As more Americans of all ages look to get in shape, lose weight and maintain their fitness, they increasingly turn to technology to help them find, track and organize their activities.
One of the most complete websites dedicated to healthy activity is PlayTennis.com, which helps tennis players and non-players alike get into the game and find programs, lessons, partners, equipment, and much more. And importantly, the most recent independent sports participation research shows that more people are getting out on the tennis courts.
Supported by the sport's major stakeholders and managed by the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the PlayTennis.com website is an "unbranded" portal that connects people to tennis and keeps them engaged with the sport. The website was developed through a cooperative effort by the tennis industry -- something unique in the recreational sports world -- and designed to convey a simple, unified message.
"We simply want to get people to play tennis," says Greg Mason, president of the TIA, which is the not-for-profit trade association for tennis. "Not only is tennis one of the healthiest sports for kids and adults of all ages, but also it is fun, social, and active. With PlayTennis.com, we want to help more people get out on the courts, more frequently."
The free, interactive website is accessible on all digital platforms -- computers, tablets, and mobile phones -- and allows beginners and tennis players of any ability level to find tennis programs, courts, partners, teaching professionals, retailers, gear, leagues, and instructional content.
PlayTennis.com currently contains data and information from more than 384,000 tennis players, 15,400 tennis facilities with nearly 100,000 tennis courts, more than 8,600 tennis professionals, and nearly 7,000 tennis retailers. Much of the data is accessible to consumers through easy search functions. "To date we've seen over 120,000 unique visitors who have utilized the various search functionalities on PlayTennis.com to connect to other players, retailers, coaches, and more," says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer.
To re-launch the site last year, the TIA collaborated with tennis industry partners including the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), Tennis Channel, TENNIS Magazine, and Tennis.com. Tennis industry manufacturers and organizations donated more than 600 prizes, which the TIA gave away from last fall through March 2014, including autographed racquets, merchandise and the grand prize of two tickets to the 2014 US Open.
"As a single source for information about tennis, how to get in the game, and how to play more frequently, PlayTennis.com is unique in this industry," says Dave Haggerty, the USTA's chairman of the board, president and CEO. "It's a website that can be supported and promoted by all industry stakeholders and will help to grow initiatives and programs, including 10 and Under Tennis and Youth Tennis, and will help to create more frequent players."
PlayTennis.com also is helping to drive other industry-related initiatives, such as the "Tennis Tune-Up" campaign, designed to get players to restring their racquets or buy new equipment, shoes, apparel and accessories that will help "tune-up" their games. Also, the industry-wide "Try Tennis for Free" promotion for May 2014 is being driven through PlayTennis.com. Tennis providers such as teaching professionals and tennis facilities are encouraged to register to offer a free lesson, clinic or other free program or event to beginning or returning players to get them into the sport. Consumers can search for "Try Tennis for Free" providers at PlayTennis.com.
"The tennis industry is unique in that when it comes to growing this sport, we all work together for the common good," de Boer says. "And we're seeing the positive results of these collaborative efforts with initiatives such as PlayTennis.com, Youth Tennis, Cardio Tennis, and more."
Newly released participation data from 2013 supports this claim. According to the 2013 Physical Activity Council (PAC) "Play Report" -- the nation's largest annual participation study measuring sports and fitness participation in over 115 different activities -- tennis participation in the U.S. grew 4% in 2013, while Cardio Tennis participation grew 9%. (Cardio Tennis is a crossover fitness and tennis program designed to give players an active, fun workout in which they'll burn lots of calories, improve their tennis, and train in their target heart-rate zone. Created in 2005, Cardio Tennis now has 1.4 million participants, and has even spawned a more fitness-intense spinoff through TRX, called TRX CardioTennis.)
"PlayTennis.com is a one-stop-shop to get people into the game, and it will be a key element in the continuous evolution to make tennis more accessible to everyone," says de Boer. "We are already seeing great results of this industry's joint efforts, and we will continue working collaboratively to bring more people into the game, because it will help not only grow this sport and this industry, but also will help keep consumers active and healthy."