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QuickStart Tennis Fun for Kids, a Moneymaker for Clubs, Facilities

July 15, 2010 02:08 PM
QuickStart Tennis participants hone their skills
by Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

Since its introduction as the "T-Ball" version of tennis, QuickStart Tennis is being adopted across the U.S. as the easy way for children 10-and-under to start playing tennis immediately, utilizing smaller racquets, nets, court dimensions, and foam or decompressed balls.

But the new United States Tennis Association-endorsed program is also proving to be a moneymaker for public facilities and private clubs across the country.

"I did a training the other day where I said, 'I'm not trying to be pompous or arrogant about this, but my goal is to make $300 an hour, and that's what I need to make,'" says USTA National QuickStart Trainer Craig Jones, who is also the owner of the Petersburg Racquet Club in Martinez, Ga. "My business would not be able to make it, the club I own, without QuickStart, it cannot make it on members alone. Now we have three QuickStart clinics going on at the same time. At events we've taught entire clinics in a parking lot with 29 kids. I've done camps with 50 kids on four courts. I would have lost my mind teaching the conventional way."

QuickStart divides a traditional court with smaller nets, and provides kids constant action as opposed to traditional lessons featuring kids standing in line, hitting a few balls, then moving to the back of the line.

USTA Florida offers Recreational QuickStart Workshops for beginner tennis teachers, recreational coaches, parent coaches and Jr. Team Tennis captains and volunteers who will be working with 10-and-under children, and High Performance QuickStart Workshops (coming soon) for experienced teaching professionals who will be working with 10-and-under advanced or competitive tournament players.

"It's because I have such a good product," Jones says about his clinics packed with 10-and-under children. "It's not that you throw six mini-nets out there on one court and start going cha-ching with the cash register -- you have to study this and spend the time and attend trainings to make it the best sport in your area -- not the best tennis club, but the best sport."

Bobbie Mehan, the QuickStart director and league organizer at the Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville has seen QuickStart participation skyrocket in the area.

"It already is bringing in more kids, the clubs just have to offer it," Mehan says. "At Jonesville the QuickStart clinics are packed, and more and more kids are going to come once they see it. The kids are out there playing and rallying long before they've been able to rally before [in conventional lessons], it's more fun when you can hit the ball back and forth and act like you're really playing tennis, and not just going out there and hitting a forehand every 10th ball."

Jones holds training sessions in Florida and all over the U.S., and says that even in the region of his home club, QuickStart teachers are in ever-increasing demand.

"I get calls all the time from clubs saying, 'I want to hire a QuickStart specialist,'" Jones says. "If you had told me that six years ago I would have laughed at you. But the clubs are realizing the money that can be made, and you have to be trained or have someone on staff that is a specialist in it. This program has changed my life for me at my club, now I've got a bunch of people working for me and we're building more courts, and it is really subsidized by QuickStart."

Cindy Harkins, the supervisor for Red Bug Lake Park under Seminole County Leisure Services, says one of QuickStart's biggest impacts has been in retention.

"Seminole County introduced the QuickStart format at Sanlando, Sylvan Lake and Red Bug Lake parks in August of 2008," Harkins said. "In the nearly two-year period since, the 5-7 and 8-10 year-old classes have increased over 50%. However, what is most impressive with QuickStart is the retention numbers. The turnover rate is a lot less than what it was a year ago. We are finding the same kids keep coming back, are playing more, and they are bringing their friends. Some of our classes are maxed out and additional classes have been added. Because the players are staying in the game our other programs, leagues, and play days are filling up too. The interaction with the parents has created an exciting atmosphere."

Jones adds that he sees QuickStart eventually making a dent in the number of U.S. players reaching the upper echelon of the pros. And those players, much like Roger Federer and Justine Henin who played a long-running version of QuickStart in Europe, will be able to attribute their early progression to the format.

"I think with teaching pros, we all have to wake up and realize how competitive the sports market is right now," Jones says. "We can't take for granted that we're just going to get the kids, we have to make our product better. I'm 47 years old, and this is the most important initiative I've seen in tennis. My kids right now, I can teach a volley, I can teach the entire game in one-third the time I used to. Now if that isn't going to change tennis, I don't know what is."

CLICK HERE for more information on QuickStart Recreational and High Performance Workshops.

For information on QuickStart equipment grants in Florida, go to www.USTASharetheLove.com or e-mail grants@florida.usta.com.






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