May 2005 Volume 33 Number 5 $5.

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65 KEYS TO RETAIL SUCCESS
Our tips will help you unlock the door to bigger profits

New Racquets For All Types of Players & Styles Catering To ‘Boomers’ Will Help Your Business Plug Into Your Members With TennisConnect.org
Q Private Court Winners Q Apparel for Sun and Heat Q Court Colors Q Marketing Cardio Tennis Q String Playtest Q Ask the Experts Q Tips and Techniques

Contents
FEATURES 25 65 Keys to Successful Retailing
We asked leading specialty retailers and others in the tennis sales business to share their hottest tips for success.

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INDUSTRY NEWS 7 Tennis Welcome Center
program “alive and well”

7 7 8 8 8 8 8 9 11 12 12 14 14 14 DEPARTMENTS 4 Our Serve 16 Focus on Apparel 18 Court Construction 20 Your Players 22 42 44 46 48
Marketing Success

Tennis Channel signs deal with Comcast Cable USTA adds $10 million to “Grow the Game Fund” Playmate introduces upgradeable ball machine Polo Ralph Lauren is new US Open apparel sponsor Seattle tennis center honored by USTA Tail website gets facelift Penn offers free BlackBerry promotion USPTA presents “Tennis Across America” Wilson expands customer service hours Letter to the Editor: More support for Tennis & Golf show Grand Slam Stringers launches website Lansdorp honored with USTA President’s Award Welch schedules clay court maintenance seminars USRSA Member classifieds

30 Tennis’s Boom Time
Keeping baby-boomers happy will lead to more business for your facility.

34 Private Retreats
These RSI/ASBA residential court winners are examples of great form and function.

38 Player’s Choice
The newest offerings from the racquet manufacturers have something for all types of player and all styles of play.

40 Net Connection
Improved customer service and convenience have made TennisConnect.org a hit with tennis facilities across the country.

String Playtest: Wilson Reaction 16 Ask the Experts Tips and Techniques Your Serve, by Bill Mountford

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Our Serve
Don’t Expect A Magic Bullet
(Incorporating Racquet Tech and Tennis Industry)

Publishers David Bone Jeff Williams Editor-in-Chief Crawford Lindsey Editorial Director Peter Francesconi Associate Editor Greg Raven Design/Art Director Kristine Thom Assistant to the Publisher Cari Feliciano Contributing Editors Cynthia Cantrell Rod Cross Kristen Daley Joe Dinoffer Liza Horan Andrew Lavallee James Martin Mark Mason Chris Nicholson Mitch Rustad Drew Sunderlin Jonathan Whitbourne RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY Corporate Offices 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084 Phone: 760-536-1177 Fax: 760-536-1171 Email: RSI@racquetTECH.com Website: www.racquetTECH.com Office Hours: Mon.-Fri.,8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pacific Time Advertising Director John Hanna 770-650-1102, x.125 john@racquettech.com Apparel Advertising Cynthia Sherman 203-263-5243 cstennisindustry@earthlink.net
Racquet Sports Industry (USPS 347-8300. ISSN 01915851) is published 10 times per year: monthly January through August and combined issues in September/October and November/December by Tennis Industry and USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084. Periodicals postage paid at Hurley, NY 12443 and additional mailing offices. May 2005, Volume 33, Number 5 © 2005 by USRSA and Tennis Industry. All rights reserved. Racquet Sports Industry, RSI and logo are trademarks of USRSA. Printed in the U.S.A. Phone advertising: 770-650-1102 x.125. Phone circulation and editorial: 760-536-1177. Yearly subscriptions $25 in the U.S., $40 elsewhere. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084.

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omething came up at the last TIA board meeting in March, held during the USTA’s Annual Meeting in La

Quinta, Calif., that got me a little concerned. As TIA President Jim Baugh was updating members about some key programs to increase tennis participation, it was noted that among the general tennis industry, there was some confusion about whether the Tennis Welcome Center initiative was still a priority.
As all of you probably know, the TWC program was started last year to give lapsed and potential players a “welcoming” introduction to the sport, in an effort to turn around stagnant participation numbers. Since its inception, and continuing to this day, the program garnered unprecedented support and cooperation from all parts of the industry. (Over 4,000 facilities signed up initially, but since then, the more stringent renewal process has brought that number down to about 2,600 TWCs for 2005—which is actually a good thing.) To try to put to rest any lingering doubts you may have, the Tennis Welcome Center program is still a priority in the industry. It is not “last year’s program,” and it is not over. And, more importantly, it most likely will continue for many years. Growing this sport is a long-term commitment. No program, no matter how well conceived and executed, is going to solve all of tennis’s participation problems overnight. Plenty of organizations, companies, teaching pros, and facilities have committed time, money, and effort into making the TWC program successful. But it’s going to take time. And the new programs that are under way this year—such as Cardio Tennis and the Tennis in the Parks Initiative spearheaded by USTA President Franklin Johnson—are also going to take some time before results start to show. Baugh and Kurt Kamperman, the current USTA chief executive of Community Tennis (and former TIA president), along with dozens of other leaders in this business understand that these programs need to be given time to work. It seems like things in this industry are beginning to pick up. In 2004, ball sales were up in units 3.6 percent, racquet sales in units were up 16 percent and in dollars up 7.7 percent, junior racquet unit sales were up 27 percent, and racquets under $99 were up nearly 20 percent. “I think we’ve hit bottom and are starting to move up again,” Baugh told the TIA members. But keep in mind, it will be a long haul, with no quick fixes. p

Peter Francesconi P t F i Editorial Director

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INDUSTRY NEWS
INFORMATION TO HELP YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS

TTC Signs Multiyear Deal with Comcast Cable
The Tennis Channel has signed a multiyear affiliation agreement with Comcast Cable, the leading cable operator in the U.S. The arrangement provides for carriage opportunities for the traditional, linear network, as well as video on demand (VOD) content. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with Comcast to bring The Tennis Channel’s programming to more customers,” says David Meister, CEO and chairman of TTC. “It’s great to be offering viewers Tennis Channel videoon-demand content, taking fullest advantage of rapidly evolving distribution technology.” “A number of tennis hotbeds are served by Comcast systems,” says Randy Brown, senior vice president of distribution for TTC. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to bring our top-tier tournaments, lifestyle programming and instructional series to Comcast customers around the country.”

Tennis Welcome Center Program “Alive and Well”
he industry-wide Tennis Welcome Center initiative is still going strong, says Tennis Industry Association President Jim Baugh and USTA Community Tennis Chief Executive Kurt Kamperman. Speaking at the TIA board meeting in March during the USTA’s Annual Meeting at La Quinta, Calif., Baugh told the group, “We have to be united in our front to make sure the Tennis Welcome Center initiative does not get lost in the shuffle. We all have to be committed to make sure we keep pushing Tennis Welcome Centers. We can’t lose sight of that.” Some at the meeting expressed concern at comments from USTA section personnel that the TWC program was “last year’s program.” But Kamperman said that the TWC program, which began in 2004, was never intended to be just a one-year initiative. “You need long-term programs,” he said. The first year of the TWC program was “overall positive,” said Baugh, adding that the program created unprecedented cooperation within the industry and exposed issues with tennis’s delivery system and customer service that need to be addressed. More than 4,000 facilities, clubs and parks signed up to be TWCs initially, but in the 2005 renewal process, that number was whittled down to 2,600. But importantly, the “quality” of these TWCs has improved significantly, says Kamperman. Also, the TIA and the USTA have put out a nifty, free “Marketing & Customer Service Kit” for Tennis Welcome Centers (left) that includes all marketing materials, ads, logos and much more, in both hard copy and on a CD. For more on the TWC program, and to download information in the marketing kit or to receive one, visit www.partners.tenniswelcomecenter.com or call 843-686-3036.

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USTA Adds $10 Million to New “Grow the Game Fund”

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he USTA announced that it will commit $10 million over the course of 2005-2006 to develop new programs to increase player participation and raise the profile of tennis in the U.S. The USTA will fund these new initiatives as part of a boardapproved planned deficit totaling $10 million over the next two years. This incremental funding initiative follows a year of operating income and investment portfolio performance that resulted in a $26.1 million excess in income over expenses, according to the recently published 2004 USTA financial statements audited by Ernst & Young. USTA operating revenues were up for the fifth consecutive year, led largely by the continued growth of the US Open. The USTA will announce plans for specific spending in the near future. “The USTA has never been in a stronger financial position to make an investment of this kind,” says Franklin Johnson (right), USTA chairman of the board and president. “Our operating performance— based largely on the success of the US Open—and returns on our investments have resulted in unprecedented reserves for the association. As a not-for-profit organization, we have the obligation and responsibility to spend these funds to better carry out our mission.” In related news, the USTA reported at its annual meeting in March that total operating revenues in 2004 was $221 million, up from $205 million in 2003. Total operating expenses for 2004 was $187 million, vs. $179 million in ’03. Total net assets at the end of ’04 were $269 million, vs. $243 million in ’03.

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USTA Honors Seattle Facility
he Amy Yee Tennis Center in Seattle has been named the 2005 USTA Member Organization of the Year. The facility was recognized at the recent USTA Annual Meeting for providing outstanding service to its members and the local community. In 2004, the Amy Yee Tennis Center was home to more than 100,000 players, making it the largest public indoor facility in the Puget Sound area. The tennis center, which is owned and operated by the Seattle Parks & Recreation Department, has supported more than 50 USA League Tennis Adult, Senior, Super Senior, and Mixed Doubles teams. One of the center’s more successful programs is its USA Tennis NJTL program, which had more than 450 children participate in summer camps and junior group lessons. It also serves as the home of the Garfield High School boys and girls varsity teams’ practices and matches. “The Amy Yee Tennis Center is the embodiment of the USTA’s mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis by making the game more accessible through public parks and facilities,” says Franklin R. Johnson, USTA chairman of the board and president.

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Playmate Introduces Totally Upgradeable Ball Machine
he Smash, by Playmate Tennis Machines, is the industry’s first completely upgradeable ball machine, says the company. The Smash allows users to purchase a base model machine, and to upgrade it to a top-of-the-line model by purchasing various control boxes, with no complicated installation or unwieldy equipment. “The advantage of the Smash is its versatility,” says Tina Yarur, marketing director of Playmate. “Customers can buy the Smash now, and should they later decide they want a machine with more options, they can get the control boxes that will allow them to upgrade it to have the features of all of our higher-level models, including the Deuce, the Genie or the Playmate PC.” The Smash holds 300 balls, can be set for topspin and backspin, has electronic height and direction to seven lines, remote on/off controls and a three-year limited warranty. It is compatible with Playmate’s patented Serve Lift, a mechanism that allows ball machines to approximate a serve. The Smash is available from Playmate and from its authorized dealers. For more information, call 800-776-6770 or 919-544-0344, or go to www.playmatetennismachines.com.

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Polo Ralph Lauren is New US Open Apparel Sponsor
he USTA and Polo Ralph Lauren signed a new global partnership designating Polo Ralph Lauren the Official Apparel Sponsor of the US Open through 2008. The four-year landmark partnership will include the creation of an official shirt designed by Ralph Lauren, which will outfit all on-court officials including ballpersons and line judges. Polo Ralph Lauren and the USTA will create a major retail presence for the duration of the tournament. Initial plans call for co-branded US Open/Polo Ralph Lauren merchandise to be sold at select retail stores. Other onsite visibility will include ring signage in Arthur Ashe Stadium as well as a presence on the video and electronic message boards throughout the grounds. Also, Polo Ralph Lauren will have a major online presence on USOpen.org and will feature US Open apparel at Polo.com and USOpen.org. “We are very excited to be partnering with the USTA and to play such a key role in one of the most celebrated global sporting events,” says Ralph Lauren, chairman and CEO of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

Penn Offers Free BlackBerry
n a unique promotion, cans of Penn tennis balls will include an offer for a free BlackBerry 7280 (after mail-in rebate and with a two-year service agreement). “The promotion will allow us to provide our retail partners and consumers with added value for each can of Penn tennis balls and offer them a free state-of-the-art BlackBerry that normally costs hundreds of dollars,” says Jennifer Parker, Penn’s business manager. More than 2 million Penn tennis ball cans will offer the free BlackBerry with a sticker on the outside of the can providing information on redemption. Consumers will need to sign up for a standard cell phone plan with redemption, but the retail price of the BlackBerry is refunded to the consumer through a mail-in rebate. For more information, visit www.pennracquet.com.

