Is Rec Tennis Increasing or Decreasing in Popularity?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Al Stoley, Mar 9, 2017.

  1. Al Stoley

    Al Stoley Rookie

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    I think the sport is clearly on the decline in popularity. This includes a decline in

    1. rec and league tennis

    2. tv viewership has plummeted

    http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2008/us-open-historic-television-ratings.html

    3. tennis equipment and apparel sales:

    I've noticed that tennis warehouse's selection of racquets, bags and shoes has diminished sharply over the years I've checked (2010 vs 2017).

    4. impact on and visibility in popular culture. None of the top players is a mainstream celebrity. Serena Williams is widely reviled (even feared) and Sharapova is too ethnic as a Russian immigrant. Fed, Djoko, Murray are all Europeans and don't appeal to American fans.

    I do think the USTA is trying. However, the sport is just too fast and demanding for the demographic in which it used to have a stronghold: retired people. Played with wooden racquets, or even those crappy alu racquets, the game was played at a manageable speed.

    Now, with graphite racquets, even the weakest player can generate incredible pace on all shots, meaning that trying to play points means generating a huge amount of torque on your joints.

    I think tennis still has a future, but it's gotten very physically demanding at the same time that Americans have gotten fatter, lazier and far more technologically dependent.
     
    #51
  2. ByeByePoly

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    Has anyone noticed the stands in many of the matches on tv. It's hard to catch the empty stands ... cameramen probably told not to show empty stands.
     
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  3. schmke

    schmke Hall of Fame

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    This is in part due to how tickets are sold for these events. Indian Wells for example has the majority of TV matches on Stadium 1, but they sell separate tickets for Stadium 1, often in packages, so it can be sparsely filled early in the day when folks haven't arrived or after a big match when folks are taking a break. Throw in that a Stadium 1 ticket grants you access to the grounds and other good matches going on, and even if every Stadium 1 ticket holder is on-site, they may be on a different court watching another good match or at the practice courts watching Fed or Nadal, and no one else can get in Stadium 1 to sit in their seat, so it ends up being empty looking. If they ever show a Stadium 2-4 match, particularly some of the doubles matches with top-players, you'll see the stands are very full.

    Now, Indian Wells may be the exception on being well attended, but they tend to do it right and have great attendance.
     
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  4. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    For most of the week and a half Indian Wells is full in Stadium court 1 and that's what matters most. Stadium 2 was built for show and because they can do a concert in Stadium 2 that wouldn't be as well attended for Stadium 1.

    The last few night session marquee matches have been packed. Fed-Nadal was on at like 5:30 local time and was packed. Federer is like a saving grace for any tournament, he puts butts in the seats out of demand not convenience.
     
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  5. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    I think the reason why it's played less is because there's just so many other sports kids want to play now. Some kids are playing baseball, basketball, football, soccer year round and have little time for tennis. There's also a demographic shift too. Tennis has a stigma that it's a rich man's sport (it gets thrown in that category with golf because they're usually the main two country club sports) so people don't realize how simple it is to play. Pick up two racquets and balls (they can be dead balls if your'e a beginner because you shouldn't care less) and play. I used to chastise the people coming out and spraying the ball everywhere then I remembered that used to be me. So if they hit it over I let them know it's all good no worries. Unfortunately black youth doesn't have much interest in tennis either for the most part. My public park I can find middleaged black folks playing tennis 3-4 times a week but for some reason it seems to have stopped at their generation. Sure you get a few that play that are in their teens and twenties but it pales in comparison to sports like basketball, football, soccer.
     
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  6. AllCourtHeathen

    AllCourtHeathen Rookie

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    dbl post
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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  7. AllCourtHeathen

    AllCourtHeathen Rookie

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    Steep early learning curve that requires basic coaching for the fundamentals (ie, money)
    Elitist/nepotistic/exclusivist (aka sanctimonious wankers) attitude of most clubs.

    I am a fully paid member of my local club yet they still won't give me a key to the clubhouse, as though I am scum, and have accused me of not bagging the courts among other things. Just LOL. For scabby overgrown crappy lumpy clay courts with rusty nails holding the lines down that would be right at home in a mad max movie.

    No wonder kids don't want to play.

    I love tennis yet cannot even find anyone to have a regular hit with, that's how bad it is in my experience
     
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  8. barnes1172

    barnes1172 New User

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    Amongst adults, my impression is that the ones who played as juniors or college tennis burn out on tennis or lose interest, in part because they can no longer play at the level they did when younger. Or they never really loved the game as a kid (it's just something their parents made them do). This is particularly true with women who played when younger, who almost always give up the game as adults.

