I spent some time over the past looking into the correlation between time on court and retention rates of players. Along with this I ask some controversial questions around enjoyment of tennis (or any sport for that matter) in comparison to player level and how good they feel at the sport.
I run a tennis coaching company in Northamptonshire and we currently teach in 6 tennis clubs every week and over 40 schools each year. We see around 400 children who come every week for tennis coaching, whether in a school or a club, and we teach over 5000 children each year who may just attend one school session (we don't include these as 'regular' players).
I think most sports coaching providers across the country are going to see a drop in numbers in 2023, and have already seen the cost of living crisis affect their numbers. We certainly have seen a drop of around 15% so far since November 2022. The worse 4 months we have had in my 15 years teaching!
Because of this, I wanted to look into the causes and safeguard against this in the future. Check out some of my findings, which have made us look into some changes or even education.
- 70% of our regular players play once a week. Over 95% of those attend either a group session at a school or tennis club, which is 1 hour and with no practice in between their weekly sessions.
- 76% of children playing once per week in 2022 quit playing tennis.
- 30% of our children that do a minimum of twice a week includes combinations of the following: individual lessons, group sessions, practice with family/parents, practice with other children from the club
- 0 children that came twice a week in 2022 quit!
I truly believe that if you want your child to enjoy a sport or any activity then only practicing once a week is potentially putting them off!
There is an argument that I want my child to try lots of different activities before they choose what they like. However, they will not like something they are not very good at or progressing very slowly. Most parents will allow their children to play on a tablet everyday, but do they give them the opportunity to play a sport everyday?
We started in 2022 running regular matchplay sessions, which was an inclusion in their programme at no extra cost so children had the opportunity to get extra time on court for free and play some matches.
- Of the 250 children who attended once per week in 2022, 22% attended a matchplay event throughout the year.
- Of the 22% that did attend a matchplay session, 92% of those are still playing. Some moved to twice per week, some still at once per week.
There is a stigma around "matchplay" or "competitions" that it is too much pressure and children don't enjoy that side of sport. Competition teaches so much to children, that if we as parents do not include this in their lives then we are neglecting them from valuable experiences that video games, YouTube and TikTok can not teach!
I wanted to try to give parents and players every chance to play twice a week, I wanted to show ways in which you can do it in affordable ways, and even free. Tennis and sport does not have to be expensive. Unfortunately high level sport is, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to get children to love the sport and be as good as the can be with the resources available.
I have created a document which shows what others are doing locally that they can relate to, and also ways in which parents can do more with their child for different costs.
Unfortunately being good at sport and any activity is not without effort and time commitment from parents, but hey, is that not what we signed up for?