| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

The USTA and Tennis Industry Association (TIA) have announced that tennis participation in the United States topped 30 million players for the first time in more than two decades. The annual survey of 6,000 Americans showed that tennis participation grew in all age groups under the age of 50 and within all ethnicities. With 30.1 million people hitting the courts, tennis participation has grown 12 percent over 2008 and climbed 25 percent since 2003. The survey is conducted annually by the Taylor Research Group on behalf of TIA and the USTA.

New players comprised 7.1 million of the total, and the majority of tennis players consider themselves “regular players” (14.8 million). Though 15 of the 17 USTA sections were affected by record rainfall in the spring, total play occasions surpassed 560 million for only the second time in more than 20 years. The greatest percentage of growth in participation was in players 12-17 years of age, which grew from 15.7 percent of the total participants in 2008, to 20.5 percent of the participants in 2009.

“The USTA continues to work closely with the entire tennis industry to grow our game, and we are extremely gratified that our collective efforts have generated such strong growth,” said Lucy S. Garvin, USTA president and chairman of the board. “We continue to strive to make tennis easier to learn and more fun to play, and this commitment has led to millions of more Americans playing the game. I am proud of our network of sections, states/districts, and community programs who have worked so hard to increase participation.”

“Over the past several years, we’ve strived to make the game more accessible, particularly at parks and schools across the country,” said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, community tennis, USTA. “Combine this with the health benefits of tennis, and you get surging interest in the sport.”

“The TIA (industry) and the USTA have been focused on growing participation since the mid 90s and this is the result of a consistent and sustained effort that is now paying dividends,” said TIA President Jon Muir. “Our ongoing challenge is to continue to build our frequent player base, the economic lifeline for the sport.”

The TIA/USTA survey results include:

►Total participation broke the 30 million mark in 2009 (a 12 percent increase to 30.1 million, against 26.9 million in 2008).

►New players reached 7.1 million (up 19.5 percent from 5.9 million in 2008).

►Regular players, those playing four to 20 times per year, increased 26 percent to 14.8 million players in 2009.

►Participation in 2009 is up in every major ethnic group, but especially among African-Americans (+19 percent) and Hispanics (plus-32 percent).

►Age groups comprising the greatest percentage of players are:

►12-17 years at 20.5 percent of the total (more than six million players).

►18-24 years at18.4 percent of the total (more than 5.5 million players).

►6-11 years at 16.25 percent of the total (4.9 million players).

►Tennis is doing a better job at retention, with continuing players up 6.3 percent to 16 million.

►Former players rejoining to the game is up for the third year in a row, with nearly seven million coming back to tennis

The TIA/USTA results compare favorably to other recent research released from industry organizations over the past 12 months. In the 2009 Sports and Fitness Participation Report conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), results showed tennis was the only traditional sport to enjoy a growth in grassroots participation.

For more information, visit www.usta.com or www.tennisindustry.org.