    The adults I've seen who are the most "into tennis" are typically like myself, who maybe played a little bit as a kid (along with other sports), but now love the game as adults, can continue to improve, love playing USTA. In this regard, I think USTA does a great job. I would like to see more emphasis on singles play, though.
     
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  9. ByeByePoly

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    I think IW is probably an exception ... Ellison $ billions and pet project. I have been to the tournament once ... late 90s with smaller complex. The best was the smaller/side courts ... you were right next to/behind the players. I have been watching on tv ... and 90-94 degrees ... 120+ court temp. When we were there ... it was 70s the entire time. Throw in a couple rounds of golf ... and I didn't want to go back home to winter.
     
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  10. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    Some truth to that to the Jr' player statement, although I also think the options for players in the 18-30 range are slim to none. Thats why I think a 18+ age group may get some to stick around and compete. Other issue, to your point sort of, is that they are going from having their parents pay and take care of everything, to having to figure it out on their own and this causes many to just walk away. I can say from my own experience after playing in college in the early nineties, I had no money and was living in a different city working a ton. So tennis wasn't even an option. I couldn't afford a membership anywhere, and there wasn't a public court anywhere that offered anything..It took about 6 years before I rediscovered playing again and figured out what to do, and probably loved it more then when I played in HS/College. Getting those players back I think is an opportunity no matter the situation. Also took another 6 years before I realized there were tournaments I could compete in, as everything was pushed towards leagues

    I agree with you on the second part, and would add for many its the Social part of the game that is a great outlet. The USA with their leagues really plays into this
     
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  11. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    I think the Cincy (Western Southern) tournament does a great job, the first few days are usually crowded and they attract a lot of people with all the extra stuff they have. Some tournaments "get it", and have evolved, while others are still mundane. People have come to want all the outside plaza stuff, booze, and food; so this helps draw people in. I have to say it has become a little annoying at some tennis events as the boozers have no etiquette and the matches can become quite noisy.
     
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  12. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    And those sports you listed are cheaper and easier for parents to keep up with. And offer more opportunities for scholarships....Parents have gotten wise to it
     
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  13. MasturB

    MasturB Hall of Fame

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    Define cheaper.

    For kids wanting to play advanced soccer, paying for coaching and traveling teams is just as expensive as tennis. Baseball is headed that way if not already there for young kids playing on a travel team. Basketball yes is cheaper, football I just wouldn't put my kid in because of the injury risk.

    Tennis is a lot more accessible than people think. I've seen some kids whom probably wouldn't pass for a low 4.0 get a scholarship at an HBCU. Now granted it's not D1 big school but a scholarship is still a scholarship.
     
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  14. ByeByePoly

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    Tennis is cheap ... but you need access to public/park courts. If the city decides to not spend $ on public courts ... that is the end of that. I see $million football stadiums at the high schools ... and grass growing out of public courts that used to be excellent courts.
     
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  15. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    I think this is an interesting statement, I actually agree somewhat. There are fans, and many on this site, who believe the current stars of the game are amazing no matter their nationality. They fawn over Roger and Rafa, but there is something to the casual fan not wanting to support Internationals. When tennis was popular in the US it was helped by some big American personalities, against some big European personalities (McEnroe, Borg, Lendl, Conners, Chang, Agassi, Gilbert, Sampras, Courier, Edberg, etc) Even in the 60's and 70's you had the same thing, plus on the womens side starting with the "battle of the sexes". People loved it, and if you haven't seen that documentary its well worth viewing. There was also a strong connection between the American College game and the pro game. Now? Its been 14 years since an American man (Roddick) won a grand slam, and if you take the Williams sister out of the womens side even longer for them (Davenport), so there just haven't been any players to relate to. Thank god we have the Williams Sisters, or we would really be in trouble. And the college game just doesn't produce top players anymore...only 5 or 6 in the top hundred in mens played college, none in womens... about half the top 100 pros in the 80's played in college so there is a major disconnect there, no college presence anymore to the pro game. And, I love the Williams sisters, but I think many have had a tough time with them because of some of the problems they have had in tournaments, like Indian Wells in the past. I do think people have embraced them more over the last few years, but for much of the time you either loved them or hated them, so it wasn't exactly a shoe in to follow as an American fan.
     
