We are delighted to add Scott Mitchell to our group of writers, all very experienced industry professionals.
Scott is considered an industry leader in first-class facility management, junior and adult coaching, and program design and implementation.
Scott is currently the CEO of Premier Tennis Consulting providing innovative and profitable solutions for clubs/
facilities and professional tournaments. He has been involved in some of the largest and most prestigious facilities in the U.S. and many of the worlds’ leading professional tennis tournaments.
He has been an Executive Director of Tennis with 30 years’ experience at private clubs, public facilities and resorts.
He is married to Ashley a former Florida State University player and ACC doubles champion and they have 3 children, Brady-11 and girl/boy twins, Brooklyn and Cason, 8 years.
Marriage of Tennis and Pickleball
I am excited to begin writing a column for Tennis Club Business and I appreciate Rich for reaching out to me. The goal is to help provide some best practices when it comes to all things that clubs work through daily. I’ll share my thoughts on topics such as the amenities being offered, key operational items both on and off-court, as well as some options to help you develop your team.
In this first column, we will briefly look at the marriage between tennis and pickleball. I do believe and encourage all the clubs that I work with to offer a wide variety of member amenities, including pickleball. Pickleball is a quickly growing sport and if you haven’t already begun planning for what it looks like at your facility, you may want to start to consider it. Please don’t get me wrong, as I am not suggesting clubs begin focusing ALL their energy on pickleball. I am a huge tennis supporter and I always will be. What I want to be sure and what I recommend to clubs and pros is we are not, nor should we be looking to replace tennis with pickleball. They should complement each other and the clubs that do this correctly, see amazing results.
There are several reasons that players are looking to pickleball first over tennis. Pickleball, in some cases, is much easier to pick it up and quickly be able to play. Why? Smaller court, bigger ball, smaller racquet to name a few. Where have we heard that before? I have played my fair share of pickleball and it is extremely fun and very social. One important element that pickleball currently provides that tennis does not is intertwined player levels all on the same court. In many cases, it is much easier for a beginner to take a few lessons and then begin playing and included in groups. Most groups I have seen love it when a beginner joins the group as it means more people to play and socialize with. There are other reasons, but these certainly stand out in most of the conversations I have been having.
Our members are still looking for that key element that brought them to your facility/club, tennis courts or pickleball courts. They are looking to be with like-minded people that enjoy being active and healthy. In many cases these days they are looking for family activities too. Does all this sound familiar? I firmly believe if we as clubs, facilities and pros begin focusing on the social element a bit more, tennis can stay in the game. There is a growing competitive side to pickleball, and I would certainly have this pathway ready and available. The area of growth for pickleball and certainly for tennis are the beginners. I would have a robust marketing effort and plan for both racquet sports aimed at that demographic.
You will want to have a program pathway that will get players and families involved in these sports. I would suggest for those pros teaching tennis, to begin embracing the ‘tools' we have for the kids. It will really make learning tennis that much easier, quicker and fun. A neat program initiative that the PTR brought to us a few years ago was PickTEN. This is something that all clubs should be doing to introduce new players to both sports at the same time. Tennis pros and facilities should not be worried that pickleball will take over tennis. Embrace it and implement the key elements that are making it easier for new players to pick up pickleball over tennis. I believe pickleball is a great compliment to tennis and can help you get your club back up off the mat very quickly if you embrace both sports.
We are all in need of looking ahead and planning for when our lessons, clubs, and facilities are back running at 100%. So, begin strategizing now to implement new pickleball AND tennis programs together. Then you and your staff need to be ready to get excited and share that excitement with your members and players. Remember, people want to be around like-minded individuals and those that are excited about what is happening. So, embrace both tennis and pickleball and get ready to grow your base.
Over the next few articles, I will dig deeper into my thoughts on why the tennis industry is at best, stagnate. Connection points, pros, social elements, program pathways, and teaching tools are some of these areas. I truly believe if we adjust our mindset just a little, we can make a huge difference in the world of tennis AND pickleball.