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Non-Contact Sports Poised for Growth?

3 Nov, 2014

By: Tracey Schelmetic
Concerns about Sports Injuries Help Golf, Tennis Programs Push Participation Initiatives

It might just be the push that non-contact sports have been waiting for. In addition to the fact that parents want healthier, more active children, the increased awareness of concussions and other sports injuries may be steering interests toward sports with a lower risk factor. Golf and tennis, in particular, are reaping the benefits, and the sports event industry can expect to see an uptick as a result.

Golf

The National Golf Foundation (NGF) is putting forth the idea that golf, as a low-impact sport, is the ideal mix of physical activity and low risk to get American kids moving safely and away from the glowing screens of twenty-first century life. The NGF recently polled parents on their attitudes toward junior golf for their children, and reported encouraging results.

“While there are already millions of juniors playing golf, several million have expressed an interest in playing, and millions more have parents that are open to their involvement in the game,” according to a recent NGF blog post. “That’s a large pool of prospective players that golf has the opportunity to activate by promoting its benefits to both the kids and their parents.”

Several golf associations are making a push to present golf as the right alternative to more injury-prone activities while still maintaining the team spirit that attracts kids.

PGA Junior League Golf is also gaining traction with children by capitalizing on the same affinity kids have for team competition that benefits so many other sports,” wrote the NGF. “The PGA of America program, which began several years ago in four states, establishes team competition in structured leagues and features a scramble format that gets kids ages 13 and under involved in the game in a stress-free environment.”

In addition, there has been some success with the First Tee National Schools Program, a 10-year-old endeavor with a mission to bring golf to elementary school-aged children. The program is now a staple at 6,000 elementary schools in the U.S.  The U.S. Kids Golf Foundation organizes 800 tournaments in 50 markets across the country where children ages 6 to 13 are exposed to golf competition in an appropriate setting, according to the NGF.

Tennis

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) recently completed its Junior Team Tennis National Championship, and the event culminated at a very good time for the sport. The U.S. Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Participation Report from the Physical Activity Council (PAC) recently identified tennis as one of the few sports with long-term participation growth (figures are up 31 percent this year from 2000-2012) across all age groups.

One of the groups that has been following the growth of tennis, particularly from an economic level as well as in participation numbers, is the Tennis Industry Association (TIA).

"The fact that tennis is one of only two traditional sports in the U.S. with positive growth over the past 12 years is a testament to tennis not only being a 'sport of a lifetime,' but also to the concerted and collaborative efforts across this industry to grow the sport," said TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer when the study was released.

The USTA underscored the fact that tennis is the only traditional sport with positive linear growth in participation rates between kids ages 6 to 17. In that age group, the percent of the population participating in tennis steadily increases, starting at approximately five percent of the population aged 6 to 7 and increasing to nearly nine percent of the population between ages 15 to 17. This bucks the trend of other sports – soccer, for example – that see participation numbers drop as children get older.

“The USTA and the industry continues to build a strong base of young players through various programs and initiatives, such as 10 and Under Tennis, NJTL, Junior Team Tennis, etc., for the long-term sustainability of the sport," noted de Boer. "Getting children into the game and keeping them in the game is a key priority for not only growing the game, but also the business of tennis."

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