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Tail Website Gets Facelift
ail Inc. has updated its website, www.tailinc.com, offering a new look and easier navigation. The revised site offers a view of the entire family of Tail brands including the new Tail Tech Golf, links to Tail2 and Cha-Ching sites, and core golf and tennis brands. The site also has a business-to-business link for customers who are interested in placing orders over the internet. “The new website is more in tune with our image,” says Bill Evans, Tail’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We wanted to create a showcase for our merchandise and this site does an excellent job of that.”

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INDUSTRY NEWS

USPTA Presents “Tennis Across America”
hroughout the spring, more than 1,500 USPTA pros and developmental coaches, along with volunteers, will offer free clinics to the public in more than 350 cities nationwide as part of the USTPA’s Tennis Across America, which is now in its 16th year. “With help from a knowledgeable instructor, new players can quickly gain the skills they need to keep the ball in play, which is the key to having the most fun and getting the best workout in tennis,” says USPTA CEO Tim Heckler. “USPTA members can provide a great first tennis experience, which translates into more players playing more often. That’s what Tennis Across America has always been about.” While the USPTA’s Tennis Across America Day is May 14, activities will take place nationwide throughout the spring months. Clinics can be for adults, children, or both, or may include players returning to the game or in need of a spring tuneup. Professionals usually schedule clinics to coincide with the start of entry-level lesson programs. Clinics are held at clubs, public parks, schools, and other facilities. A list of public Tennis Across America clinics, organized by city and state, can be found at www.uspta.com or by calling (800) USPTA-4U.

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TTC’s Bellamy Honored By Indiana Business School

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teve Bellamy, the president and founder of The Tennis Channel, was honored in March by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington. Bellamy, of Santa Monica, Calif., received the business school’s 2005 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award. A longtime fan of and cheerleader for the sport, Bellamy has been integrally involved in every facet of the industry, including facility owner, promoter, coach, tournament director and marketer.

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SHORT SETS
Sports says that it > Princemeet demand” ofhas “gone into manufacturing over- > RadioTennis.com produced live webcasts of the Pacific Coast Men’s drive to its new Prince O3 engineered rac- Doubles Championships in March, with guest announcer Roscoe Tanner. quets. “We’re finding that in any sales situation, retailers can now demonstrate the difference in play between old and new technology and it’s reinvigorating the game,” says Prince’s George Napier. The O3 racquets have large “O-Ports” instead of the small string holes, which Prince says expands the sweetspot by 54 percent and yields a livelier response across the entire string bed. World TeamTennis has added two new teams to its pro league, the Boston Lobsters in the Eastern Conference and the Houston Wranglers in the Western Conference. The season for the 12 teams will be July 4 to 24. The top-ranked Brigham Young University–Hawaii women’s tennis team broke its own NCAA record in February by winning its 104th consecutive dual match. The Seasiders, who began NCAA Division II play in the fall of 1998 and won their first 103 matches, now have a 207-1record. its > The USTA has launched site Spanish-language website, www.ustaenespanol.com. The offers all the latest news in professional and community tennis. Williams and > Lindsay Davenport, VenusFed Cup Team inSerena Williams were slated to lead the U.S. its quarterfinal match against Belgium April 23-24 in Delray Beach, Fla. A free service, RadioTennis.com provides live streaming audio play-byplay of professional and top level tennis from around the world, via the internet. be > The Angela Moore Fashion Show and Champagne Breakfast willthe held Thursday, July 7, from 9 to 11 a.m. in Newport, R.I., during Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Tickets are $65 each. For information, contact 401-849-6053. Italian sportswear company Lotto Sport Italia participated in the first ISPO China fair in March in Shanghai. Lotto showecased a selection of its most representative footwear and apparel collections for soccer and tennis as well as for leisure. The presence of Lotto at the fair is part of a larger and multi-faceted strategy aimed at re-launching the brand in China. has multi-year agreement with Tennis > ESPN(TPL)reached a newinternational telecast rights for theProperties Limited for significant ATP Masters Series. The new agreement ensures that ESPN will continue to televise the ATP Masters Series through the 2007 season. ESPN will have exclusive cable and satellite telecast rights to all ATP Masters Series events for Latin America (minus Brazil), the Middle East, Israel, North Africa, and New Zealand. In all, ESPN will have international telecast rights for the ATP Masters Series to more than 70 countries and territories.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Wilson Racquet Sports Expands Customer Service Hours
ilson Racquet Sports has expanded its customerservice call center to now include Saturdays and expanded weekday hours for the upcoming spring and summer seasons, which generally marks the peak of tennis participation throughout the U.S. Wilson accounts can now call the toll-free customerservice line—800-272-6060—on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. CST and with expanded weekday hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST.

USPTA raises $3.1 million for charity
n 2004, USPTA members were instrumental in raising more than $3.1 million for charities in the U.S. In the past three years, they have helped raise more than $10.6 million. Through the USPTA’s Lessons for Life, an umbrella program for members’ charitable events, the association encourages tennis pros to take the lead in organizing fund-raising events. Among the charities that have received donations from Lessons for Life events are the American Cancer Society, Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation, churches, scholarship funds and many smaller, local charities.

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L E T T E R S Support for a Tennis & Golf Show
To the Editor: In your April issue (page 14), Gene Niksich pleaded the case to combine a tennis show with the PGA show in Orlando. What a fantastic idea! I, too, have witnessed the stunning and disappointing decline of the Tennis Show at the Super Show despite efforts to revive it by changing locations from Atlanta to Las Vegas to Orlando. Somehow, tennis apparel, equipment, and court products don't have much in common with canoes, camping equipment, and logo gear. But countless country clubs have golf and tennis. Add swimming pools to the mix, and all bases are covered. The most thrilled constituency might be the superintendents and club managers who must oversee all three parts of the facility. This hearty endorsement comes from someone who has invested over 35 years in the tennis construction industry. David Marsden Boston Tennis Court Construction Co. Inc. Hanover, Mass.

Grand Slam Stringers Launches Website
rand Slam Stringers has launched its website, www.GrandSlamStringers.com, which provides a variety of links for racquet technicians of all levels, an interactive message board, and an e-commerce shopping mall offering professional stringing tools and accessories. “I wanted to create a one-stop environment where stringers could get just about anything they needed to do a professional string job,” says founder and website developer Tim Strawn. “There are a lot of unique tools and products that are exclusive to the GSS website.” Stringing professionals from across the globe staff the site’s interactive message board, and GSS created an expert stringing panel to give visitors direct access to professionals who frequently work at tour-level events. Panel members include Richard Parnell, MRT and tester for the USRSA & ERSA, based in Malaga, Spain; Albert Lee, MRT based in Potomac, Md.; Sam Chan, MRT and ERSA certification tester from London; Toru Yusuki, director of the Japanese Racquet Stringers Association; and Strawn, MRT from Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Bow Brand team.

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We welcome your letters and comments. Please email them to rsi@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

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• USTA volunteer Elaine Viebranz of

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Greenwich, Conn., was presented with the prestigious Samuel Hardy Award for long and outstanding service to tennis by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She’s served at the community, sectional, and national levels since the 1960s, and was one of the founders of the USA League Tennis program.

• Ann Valentine of Provo, Utah, and Allen Fox of San Luis Obispo, Calif., have received 2004 Tennis Educational Merit Awards, presented by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The awards are presented annually to individuals who are U.S. citizens or residents that have made notable contributions in the tennis education field at the national level. • Paola Suarez of Argentina switched to Prince’s new O3 Tour just prior to the Pacific
Life Open in March and won the women’s doubles championship. At the same time, Davide Sanguinetti of Italy reached the final of the ATP Pro Tennis World Open in Sunrise, Fla., after switching to the O3 Tour the week before. Suarez and Sanguinetti join world No. 5 Guillermo Coria, who has played with the O3 Tour since last November

• Southern California-based tennis apparel manufacturer Bälle de Mätch has added
two new sales reps. Erik Dorsey will be taking on the states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska from Kansas City. Mark Gonzalez, based in Austin, Texas, takes over Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. For info, call 800-356-1021.

• Tennis legend John McEnroe, playing with the new Dunlop
Maxply McEnroe racquet, won in his debut at the first Delta Tour of Champions event of 2005, in Greenville, S.C.

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Welch Schedules Clay Court Seminars

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elch Tennis Courts is offering four clay court maintenance seminars in May and October in Florida. The seminars, designed to give participants a working knowledge of Har-Tru courts, include an explanation and demonstration of the latest procedures in maintenance, with an emphasis on solving court maintenance problems and how recent innovations can be used to protect and enhance the investment you have in your courts. The seminars cost $159 per person, and $125 for each additional person from the same facility, and includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments and a wrap-up happy hour. USPTA members can earn 3 credits for continuing education for attending. The schedule:
Q May 6: Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club Q May 13: The Oaks of Boca Raton Q Oct. 7: The Ocean Club, Daytona Beach Q Oct. 14: Gulf Harbor Yacht & Tennis Club, Fort Myers

Tennis Mag Awards “Editors’ Choice”
ennis magazine’s Spring Gear Guide (April 2005 issue) designated two racquets and one tennis shoe as “Editors’ Choice” picks. The magazine said the Prince O3 Silver “offers an outstanding blend of power and control for a super-oversize racquet.” The Babolat Aeropro Drive, meanwhile, “gives strong tournament players the ability to swing harder for more power without losing command of their shots.” Two racquets also received honorable mention by the magazine: The Wilson nTour 95 and the Head Flexpoint Radical. On the shoe front, Tennis said the K-Swiss Defier RS is “the total package, with outstanding durability, stability, and comfort.”

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Lansdorp Wins USTA President’s Award
enowned tennis coach Robert Lansdorp of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., was awarded the 2005 USTA President’s Award at the USTA’s Annual Meeting in March in La Quinta, Calif. Established in 1999, the President’s Award annually honors an individual who has given unusual and extraordinary service to tennis. "Over the last 30 years, Robert has coached some of tennis’s greatest players and is one of our sport's most distinguished coaches," said Franklin R. Johnson, the USTA chairman of the board and president. "I selected Robert for this honor based on his extraordinary legacy and all that he continues to do to enhance our great game and help develop players of exceptional talent." Lansdorp has coached five different Grand Slam champions—Tracy Austin, Pete Sampras, Lindsay Davenport, Anastasia Myskina, and Maria Sharapova. Combined, they have won a total of 21 Grand Slam titles.

For information or to sign up, contact Deb Carlson at 800-282-4415.

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BEFORE Florida Rooftop Installation
The rooftop tennis court at the Waverly, a luxury condominium complex in the South Beach section of Miami Beach, Fla., was “rehabilitated” recently through the efforts of Sheldon Westervelt of Global Sports & Tennis Design Group of Boynton Beach, Fla., and the Classic Turf System Sport Surfaces cushioned sheet-goods product by Classic Turf Co. of Woodbury, Conn. Although only recently constructed using conventional techniques, the surface had failed, said Westervelt, adding that the new Classic Turf surface is waterproof, cushioned, and solves buckling and erosion problems. For more information, contact Classic Turf at 203-2630800 or www.classicturf.org, or Global Sports & Tennis Design Group at 561-733-1633 or www.globaltennisdesign.com.

