Tennis needs to keep growing and we need to keep developing players. Tennis teaches values.
--- Joshua Jacobs of TGA Premier Youth Tennis
TGA Premier Golf and TGA Premier Youth Tennis continue to move forward with its concept of introducing children from all backgrounds and cultures into the sports of golf and tennis through education and their schools.
"TGA believes that an important component to growing tennis is to bring the sport to schools and provide a full-service, affordable and accessible after-school program that combines tennis instruction with academics, physical activity and life skills," said Joshua Jacobs, TGA’s founder and CEO.
Jacobs’ passion for growing the game of golf began in Los Angeles, California in the fall of 2003 and tennis came into the picture in 2011. TGA is now a full-service franchise company with franchises running all over the country, with more on the way.
Jacobs believes that tennis isn't just a great physical activity, but by playing a sport like tennis, kids can become better people.
As we head into the 2014 U.S. Open, I talked with Jacobs and we discussed TGA Tennis, the state of tennis and expanding his ideas and programs.
We last talked about TGA Premier Youth Tennis about a year ago, what strides have you made in the last year?
Jacobs: Franchises are up from 20 to 28, programs are up 45% and participation is up over 30%. Our model is developing the way it is meant to scale. We've also created a new student handbook, given to every participant, that is designed to engage students and their parents both at the school and at home.
Talk about your partnership with the USTA...
Jacobs: Youth Tennis as a whole has grown from 2.54 million participants in 2012 to 2.85 in 2013. That is quite a hike, especially in comparison with what is going on with the golf, a complimentary industry. The USTA has done a great job of sizing equipment and courts correctly for participants ages, as well as putting into place leagues and tournaments to keep youth interested and retained in the sport. It's provided a great core for our partnership to flourish as they are now they are concentrating on self-sustaining programs that (install) a pipeline to the infrastructure by driving participation into what they have developed. I see the opportunity to take our model and replicate it with not only the franchise system, but also hiring people to execute it across the country. Local stakeholders are key to growing tennis at the grassroots level.
How do you reply to those that are down on tennis and say tennis has fallen off the map when it comes to sports Americans are interested in?
Jacobs: Certainly there is a lack of American talent on the men's side- there is no disputing that. But look at the way the American economy and lifestyle is right now and it is condusive to growing our sport. First, the healthy living and fitness movement around the country gravitates to tennis. Not to mention the accessibility of tennis that it can be played anywhere, especially with youth. Tennis doesn't take a long time to play like other sports and it's cost friendly. You need tennis shoes, a racquet and some balls to get started and everyone has shorts and a t-shirt. There has never been more of an opportunity for tennis to make a move. It's American-friendly right now. Superstars with personalities could create more of a buzz, but tennis is going to be grown by local stakeholders at the grassroots level making it available to everyone.
Tennis may be inexpensive to play at a recreational level, but at a competitive level or if you are serious about developing your game, it becomes expensive.
Jacobs: Absolutely, but the USTA realizes this and they are trying to make it easier for players and families to not spend as much money. TGA and our model is positioned to be the self-sustaining, affordable introductory program that starts the pipeline and makes it available to everyone. To us, the family aspect is critical as we instill a passion in not only the youth, but their parents as well. Kids want to play with their parents, siblings and friends and families are leaning towards affordable activities. I am all for parents investing in a kids future if a college scholarship can be attained, but it's just as important to make tennis fun for youth as it is to pursue that talent.
How do we keep kids in tennis?
Jacobs: Kids have a million things they can do. Tennis is competing against so many activities whether it be other sports, instruments, building Legos, or whatever it is. If they have a positive, fun and successful first experience like they do with our program, there is a high probability they will stay in the sport and gravitate towards their instructor. Tennis is one of two life-long sports. We need to keep kids in the sport as long as we can.
Talk about the values and life lessons tennis teaches kids...
Jacobs: Tennis teaches etiquette, it teaches healthy living, it teaches leadership, it instill positive individual drive to succeed. It's a great sport for everyone.
Your opinion on tennis right now in Canada and are you looking to expand there and take advantage of the tennis movement going on north of our border?
Jacobs: Canada is always on the radar. We have two Canadian golf franchises. Now with Bouchard and Raonic and their success, Canada is really looking to push that sport and we can provide a solution for them in terms of the after school market and making it available to everyone. Canada is putting more resources behind their in-school tennis programs and they will need that structured out of school time component.
What have been some of your best franchises and success stories?
Jacobs: Bergen County, New Jersey has been doing this for 24 months and they are in 45 schools and have 3,000 participants. The Los Angeles franchise has been going for about 30 months are they are in close to 80 schools and have gone through 4500 participants. It's what we do for the tennis ecosystem in those areas and we are seeing more success stories as each passes. We are the first step in the pipeline that will lead to USTA tournaments so they can identify talent that could go to the next level.
What are some areas or cities that you aren't in yet, that you would like to get in?
Jacobs: The Chicago market is a big target for us and the Dallas market and surrounding areas is on our radar. I think we will see heavy expansion in the Seattle area and Pacific northwest in the next six months.
How about anything else you would like to touch on and your outlook heading into next year?
Jacobs: Certainly I would like to touch on our partnership with the USPTA. Our latest franchise to come on in the south Boston area is led by a USPTA member. We are seeing many more USPTA pros work with our programs and become coaches at the schools. These pros are giving back to the community and growing the sport, but from their standpoint, it gives them the opportunity to add clientele as the participants transition from the schools to their facilities. It's a great marriage since the kids get the best instruction and their talent can get identified and cultivated.
For more information on TGA Premier Youth Tennis, visit www.playtga.com.