Clive Tennis Club: ‘Thinking Differently’ utilising open court sessions to drive participation and club engagement

Friday, 15 December 2023

Club committees work diligently to future proof their tennis clubs; ensure they are inviting, attractive and fun places to be no matter the level of play. Clive Tennis Club knew they needed take additional steps to fill a gap in their programmes offering, be competitive and truly link into their local community.

Reasons for thinking differently

Through combined team efforts and effective planning Clive Tennis Club have enjoyed successful Love Tennis National Open days, attendee’s growing and membership increasing.  The challenge was providing a similar on court experience post Love Tennis open days for novice and lapsed players of all ages. Love Tennis has shown growth in all areas leading up, planning and success on the day, however the post Love Tennis retention of attendees as members and casual players hasn’t shown the same success at many clubs.

What does ‘thinking differently’ look like?

Clive TC 3

Clive Tennis Club’s approach to ensure succession and longevity at their club was to modernise their offering by providing a new type of programme - open court sessions (OC). Open court sessions simply offer a welcoming inclusive environment allowing play with friends. It’s more than just tennis, it’s a chance to socialise, listen to music and enjoy food and drink. Research shows that the majority of lapsed, and novice players take up tennis to be social and focus on the fun element.  The formats are fun and modified allowing players to ease into tennis regardless of their ability. Does this sound like your club open day?

“After participating in an open court session at the Hui, we agreed that open court sessions had a place at our club” (Guy Howlett).

Initiated from their learnings at the Coach & Club Hui’23 the team at Clive Tennis Club put the following plans into action.

  1. The initiative was presented to the club committee, along with an OC demonstration involving all committee members.
  2. All club members and coaches invited to experience a second OC session.
  3. A third session was advertised to the local community via social media.
  4. OC sessions were promoted at Love Tennis.
  5. Post Love Tennis communication to attendees – invite to an OC session.
  6. OC sessions scheduled at regular intervals, now ongoing.

Where can this go?

“We were delighted with the uptake from the community, it exceeded our expectations” “Families really love attending together” (Guy Howlett)

The opportunities that OC sessions can offer to all ages, especially rangatahi are sizeable.  Continuing to showcase your club to new players, providing opportunities for families to be active together, connecting with local colleges to provide a link between schools and clubs, partner with local businesses to the benefit of both and continue to grow the inclusive and fun culture of your club. The National Sports Survey’23 shows that more than a third of clubs don’t engage with schools, with this figure being higher within the college and youth/rangatahi age group.

Flexibility of delivery mode

The beauty of OC sessions is flexibility. Run by coaches, committee, members, assistant coaches, anyone who enjoys socialising and engaging with people. Clubs choose how frequently to offer sessions. Attendees are not tied to committing regularly. OC sessions involve the use of tailored equipment, activities which encourage maximum participation, and for the competitive ones; fun flexible scoring formats!

What Clive Tennis Club OC attendees said

Clive TC2

Emma, 42 “The open court session was a fantastic and fun way to re-enter the world of tennis after many year of taking a break. The coaching team made everyone feel welcome and made sure it was fun for all.  Will definitely go again.”

Sarah “ I attended the open court sessions with my 14 year old daughter.  We both enjoyed the session. They are a fun way to get back into tennis after having a break for a few years! The variety of court and ball sizes was enjoyable and took the pressure off. We ended up in different groups and were still able to fit a bit of healthy family competition into the games we played!”

Tilly 12 “I really enjoyed the open court session at Club Tennis Club because I found it much easier than regular tennis. The equipment catered for all the different abilities and everyone was able to be successful. At the session I attended there were lots of smiles and laughter and I have great fun playing with a range of people of all ages

Vicki 59 “I’m not really fit but do walk my dog regularly.  I have been to a couple of open court sessions at Club Tennis Club. I loved them! Playing on a smaller court with softer balls is a bit slower than the usual game, but great if you are new to the game or returning after a break.  There was no pressure, just fun! Great way to make new friends and socialise with neighbours.  Clive is such a welcoming inclusive club.

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