Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tennis Night in America

Is your facility planning a Tennis Night in America event this month? We had ours on the actual TNA date of March 4. We got lucky with the weather. Could have been warmer, but at least no precip. We had about 27 kids come out for the event which was a good group. More than half of these were new to our facility.

I thought I would talk a little about the format so that if you are planning on holding an event, you can avoid reinventing the wheel. Initially we had planned to have 'stations' on various courts and let the players roam freely, coming and going to whatever courts they chose. But as the date approached and our list of volunteers was starting to look like it might be a little thin, I decided to change the format. We needed something that would be the most fun for the kids yet required the fewest amount of volunteers. So we scrapped the station idea. Last time we did an event with stations and the kids we able to wander about on their own whim, here's the problem I observed: we had some courts overflowing with players who didn't want to change to a different station, and we had some courts with zero or very few players because either they were too hard to find or were activities the kids weren't that interested in.

Instead I plugged in an idea fresh from the PTR 10 and Under Conference last month. I used Mike Barrell's World Cup rotation and format strategy. We even handed out colored bracelets to create different 'teams'. Tickets were accumulated by team and a winner was declared the following day on our Facebook page. There was no wandering from station to station. Players stayed on their designated courts (8 and under on the 36-foot courts, 9+ on the 60- and 78-foot courts). We broke the 2 hour event into four 30 minute segments. Each segment had a different game format. At the end of each segment we met at a central location for drinks, snacks, and to talk about the next game format. This worked well IMO. Here's the formats we used:

First to 4
Roll the Dice
Tag Team Singles/Escalator
Hot Seat

These have all been covered in detail in previous blog posts so I won't bore you with that here. First to 4 and Roll the Dice went pretty smoothly. Tag Team took some time for the kids to figure out. They kept wanting to play it like relay tennis. I will also say the Hot Seat format needed tweaking for such a large group. My intention was to have at least one format where all players were together. There were too many kids for a single line (a good problem to have!) so we ended up having two lines going at the same time which worked a little better. But it went on too long. Next time I think I will have at least two different big group events, adding maybe Roller Derby or Singles Shootout.

Overall it was a great time and we hope it will result in getting lots more kids out there on the courts this year.