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  16. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    Totally....Many cities are trying to even downsize public facilities or courts. But mores then that, if your kid wants to play tournaments he/she has to drive hours to get to one that fits the mold set up by the USTA. If your a parent spending $1500 on gear, and another $1000 every tournament only to have your kid play two no-ad matches with a ten point 3rd set breaker, then your not getting your monies worth. Better to spend $300 on Volleyball gear and drop them off at High School to be catered around.

    Not to get off the rails, but the High School tennis is lacking, and is probably one of the only High School sports that isn't productive for good players. I think if this were changed it would be a game changer for Jr. Tennis.
     
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  17. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    Cheaper: Not trying to define Gear...Gear comes with costs in all sports. But, the travel time for competitive tournaments, lessons with pros, group drill sessions, court time with other players, conditioning....I would have a hard time believing there is a sport more expensive then tennis. And on top of that, sports like Basketball, Football, Baseball, Volleyball, even Swimming, can be done locally and are highly sponsored by many High Schools. I Know a sport like Baseball has a summer league, but even those are local for the most part and parents get their monies worth out of it. Tennis? If I live in Atlanta, I have to drive to Macon for a week to play in the Georgia Qualifying, then drive to Mobile Alabama to play in the Southern, then Drive to Kalamazoo Michigan to play in the Nationals. And on top of that play a bunch of little tournaments from Knoxville to Charleston. Its not possible to stay around the Atlanta area and grow. And say I go to Charleston. You could spend $1500 to watch your kid lose first round and consolation. And in the consolation say they lose in a 10 point breaker? What a waste of money...If they go 7-6 every set that 52 games...$28 a game.

    For scholarships, they are few and far between. Most D-1 only have 4 for men and women, some can give 8 for women depending on what they have for mens sports. And many schools give no scholarships or go other routes like with academic ones. Many teams have been cut, so not as many out there as 20 years ago. On top of that 67% of tennis scholarships go to International players. But, schools carry Baseball, Football, Lacrosse scholarships, which cater to US kids and mostly local kids....Huge disparity...Sure, if I want to play tennis for a school that carries a team as an afterthought its possible, but the high level opportunities are few and far between. Much better chance in other sports
     
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  18. ojo rojo

    ojo rojo Rookie

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    Facebook? Youtube? Free porn?

    ... The younglings haven't got time for mixed doubles!
     
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  19. S&V-not_dead_yet

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    The problem is that our country name does not start with an "S" [Serbia, Switzerland, Scotland, Spain].

    I disagree with the "other sports to play" idea because those other sports have co-existed with tennis for a long time. Maybe there's more of an emphasis on team sports vs individual? Is golf's popularity declining also?

    Snobbery/elitism? Same response as "other sports to play". I would even argue it's less snobby and elitist now than, say, 50 years ago.

    I also disagree that the higher level of athleticism required is turning people away: you still only need the same level of athleticism as always. What the pros do is irrelevant in this respect.

    It would be interesting to see rec level participation #s for other countries and see if a correlation exists [and if so, how strong] between the # of players getting exposure and the % of the population that plays. If the correlation exists and is strong, I think that's the primary answer.

    OTOH, if participation is declining globally, then something else is afoot.
     
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  20. OrangePower

    OrangePower Legend

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    I think it all starts with what sports kids are exposed to at school. Kids that have exposure to tennis at school are more likely to learn to play even if just for fun (rather than having any ambitions in the sport). And then some of those kids return to the game at the rec level as adults. Sure, there are places other than school where kids can learn to play, but that takes a more concerted effort.

    And I would bet that the average number of courts available to each school kid is way lower than it has been in the past, due to a combination of overall declining facilities, more overcrowding in schools, more schools in dense urban areas where space for courts is unrealistic vs sub-urban / rural areas, reduced funding for education in general, etc.

    Also, in addition to courts, you need someone to coach and champion the sport, and increasingly schools rely on volunteer labor for that. This works for schools in more affluent areas where the parents have time and inclination to be more involved in school activities, but is not always reliable in less affluent areas.

    If there are no courts, and no-one to champion / coach tennis, then of course school kids are going to just play other sports and not give tennis much thought. Sure, not all rec players had exposure to tennis at school as a kid, but I bet a significant percentage did. So less school kids playing tennis is going to lead to less rec players in future.
     
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  21. shamaho

    shamaho Rookie

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    Here in Portugal the word is... tennis is wilting.... Padel is not growing... it's Exploding !
     
