Drive down some random streets in suburban American and portable soccer goals and basketball hoops are a common sight. What you don’t see is anything for tennis, no small nets, rebounders, or backboards. This has to change if we want to witness a larger next generation of tennis players and coaches than the current status quo, which admittedly is struggling just to retain its current market share. To overcome this inertia we have some obstacles to overcome. I will list three issues below which, if overcome, can make a “driveway tennis” revival possible. And, yes, I was the kid hitting a ball against the garage door and rallying with old balls on our quiet neighborhood street with my sisters.
ISSUE #1 – YOU CAN”T PRACTICE TENNIS BY YOURSELF
Obstacle: Tennis is perceived as a two-person sport. Yet, basketball requires at least two people to compete and soccer requires a whole team. So, why can’t kids and adults see tennis as a fun sport to practice on their own like soccer and basketball?
Solution: This fallacy has to be changed and it will take much more than this article to eradicate this misperception. Coaches, teaching pros, and parents have to all get on this bandwagon together. What’s a good starting point? The teaching pros. This is explained in Issue #2.
ISSUE #2 – MY COACH DOESN’T ASK ME TO PRACTICE
Obstacle: Tennis clubs have more ball machines than backboards. Clearly, ball machine companies do a much better job than backboard companies promoting their products. And, lower cost rebounders and stroke trainers don’t advertise enough to make the average player or tennis parent aware of their products.
Solution: Tennis pros need to assign “homework” to the kids in their programs. You can call it “homeplay” if you like, but the point is that kids need to learn to play on their own and have fun doing it! They will need access to some equipment to practice on their own. This brings us to Issue #3.
ISSUE #3 – THE EQUIPMENT IS NOT AVAILABLE
Obstacle: Portable tennis nets, rebounders, and backboards are not readily available in sporting goods stores. The only place to find them is on the internet and it only happens if you are specifically looking for it.
Solution: Google tennis hitting aids, tennis rebounders or portable tennis backboards and you will come up with many options. Pick one that you like and buy a couple for your club. Teach the kids how to practice on them and tell the parents where to buy them. Or, if you are entrepreneurial enough, become a distributor and resell it at a discount to the parents of the kids in your program. Either way, it’s a “win” for everyone.
SUMMARY – Together we can make it happen. The ideas are there. The tools are available. National play day events as promoted by the USTA, USPTA, and PTR are terrific but they need to be supplemented by simple daily practice.
Now, close your eyes. Picture yourself driving down the street of a residential neighborhood. Hopefully, you can see a couple of tennis rebounders appear in two driveways on every street.
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional in both the USPTA and PTR, has been recognized with numerous national awards including the 2019 City of Dallas Humanitarian Award for contributions to inner city tennis, and has conducted clinics and exhibitions in over 50 countries. Joe is the author and editor of 9 books and more than 20 DVDs, has more than 300 published articles in various tennis and pickleball magazines, and has aired many instructional tips on the Tennis Channel. Plus, Joe’s YouTube channel has more than 2 million views and growing! His latest book “Words, Wisdom, and Whimsy” is the second volume of an illustrated series called “Poems from the Heart.” In 1994, Joe founded OnCourt OffCourt, Ltd., a company dedicated to serving the tennis, pickleball, fitness, yoga, and physical education industries with innovative training aids and educational tools. Today, he has designed and manufactured more than 150 creative products being distributed and used in 100 countries worldwide.