USRSA MEMBER CLASSIFIEDS
FOR SALE: Gamma 8500 Els, one year old, excellent condition. Original cost $3500 (plus shipping), selling for $2500 firm (plus shipping). If living in New England, willing to meet halfway. Contact: genbur@juno.com FOR SALE: Gamma 7000 ES stringing machine (electric), in excellent condition. Includes tools, cover, manual, and clamps. Photos upon request. Asking: $1200 + shipping, OBO. Contact: George Tompkins, Grand Junction, CO 81506 • 970/241-9043 or email: pilonero78@hotmail.com FOR SALE: Gamma Progression ESII electronic stringing machine. Great condition: new clamps, new tension head, floor stand, cover. Complete and ready to start stringing! Asking: $500. Call Deven for details • 602/672-0189 or email: spagstring@hotmail.com COLLECTORS: Wilson T-2, 3, 4, 5000 + one Connors’ T. All great shape. Asking: $100 plus S&H $20. Contact: Frank Inamorati, Lecanto, FL • 352/746-4063 or email: BF@netsignia.net WANTED: Prince Precision 730 MP longbody racquets, size 4-l/2. Contact: Bill Miller • 903/534-0217 or bstrings@academicplanet.com WANTED: Prince Precision 730 MP bumper kits. Contact: Bill Miller • 903/534-0217 or bstrings@academicplanet.com WANTED: Grommet strip and bumper guard for a Prince Catalyst Ti Oversize tennis racquet. Contact: David Thomas @ Raise A Racquet • 405/247-2759 or email: mrdt@netride.net WANTED: Old/new tools for stringing all racquet sports; tennis, etc. Single tools or complete tool sets from Babolat, Wilson, Prince, etc. Must be in very good condition or new. Also looking for a Gosen 7000 stringing machine. Contact: Warren • 408-398-6632

AFTER

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RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

FOCUS ON

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apparel

Tenniswear to Handle Sun and Heat

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ore and more tennis apparel companies are recognizing the need to supply tenniswear that helps players deal with the sun, heat and humidity. As the northern part of the country enters the outdoor season, here are some of the latest fashions, incorporating the latest in moisture-managing fabrics that will help keep your players comfortable and cool. —Cynthia Sherman

TAIL
Bill Evans, Tail’s vice president of sales and marketing, says the tennis industry has “evolved into a performance fabric mecca.” Tail’s popular Meryl spandex pique, a moisture-management and performance fabric, has enabled Tail to do two groups of clothing per season. Evans says tennis consumers want both a moisture-wicking performance fabric and sun protection, and their MARCIA lines provide an SPF of “This fabric is so lightweight, up to 30. we’ve done a reversible line with it, called San Tropez,” says (800-678-8245; Patrice Brayer of Marcia. Screen- www.tailinc.com) printed colors on this technical fabric also come out crisper and won’t wash out because the “science” is woven into the fiber of the material. A topical application called ‘Dri-Fx’ permanently sets the moisture-wicking and heat-preventive qualities. (800423-5208; www.marciagolfandtennis.com)

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BÄLLE DE MÄTCH
Bälle de Mätch’s tennis line uses its high tech “yip-dry” fabric, which also sports UV protection. BDM’s John Embree says this quality has to be woven into the thread, so there is no yellowing effect over time, which can occur in similar types of material. This kind of fabric is no longer tennis-specific. As its versatility suggests, says Embree, “Courtwear everywhere.” (847-729-2497)

DIADORA
Sara Cruthers from Diadora says its team tennis lines, which account for 80 percent of their business, uses the “DiaDry” fabric, another lightweight, keep-you-dry, moisture-wicking fabric. It not only incorporates UV protection, but also contains anti-bacterial fiber containing silver ions designed to neutralize body odor. (253-520-8868; www.diadoraamerica.com)

LBH GROUP
LBH and Lily’s of Beverly Hills showcases a number of separates featuring CoolMax, which enables the player to keep cool as they heat up. DuPont’s CoolMax started the trend in breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that allow the wearer a greater degree of comfort and dryness during exercise and sports. “It’s the fiber that gives the fabric its cooling qualities,” says Katie Curry, LBH’s vice president of marketing. (800-421-4474; www.lbhgroup.com)

LEJAY
Lejay uses “Le Dry,” its moisture-management fabric, as its core fabrication not only in the fashion groups, but also in custom team uniforms, which come in 13 colors. Trish Levin, Lejay’s vice president of merchandising, says the fabric’s fluid feel and lightweight, quickdrying moisture-wicking ability are major selling points. (800-932-7535; www.lejay.com)

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COURT

construction

Showing the Colors
There’s a science—and a fine art—behind the choices for colors in BY AIMEE DESROSIERS court surfaces.
Additionally, I am an official member of the Color Marketing Group (CMG), which is an international, not-for-profit association of 1,400 color experts. Having a CMG color expert is not necessarily a unique criteria for a paint company. Most paint companies employ color experts to identify the direction of color trends and work to develop annual color forecasts. But over the last several years, color has become an increasingly important component of our recreational products divisions: DecoTurf and Plexipave. We consult with tournaments and facilities on sports surfacing and facility color, such as at the USTA’s National Tennis Center, home of the US Open; the 2004 Olympic Tennis Center in Greece; and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California. Why the increased interest in color? The reasons to apply color to tennis courts—or any other manufactured product, for that matter—are much more than aesthetic. Many strategic marketing initiatives can be enhanced through the educated application of color, such as: Q Improve Product Performance: Manufacturers can use color to enhance the performance of a product, such as extending the life of the material, improve visibility of a feature, make the product more lightfast, etc. When California Products started manufacturing purple tennis courts, we knew there was a science behind this color choice, which goes all the way back to Sir Isaac Newton’s original color wheel. Color theory states that colors opposite each other on the wheel have the greatest contrast when viewed simultaneously. Thus, the complementary color to the yellow tennis ball is purple. It may seem like an unusual choice for a surface that by tradition has been green, but if considered scientifically, a purple court allows you to see the ball better. Q Build Market Share: Color is a strong distinguishing feature in the marketplace. For example, when Apple introduced the

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Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, by Plexipave. home goods to graphic design and fashion, employ color experts to help them with their products. These color experts come from varied backgrounds—fine arts and design, marketing, sciences such as chemistry, and more. Color experts interpret, create, forecast, and select colors to enhance function, salability, and quality of a product. At California Products, we take color seriously: Although we are best known in the sports industry for our DecoTurf and Plexipave tennis courts, we also have a third division, California Paints, which manufactures paints, stains and other coatings. Our chemists are not only experts in the formulation of performance materials, they are also experts in color as a result of our varied product offerings.

olor affects our lives in almost every way. It can be pleasant and soothing, such as a sky blue or seafoam green; it can signal warning or danger, like a yellow or red light; and different colors can be used to distinguish among a group of items, such as color-coded folders in a file cabinet. Colors can indicate events (red and green at Christmas, black and orange at Halloween), can be a sign of tradition (wearing white for a wedding or black for a funeral), or can describe your emotions (red hot, blue mood, green with envy). Colors are even used to indicate economic levels (a blue-collar worker, a white-collar job). Most industries, from automotive and

18 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

The 2004 Olympic tennis venue in Athens, Greece, by DecoTurf.

Choosing the Right Color for Your Courts
There are many criteria to consider when choosing which colors will work at your facility, but these tips can help the process along. Use the standard colors: These colors are proven formulations that have been applied in a multitude of locations. If you require a custom color, partner with an expert. Be sure the company can address your concerns about material physics and characteristics, TV broadcasting, lighting, indoor vs. outdoor application, performance etc. Custom colors may be higher in cost. For example, this may be due to increased raw materials (pigments, etc). If time allows, test your custom color before applying. Look at the color under the conditions in which it will be used. One color will appear differently when viewed in an office under fluorescent lights than when it is viewed outdoors. Put some material down and expose it to the sun, snow, and rain. Try a “variation” of a standard color. A small tweak of a standard color carries less risk than a completely new formulation. iMac computer in 1998, it was a teal color, when all that had been available previously was a neutral putty. A year later Apple came out with other colors: blueberry, grape, tangerine, lime, strawberry. Using color grabbed consumers’ attention and boosted the company’s reputation for innovation. For tennis facilities, or tournament directors, using consistent color combinations can help “brand” your location or event. Q Make a Statement, Wordlessly: Humans learn non-verbal color meaning and associate certain colors and color combinations with certain types of messages, such as wearing a yellow or pink ribbon. When applying color to any material,

whether it is acrylic coatings, cloth, plastics, or even glass, we are bound by the laws of chemistry and physics. In the case of tennis courts, the courts are colored using pigments that are very small, relatively insoluble particles. While we can formulate nearly any color, certain pigments (and therefore colors) are better suited to horizontal, outdoor surfaces—particularly those with better UV resistance and color fastness. In addition to ensuring a color-resist fade, it is important to be certain that you can produce consistent color. The manufacturing process is highly monitored to make sure that the pigment is evenly dispersed throughout the entire coating. It is vital that the “recipe” is measured and reproduced exactly so that there are no inconsistencies in color. Color can also have an effect on the performance of an acrylic tennis court. For instance, California Paints has been asked to produce a fire-engine red court. In order to achieve that color, we need to lose much of the opacity of the mixture, and when you lose opacity, you have to increase the number of coats of material needed to cover the surfaces underneath. Changing the manufacturer’s recommended coats for an acrylic system may alter the speed of play, and it could even have an adverse affect on dry-time. Conversely, there are other colors that compliment the nature of the surface and are recommended by the manufacturer. When it’s time to re-coat your courts, you should consider both the science, and the art, behind choosing the right colors for your facility. Q
Aimee Desrosiers joined California Products Corp. in April 2000 to spearhead marketing and advertising efforts. Based in Andover, Mass., California Paints is a division of California Products, manufacturer of quality paints, coatings, and sports surfacing systems since 1926. For more information, contact info@decoturf.com or info@plexipave.com.

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YOUR

Players

Taking the Heat
To help your players avoid heat-related illnesses on court, BY KRISTEN DALEY you need to take some precautions.
ith summer quickly approaching, it is important for tennis coaches, teaching pros and facility operators to help their players prepare for the possibility of practice and competition outdoors in hot and humid weather. If a player is unaccustomed to and unprepared for intense physical activity in such conditions, he is at an increased risk of suffering heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a moderate illness caused by intense effort in a hot and humid environment and is characterized by an inability to continue exercising. It can result in excessive fatigue and decreased performance, and symptoms include loss of coordination, dizziness, fainting, stomach/ intestinal cramps, persistent muscle cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Heat stroke is an emergency, occurring when the body can no longer cool itself and heat production exceeds heat dissipation. The condition is characterized by central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and potential tissue damage due to elevated body temperatures. The most serious symptoms of heat stroke include a core body temperature usually above 104 degrees F and CNS dysfunction, including altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, irrational behavior, or decreased mental acuity. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, weakness, hot and wet or dry skin, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, fast breathing, dehydration, and combativeness. If the forecast calls for hot and humid days, schedule practices and competition for early morning or late afternoon, if possible. “If it’s hot and dry out, your body can deal with that much better” because sweat is more likely to evaporate, explains Dr. Douglas Casa, Ph.D., director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut. In contrast, high humidity levels can decrease a player’s rate of sweat evaporation, keeping their body from cooling as efficiently.

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If tennis activity must take place in such conditions, there are preventative measures that coaches can suggest to help their players avoid heat-related illnesses. Acclimatization to physical exertion in the heat is among the most useful. “It’s a gradual transition of increasing the intensity and duration of exercise in the heat,” Casa says. This can be accomplished in a week to 10 days, with the athlete exercising for an hour or two each day in the same heat. Physiological changes such as an increased sweat rate may occur during heat acclimatization, emphasizing the need to stay properly hydrated. When they head to the court, players should wear lightweight clothing during their matches or practices and keep themselves well-hydrated. Casa recommends that they match fluid losses with fluid intake ounce for ounce during competition. Players should weigh themselves before and after the match to help them determine the appropriate amount of fluid consumption. After tennis, they should drink about 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for each pound of body weight they lost.

to a shaded or air-conditioned area, and excess clothing should be removed. A qualified individual (i.e., a certified athletic trainer) should cool the player’s body with ice bags or cold towels. The athlete should lie comfortably with his or her legs propped above heart level. If there is no nausea, vomiting or central nervous system dysfunction, the athlete can be rehydrated orally with chilled water or sports drinks. If nausea or vomiting makes it impossible for the player to drink, intravenous infusion of normal saline may be necessary. A player’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, core temperature and central nervous system status should be monitored, and the player should be transported to an emergency facility if there is no rapid improvement.

