During the mid-term holidays I took my family…….. trampolining!!
I was literally jumping for joy (puntastic).
I had never been to one of these facilities before but I’d heard a lot about them. The building was approximately the size of 3 court indoor hall and housed a multitude of jump related equipment for all ages. My 3 year old son had his very own under 5 area with mini trampolines and a soft play area. My soon to be 7 year old daughter was allowed on most of the rest but wasn’t quite big enough to get on one area. Something for her to grow up for.
What I experienced was nothing short of pure joy. Who would have known that a 44 year old could have so much fun simply bouncing up and down. Within 5 minutes I suddenly realised I was going to be in trouble the next day. Turns out bouncing is hard on your body. In my moment of realisation I started to take a rest and then take in what I was witnessing.
I asked one of the attendants how many people were in the hall at one time. He said the limit is 135 but his boss puts a cap on at 115 so that he is well under the fire regulations. Coincidentally that same attendant was doing some crazy tricks in front of the kids and they all started copying him (easy coaching). You sign up for 1 hour of bouncing and there are time slots every 30 minutes so essentially half capacity leaves and half comes in on another slot. It cost me £31.50 for me and my 2 children for 1 hour and I didn’t grudge a penny. The entire afternoon was fully booked.
At a conservative estimate this hall with all sorts of bouncy things in it was taking in £5-6k a day. This doesn’t take into account the money being made from the cafe, birthday parties and classes they had running at certain times of the week.
This got me thinking, as a family we are desperately looking around each weekend for something our family can do. We are clearly willing to pay for this and as long as it means the whole family can be together and we can have fun we will give it a go. In this instance we paid £31.50 for an hour of joy. That was it, nothing more, nothing less. One hour of pure joy with my family and we spent more time in the car than on the trampoline.
I then reflected on this as the day went on. Do we offer instant gratification in tennis? Can we accommodate 115 people in a 3 court hall? What does tennis offer? What can we do to compete with this type of service? Here is what I came up with….
I don’t believe tennis does offer the same type of gratification that something like trampolining does. A typical 3 court hall would accommodate 12 players at one time. That is 10% of trampolining! Tennis is the best game in the world. That is, of course, a biased opinion but I genuinely believe it. No other game on the planet has the overall challenge between all 4 performance factors. It doesn’t matter how long you play it, you will never master it. It is a constant journey to discover what you can do to just be a little bit better. Then just when you think you are getting somewhere you are ‘over the hill’ physically. Then another journey begins to discover how you can adapt your game to compensate for your lack of physical prowess.
The game of tennis can bring you a LIFETIME OF JOY!!
So what can we do to compete with instant gratification?
We have to offer a place where people can come to hang out with their family and friends without thinking tennis. That may seem crazy but think about it for a second. The vast majority of tennis clubs across the UK exist with the sole purpose of people coming only to play tennis. This means if we have a 3 court club we accommodate 12 people at any given time on a huge space. We all know what a property developer can and does do with this type of space and now we know what you can do when you install some trampolines.
What extra can we offer to bring people to the club?
In an ideal world every club would have a cafe, coffee shop or restaurant. This would have people visit the club to socialise. People are crying out for players just to hang out. Look at garden centres and farm shops. These have become the go to places for people at a loose end. Why? They have really good cafes and restaurants. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people visit a typical garden centre for a coffee and then as a secondary spend may buy something from the gift shop or actual garden centre. When was the last time you visited a garden centre specifically to buy a plant?
In an ideal world every club would have a gym. You can easily accommodate 100 people at one time on the space of 1 tennis court. This means you could have a substantially larger gym membership than tennis membership. Think what most people may do before or after going to the gym, yep they will eat or drink. Crossover spend.
In an ideal world every club would have a soft play area for young children. Like garden centres, soft plays have become the place to go for families. The children play while the parents socialise, win-win.
In an ideal world every club would have access to play other sports. OOOOHHH controversial Kris!!
We have to get away from this idea that we are competing with other sports. If there was no history of sport and each sport was just being invented I have zero doubt we would create multi sports facilities. We do not steal players from other sports and we are not in a race to capture players to tennis before they discover another sport. We need to create vibrant environments where people can sample what tennis has to offer. Some will stay, some of those will become addicted to the game and some will leave. The better the environment and the more it has to offer the more likely they are to stay.
Now, I know you are reading this and thinking all of this reads a bit utopian for your liking. So all I ask is this….
What can you do with your environment to bridge that gap? If you are a small 3 court club do you have tea and coffee readily available for your parents and juice for the kids? If you have a clubhouse do you really maximise on the space? Could you use that space to create a more sociable experience? Do you have a TV? Do you get people to the club when the big tennis tournaments are on TV? Do you create a social calendar around the big tennis events? Do you have internal competition that has a largely sociable element to it?
Do you have the ability to cater for 12 people on one tennis court and still deliver high quality activity? Do you have the ability to create an environment where people can have fun with their friends and be just several feet away from them?
If I owned a 6 court club I would give serious consideration to turning 2 of those courts into a cafe, a gym and a soft play area. Better to have a vibrant environment with 4 tennis courts than a stale one with 6 courts.
So in summary, I don’t think tennis does offer instant gratification in the same way bouncing on a trampoline does. It can offer much more than that. It is a game to last a lifetime. You will make friends for life and be involved in a game you will never master. If we can maximise our environments then we may just start be the next go to place on the list. I dream for a day when I hear families thinking about what they should do that weekend and the answer is….. Let’s go hang out at the tennis club!
Please leave comments below. I would love to read your thoughts on how we can create better tennis environments.
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