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  22. Mongolmike

    Mongolmike Hall of Fame

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    Which might be a by-product of the impact of Title IX at the college level... many mid-major colleges dropped Men's Tennis (amongst other male sports) which reduced the number of scholarships boys could hope for in HS.

    Let me say I am all for equality, so this is not a rant, but I am curious if tennis participation number drops also coincide with Title IX after a few years, which added to an already happening decline.

    (edit: maybe not so much. Title IX looks like it was passed in 1972? Did I look up something wrong? That seems much earlier than what I remember...maybe it was implemented much later when colleges determined they could afford extra sports? Not sure, because I thought it was more in the '80's when colleges were dropping things like men's tennis and wrestling, etc.)
     
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  23. Mongolmike

    Mongolmike Hall of Fame

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    A snick from Wikipedia...

    Advocates of Title IX's current interpretation cite increases in female athletic participation, and attribute those increases to Title IX.[45][46][47] One study, completed in 2006, pointed to a large increase in the number of women participating in athletics at both the high school and college level. The number of women in high school sports had increased by a factor of nine, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%.[48] A 2008 study of intercollegiate athletics showed that women's collegiate sports has grown to 9,101 teams, or 8.65 per school. The five most frequently offered college sports for women are, in order: (1) Basketball, 98.8% of schools have a team, (2) Volleyball, 95.7%, (3) Soccer, 92.0%, (4) Cross Country, 90.8%, and (5) Softball, 89.2%.[49]

    At the same time, many contend that the current interpretation of Title IX by the OCR has resulted in the dismantling of men's programs, despite strong participation in those sports.[50] For example, though interest in the sport of wrestling has consistently increased at the high school level since 1990,[51] scores of colleges have dropped their wrestling programs during that same period.[52][53] The OCR's three-prong test for compliance with Title IX often is cited as the reason for these cuts.[53][54] Wrestling historically was the most frequently dropped sport,[54] but other men's sports later overtook the lead, such that according to the NCAA, the most-dropped men's sports between 1987 and 2002 were as follows: Cross country (183), indoor track (180), golf (178), tennis (171), rowing (132), outdoor track (126), swimming (125) and wrestling (121).[52]
     
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  24. mcs1970

    mcs1970 Rookie

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    Was Tennis ever that popular here? The Big 3 sports have always dominated. Even Ice Hockey with a significant TV audience still struggles. If it were not for ESPN (I'm not subscribed to the Tennis Channel) you'd hardly see many televised Tennis games anymore. A lot of what kids do are based on what they see on TV. Plus Tennis being an individual sport, will always appeal to a certain type of personality. Most kids want to play some group sports with their friends, and so either they need 2 or 3 kids with the same interest, and even then it can't compete with a pickup basketball or football game which can accommodate far more numbers. Also, with tournaments, basketball rec leagues have one game during the weekend and then the kid /family is done. Tennis requires a lot more commitment in terms of going to tournaments, staying around the whole day depending upon when the next match is,...and so on. It takes a lot of time commitment. Unless the kid and family are both totally motivated it is not something that is easily done.
     
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  25. mcs1970

    mcs1970 Rookie

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    Wasn't there a thread here about college scholarships for the most part going to International player athletes anyway? So for most of the country (other than Fl/Ca) the barriers to play tennis is already built in. On top of it, there is very little chance to get a scholarship compared to kids from certain other countries who have a better grass root system for the sport. So, it's not just about Title IX.
     
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  26. mcs1970

    mcs1970 Rookie

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    Isn't also part of the reason with how the ITF schedules tournaments? A significant portion of the country never get to see the best players up close. l would love to see the top players, and would plan months in advance if there was something upcoming, but we have nothing where we live. A few of my friends go to the Cincinnati Open, but it takes time/money with having to travel/plane tickets, ..etc. There are few tournaments other than grand slams where you can see the top players. Contrast that with other sports such as basketball/football where there's a lot more opportunities for me as a dad to take my kids and expose them to some of the top players in the game, and there is not much involved than a 20-30 min drive (other than buying a ticket).
     
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  27. Cobaine

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    Once UTR becomes ubiquitous, participation will improve because it will be much easier to find competition of the appropriate level, which keeps tennis fun.

    The fact that kids are learning on the small courts with appropriate balls and racquets will help too.
     
