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Outside the Ropes Oct: Golf, Tennis & Skiing: Common Challenges, Common Cures

Golf, Tennis & Skiing:
Common Challenges, Common Cures

A recent article on the annual meeting of the Tennis Industry Association (TIA) by Brandi Shaffer in Club & Resort Business News headlined "TIA: Sedentary Society" Bigger Issue than Obesity" caught my attention.  True to the adage, "Misery loves company" I wondered whether golf wasn't alone in its challenges with generational shifts and whether we were suffering more, less or about the same as our peer sports in our overall industry decline and the millennial generation challenges.  That led me to doing some research on trends in what I consider our most relevant peer sports; tennis and skiing.

A couple hours of research later, after compiling some summary trend figures for our peer recreational activities, I came to the following conclusions that I'll explore in this issue:

  • Tennis has basically held participation from '10-'16 but Millennials (MEs, defined in this analysis as the 18-34 age cohort) as a percent of participants has declined by 3 points to 33%.  We'll discuss the key contributing factors as outlined in the TIA meeting talking points and compare to golf's issues and answers.
  • Skiing (I've manually combined Alpine/Downhill and Snowboarding for this analysis) has suffered a meaningful participation decline from '10-'16 but has managed to hold share of participants from MEs at 37% in the face of that wipeout.
  • Laying in Golf's changes in participation and generational contributions we see that we've suffered a decline similar in magnitude to Skiing but our ME generational contribution significantly lags both sports at 22% and our share of MEs has declined at 2x the rate Tennis.

The net is that we're not alone in our suffering in either participation decline or decreased involvement from the ME generation but our other peer sports are having more success in either their native appeal to this lifestage/generational group or they've developed more creative programs that are resonating with this group's recreational preferences.  Let's take a look at the comparisons and if there's anything we can learn from these peer sports in our pursuit to stem participation declines as well as better engage the MEs. 

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