Big Leaps in Diversity Fuel U.S. Tennis Participation Increase from 2020

Antenna. On Thursday, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) released some mixed data on the boom in US tennis participation since 2019. As I covered for Forbes In January, the USTA had already announced earlier this year that the boom had resulted in a net 33% increase in the number of tennis players over the past three years. Well, now the USTA has revealed that this boom also included a 90% increase in the number of Hispanic/Latino players, a 46% increase in the number of black tennis players, and a 37% increase in the number of Asian and Islander tennis players. Pacific. Those were some big jumps up, as the following graphic from the USTA shows:


As you can see in the chart, from 2020 to 2022, the percentage of all tennis players in the country who self-identify as people of color has increased from 32.5% in 2019 to 38% in 2022. All of these numbers come from a study by the Physical Activity Council Study on Sports and Physical Activity (PAC) administered by Sports Marketing Surveys USA and the Tennis Industry Association Participation and Engagement Study (PES).

The study also showed how this boom was not just a youth-to-serve situation. Instead, young tennis players have spanned the age spectrum. Sure, the number of players in the 6 to 17 age bracket went from 4.6 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2021. But last year, 4.2 million players age 6 and older picked up a racquet for the first time to play in their lives, and most of them were adults. In fact, the year 2022 also saw one million more tennis players who were in the 55 and over age bracket, an increase of 17%. This means that the number of tennis players 55 and older in the US has increased by 94% since 2017.


In total, with approximately 23.6 million players. Tennis has produced more of a racquet than any other racquet or paddle sport. You’d be in a bit of a pickle if you thought more people were playing pickleball with 8.9 million plates, bad if you bet badminton had more with 6.5 million and wielding some sort of racket if you believed the 3.5 million player racket would they could somehow have reached the pinnacle of tennis in participation. And let’s quash any thought that the 1.2 million who played squash were anywhere near the number for tennis. In fact, the USTA graphic below shows that more people play tennis than the 20.1 million who play the other four racquet and paddle sports combined:

What has fueled this tennis boom over the past three years? Well, there was this whole Covid-19 pandemic. If you remember, in 2020, people were required to stay at least six feet away from each other. This made sports such as football, basketball, wrestling, chess boxing and muggle quidditch difficult. At the same time, typical social events like Happy Hours where people could spray saliva on each other were canceled. This left people looking for opportunities for physical activity as well as social interactions. Tennis suited then.


But other factors have also been at play in the last three years. Many of the USTA’s programs and investments over time have really paid off in recent years. These include initiatives to build more tennis courts and help more people learn the sport. For example, the USTA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the USTA, has already pledged $6 million in grants to bolster National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) funds in the coming years. These funds offer tennis and education programs to youth in neighborhoods that would not otherwise have the resources to do so.

Additionally, these days compared to the past, you see a greater variety of individuals playing tennis at all levels. For example, take a look at the Top 50 in the men’s and women’s professional world rankings and you’ll find plenty of American players who would identify as people of color, including Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashima, Coco Gauff and Madison Keys. Such greater diversity can inspire a wider range of people to play tennis. Meanwhile, a wider range of people playing tennis would mean a wider and deeper pool of talent to choose from to serve as the next generation of American tennis stars.


Of course, the vast majority of US tennis players will not make it to the professional ranks. However, increasing diversity among tennis players in general should yield a wide variety of benefits. It gives more people access to the physical, emotional, mental and social health benefits that tennis can provide.

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