetings to your revised racquet sports calendar. At this point, most folks are familiar with Zoom, but there are several other platforms can be an option to digitally connect with your community. Additionally, with registrations for kids’ camps, adult classes or events, consider creating a short YouTube video and sending the link to your club membership. Highlighting the theme of the class or event while discussing safety measures may likely net you additional participants. Remember to keep your messages short and concise so as not to lose the attention of your audience.
4) Create a safe environment for social interaction: Your tennis/racquet sports programming can provide much needed opportunities for folks to get out of the house, provided you plan ahead and take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe. Some things to consider:
5) Regularly check the CDC guidelines for updates to prioritize the safety of your private club membership and staff: Aside from standardized mask mandates, consider these steps:
It’s all about feeling that members’ “home away from home” is a clean and safe place to be.
Hopefully these tips are helpful and also spark creative thinking—as now is the time to take advantage of tennis as a built-in social distance sport. In some instances, you may find that these strategies and practices will become business as usual as the world settles into a new normal. I encourage you and you staff to remain adaptable and keep pushing to innovate as professionals and also with your programming. Keep the positive momentum going!
About the Author:
Andrew Minnelli is a highly respected leader within the tennis and private club industry. In his 18-plus years in the business, he has effectively collaborated with private club boards, committees, members and staff to implement award-winning and innovative racquet programs and tournaments at some of the world’s most historic and iconic clubs. He is passionate about keeping tennis alive, specifically through empowering tomorrow’s leaders in the racquet sports industry.
As a Principal with GSI Executive Search based in Rancho Mirage, California, Andrew focuses on creating nationwide strategic placements between racquet sports professionals and associations, elite private clubs, semi-private clubs, resorts and colleges. He also consults on short-term and long-range planning, management in transition, capital and operational budget management, tournament and charity event management and staff trainings. You can reach Andrew by email or at 310-740-4488.