How to Increase On-Court Clinic Interest

Originally written by Joe Dinoffer for Racquet Sports Industry Magazine – July 2004

Over four centuries ago, Sir Francis Bacon said, “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” The same holds true for each area of our tennis business. This article will address the tennis lesson segment of your activities.

Posting lesson rates and nothing else is the norm. The game plan at clubs like these is “wait and see.” Unfortunately, according to Sir Francis Bacon, “wait and See” precipitates a downturn in business. 

On the other hand, some successful clubs gross over one million dollars a year in lesson revenue. So how do the best ones do it? 

They are proactive in regularly offering various new learning and practice opportunities. They also make sure club members and players know about them. Getting the word out is relatively easy. The most common approaches include:

  1. Flyers on doors and in bathrooms
  2. Bulletin boards
  3. Bag stuffers
  4. Newsletters (email and print)
  5. Email a weekly schedule of activities

How to get the word out is clear. However, becoming highly successful year after year requires more. After studying successful programs, there are common threads among all of them. Use it as a checklist against your own recipe for success.

People are Individuals

Since no two people are exactly alike, it makes sense that their hot buttons on a tennis court are also unique. Age, playing level, work schedule, competitive goals, social desires, and whether they prefer singles or doubles are just a few variables that will affect the level of interest each person may have in a particular program.

Identify a Need

When you offer a program that suits a player’s interest and schedule, you’re only halfway to getting them to sign up and participate. Therefore, the other half of your offering has to include “identifying a need.” This simply means offering a program or clinic with a theme that reminds people of a need they have thought about before. Then, entice them to sign up by presenting how they will benefit from the experience.

Establish the Benefit

We don’t usually think of tennis pros as salespeople, but you sell the idea when you identify a need and show how someone will benefit. Of course, if you’re a purist, you may not like to think of yourself as selling anything. But selling is not a bad word. Think of it this way. How will you share your expertise unless you have people to share them with? 

Here’s an example: 

Target audience: Male weekend warrior

Playing ability: 4.0

Playing style: Powerful but inconsistent

Need: Power with more consistency 

Selling point: “Add control to your power game in one lesson.” 

League Team Drilling

One of the mainstays of tennis teachers across the United States is running drills and workouts for league teams. In many places, working with these teams represents nearly 50% of the annual gross teaching revenue. It’s important enough that if you don’t have a local inter-club league, start one! It’s not that difficult. One way to get started is to invite all your local pros to a meeting and outline the costs and benefits of starting a league. A good start is to model your league after another region about the size of your own community. How can you find out what’s out there? I just Googled “Community tennis leagues” on my computer and came up with over 4 million listings in one-tenth of a second!

Drop-in Drills

One thing is sure in today’s world. People are so busy and pulled in so many directions that committing to a regular weekly activity is difficult. This is the genius of the “Drop-in Drill.” 

The concept is simple. Set up a weekly time such as Saturday mornings from 11 am until 12:30 pm. This is when court bookings start slowing down, but people are still interested in getting out. Then create weekly themes, so the players know what they are signing up for. 

Since there is no established ability level, have enough pros on hand to allow you to divide up the players on different courts according to their ability. Charge a reasonable amount to give good value for the 90-minute drill, a time frame that is neither too short nor too long. With consistent effort in running these “drop-ins”, you’ll probably find that interest and participation will build and that players from this group will spill over and sign up for your other programs as well.