HEAT STROKE
To treat a player suffering from heat stroke, aggressive whole-body cooling measures, such as cold-water immersion, should begin immediately. In the 2003 Inter-Association Task Force on Exertional Heat Illnesses Consensus Statement, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) recommends that if onsite rapid cooling and medical supervision is available, the individual should be cooled first and transported to an emergency facility second. A player who suffers heat exhaustion should avoid intense practice in the heat until the next day at least. A careful returnto-play strategy should be implemented for a player who has suffered heat stroke. Both conditions warrant medical supervision in the return-to-play process. Preparation is key to avoiding heat-related illness, and educating players in some precautionary measures should be a focus for coaches as temperatures begin to rise. “It is very important that coaches become active participants in the process of maximizing the health and performance for their athletes who must train and compete in hot environments,” says Casa. Q

HEAT EXHAUSTION
If any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke are recognized during play, the player should cease activity immediately. If you don’t have medical staff or a certified athletic trainer on site to treat a player, get him or her to an emergency facility. A tennis player suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved from the court

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&

marketing

SUCCESS

Cardio Tennis: Big Time for Your Bottom Line

BY JOE DINOFFER

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hink of some of the fitness fads over the past few decades: aerobics, jogging, home exercise equipment, spinning, Pilates, even kickboxing. People are signing up for these activities by the millions. Yes, the millions. So, why not Cardio Tennis? If you’re not that familiar with it, here is what happens in a Cardio Tennis program, according to the information posted at www.partners.cardiotennis.com:
Taught by a Certified Tennis Professional, a typical Cardio Tennis program includes a short dynamic warm-up, a cardio workout, and a cool-down phase. The majority of the Cardio Tennis program is the "workout" phase, which should last 30-50 minutes. Most of this portion will include fast-paced drills where the professional feeds balls to players based on their ability and fitness level. Pros will find ways to keep players moving and challenged… all while having fun!

Symposium on Hilton Head. There were also well-attended Cardio workouts at the USTA Annual Meeting in Palm Springs in March. Currently, the push is on to sign up facilities as Cardio Tennis sites, and the program will be rolled out to consumers around the US Open this summer. So, how can you get more people on the court to give Cardio a try? Here are a few suggestions to help you market the program:

“SINGLES” GROUPS
Large segments of our society sign up for classes in order to potentially meet someone to date. Promote beginner and intermediate singles groups, but be strict—no married people allowed!

“SENIORS” GROUPS
Seniors have special needs and want you to address those needs. Just modify your movement and keep a special eye on the pace of your activity. And, of course, get a signed waiver or doctor’s release if you want to be extra careful.

“NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED” GROUPS
This is one of the greatest things about Cardio Tennis. You leverage the appeal of fitness but add the benefits of fun that tennis offers. After all, everyone loves striking something. Make sure to offer classes for players with little or no experience.

“COMPETITIVE PLAYER” GROUPS
Go past the promotional aspect of Cardio Tennis and realize that this is a serious concept with serious benefits to everyone, including competitive players. If you don’t have enough courts to keep everyone playing at all times, rotate people through other activities such as agility ladders, jump ropes, etc.

Picture a dozen people on two courts running through drills and stations, including hitting balls, quickstepping through agility ladders, and more, all to the beat of dance music that would get anyone’s foot tapping. Best of all, properly run Cardio Tennis programs adapt for all levels of play, even beginners. Instead of normal tennis balls, beginners will have quick success with high-bouncing foam tennis balls or slow-bouncing regular tennis balls in short-court areas, and even trying junior racquets to ensure greater fun and control. Compare Cardio Tennis to the boring option of riding a stationary bicycle in a sweaty fitness center, and you’ll quickly realize that the buzz and excitement for Cardio is justified. Participants will get a great cardio workout, burn a lot of calories, hit a lot of tennis balls and do a lot of running. Cardio Tennis was recently introduced to tennis teaching pros in February at the USTA’s Community Tennis Development Workshop in Destin, Fla., and at the PTR

Cardio Tennis Drill Ideas
Here’s a drill for beginners that can even work well for tournament players: Start players on the baseline with a ball in hand. Blow a whistle. Have them run toward the net and self-feed a short overhead once they are inside the service box. Let them smash it. They will get exercise, have fun, and even start building tennis skills, all at the same time. For competitive players, try this drill: Play “no-ad running games,” where the server has to run at the end of each point to set up and serve the next ball. The server doesn’t have to wait for the receiver to be ready. This should get the receiver moving fast as well.

OPPORTUNITIES TO ADVANCE FROM GROUP TO GROUP
Don’t forget that everyone wants to improve. The potential to move up from one group to the next can be a great motivator. Here are some general suggestions to consider in trying out any of these ideas: Q Set a minimum required number for any class to be conducted. Set your fees based on the local market for group tennis lessons and also for group fitness classes at your local gym. Q Treat this concept as a “business within a business.” It is a serious opportunity to build your customer base and enhance your bottom line. Remember that every committed tennis player you gain is literally worth thousands of dol-

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lars in revenue over the life of his or her tennis career. Q Make sure you become an approved Cardio Tennis site. Then you will get a kit of tools to help you market your Cardio Tennis program. Go to www.partners.cardiotennis.com for more information. Keep in mind that only approved sites can receive these tools. Q The bandwagon is already there. You just need to jump on it. A national media campaign will be launched around the 2005 US Open. In addition to promotional information available when you become an official Cardio Tennis site, you can also reprint copies of magazine ads, put links on your own website, scan and send exciting stories about Cardio Tennis as attachments on group emails, or use available graphics and logos to create your own fliers. Above all, have fun. Fitness and fun go hand-in-hand and that’s what Cardio Tennis is all about. Q
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the Head/Penn and Reebok National Speaker’s Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.

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RETAIL SECRETS

65 KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL RETAILING
We asked leading specialty retailers and others in the tennis sales business to share their hottest tips for success so you, too, can increase your profits.
COMPILED BY MITCH RUSTAD
Q Change up your merchandise by moving things around every two or three weeks. You’ll be amazed at how things will get noticed by just moving it from a wall display to a floor rack or vice versa. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Try to offer a wide range of apparel, so some lines are geared toward a younger, hip look, and some are classic for more mature customers. It’s important to understand the different technical fabrics, and know what different customers are looking for in terms of fit. —Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo. Q In apparel, carry a mix of the big-name brands and smaller lines, to offer your customers the best variety possible. —Chris Gaudreau, Racquet Koop, New Haven, Conn. Q Display your merchandise in the most appealing way possible. A great display seduces the customer into spending more time in your shop—and eventually buying more as well. —Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York Q Presentation is very important to the first impression. If a customer walks in and you have a poster of Jimmy Connors on the wall, it limits your ability to connect with today's consumer. The store needs have a 2008 look to it. Today's tennis is technical and so you need to look as if you know exactly what you’re talking about. —Dustin Perry, Prince Sports Q Every time you get a new line, print up a flier or email everyone and tell your customers about new arrivals. You need to advertise you have new products and create a sense of urgency. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q With every restring job, we give away a free can of balls, and we’ve built up our stringing business. —Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz. Q Whether it be customization, stringing, or pure product knowledge, the more you know, the more you can do for your customer, and the more reason for that consumer to continue to go to your store. —Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Völkl Tennis

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Q Forty-percent of any apparel buy is color-driven. Include luscious colors, like mangos and teals, to your selection. —Maria Stefan, president, Ellesse USA Q Closeouts (especially shoes) should be displayed right on the sales floor, which let’s customers personally pick and choose and serve themselves, saving your staff time in the process. —Dale Queen, Your Serve, Atlanta Q Sponsor a local tennis league so that all the members get a shop discount. That promotes tennis and your shop. —Dustin Perry, Prince Sports Q Make an extra effort to give customers the right shoe the first time. If you get them fitted properly the first time, that gives them a good first impression, and they’ll be back. —Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla. Q Carrying as a wide selection of footwear brands as possible is definitely the way to go. —Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif. Q Negotiating a sponsorship with an individual vendor and becoming a partner could make sense for some retailers. Many manufacturers are in the mood to consider a variety of partnerships in today’s competitive retail environment. —Kim Lutian, Van der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C. Q Make sure your customers demo several models—based on their style of play, tastes, etc.—and then help them make the best decision. Rather than making the quick sale of the latest racquet, by allowing the customer to be part of the decision, you will gain a long-term customer instead of a one-time sale. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Closeouts can sometimes help you sell the new stuff, because a lot of the people who come in looking for halfprice merchandise end up buying things at full price. —Dale Queen, Your Serve, Atlanta Q Make sure you’ve got compatible replacement shoe models in stock when old favorites are phased out. Let your staff know exactly what’s going away and what is going to be replacing it. —Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati Q Don’t forget to cross-merchandise. Put your bags near your racquet wall, and socks next to footwear, so when they buy one, they buy the other that supports it. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q Always stock the latest racquets and be up on the newest technology. That’s why you’re considered a specialty store. —Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami

Q For better inventory turnover, keep your model stock on the low side. It’s better for cash flow and avoids product obsolescence. You should turn your stock at least four times a year. —Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York Q Knowledge of the game is everything. —Dee Langford, Tom & Dee’s Tennis Shop, Louisville, Ky. Q Engage company reps as much as possible. Our reps are a wonderful source of information and guidance when it comes to what products to stock and what items are hot. They can also help tremendously with advertising dollars and co-op in-store promotions. —Kim Cashman, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla. Q Focus your apparel buying on what is selling well and what your customer is requesting. You’ll end up with increased sales and happier customers. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Have a strong demo program. Our demo program costs $30 for 30 days, and a customer can test two racquets at a time, and test as many as they’d like in that time. —Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz. Q Keep a close eye on the big three expenses—rent, advertising and salaries—which should represent about one-third of your overhead. If you keep those in line, profits will follow. —Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York Q Bring in one or more local ladies to help you pick your apparel inventory. Men will buy anything, but women are much more selective. My sales have gone up since I’ve had women select my inventory. I give them a free outfit for their time. —Chris Gaudreau, Racquet Koop, New Haven, Conn. Q Learn everything you can about racquet service. Get certified as a USRSA Certified Stringer or Master Racquet Technician, and then promote your status as a certified expert. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q You should have three to four demos for every “hot” racquet in your shop, in a variety of grip sizes. Restring and regrip demos every two months so the racquet will keep playing like new. —Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York Q Set up an information bulletin board or kiosk in your shop to display local tennis information. Provide a place for local tournament entry forms and league information, and provide tournament T-shirts (don’t forget to add your logo) or other gifts to participants. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.

