USTA Diversity

We reached out to USTA Section and national office Diversity and Inclusion staff to get their ideas on how they would attract Black Americans into our sport. The USTA's Managing Director for Corp. Communication, Chris Widmaier was nice enough to collect the replies and compile them all in one document for us. While we don't know how many USTA Coordinators have replied, we do appreciate Chris's effort.  

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How to  to attract more Black tennis players and tennis front-liners

Compiled by Chris Widmaier

Below is a broad overview of the strategic philosophy being employed by the USTA to attract more Black tennis players and tennis front-liners (coaches, facility operators/managers, etc.), as well as a snapshot of some of the specific programming in a host of USTA Sections.

 

We think it’s important to point out that in general, all USTA D&I programs are geared to the broadest definition of D&I and target a variety of communities. Our target markets include African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and the LGBTQ community.  Certainly, there are specific programs in place to reach each of these communities, but strategically we are looking at the big picture, and this approach is what guides us in our grant giving, program development and overall outreach.

An example of this is the USTA Foundation’s support of the NJTL Network (which the Foundation commits more than $6 million annually).  The NJTL goal is to provide tennis programming and life-skill support to children in under-resourced communities around the country.  Presently there are 250 NJTL chapters supporting nearly 200,000 kids.  The NJTLs are located in a variety of communities, but certainly the chapters are prominent tennis providers in many African-American communities throughout the country.

Specifically as it relates to the African-American community, the USTA recognizes that although we have done some things well, there are many more instances where we fell short. According to our most recent research, though African-Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, they comprise only 11% of tennis players. The most recent trend data indicated that African American tennis playing population had an increase of 3.4% over 2018-2019. We are not satisfied with that and we as an organization can and must do more.  With this understanding, we have begun an internal process to catalyze action. 

 

An internal task force working with an external search firm is now undergoing a search for a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, who will be charged with leading an Association-wide cultural shift towards inclusivity. 

Our new CDIO will be empowered to help the sport - the USTA National staff, the USTA Sections, our volunteers and the entire ecosystem of delivery and play - do better and achieve more. 

In outline form, actions we are taking at the National level include:

  • SWOT Analysis:  A comprehensive SWOT* analysis was conducted prior to the US Open with Section D&I Leaders, National Committees and D&I Task Force. The goal of the SWOT Feedback will be shared with CDIO.

  • "Big Conversation" with Dr. Janet Taylor: Hosted 8 workshops for National and Section staff, including presidents, EDs and BODs to help us begin to have the difficult, but necessary conversations about race and inclusion that will help aid us in moving forward.

  • American Tennis Association has joined the Tennis Industry United group. The ATA is the oldest and largest African American sports organization in the country. The USTA is also a longstanding sponsor of their annual tournament.

  • USTA Player Development Coach Outreach:  – PD has conducted a series of coaching workshops targeting D&I groups including Black coaches, female coaches, etc. to support and enhance coaching opportunities for these populations.

 

Regarding your outreach to the USTA Sections, below is a snapshot (by no means a full, comprehensive list) of current efforts, as well as “brainstorming” ideas. We will be assessing the effectiveness of each current effort as it relates to ROI, as we begin goal setting for 2021. We will also consider all brainstorming ideas as new ways to continue to grow tennis participation in the Black community in our planning.

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Sampling of current programming, support and partnerships across the USTA:

  • Continue to grow NJTL programming and opportunities in predominantly Black communities:

    • Host family play days with NJTL chapters

    • Provide opportunities for NJTL youth to attend professional tennis events

  • Expand support of the ATA to include local events and tournaments

  • Continue targeted marketing campaigns to Black audiences, including the AMPLIFY initiative and the “Reach, Listen, Watch, Act” campaign.

  • Build on the current National partnership with Jack & Jill of America by expanding to local chapters throughout the country

  • Continue to invest in diversifying USTA volunteers at both the National and Section level by hosting a second cohort of  DIVE (Diverse Immersion for Volunteer Engagement) participants for the 2021-22 volunteer term.

  • Continue to offer support to diverse college students through the D&I Internship Program and Arthur Ashe & Althea Gibson College Scholarships

  • Grow our commitment to HBCU’s by continuing to sponsor the annual HBCU Championships, but also hosting Net Generation Coaches Training and bringing the PTM programs to these colleges and universities

  • Highlight the Black community through recognition of historically Black-owned tennis facilities.

  • Participate in community events throughout the country including the Black Joy Parade and Black Exp

  • Sponsorship of SPAAT (Student Program for Athletic and Academic Transitioning)

  • Continue to identify and address financial needs, including stipends for coaches workshops, professional development opportunities, as well as reduced tournament entry fees for juniors.

  • Grow our Supplier Diversity efforts in the African American business community

 

A Round-up of Select Ideas Suggested by USTA Sections

 

Overall Community Engagement

 

  • Peer-to-Peer/Mentorship: speaker series & training for coaches specific to issues around African-American coaches, parents, players, etc.

  • Develop impactful and sustainable strategic partnerships with African American organizations we do not currently engage, including but not limited to:

    • Black Fraternities & Sororities (The Divine 9)

    • Black Associations (e.g. National Medical Association)

    • Black Churches

    • Zeta Phi Beta

    • NAACP

  • Expand NJTL programming in lower income, under-resourced communities and develop an NJTL Alumni Network

  • Revitalize tennis courts in urban areas through facility grants and facility construction

  • Develop diverse councils with Section league players and/or providers to give them more opportunities to share ideas

  • Expand High School Ambassador Program, which is a great opportunity to reach a larger network and younger audience

  • Expand the National D&I Internship Program to the Sections

  • Utilize current Section D&I Committees to work with staff to plan activations that celebrate diverse communities and populations, and start D&I committees in Sections that do not currently have one.

  • Expand the DIVE program to also focus on development of Section level volunteers

 

Coaching Engagement

 

  • Improve outreach and support to recruit a new generation of Black coaches to be USPTA and/or PTR Certified, including utilizing current diverse certified coaches.

  • Help design and aggregate list of Black and minority coaches per Section for promotional and recruitment purposes

  • Work closely with USPTA and PTR to attract more Black coaches and provide additional training opportunities and targeted coaches workshops

  • Create Internships for tennis players at HBCUs at USTA Sections, the National Campus or with members of the tennis ecosystem

 

National Outreach

 

  • Introduce mandatory D&I training for all USTA staff and volunteers at both the National and Section level, covering topics such as equity, privilege, inclusion, bias, blind spots, and how to be an anti-racist

  • Formalize a dedicated marketing strategy for the Black community. Use top-ranked African-American players and popular culture stars in ongoing marketing campaigns

  • Utilize diverse media outlets to market and advertise tennis within communities of color

  • Hosts focus groups for members of the African American community (both tennis and non-tennis players) to learn about their experience/perception of the sport

*SWOT Analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. So a SWOT Analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects of a business or organization.

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