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  28. Nacho

    Nacho Semi-Pro

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    Yea, implemented in 72', and certainly has had an affect on college tennis programs. But, also many schools have had their budgets strained keeping up with top programs and the addition of so many women's sports which don't bring in any money. So they all basically doubled the amount of programs, and it has been a slow drip of budget issues in order to maintain their mens football, basketball programs and then womens programs. Sports like tennis, golf, wrestling, soccer disappear.

    HS is a little different. Its just not very organized, and USTA has essentially monopolized Jr. tennis, making HS insignificant.
     
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  29. dgold44

    dgold44 Legend

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    Most Americans are fat but the ones who actually do work are as tough as workers as anywhere

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  30. Nacho

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    They have, but the issue is cost. To compete today at a high level in tennis you have to travel, and local high schools put a lot of emphasis on other sports, so this is more cost effective for parents. High schools put a lot of emphasis on their football and basketball programs, and some now even their lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and other sports programs. Many of these were just recreation in the past, so tennis felt the same way. Now? They are almost like college sports. Here in Ohio you can watch as much HS football and basketball on TV as college. And HS's have learned to attract and support athletes to compete. Tennis is still treated recreationally because HS's can't afford good coaches. Instead, the 60 year old political science professor earns an extra $2000 to manage the team.....Not how other sports are treated.

    Also, for tennis, Prior to the nineties (maybe even eighties) local tournaments were where people competed with a very simple sanction/qualifying system to compete on a national level. These tournaments, like the crakerland held in Athens for many years, gave chance for kids to compete from all over and weren't expensive to play. Today, many of these tournaments have been absorbed in a scaling system dictated by the USTA, and you no longer have the mom and pop tournaments that might draw competition. Those have turned into low level tournaments. Also, HS tennis has never been very organized compared to other sports. It still feels like a Rec. sport, or after school activity in many high schools.

    Take in to account the lack of college scholarships? Better off playing baseball or lacrosse...More organized locally, scoring isn't abbreviated, and the cost to play is better. Plus, more opportunities to earn a scholarship. Ohio State, Xavier, Youngstown St, Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland State are the only D-1 Tennis opportunities in the state of Ohio. They all also have Baseball teams, along with Akron, Miami, Ohio U, Cincinnati, and Kent State. Those schools cut their tennis programs years ago....So, more opportunities to play baseball in Ohio. Parents are wise...
     
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  31. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Professional

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    Travel teams are more popular today than at any point in this county's history.
    In fact, they have almost become normal. That is NOT the reason for any decline.

    I think the norm is the $2000 PolySci teacher who is the coach.
    This does not apply to tennis, but to all sports.
     
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  32. ZirkusAffe

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    USTA numbers are down in the Northern region but probably other areas too it's typically the 19-39 age group especially post-college grads or low / mid 20's that have been suffering, USTA is aware of it and has programs promoting getting back some of those players but not an easy task as it can be an expensive sport (especially in climates where you may need indoor tennis for winter/spring/fall).. hard to justify USTA membership fee, team registration fees, court time and private club membership fees when you are younger.
    The other side of it, they need people their age to play... yeah probably there are some pretty hip 36 yr olds (and older) but you need that generation involved at that level playing each other. There are efforts to budget free weekly mixers promoting that demographic in the works the bottom half of tennis is young and the older half is old... what I'm saying I guess there isn't enough 'middle class' to balance youth with aged fine wine tennis.
    Maybe I'm wrong but I know our numbers are down significantly (although there are outdoor rec leagues running independently, organized and untapped with players not in USTA playing at local parks and schools, USTA isn't the be-all, end-all )...
     
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  33. heninfan99

    heninfan99 G.O.A.T.

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    I believe it is growing very quickly in the Asian communities in the US.
     
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  34. Fedinkum

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    A 300$aud price tag on a racket/ court hire/ constant spending on tennis balls and pricy coaching session hindered tennis's mass appeal.
     
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  35. Al Stoley

    Al Stoley Rookie

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    Tennis requires an extraordinary amount of coaching and practice in order to bring a tennis player to even an intermediate level of competence, much less above that.

    Team sports like basketball, baseball, football and soccer are very easy to pickup, play and improve without coaching.

    For example, shooting, passing and dribbling in basketball came naturally to me with almost no coaching. Same is true for learning basic skills such as boxing out for rebounds, basic defensive positions in defense, etc.

    Just a little bit of low level coaching improved my skills dramatically with almost no practice.

    Tennis? Not so much.
     
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  36. nytennisaddict

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    huge. go nish! go lu!
     
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