26 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

Q Use point-of-purchase materials offered by manufacturers to make your store an exciting place to visit. —Kim Cashman, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla. Q Try creating boutiques for your products by brand. If you have a very small shop, try cross-merchandising. Put the junior racquets, junior apparel and junior shoes all together in one area. If a mom comes in for a junior racquet for her little one, she may end up buying an outfit and new shoes, as well as the racquet. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Work very closely with your local teaching pros. They have a great influence in the local community. —Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami Q Create a blowout section, so if a customer is looking for a deal, not what’s hot, they know to go to that section of the store, because there’s always a new deal or special or value buy there. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q Don’t hassle anyone over return merchandise, even though some may take advantage of it. Mostly, customers really appreciate it. —Leon Echavarria, Racquet World, Miami Q Try to be a shop that has everything. We specialize all the time. We even have bumper guards and grommets for every racquet we stock. —Pam Ponwith, All About Tennis, Scottsdale, Ariz. Q We always try to have something on closeout, so there’s always something on sale for people. There are always people that don’t have or aren’t willing to spend the money, so you’ll lose them if you don’t offer a sale or closeout. —Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla. Q Create a great demo program. If you offer back what you charge people as a credit, it allows the customer to invest in your store. It’s super-valuable. —Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo. Q Don’t take 15 minutes before you say hello to a customer. Get to know them. That’s the first step to increasing any sale, but especially in footwear—it’s more hands-on than any other category. —Bruce Dayton, tennis sales manager, Diadora Q Think margins all the time. I would rather make 50 percent margins on less volume than 35 percent margins on 50 percent more volume. The additional labor and administrative costs can put you at a much lower net profit. —Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York

Q Internet sales are certainly increasing, and some specialty retailers are selling on the ’net as well, so the smart retailers will have an online presence. —Keith Storey, vice president, Sports Marketing Surveys Q Model your presentation like a large department store—including the signage, the lighting, the props, even the way the merchandise is displayed. Does your shop or store look like a department store on a smaller scale? The big guys spend a lot of money and research on finding what works and what makes their products sell. With a little effort and very little expense, you can boost your sales. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Keep talking to your rep constantly, to keep in touch with the latest footwear trends. It’s crucial to react quickly to what the stars are wearing, and to adjust futures accordingly. —Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati Q Always remember to ask your customer if they need grips, dampeners, etc., when they’re at the register, because the afterthought products can be sold there. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q Exceptional personal service and expertise will keep customers coming back. —Dee Langford, Tom & Dee’s Tennis Shop, Louisville, Ky. Q Most of the people buying shoes are repeat customers, so it’s important to provide a comfortable area for customers to try shoes on, ask questions and just take their time. —Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif. Q Promote tennis in your community! If tennis participation is stagnant or declining, your business is likely to follow that same dismal path. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Organizing your shoe wall by categories—new arrivals, in-line, specials, and closeouts—can be a highly effective means of showcasing your inventory. —Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati Q Buyers would be wise to focus their attention on performance shoes—not entry-level brands—to keep footwear customers coming back and to establish higher-end brand loyalty. —Betsy Bromley, Advantage Yours, Clearwater, Fla. Q When you merchandise racquets on the wall, organize them based on player types, so the consumer understands which frames are geared toward power, control, or player frames. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods

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27

Q There are always people requesting different shoe widths. There’s a real market for it, so I try to carry a variety of widths for men and women. —Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif. Q Every specialty tennis shop should carry a low-end product for tennis, squash, and racquetball. Take the opportunity to service every level of customer; in time, they will more than likely come back to buy that second racquet. —Dustin Perry, Prince Sports Q When you know you have a slew of new product coming in, be sure to mark down your old inventory—sooner rather than later—to make enough room for the new shipment. —Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati Q For each season’s apparel, do a storyboard of all the lines you want to carry. This helps you mix it up so you don’t end up duplicating colors from all the different manufacturers. —Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo. Q Offering a wide range of strings and various grips will give you an opportunity to create unique set-ups for your customers. This helps you separate yourself from the competition and establishes you as the expert in your area. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Know your product and its technology so you can sell any product based on its performance, and not just rely on the fact that it’s used by a superstar pro player. —Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Völkl Tennis Q If you’ve got five pairs of old shoes left, don’t display them next to the new, higher priced models. —Greg Wolf, Midwest Sports, Cincinnati Q A customer might take a closer look at a more expensive shoe if it has a warranty. —Dan Oh, Dan’s Sports Racquets, Simi Valley, Calif. Q The most successful retailers think outside the box. Too many shop managers choose items based on their own personal preferences rather than putting themselves in the consumer's shoes. —Dustin Perry, Prince Sports

Q To keep the look of your store fresh, re-merchandise every 30 days or so, especially your apparel. —Steve Vorhaus, Rocky Mountain Racquet Specialists, Boulder, Colo. Q If your shop is at a tennis facility, organize a tennis carnival with some of your vendors. Have racquet demos and skills contest for players and beginner clinics for potential players. If your store doesn’t have courts, make arrangements with a nearby facility to host an event with you. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala. Q Every time you sell a new racquet, offer a very affordable string upgrade. This lets the customer test something they’d normally not get, and you’ve very likely created a higher end string consumer and increased your profitability. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q Think proactively. Instead of waiting for someone to walk into the store, drive retail sales into your shop by sponsoring teaching pros to represent your products. Give them each a store demo bag imprinted with your logo for product placement out in the field, so the pro can help influence the customer and drive business into your store. —Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing & Promotions, Völkl Tennis Q To sell more footwear, let customers know they can and should try things on in the store, and spend more time with them. —Bruce Dayton, tennis sales manager, Diadora Q Don’t forget added-value programs. If a customer buys a new racquet, offer them a bag at a discount. Offer a free pair of socks with a shoe purchase. Give them extra incentives, because cross promotions are always very successful. —Jon Muir, Wilson Sporting Goods Q To sell more racquets—listen! Engage the customer in a discussion about their game. Let them tell you what they like and don’t like about their current racquet. —Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, Ala.

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COURT CONSTRUCTION

TENNIS’S BOOM TIME
Keeping your baby-boomers happy will lead to more business for your facility.
BY MARY HELEN SPRECHER

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on’t look now, but those weekend warriors who just a few short years ago were drilling shots across the court are now asking for recommendations on a sports medicine specialist. They’re talking to your pro about shoes that offer a little more support, inserts that cushion their feet. They’re wearing (say it isn’t so) sunscreen with SPF 45. Kind of unsettling, isn’t it? After all, these are the players who used to tough out their injuries, rarely took water breaks, and played for hours on end. And you as a club owner or manager are left wondering how long the courts can hold them before they head off to another pursuit—something less strenuous, lower-impact. Bocce, anyone? The Random House Dictionary defines a baby-boomer as “a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965.” These days, the babyboomer market is gradually becoming the aging-baby-boomer market, since the upper end of that generational curve is looking straight at retirement. And while they’re not about to stop being active, they are putting on the brakes. Or at least they’re pumping the brakes. The injuries are catching up to them, and the first worries of brittle bones and bad knees are making themselves known. The good news is that baby-boomers are the most active, health-conscious demographic in history. And with a little imagination and know-how, you can harness those qualities, keeping the boomers on your courts. After all, the groundwork has already been laid. Boomers are social animals who resist the idea of being sedentary. “Instead of bridge or afternoon tea, it is now hiking, canoeing, swimming, and tennis,” says David Marsden, chairman of the American Sports Builders Association, the trade association for sports facility contractors, designers and suppliers. Marsden says that in his Massachusetts-based firm, Boston Tennis Court Construction, “Much of our new court construction is geared to that age group, one that is interest-

ed in good health, competition and social events—perfect for tennis.” More good news. Boomers have a lot to spend. In fact, spending among the baby-boomers is up—way up. “By 2010, spending by people 45 and older is projected to be a trillion dollars greater than spending by people between the ages of 18 and 39,” says John Welborn of Lee Tennis in Charlottesville, Va. Welborn, who cited the statistic in a recent ASBA meeting, says that in order to keep boomers on the court, it is important to “help them visualize themselves getting what they want through tennis.” Want to learn how to keep your boomers in the fold—and on the court? You’ve come to the right place.

Court Surfaces
The first thing that comes to mind regarding an aging population is the type of court your facility offers. Courts are classified by surface, the most common being an all-weather surface or so-called “hard court”—asphalt or concrete with a layer of acrylic coloring. It’s easy to take care of and unless it’s pouring rain or covered with snow, it’s always ready for play. And generally speaking, it is also the fastest type of tennis surface—one that favors a serve-and-volley game. The only downside of hard courts is, well, they’re hard. And in tennis, which is, after all, a game of running, and of frequent stops and starts, that adds up to impact on joints—especially ankles, knees, and hips. Do you have fast courts and a boomer clientele? Here’s something you might not know: Hard courts can be tuned to bring about a slightly slower game that is, in the long run, easier on joints. Ask a tennis court contractor for recommendations. In play, an acrylic court is fast because the smooth surface causes the ball to skid and come off the surface at a low angle, making it harder to reach. Changing the texture of the surface

30 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

screened and mixed with a chemical binder. Because of their (even slightly) by making it rougher highly textured surface, these courts provide medium to slow through additives to the color coating play and offer slide. The fine material on the surface grabs the can help “grab” the ball and slow it ball, creating a higher, slower bounce, which gives players down. The rougher the texture, the slower the game. more time and less bending. It’s a marriage of characteristics What does this do for your players? the older players love. It gives them more of a strategy game, “My first recommendation is for fast-dry courts,” says for one. Older players can’t match the George Todd Jr. of Welch Tennis Courts Inc. in Sun City, Fla. twenty-somethings for speed. Help Todd admits, though, that what often gives court owners them replace slams and smashes with pause is not so much cost of installation, but long-term spendlonger rallies and a shot placement/spin ing prospects; in other words, “the concern of maintenance type of game. David Schobel, the cost.” USTA’s director of Community Tennis Maintenance of clay or fast-dry courts is a process, rather Competitive Programs, calls tennis than an event. Daily maintenance includes brooming, watering, and rolling. The courts also require annual reconditioning “moving chess,” and it’s this image you and they’re easily damaged (although easily repaired). can keep in mind when addressing the Soft courts won’t work everywhere. Where temperatures needs of your boomers. stay below freezing for long periods, the season is too short. Want to take it a step further? Ask Where there is frequent freeze and thaw, the courts will alteryour court contractor about another seniornate between being hard and unplayable, and mushy and friendly option: cushioned hard courts. Here, unpleasant. And where there is not sufficient staff to mainthe forgiving layer is added before the application of regular color coating. Cushion layers range from tain soft courts, it is best to rule them out immediately. factory manufactured sheet goods to poured-in-place liqThe problem is, everyone wants the same thing. “Ease of uid products. The systems range in depth from 1/16-inch to maintenance, less wear and tear on the body, convenience,” 1/2-inch and vary in resiliency and durability. Cushioning says Marsden. “And sometimes these are mutually exclusive, so compromises are necessary. I only recommend a particusoftens the effects of running on a hard surface and often, lar surface after I can gauge what the prospective buyer seeks. can be combined with texture to create a slower, lowerFor instance, if a player wants the softest surface available impact game. with no regard for maintenance issues, I recommend a clayOne thing to note: Cushioned surfaces, in general, do not provide slide. When a player runs and stops, the impact is still type surface. If maintenance is a concern, I recommend a absorbed by the joints. However, there are now systems on cushioned acrylic surface.” the market in which a free-floating rubber sheet is attached only at the perimeter of the court. When a player stops, the rubber mat moves slightly, creating a small wrinkle in front Hard and fast courts can be tuned for slowness or converted of the foot, and downplaying the impact. to cushioned courts—even to soft courts—by an experienced Maintenance of textured and/or cushioned courts is the contractor. But if you’re serious about making your facility same as that of hard courts—sweeping or hosing the surface boomer-friendly, don’t stop at the surface. Think about the to keep it clean. Resurfacing is necessary every three to five overall ambience. years. The cushion can be damaged by improper footwear, “Older players are generally bothered by younger players blows, sharp objects, or heavy loads, so make sure your users and would prefer that they play separately,” says Todd. He are as nice to the court as it is to their joints. Woodfield Country Club, Boca Raton, FL Another option popular with aging athletes is courts made of granular material— clay or fast dry. These have an earthen subbase, a layer of crushed stone, a layer of fine stone and a top layer of natural clay or, more commonly, fast-dry material. The fast-dry material is made of crushed stone, crushed tile, or crushed burnt brick,

Amenities

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Serena Williams or Anna Kournikova. And, try as they might, not everyone maintains a hardbody as they age. While older players want to keep fit and look great, few will opt for low-rise skirts or shorts, midriffbearing tops, or edgy outfits. Including some attractive, fashionable tenniswear that fits all body types may well increase sales.

