Tennis Continues to Lead Pack Among Traditional Sports In Participation Growth

In the recently released US Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Participation Report from the Physical Activity Council (PAC) — a consortium of six sports, recreation, and outdoor trade associations — despite fluctuating participation trends among traditional sports, tennis continues to lead the pack in long-term participation growth, which is up 31% from 2000-2012. 

The study, which is the nation's largest physical activity study covering a sample of more than 40,000 individuals in the U.S., shows tennis as one of only two sports with positive participation growth during the previous 12 years. Gymnastics, a distant second in terms of participation growth, up 5%, is the only other traditional sport with positive growth over this period.  Other "traditional" sports include: badminton, baseball, basketball, fishing, football, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, racquet, soccer, and softball.

"The fact that tennis is one of only two traditional sports in the U.S. with positive growth over the past 12 years is a testament to tennis not only being a 'sport of a lifetime,' but also to the concerted and collaborative efforts across this industry to grow the sport," says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. "Since 1974 our industry and trade has come together to measure and impact change on this sport and the results of our joint efforts has led to tennis maintaining its lead among traditional sports participation growth over the past decade."

According to additional data from the annual PAC study, tennis is the only traditional sport with positive linear growth in participation rates between kids ages 6-17. Among that age range, the percent of the population participating in tennis steadily increases, starting at approximately 5% of the population aged 6-7 and increasing to nearly 9% of the population between ages 15-17, whereas other sports typically see a steady decrease in participation percentage rates beginning around ages 12 and 13.

"The USTA and the industry continues to build a strong base of young players through various programs and initiatives, such as 10 and Under Tennis, NJTL, Junior Team Tennis, etc., for the long-term sustainability of the sport," de Boer adds. "Getting children into the game and keeping them in the game is a key priority for not only growing the game, but also the business of tennis."

Overall numbers in the 2012 PAC report with respect to tennis participation showed little year-over-year movement in terms of an actual increase or decrease in the number of total players. Similarly to the 2011 study, the PAC report indicated there were 17 million total players and just over 5.2 million frequent tennis players, those playing 21 times a year or more.

Cardio Tennis, which continues to bridge the gap between the tennis and fitness worlds, has also seen solid growth in overall participation numbers. Since its inception in 2005, the base of Cardio Tennis participants has grown to more than 1.4 million players and in previous years, surpassed long-standing racquet sports such as squash in terms of total participants.

"While the industry has not been without some challenges over the past few years, as have numerous other sports, it is encouraging to see the 'staying power' tennis has had over the long-term with the participation base," de Boer says.

The PAC report is supported by the TIA, U.S. Tennis Association, Sports & Fitness Industry Association, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, Ski Industry Association, Outdoor Foundation and National Golf Foundation. To learn more about the Physical Activity Council's 2012 U.S. Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Participation study, visit PhysicalActivityCouncil.com.

For more information on tennis specific data, contact the Tennis Industry Association at research@tennisindustry.org or visit tennisindustry.org/research.