April 2011 -- When Midtown Tennis Club unveiled its first Cardio Tennis program in October 2005, we crossed our fingers in hopes that members would show up to experience the concept of mixing tennis skill-building with cardio activity. They did come, and their numbers are still growing.
Today the club averages about 800 Cardio Tennis participants per month and gains approximately $20,000 in monthly CT lesson revenue. Chicago's Midtown has seen an astonishing 54 consecutive months of continuous growth in Cardio Tennis, fueled by an emphasis on education and promotion from the very start.
In September 2005 we hosted one of the first national CT workshops and over the years have held three more. This continuing education has kept us fresh and up-to-date as the program has evolved. We also took advantage of private-facility training. The two times we did this, the CT trainer worked not just with the tennis staff, but also with the welcome center, fitness and pro shop staff. It is important for everyone on staff to be educated on all facets of the program as they are "selling" it to the customers.
After the initial workshop we were pumped up; it was now time to launch. We knew a proper launch was critical to long-term success, so we followed the steps suggested by the Tennis Industry Association and also added our own special touches. We registered the facility as an official Cardio Tennis site, which gave us credibility, as well as permission to use the logo in our newsletters and e-mails, and a free listing on the consumer website at www.cardiotennis.com. We also used the CT marketing tool kit, offered the "Try Cardio Tennis for Free" program for two months, and ran a promotion allowing members to qualify for a free Polar heart rate monitor by signing up for a certain number of Cardio Tennis sessions. And as part of the club's 40th anniversary celebration in October 2010, we held a special party just for our junior members, with 80 kids ages 8-16 playing Cardio Tennis.
Today Midtown's Cardio Tennis activities are hugely popular and designed to fit a wide variety of needs and preferences. Most classes are maxed out at eight people per court (many have waiting lists), and we soon plan to add segmented "Starter Cardio Tennis." We currently offer 19 Cardio Tennis classes each week - 90- and 120-minute classes as well as the standard 60-minute class. Options include CT classes with or without music; two 6 a.m. CT Boot Camp sessions each week; a Cardio Tennis "Trifecta" (classes at 7, 8 and 9 a.m.) on Sundays; a Cardio Tennis party in the Tennis in No Time and TenniSchools programming; and Cardio Tennis Games Tournaments, which are sold-out events with 32 players on four courts (six to eight people per court) - and waiting lists.
With hundreds of participants, nearly half of the 35 professional staff members now teach at least one Cardio Tennis session per week. New staff members are required to do "CT on-the-job training" on court with Butch Staples and me so we can ensure they understand the intensity, progressions, structure and purpose of the class. And for the first time, a director of Cardio Tennis position was established this past January.
Cardio Tennis draws a lot of fitness-minded tennis players who can get a great workout, burn calories and improve their shot-making skills in a less intimidating environment than an actual tennis match.
One of the most interesting aspects is how Midtown's Cardio Tennis programming has revolutionized the way members get together and socialize. We have a core group of Cardio Tennis players who refer to themselves as the "Cardio Gang." They have been part of the program since the beginning and are very proud of their commitment to it. These players have built a special bond that extends to their lives outside the club. I've heard plenty of great stories from the Cardio Gang about their group dinner outings and even trips to out-of-town tennis tournaments together.
The positive effects are being felt not only by the participants in the Cardio Tennis program, but also by the professional coaches who teach them. Cardio Tennis has really made our professional staff better by improving their training methods and allowing them to incorporate our drills and games into their regular group teaching.
Cardio Tennis also allows Midtown Tennis Club to service more members per court and this is critical when indoor court time is at a premium. Regular CT players like the format so much that they're eager for action and movement in all lesson programs.
At the end of the day, I'm just happy to see former players rekindle their love for the game through Cardio Tennis. The competitive element draws people back to the game without the pressure of an actual match. And, of course, anything we can do to bring new players to the game and old players back is good for tennis.