Visual Issues
There are other factors at work. For example, you’ve given a lot of thought to your players’ joints, but what about Mirasol Country Club Tennis Facility, Palm Beach Garden, FL their eyes? Ankles, says that older players also enjoy a shaded viewing area knees, and hips aren’t the only things that age. “located some distance from the court so that people not “Human eyes deteriorate throughout adult life, noticeably involved in the match have a comfortable area in which to after the age of 40,” says Bruce Frasure of LSI Courtsider Lightview the match. It generates more interest in the game, par- ing, a tennis court lighting manufacturer in Cincinnati. “Less ticularly in a public setting.” light reaches the back of the eyes in older people. The result is Unlike their “go hard and go home” days, many boomers a reduction in contrast, sharpness of objects, and vividness of may be retired—or at least partially so—and thus able to colors. In general, higher light levels will help older adults see enjoy the social aspects of tennis. They’re more likely to play more clearly.” doubles, and to sit in the shade and catch up with one anothTennis balls are manufactured in a color known as optic er after a match. If refreshments are available, they’ll stay yellow, which is easy for the eye to track as it moves along. even longer. Don’t forget that more doubles players equals Soft-court surfaces are either red or green, but hard surface more efficient court use, in terms of programming. courts come in a variety of colors. For older players, a twoYou can’t (and of course, you shouldn’t) restrict court use tone court may make it easier to differentiate between in-play to youngsters, boomers, tweeners, or anyone else. But you and out-of-bounds shots. Darker colors allow for best visibility. can carve out private areas through creative use of landscap- Windscreens, in addition to ensuring privacy, will cut glare. ing and windscreens, even in places where courts are close In cooler weather, retired baby-boomers may keep your together. Making sure there are sources of chilled drinking courts full during the work week, given proper promotion and water, telephones in case of emergencies, trash cans (with programming. But when hot weather comes, older individuals lids), and even stacks of clean towels can turn tennis facilities often prefer to play in the evenings or at night, after the heat into more inviting places for everyone. of the day. If your facility sees a lot of p.m. play, consult with a lighting contractor who can evaluate your lighting levels and make recommendations. The older tennis population isn’t a fluke—it’s a fact. AccordSofter, slower games. Better, brighter lighting. More coming to Schobel, “There are national age-group championships fortable, inviting facilities. Social programming. Comfy for players from 30 to 90 for the men, in five-year increclothes. In many cases, getting up to speed with the babyments, and women from 30 to 85.” boomer generation means knowing how to slow down.Q Consider programming that will bring everyone together The non-profit American Sports Builders Association helps without making older players feel self-conscious. Try a “cendesigners, builders, owners, operators, and users understand tury” tournament, where the ages of the players (either two quality sports facility construction. The ASBA offers informaplayers in a singles match, or each side of the net during a tive meetings and publications on tennis courts and running doubles match) must equal 100. You could have 60-year-olds tracks. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications playing 40-year-olds, 10-year-olds with 90-year-olds—you offered by the ASBA, as well as the association’s Membership name it. Directory. For more information, contact 866-501-ASBA Take the time to ensure that your pro shop’s stock appeals (2722) or www.sportsbuilders.org. to your targeted age group. Not everyone wants to dress like

Programming

32 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

RSI/ASBA OUTSTANDING FACILITY-OF-THE-YEAR AWARDS

PRIVATE RETREATS
C
all them the seven sisters of residential courts. These seven winners of the Racquet Sports Industry/American Sports Builders Association 2004 Facility-of-the-Year Awards are all gorgeous examples of the best of residential court construction, all from seven different contractors. All of these projects are new construction. Four of the winners utilized acrylic hard-court surfaces; the other three are soft courts, using Lee Tennis products. All three soft courts have sub-surface irrigation systems, which keep the surfaces watered properly and also help to conserve water. The owners of five of the properties opted to install lights for night play, while three of the four hard-court projects added basketball hoops to get double-duty from the

These residential court winners are examples of great form and function.
surface. Only one of the seven (Lexington, Mass.) included a backboard. The most significant obstacles to construction appeared to be in handling drainage and flooding problems. In some instances, retaining walls and dry wells needed to be installed to keep excess water off the courts. As you can see from the photos, contractors, working with owners, showed their creativity in creating landscaping, retaining walls and fencing. In one instance, for the court in Palm Beach, Fla., a 20-foot portion of the fence was installed on rollers, so it can be slid out of the way to not impede the view from the house. But creating beautiful views is what it’s all about for these sisters. Q —Peter Francesconi

Lexington, Mass.
(Nominated by Cape & Island Tennis & Track, Pocasset, Mass.)
Contractor: Cape & Island Tennis & Track Surface: Plexipave (California Products) Backboard: Bakko Bak Bord Lighting: Courtsider Sports Lighting Aerosystem (LSI Industries) Fencing: Cape & Island Tennis & Track

For details on the 2005 Outstanding Tennis Facility Awards, contact the ASBA at 866-501-ASBA or email info@sportsbuilders.org.

34 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

Greensboro, N.C.
(Nominated by Oehler Court Co. Inc., Dunham, N.C.)
Contractor: Oehler Court Co. Architect/Engineer: Al Davis Surface: Hydro Court (Lee Tennis) Lighting: LSI Nets & Net Posts: J.A. Cissel Manufacturing

Morgantown, Pa.
(Nominated by Horizon Sports Group, Coopersburg, Pa.)
Contractor: Horizon Sports Group Surface: Nova Sports Lighting: Techlight Nets & Posts: Ball Products

New Vernon, N.J.
(Nominated by The Racquet Shop Inc., Colts Neck, N.J.)
Contractor: the Racquet Shop Inc. Surface: Har Tru (Lee Tennis)

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Palm Beach, Fla.
(Nominated by Fast Dry Courts, Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Architect/Engineer/Contractor: Fast Dry Courts Surface: Lee Hydroblend (Lee Tennis) Lighting: TE 1000 (RLS Lighting) Subsurface Irrigation: Lee Tennis Net Posts, Line Tapes: Lee Tennis Windscreens, Net: BP International Trench Drain: Zurn Industries

Rye, N.Y.
(Nominated by DeRosa Tennis Contractors Inc., Mamaroneck, N.Y.)
Contractor: DeRosa Tennis Contractors, Inc. Surface: Deco Systems Net Posts: Lee Tennis Net: J.A. Cissel Manufacturing

West Linn, Ore.
(Nominated by Atlas Track & Tennis, Tualatin, Ore.)
Contractor: Atlas Track & Tennis Surface: Plexipave (California Products) Net & Strap: Court 1 Sports Inc.

36 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

RACQUETS

PLAYER’S CHOICE
HEAD Flexpoint Radical and Flexpoint 6
By now, you’ve probably seen Andre Agassi playing with a new Radical. It’s one of the racquets Head has introduced this spring featuring Flexpoint technology, which consists of holes and dimples in the head, at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, for added control. How does it work? When you hit the ball with a conventional frame, it flexes at the throat. This causes a loss of power and control, because the ball is leaving the string bed at a slightly askew angle. Head says the Flexpoint technology allows the head to bend on impact in a way that will cup the ball, lessen the throat bend, and increase the accuracy of your shots. The Head Flexpoint Radical is available in three models, all for strong intermediates and advanced players: an 11-ounce, 98-square-inch mid-plus, an 11ounce, 107-square-inch oversize (Agassi’s weapon of choice), and a 100-square-inch, 12-ounce Tour edition (which Juan Carlos Ferrero endorses). “It seems I can stay with the ball longer and through it better,” says Agassi. “When I’m stretched out, I feel like I’m controlling the ball better.” If the Radical is too heavy for you or your customer, check out the lighter and more user-friendly Flexpoint 6. From the TiS6 to the iS6 to the i.X6, the number 6 has figured prominently in the lexicon of Head. It’s always signified a racquet that’s ideal for “tweeners,” players between intermediate and advanced levels. Ditto the Flexpoint 6 mid-plus. With a 102-square-inch head and medium weight of around 10 ounces, it’s ideal for the majority of players who need an all-purpose stick that’ll give them an excellent blend of power and control with a medium to long swing. The Flexpoint 6 also comes in an oversize, but “tweeners” beware. With more weight in the head, the oversize is suited to players with short strokes who prioritize power over control. 800-289-7366; www.head.com.

The newest offerings from the racquet manufacturers have something for all types of player, and all styles of play.
WILSON n4

BY JAMES MARTIN

In standard racquets, tiny voids exist between the carbon fibers, which create stress points and weaken the frame. For the n4, like other Wilson nCode racquets, designers filled those voids by injecting silicon oxide crystals into the frame. The result is a powerful, head-heavy, lightweight racquet in a mid-plus and oversize, both of which are aimed at aggressive baseliners like the pro who plays with the oversize, Venus Williams. 800-272-6060; www.wilson.com.

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PRINCE O3 Tour and Shark MP LB
You were intrigued by the O3 Red and Silver racquets that came out earlier this year, but disappointed that Prince was waiting until late spring to introduce a third frame for elite players. Well, the wait is over. Used by Guillermo Coria, the new O3 Tour has the large, grommet-less string holes, dubbed O-Ports, in the head that create a more forgiving string bed with an above-average sweetspot. But perhaps the racquet’s greatest asset is its high degree of maneuverability, thanks to the head-light balance and the O-Ports, which make the frame more aerodynamic. Indeed, although the Tour weighs 11.5 ounces, you’ll swear it feels more like an 11-ounce stick. Advanced all-courters, who swing fast and furious, will find that this racquet helps them impart tons of spin on the ball for heavy topspin drives and acute angled passing shots. The other new racquet from Prince is the Shark MP LB—as in mid-plus, LongBody. Maria Sharapova helped make the original model popular, but she actually uses an extralong version like this one, to get more leverage and power on her shots (she hits the ball a ton, if you hadn’t noticed). The Shark also has a modified cushioned handle for vibration dampening, and Sweet Spot Expansion System: larger grommet holes to allow for more string movement, which in turn enlarges the sweetspot. 800-283-6647; www.princetennis.com.

DUNLOP Maxply McEnroe and M-Fil Five-Hundred
Any racquet with McEnroe’s name should get players’ attention. And, in fact, Dunlop designed this racquet, which is a graphite version of the well-known woody from the early 1980s, for the king of the senior tour. First and foremost, the Maxply McEnroe is a stiff racquet along the lines of the 500G. It has the heavy weight (11-plus ounces) of the 200G, and it features the mid-plus head of the 300G. These attributes create a racquet that’ll appeal to older tournament players, like Mac, searching for a little more pop on their groundstrokes and volleys. And Dunlop has also added another stick to its M-Fil line. The M-Fil Five-Hundred (the M-Fil stands for the multi-filament fibers added to the racquet’s construction to provide more feel) is designed for good club players and juniors seeking a lightweight, powerful racquet. 800-277-8000; www.dunlopsports.com.

YONEX NSRQ-8, NSRQ-7, and NSRQ-5
It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything from Yonex. But the company has three new models this summer. In each one, designers use ultra-stiff, ultra-light Nano carbon in the throat (for power) and traditional, flexible graphite in the head (for feel). The NSRQ-8, with a 110-square-inch head, offers the most power and is for club players. The NSRQ-7, which comes in a very flexible mid-plus and a slightly firmer oversize, will appeal to strong players (we’re thinking juniors) who want something in the 10-ounce range that still packs a decent punch. And then you’ve got the most control-oriented frame of the bunch, the 10.1-ounce NSRQ-5. 310-793-3800; www.yonex.com.
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WEB MARKETING

NET CONNECTION
Improved customer service and convenience have made TennisConnect.org a hit with tennis facilities across the country.
BY KRISTEN DALEY

L

inking tennis players to other players, facilities, and organizations is a reality for the nearly 100 tennis facilities and CTAs that have taken advantage of the Tennis Industry Association’s TennisConnect.org software since its launch last October. With the TennisConnect.org technology, increasing communication and frequency of play has been made as quick and easy as a click of a mouse. Features like the court scheduler, program calendar, and online registration help keep a facility’s members or patrons up to date about tennis opportunities, and the “player match” engine connects them with others of similar age, location, ability and other characteristics. Currently, about 25 percent of the operations online with TennisConnect.org are public parks, 8 percent are CTAs, and the balance is private or membership facilities. As of late March, more than 30,000 tennis players have registered on TennisConnect.org, and more than 100,000 court reservations have been made using the system. “We’re in the information age now,” says Ken Olivier (left), former director of the Faulkner Tennis Complex in Tyler, Texas. “People want info and they want it now. And that’s what this software provides.” “Facility operators cannot overlook the power of the internet and the opportunities it provides to grow your business,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “We did a lot of research to find a product that is very easy to use, requires no technical training and can have a facility looking like an expert webmaster to their members and their community. “The TIA in following our mission statement—promoting the growth of tennis and economic vitality—realizes the importance of giving facility operators this packaged web marketing tool [TennisConnect],” de Boer adds. “This product has already had a significant impact in how people are promoting tennis and connecting to players.”

