Among the bright spots in the most recent tennis participation data is an increase in the number of youth players and an increase in the number of Cardio Tennis players, according to the latest study from the Physical Activity Council (PAC).
More than 4.53 million youngsters between ages 6 and 17 took to the courts in 2016, which is a 7.2 percent increase from 2015. The increase was driven by the youngest players, ages 6 to 12, up 11.7 percent, while ages 13-17 increased 2.7 percent.
“Core” youth players, those who play at least 10 times a year, also increased, by 3.8 percent to 2.68 million. And importantly, new youth players rose 17.8 percent in 2016—up 21 percent in the 6 to 12 age category and 11 percent in the 13 to 17 age group.
Cardio Tennis in 2016 was ranked No. 1 in year-over-year growth of the 118 sports and activities measured in the PAC report, with an increase of 17 percent to more than 2.12 million participants. Cardio Tennis has seen a 156 percent increase since first being measured in 2008.
Total tennis participation for year-end 2016, though, is best described as “stable.” PAC data shows total U.S. participation grew 0.6 percent from 2015 to 2016, to 18.08 million players.
Overall “core” tennis participants declined 1 percent in the past year, to 9.86 million. Core players account for 94 percent of all tennis “play occasions,” so it’s no surprise that overall tennis play occasions also declined year over year, falling 4.8 percent to 425 million. (Non-core tennis players increased 2.6 percent.)
PAC data indicates that opportunity continues to be found in the “latent demand” for tennis. Aside from the 18.08 million players currently, the study shows there are another 12.7 million consumers, including 10 million millennials, who consider themselves tennis players and may not have played in the past year, and 15 million non-players who are interested in taking up the game.
The 2017 Physical Activity Council Participation Report surveyed 118 sports and activities. The annual report is produced by a partnership of eight of the major governing bodies and trade associations in the U.S. sports and leisure industry (NGF, SIA, OIA & OF, TIA & USTA, IHRSA, USA Football and SFIA). Each partner produces more detailed reports on its specific areas of interest. PAC produces an overview report that summarizes “topline” data to establish levels of activity and identify key trends in sports, fitness and recreation participation in the USA.