Hilton Head Island, SC (December 12, 2012) —Tennis participation in the U.S. grew 4% in 2012, topping 28 million players for the first time since 2009, according to an annual survey by the U.S. Tennis Association and Tennis Industry Association. It's the second highest total number of players recorded since the survey began in 1988.
The age demographic that saw the greatest percentage increase in 2012 was young players aged 6 to 11, which increased 13% from 2011. For the past two years, the USTA has invested significantly in 10 & Under Tennis, along with long-term commitments from the tennis industry. More than 6,500 U.S. tennis facilities now offer 10 & Under Tennis programs, and in 2012, the USTA helped install or build more than 4,400 youth-sized tennis courts in 371 markets. (In all, the USTA has helped develop more than 10,000 kid-sized courts since 2010.) In addition, through three quarters in 2012, wholesale shipments of red, orange and green tennis balls were up 41%.
"We are very gratified that our efforts geared to young players are paying off," says Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. "We want to grow the game and make it look like America, and therefore find it very encouraging that we are seeing growth among young players and in diverse communities."
Several other key segments of the tennis-playing population saw significant increases in 2012. The number of "frequent" tennis players, those who play at least 21 times a year, grew from 4.8 million in 2011 to 5.3 million in 2012. "It's heartening to see the total number of frequent players increase by 10% in 2012 after all of our collective efforts the past few years to drive this most immediate and impactful consumer segment of the tennis economy," says TIA President Jon Muir. "Frequent players represent more than 70% of all consumer spending across the tennis industry."
The number of "rejoining" players, those who left the game then decided to come back, also increased in 2012, up 6% over the previous year to 7.3 million—the largest number in the last 10 years. Since 2006, there has been a generally steady increase in the number of former players coming back to tennis, as the number of rejoiners has increased nearly 50% in the last six years.
"Continuing" players showed an 11% increase from 2011 to 2012, to 14.7 million, halting two years of decline in this player segment. The survey also noted a sharp increase in participation among African-Americans and Hispanics. Participation among African-Americans reached a 10-year high in 2012, and among Hispanics, participation was at the third-highest level in the last 10 years.
"While our industry has its challenges and we continue to work toward focusing our efforts to build the long-term growth of the total tennis economy, the TIA, along with the USTA and all of the key industry partners, is beginning to see the positive signs of our efforts," says Muir. "This is a marathon effort, not a sprint, and it is encouraging that our collective efforts to drive awareness and advocacy for our sport are beginning to show more positive signs to strengthen the position of the tennis industry overall."
The USTA/TIA tennis participation survey, conducted by Taylor Research and Consulting, is one of the largest annual surveys in sports. It was conducted via telephone (both landline and cell phones) and includes observations from more than 7,500 individuals.