March. “I built the whole site myself, because it’s a simple system,” he says. Olivier says the applications available through TennisConnect.org software were just what the public membership facility needed to help it grow. The resulting website, www.faulknertennis.com, was used as a marketing tool and helped the facility simplify court reservations. “We’ve seen an increase in customer satisfaction and court reservations,” says Olivier of his former facility, which is planning to promote the website in an upcoming $20,000 advertising campaign. Olivier plans to incorporate TennisConnect software at the two facilities he now runs in Topeka, Kan., the Wood Valley Racquet Club and Fitness Center and the Kossover Tennis Center. Also while in Texas, Olivier used the software to create a website for the Northeast Texas Coalition Tennis Association, www.netxcta.org. At the site, visitors can access information or links to 10 different CTAs in the region. Olivier credits the website with helping the coalition secure a $20,000 grant from the USTA Texas Section this year.

Promoting Programs
Tennis operations like Faulkner and the Lake Naomi Tennis Center, a private, seasonal facility in Pocono Pines, Pa., are taking advantage of the ability to promote their tennis programming through their new websites. “I love the calendar,” says Lake Naomi Tennis Director Bobby McKee (right), applauding the ease with which visitors can navigate the feature simply by choosing a month, getting a comprehensive list of programs and having the option to register online. “I think the easier you make things for people, the more they are going to do it,” he adds. “With calendars, tennis facilities can place all of their activities online—it makes it convenient for the player and is a big promotional tool for the facility with no costs for printing, postage, etc.,” explains de Boer. “Plus, this product allows group emailing features that can keep a player and facility in touch and informed.” Recently, the calendar’s reach has grown by leaps and bounds through search engines incorporated onto sites like Tennis.com (the official website of Tennis magazine), MyTennisCenter.com, and soon TheTennisChannel.com. Programs and

Create Your Own Site
All of TennisConnect.org’s features can be accessed 24/7 from any computer with an internet connection. Creating and updating the site is easy for facility operators, who have the support of the software’s creators. Olivier utilized the TennisConnect.org software at Faulkner, where he worked until this

40 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

facilities marked as “Open to the Public” are made accessible through these engines, and the listings include links to the host facility’s website. Tennis.com soft-launched the TennisConnect.org software on its site in mid-March, in conjunction with Tennis.com’s 10th anniversary celebration and site redesign. “This is a very important tool for our visitors because it helps them play more tennis,” says Liza Horan, director of Tennis.com. Visitors to the site can use the engine to find facilities, programs, tournaments, players, and more.

Improving Customer Service
New to TennisConnect.org is a webcam option/feature. “The idea for the webcam is to provide a real ‘view’ of the court conditions,” says Charlie Ruddy, TennisConnect.org’s developer. “From a customer-service standpoint, this capability should also cut down on phone calls to the clubhouse in the hour or so before league play or busy clinics.” Keith Wheeler (left), executive tennis director at the Orindawoods Tennis Club in Orinda, Calif., had seen webcams featured on ski area websites and approached Ruddy about the possibility of adding one to his site. The club premiered its webcam in March. “You can go right on the site and see what’s going on,” says Wheeler. At the John Drew Smith and Tatnall Tennis Centers in Macon, Ga., the TennisConnect.org software is not only used to generate interest and business from tennis players, but also to

cultivate relationships with potential tournament sponsors. Carl Hodge (right), director of the two public facilities, uses a website created with TennisConnect.org to attract sponsors for the many tournaments it hosts, including local, regional, state, and national events. “We run large events, from 300 to 1,200 people at time,” says Hodge. On www.MaconTennisConnect.org, visitors can find links to the local sponsor hotels, making the site a one-stop spot to plan their tournament experience, a benefit for all involved. Improved customer service and convenience has been one of the biggest benefits for facilities using TennisConnect.org. “The new site provides members access to the services they need and the information they want even when no person is available to help them,” Wheeler says of the Orindawoods website, created with the software. Adds de Boer, “The TIA is packaging solutions so facilities can concentrate on running tennis programs and know that the TIA has user-friendly tools to help them offer better customer service through online convenience. ” “In a nutshell, it’s an interactive software,” says Olivier. “Used correctly, it’s a way to drive business. It’s an excellent product that the TIA has developed.” Q

For more information on TennisConnect.org, visit ww.TennisIndustry.org or call 843-686-3036.

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string Wilson Reaction 16
Reaction is a new multifilament string that Wilson is aiming at competition players and big hitters who are looking for a firm, crisp string that offers control and good tension maintenance.
Reaction is constructed from prestretched thermoset microfibers with tritwist polyamide fibers. The fibers are bonded together using a pressure-injected resin process. According to Wilson, the pre-stretched thermoset microfibers improve tension maintenance, while the tri-twist polyamide fibers improve touch. Reaction is available in 15L, 16, 17, and 18 in natural only. It is priced from $10.50 per set, and $130 for reels of 660 feet (the reels are available in 16 and 17 gauges only). For more information or to order, contact Wilson at (800) 946-6060, or visit www.wilsontennis.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about getting a free set to try for yourself. ings from 3.5 to 6. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages, to reduce preconceptions and biases regarding manufacturers, type of construction, and materials. The average number of hours playtested was 25.9. No playtester broke his sample during stringing, none reported problems with coil memory or tying knots, and three reported minor a problem with friction burn.

PLAYTEST

ON THE COURT
Wilson Reaction scored highly with the members of our playtest team, especially in the Comfort category, where it achieved the third highest rating of the 88 strings we’ve tested to date. Reaction also scored well above average in a remarkable four categories: Playability, Power, Control, and Touch/Feel. It also achieved above-average scores in three related categories: Durability, Tension Holding, and Resistance to Movement. The high ratings in eight out of our nine categories combine to give Wilson Reaction an overall rating well above average. Ten playtesters broke Reaction during the playtest period, two at five hours, one at seven hours, one at eight hours, two at 15 hours, one at 18 hours, one at 30 hours, one at 35 hours, and one at 40 hours.

crisper feel in a string with good control and durability, Wilson Reaction could be just the ticket. If you are a USRSA member and think that Wilson Reaction might be for you, fill out the coupon to get a free set to try. —Greg Raven Q EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings) Number of testers who said it was: much easier 0 somewhat easier 11 about as easy 25 not quite as easy 1 not nearly as easy 1

IN THE LAB
We tested the 16 gauge Reaction. The coil measured 40 feet 7.5 inches. The diameter measured 1.33 mm prior to stringing, and 1.25 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 73 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 68 RDC units, representing a 7 percent tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9 percent tension loss. Reaction added 14.9 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame. Reaction strings up easily, due to its multifilament construction, although it does elongate a bit during tensioning. Because it is so soft, blocked holes require a little patience. Tapering 1/2-inch of the end of the string should be enough to get the string through all but the most difficult holes, however. The string was tested for five weeks by 38 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP rat-

OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often) Number of testers who said it was: much better 0 somewhat better 11 about as playable 15 not quite as playable 11 not nearly as playable 1

CONCLUSION
Lots of products promise to give you a combination of power and control, but according to our playtest team, Wilson Reaction actually has both. The matching high scores for Playability and Touch/Feel fit with Wilson’s claim of improved touch due to the tritwist polyamide fibers. The improved tension maintenance from the pre-stretched thermoset microfibers greatly complements the high ratings from our playtesters for Durability and Resistance to Movement. For a string developed for competition players, Wilson Reaction’s high scores from our playtesters and their cross-section of NTRP levels is noteworthy. It is also interesting to see how many playtesters compared Reaction against high-end multifilament strings, often mentioning Wilson by name. If you like the comfort and characteristics of multifilament string, but are looking for a

OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge) Number of testers who said it was: much better 1 somewhat better 10 about as durable 20 not quite as durable 7 not nearly as durable 0

RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best) Playability Durability Power Control Comfort Touch/Feel Spin Potential Holding Tension Resistance to Movement 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.6 3.8 3.5 3.1 3.3 3.3

42 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

Based on the texture and amount of pre-stretch, I was excited to try this string. I was not disappointed as I had full control on all my shots. Can’t wait to find out whose string this is. 5.0 male all-court player using Prince More Precision strung at 70 pounds CP (Prince Sweet Perfection 16)

erful, which caused my arm to tire from swinging harder than usual. I don’t know if backing off the tension would get me the power I need without losing control. It didn’t move at all, and held tension well. Overall I liked it. 3.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Babolat Pure Drive OS strung at 60 pounds (Babolat Tonic + 16)

TESTERS

TALK

Great string. I would love this in a thinner gauge for my crosses instead of my current string. Installed very easily, held tension very well, excellent spin for a 16 gauge. Very comfortable as well. Great feel without too much power. 4.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix-One strung at 62 pounds LO (Babolat Pro Hurricane / Tecnifibre e-Matrix 17)

This playtest sample is excellent; comparable to my regular string. I would imagine a 17 gauge in this string would be excellent as well. If the price is reasonable, this will be a great seller. 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head Liquidmetal Radical strung at 60 pounds LO (Babolat Xcel Premium 16/17)

“Extremely comfortable.

I had to slow down a bit during installation to avoid friction burn, and blocked holes required the use of my pathfinder awl. On court, this string offers great feel, and touch with a little power to it. It feels great on the arm. I would carry it depending on the price. 5.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Head Liquidmetal Prestige MP strung at 58 pounds CP (BDE Performance 16)

Strings up like a soft multifilament and plays much the same way. This string has good power, a crisp feel. I fell in love with this string. It is one soft, cushioned response, and great of the most comfortable and forgiving strings that control. Those who prefer a more crisp response may feel they lose a I’ve played with” little touch and feedback. This 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Dunlop 200 G muted response is great for those with elbow problems, however. The strung at 65 pounds CP (Prince Syn Gut w/Duraflex 16) only thing average about this string is its longevity. The test sample had a bit of 4.5 male baseliner with heavy spin using Pro Kennex 7g strung at coil memory, and it was a little slow pulling the crosses. Plays above 66 pounds CP (Babolat Pro Hurricane 16) average for a “softer” high-end multifilament. Similar to Wilson NXT.

Good power generation. Very little vibration. Has

Outstanding comfort; extremely low vibration and very quiet even without a dampener. This string plays well even at low tension. I’d love to try it at higher tensions. 5.0 male serve-and-volleyer using Prince Triple Threat strung at 40 pounds LO (Gamma Durablast 16)

For the rest of the tester comments, USRSA members can visit RacquetTECH.com.

(Strings normally used by testers are indicated in parentheses.)

I like this test sample very much. It reminds me of a better Wilson Sensation string. This is a very comfortable string to play and teach with. It holds tension well and appears to have above-average durability, control, and touch/feel. 5.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Wilson Pro Staff 6.7 Extreme strung at 54 pounds CP (Natural gut 16/17)

Wilson has generously offered to send a free set of Reaction 16 to USRSA members who request it. To get your free set, just cut out (or copy) this coupon and mail it to: USRSA, Attn: Wilson Reaction 16 String Offer, 330 Main Street, Vista, CA 92084 or fax to 760-536-1171 Offer expires May 15, 2005 One set of free string per USRSA membership Offer only available to USRSA members in the US

FREE PLAYTEST STRING PROGRAM

The test sample was very easy to string. It provides excellent comfort for my arm, and produced plenty of power and spin. The extraordinary feel and overall playability could make this my new favorite! 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix-One 95 strung at 54 pounds LO (Tecnifibre NRG 17)

FREE! Wilson Reaction 16! Offer expires May 15, 2005
Name: USRSA Member number: Phone: Email:
If you print your email clearly, we will notify you when your sample will be sent.

