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Why We Need a Tennis Association!

The RHLTC recommends the creation of a Tennis Association that will oversee tennis development within Richmond Hill. The association will fulfil the same role as that of the hockey, baseball and soccer association which are primary promoters of their respective sports. It will govern, oversee and organizing all aspects of community tennis including lessons, leagues, camps and indoor facilities. This is absolutely crucial if we are to sustain and grow the game of tennis in Richmond Hill while meeting the needs of all stakeholders.  

>>> The creation of the "Tennis Advisory Committee (TAC)" as proposed in the report has the appearance of being logical until you read the details. A committee consisting primarily of hand-picked individuals who know very little about tennis in our community lacks credibility. A committee that has no ability to effect change and is essentially controlled by the Director of Parks and Recreation is disingenuous and unlikely to succeed. Is this new level of Town involvement in Tennis going to be applied to soccer, hockey, and baseball associations which also use public assets/facilities? The Towns consultant in a presentation to the People Plan Task Force stated that tennis is different because these other organizations have organized teams/leagues. For the record, RHLTC has 15 competitive intercounty teams and six house league teams in a league which is already over capacity.

There is a mistaken belief that all tennis court provisioning should be based on population metrics and municipal comparisons. This is a problematic assumption as it assumes other municipalities have it right, and in most cases they do not, and it gives no consideration to actual demand. 

Without a Tennis Association, how do you identify and communicate with the tennis playing community in Richmond Hill? It is simply the most logical and practical solution which has a proven track record if you consider Hockey, Soccer, and Baseball. Why would we even consider a committee over an Association, one that is comprised of residents and works on their behalf? The construct of the TAC will not fulfil this critical role and in our opinion will be rendered ineffective. The Richmond Hill Tennis Association must be the body representing tennis in Richmond Hill and it should liaison directly with the Town's advisory committee. To create a committee comprised primarily of hand-picked individuals with little or no insight into our tennis playing community will serve little purpose other than to promote the status quo.    

Courts in Richmond Hill

There are 81 tennis courts randomly scattered throughout Richmond Hill and they are all in various states of playability and/or disrepair. The question that needs to be asked and answered is, do we need 81 tennis courts? Do we know how many residents use these courts? The reason this is important is that we know that when the town considers building new tennis courts, residents, those most likely to use the courts are often not in favour. Has anyone asked why this seems to be the case? We can only assume that local residents, those being targeted in this report don’t play tennis or have no pathway into the game and therefore do not want the courts. Perhaps this is why we have so many courts in disrepair, neglected or being misused and abused. 

A Tennis Association would make recommendations for the repurposing of existing courts and advise of the strategic location and construct of new courts. There can be little doubt that a few strategically located high-quality multi-court facilities would attract greater usage and care than a collection of one and two court facilities that are randomly scattered throughout Richmond Hill and are costly to maintain and therefore not maintained. This is why they fall into their current state and perhaps why many residents fight the Town when new courts are proposed. 

One, two and perhaps three court tennis facilities should not be of the same quality as the four, five and six court facilities. Those that play tennis or even those that want to play tennis prefer higher quality surfaces, frequent court turnover and more importantly, the ability to meet other players and play more tennis. According to the United States Tennis Association 2012 participation survey, the number one reason cited as to why people do not play more tennis is the inability to find a partner. 

A grassroots Tennis Association that connects our community of tennis players is a fundamental necessity without which the game cannot grow. Think Hockey, Soccer, and Baseball Associations and the significant role they have played in organizing and connecting players. The 2013 Parks and Recreation master plan addressed the issues and concerns of residents with regards to tennis and the draft Tennis Strategy does not meet the fundamental needs and requirements of the tennis playing community and it falls well short of its mandate. A tennis strategy that does not include a Tennis Association is a vote for the status quo.   

Multi-Court Facilities

Higher quality multi-court facilities should be designated as prime courts and as such, they should allow for longer playing times as opposed to the current rules of one set or ½ hour. A prime court would allow for one hour of play and it would have 1/2 of the courts rotated on the hour while the other courts rotate on the half hour. This will ensure that courts are available every half hour and it would avoid the unnecessary and awkward arguments that usually occur when players simply camp out on the courts. 

Community Clubs

The report acknowledges the community club as important sports organizations that play a significant role in growing and supporting the sport of tennis. It speaks to the need of sharing expenses and then recommends the community club be responsible for 100% of the operating expenses including the utilities and outdoor lighting. We find it hard to rationalize this proposal but can accept it if it is applied to all sports clubs/organizations in Richmond Hill and we have a Tennis Association that can help defray these costs. 

A grassroots Tennis Association is best suited to govern, coordinate and grow the game of tennis but to do so, it must be in a position to generate revenue. This would likely be in the form of club assessments, managing and coordinating leagues, lessons and summer camps as well as running, managing or overseeing indoor tennis facilities. 

The association would "collaborate and work" with the Town. making recommendations for new clubs, financially assisting clubs and contributing or perhaps covering the cost of resurfacing tennis courts throughout Richmond Hill. 

The tennis association would also take on the role of managing the community tennis clubs, thereby eliminating or reducing expenses for the community clubs such as website management, club manager expenses, and cost savings on the bulk purchase of equipment including tennis balls. It is important to realize that the number one problem facing community tennis clubs is the ability to attract and find volunteers. The silo approach recommended in the draft Tennis Strategy fails to recognize this issue. 

We would therefore, recommend the community clubs adopt a new format of operation such as an advisory board, elected or appointed which would work with the association to govern and coordinate activities including providing increased public access to courts at all community. An association could guarantee public access to all community club courts as it would have the ability to coordinate programming at each Club which would free up prime time courts, perhaps even more time than what is called for in the report. 

Deficiencies   

  • Permitting tennis courts policy
  • Community club season usually starts in early April when all tryouts run. From April – Oct 31 or Oct 15
  • A new community tennis club will have adverse implications on the existing club/s in the form of rising fixed expenses with falling memberships, this is an issue for all clubs not just the startup club.
  • Who will organize and coordinate activities, leagues and lessons at community clubs? Where are the synergies?
  • Is this new level of regulation going to be applied to all sports organizations?   


"I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all, I love to play". Boris Becker


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