Could COVID-19 Actually Increase the Popularity of Youth Tennis?
By: Amy Grenier
It’s been a long time since our tennis courts attracted groups of young people fired up to learn, compete, and love the sport of tennis. Instead, kids have flocked to soccer and baseball fields, basketball and volleyball courts—often vying to find enough space and time to even play.
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So what do all these popular American sports have in common? They are team based , and similar to lacrosse and even football, their popularity has surged over the last 30+ years as parents and peers have propelled young people toward these easily accessible, community-centric sports.
Meanwhile, tennis has experienced decades of declining popularity. In fact, a recent ESPN study revealed that less than 10 percent of youth and adolescents in the United States play organized tennis. But maybe Covid will unwittingly increase our young tennis-playing population.
As a result of shelter-in-place (SIP) and social distancing guidelines, many of our fields and basketball courts are shuttered, while tennis courts are slowly opening. Young people who hadn’t considered tennis before are picking up rackets just to get outside and play, potentially discovering they like the sport.
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Even after SIP ends and fields open, the future of team sports is uncertain. They require everything that social distancing restricts—physical contact, sharing of balls and equipment, and unavoidably close quarters.
As a result, sports such as tennis might actually see an increase in young players who take up the game because it’s (post-COVID) acceptable.
Once social distance regulations have eased, parents of young children might reconsider whether they actually want their kids to play traditional team sports, such as soccer and baseball, and instead promote a non-physical contact alternative like tennis.
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We all hope that one day soon we’ll live in a world where we don’t have to worry about social distancing, and we can go back to enjoying all sports the way we once did.
Until then, a potential upside for tennis enthusiasts is that maybe we will start to see more kids hitting the courts and the overall popularity of tennis increase in the years to come.