I played great with this string. Super control on groundies, and especially at the net. Only drawback was that it didn’t seem very pow-

May 2005 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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ask
Q A

the EXPERTS

Your Equipment Hotline
RACQUET POWER
WHY IS IT THAT IN THE ONLINE tennis racquet specifications at www.racquetTECH.com you don't have a listing for power? THE POWER RATING FOR MOST OF the newer racquets has always been available online, using the Racquet Selector tool instead of the Racquet Spec Search tool. But you’re right—this information is now available through the Racquet Spec Search tool, as well.

A

RACQUET MATCHING

Q

I HAVE FOUR FRAMES OF THE SAME make and model. One of them is my favorite, so I want to make the others match it, using the online “Racquet Customizer” tool at www.racquetTECH.com. Should I take measurements on strung racquets or unstrung frames?

IT DOESN'T MATTER, AS LONG AS you follow the same procedure for each racquet. If you simply want to match your four frames, string each the same way with the same string (make certain you measure the overall length when strung, to eliminate problems from improper stringing), same grip, same overgrip, etc. To make future modifications easier, it is better to strip all the easily-removable items (strings, replacement grip, etc.) so you are dealing with bare frames. (If you will need to remove the butt cap to enable the insertion of weight inside the handle, then the butt caps or “trap doors” should come off, too.) Take all your measurements again as you remove each item from your strung racquets, so you can keep track of what items make what changes to your racquet specs. After matching the stripped frames, re-measure

each racquet as you replace each component. If, for example, you replace the replacement grips and one racquet no longer matches the other three, you know that the reason lies in the weight or installation procedure for the replacement grip. Stripping the frames is clearly a lot more work, but if you later decide to add weight or even change replacement grips, it is a lot easier to make any needed adjustments to keep your racquets matched. Last but not least, it may sound obvious, but keep all the notes you make during the procedure—including the final measurements—for the future. You never know when you might need them.

BROKEN RACQUET

Q

I HAVE A SITUATION THAT HAS never happened to me in all of my years stringing: A customer’s racquet broke while I was restringing it. The

44 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

customer has been using it about four years, and it had been strung before, but not by me. It looked as if it had been hit on the shoulders several times. The racquet is no longer made, but I was able to find one for him online. The total cost was $59.35, but I don't know if I should pay for all or part of it. What’s the rule of thumb for something like this?

A

THERE'S NO RULE OF THUMB IN these situations, but you can certainly limit your exposure to the problems that arise from broken customer racquets by inspecting each racquet prior to stringing so that any visible damage can be brought to the customer's attention before work begins. (This means you’ll either have to perform the inspection while the customer is still in front of you, or get contact information so the customer doesn’t learn of the problem when he comes to pick up his racquet right before playing.) Depending on your clientele, you may wish to have the customer sign a waiver when such damage is noted, so you are indemnified if the frame breaks during stringing. You may also wish to have the customer pre-pay for

the string and even the labor. If you don’t spot the damage or see damage but fail to notify the customer, it's up to your skills as a salesman to get the customer to pay for the replacement racquet. Finally, if the damage was the result of the racquet not being mounted properly, or the result of improper stringing technique, then it is up to you to replace the customer's racquet.

RACQUETBALL STRING BREAKAGE

Q

I HAVE A CUSTOMER WHO GAVE me five racquetball frames to string. Each racquet had either the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th cross string from the top broken. He gave me back one last night that had the 5th main broken. I am assuming it’s the way he is hitting the ball, as there were three different brands of string, and two different gauges (four 17 gauge and one 18 gauge). I’m stumped as to how to stop his string breakage. ACTUALLY, BREAKING CROSS strings in racquetball is not as unusual as it

is in tennis because racquetball players do not hit with the heavy spin that is so hard on main strings. Also, it makes sense that the strings are breaking near the top of the frame because that is where many racquetball players hit for maximum power. As far as trying to get longer life, there are a couple of things you can try. First, try increasing the tension a couple of pounds on the three top crosses. Second, check to see if the strings around the break are notching. If they are, you could apply a coating of carnauba wax on the strings to reduce the friction. Third, try a thicker and/or more durable string, such as one made of polyester or aramid. Finally, if your customer insists on thinner strings, you could recommend string savers. However, at the low tensions used in racquetball, it is possible these could fall out during play and end up under the players' feet. —Greg Raven Q

A

We welcome your questions. Please send them to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA, 92084; fax: 760-536-1171; email: greg@racquettech.com.

May 2005 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

45

Readers’ Know-How in Action
CRACK REPAIR
I have come up with a method of salvaging a cracked racquet. 1. Scrape all paint from around the cracked area. 2. Mix a batch of 10-minute golf epoxy adequate to cover the area cleared of paint. (Regular epoxy is brittle and cracks when a shear pressure is applied.) It must be worked into the crack before it starts to set up and become sticky. 3. If necessary, use a piece of scrap string to reinforce the area (I use Prince Polygut). Install at right angle to the crack. 4. Clamp the racquet in a way that will squeeze the crack closed, if necessary. 5. Allow the epoxy to cure overnight. 6. Apply a second coat if you want to hide the piece of scrap string and increase repair strength. where that manufacturer’s stringing instructions start. 5 sets of Ashaway Monogut 16L to: Andrea Amaral, Rio de Janeiro , Brazil

tips

and TECHNIQUES

MOUNTING NARROWTHROAT RACQUETS

sioning. I use a miniature flat-head screwdriver for this purpose. I find it does a better job of holding the grommet strip in place, and yet it does not damage the grommet because the pressure is spread along the width of the head. You do have to be careful not to push the screwdriver against the string as tension is being pulled. 5 sets of Gosen Polylon Comfort and a Gosen T-Shirt to: Doug Hofer, CS, Visalia, CA

SELECTING STRINGING TOOLS
Always use the smallest awls, pliers, and clippers that you can comfortably handle— you are, after all, doing precision work. I recently had to use someone else's machine. The machine itself was fine, but none of his tools were designed for stringing. He had fishing pliers, clippers for cutting heavy wire, and ice picks instead of awls—making for an unwieldy operation. Make it easy on yourself and don't scrimp on your tools. Klip Hat and 5 packs of Python G1 Overgrip to: Mason Brunson, Florence, SC

It can be difficult to mount frames where the holes at the throat become blocked by the mounting post at 6 o’clock. I tried various techniques to produce a post that was thinner than the one on my machine until I found that the plastic tool used to insert string savers was ideal. With a little filing to flatten one edge so it fit snugly against the post, it was quite stable. 5 Sets of Wilson Extreme Control 16 to: Stan Parry, Surrey, England

It’s a lot of work, but I love doing the impossible. 5 sets of Head FiberGEL Power 16 to: Barry Farwell, San Diego, CA

BEGINNERS

SECURING BUMPERGUARD ENDS
Page 39 of the 2005 Racquet Service Techniques shows the basic procedure for securing a bumperguard end when the manufacturer calls for it. This procedure does work to secure the bumperguard end, but it forces you to weave one of the crosses between two other crosses, which can be difficult. When I’m faced with this situation, I weave all three crosses before tensioning any of them, to give myself more room to work in, and it mitigates what can be a “hard weave.” 5 sets of Forten Dynamix 16 to: Lynn Hopkins, Phoenix, AZ

MARKETING
MONTHLY DEMOS
To make certain that the newest racquet technology gets into the hands of my customers, I select one of our demo racquets to be the “demo of the month." I do a short writeup about the frame in the club newsletter and post signs in the pro shop. Also for that month the racquet is on sale for 10-15 percent off the regular price. Even though not every customer buys every frame, the signs and discount combine to build anticipation for new racquets, which pays dividends in the long run.

MAKING TABS FOR THE STRINGERS DIGEST
I made index tabs for my Stringers Digest, which help me quickly find the stringing instructions I am looking for.

5 sets of Gamma Zo Power 16 to: Jeremy M. Plumley, Bethesda, Maryland —Greg Raven Q
Tips and Techniques submitted since 2000 by USRSA members, and appearing in this column, have all been gathered into a single volume of the Stringer’s Digest—Racquet Service Techniques which is a benefit of USRSA membership. Submit tips to: Greg Raven, USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92804; or email greg@racquettech.com.

You can make them by writing the manufacturers’ names on pieces of paper, but I go one step further and use small versions of each manufacturers’ logo. I then attach each tab to the page in the Digest

PREVENTING GROMMET STRIP PULL-OUT
Many stringers hold the grommet strip in place with their thumb to prevent the strip from sliding out from the frame during ten-

46 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005

Your Serve
Time for Radical Change?
Teaching pros need to simplify the learning process for their students, BY BILL MOUNTFORD says the director of tennis at the NTC.
“I can change, I swear, let’s see what you can do.” —Bob Dylan mistakes do I offer corrective advice. It almost feels like “antiteaching,” but players are learning to play better more quickly. Critics suggest that if players are not taught the “right way” from the beginning, then they will never develop properly. I disagree. The most important aspect when people are new to the sport is for them to have fun and to gain a measure of success. Let players learn by doing. Let them imitate others. Some “wholesome neglect” might be more beneficial than too much coaching. By limiting instructions, a teacher gives students the freedom to make decisions out there on the court. If my colleagues and I do a better job of introducing enough players to our sport in a fun and inclusive manner, then the masses will begin enjoying tennis in a manner that has become foreign. This is completely different from the coaching philosophy that I used to embrace. It is staggering to me that tennis is not more popular in this country. Each of my colleagues from the USPTA and PTR must become accountable for making our sport more accessible. If we simplify the learning process, then we will retain more players. Eventually, we can dwarf the participation numbers from the “good old days.” I have changed. Let’s see what you can do. Q
Bill Mountford is the director of tennis at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., the country’s largest public tennis facility and home to the US Open. He has been published frequently and writes a weekly “Ask Bill” column for www.USTA.com. We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to rsi@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.

I

was born in 1967, when there were about 10 million tennis players in the U.S. By the time I was playing my first 12-&-under tournaments, there were between 35 and 40 million tennis players. People have referred to this era as the Tennis Boom, but it was more like an exponential explosion. Unfortunately, now that I am eligible for the 35-&over division, there is only a fraction of this number remaining. The sport of tennis is in a crisis, and it is time for change. Why did tennis enjoy this surge in popularity? The reasons are self-evident: It is the best sport in the world. It is great exercise. It is social. Our champions are young and attractive. This list is an easy one. What caused the dramatic fall in participation over the past quarter-century? One pervasive theory is that there are more leisure-time activities than in the past. In the 1970s, there was no internet, video games were in their infancy, fitness memberships were not all the rage, and cable television had not become widespread. These are valid points, but I view them as excuses. In fact, back then there were other hugely popular activities, such as the jogging craze, the roller-skating fad, the Disco Era, the golden age of network television, etc. There will always be plenty of competition for leisure time. A bigger reason that we have lost millions of tennis players is because our industry has done a poor job of retaining new players. The teaching professionals, inadvertently perhaps, have created a perception that to play tennis, you must first “take lessons.” This mindset might be good for short-term business, but it is bad for growth. Instead of lesson plans where technique is taught, we are wiser to establish

an environment where players have the perception that they are immediately playing. Coaches should set up play-based drills and games. Players will learn quickly this way and not absorb the discouragement that comes from losing matches. Next, we need to simplify our teaching methods. I have been involved in the incipient stages of the Cardio Tennis initiative.

“I provide [students] with a structure . . . where they learn to make adjustments on their own.”
Interestingly, a constant refrain that I’ve heard from participants is that they love playing in a structured environment without instruction. This is different from what they’ve always received at a typical tennis clinic. Think about it, teaching pros are trained to correct others constantly. In Cardio Tennis, which is simply a fitness-based tennis class, players move a lot and hit plenty of balls in a controlled environment. But there is no formal instruction. After years of teaching the way I was taught, I began believing that my students would learn more through the method of guided discovery than they ever would through the “old fashioned” process. I provide them with a structure, usually through fun, play-based activities, where they learn to make adjustments on their own. When they make errors, I trust that they will selfcorrect. Only when I observe patterns of

48 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2005