Tennis Participation in the U.S. Grows To 17.9 Million Players

Despite a slight decline in key ‘core’ player category, the latest research shows 1% growth overall, with another 14 million Americans showing an interest in playing.

The latest research into the sport of tennis in the U.S. shows that overall tennis participation rose 1% to 17.9 million players, according to the Tennis Industry Association (TIA). The data also show growth in the number of youth tennis players, and indicate more than 14 million Americans, while not tennis players currently, express an interest in playing the sport.

But the research, which is part of the TIA’s annual “State of the Industry” and based on year-end numbers from 2014, also indicates the tennis industry faces a number of challenges, including a slightly lower “core player” participation level along with an aging base of core players.

In terms of overall participation, there are 17.9 million tennis players in the U.S., up 1% from 2013, according to data from the Physical Activity Council (PAC) 2015 Participation Study, the largest single-source independent sports participation project in the U.S.

Core tennis players, who play 10 or more times a year, dipped 1% to 9.91 million in 2014. Core tennis players account for an estimated 90% of total expenditures in the sport. Also, the percentage of
adult core players in the 18-to-24 age segment dropped nearly 3%, while core players ages 55-plus increased 1%.

“While it’s gratifying to see overall tennis participation moving in the right direction, the key to sustained growth in this sport is to keep creating ‘core’ players, who will be on the court more frequently, taking lessons, and buying equipment and apparel,” says TIA President Greg Mason.

“The good news is a significant opportunity exists with the 14.6 million Americans who indicate they are interested in playing tennis,” Mason adds. “Plus, research shows there’s another 12 million who consider themselves tennis players, but haven’t played in the last year. As we move ahead with our collaborative efforts to grow this sport, we’re looking at effective ways to capture these consumers to create more players—and more core players.”

A collaborative industry effort over the last several years, led by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), has helped to increase the number of youth tennis players in the country. In 2014, the number of players in the 6- to 12-year-old age bracket increased 4% to 2.14 million, while 13- to 17-year-old players grew 9% to 2.23 million.

“Growth in youth tennis participation is a key to the future of this sport and industry,” says Kurt Kamperman, chief executive of Community Tennis for the USTA. “By using lower compression Red, Orange and Green (ROG) tennis balls, along with shorter courts, shorter racquets and modified scoring, we’re bringing more kids into the game in a fun, social way, so they experience success and want to continue with the sport.”

“While there remain challenges in the tennis marketplace,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer, “we are focused more than ever on collaborative efforts to address these concerns and position the industry for future growth, including supporting the USTA’s priority to increase youth tennis participation, along with new efforts to target adult players with a focus on new players and families.”