In March 2003, ITF Executive Director Dave Miley was asked by Juan Margets, ITF Executive Vice President, to co-ordinate a new group whose purpose was to look at how best to introduce and retain more players in tennis, thus increasing the numbers of players in the sport.
Key representatives involved in the area of tennis participation in their respective national federations were invited to form the new group, using their wealth of experience to address some common challenges affecting the sport. The ITF Introduction to Tennis Taskforce was formed in June 2003.
The taskforce's first task was to identify the main challenges facing tennis participation and to work together to overcome some common challenges that were faced across the world and within their specific member federation:
- Give advice to the ITF on how to introduce tennis to people more effectively.
- Share information and exchange of ideas on successful initiatives.
- Relate the ITN 10 to the introduction to tennis programmes worldwide.
- Bring the issue of increasing participation to the fore worldwide and to make necessary changes / proposals where appropriate.
There was some agreement at this stage that the biggest challenge facing tennis in the more mature nations was not so much attracting people to try tennis but rather how to retain them in tennis once they have tried the sport.
Tennis Play and Stay centres around the slogan of ‘Serve, Rally and Score’ and seeks to promote tennis as an easy, fun and healthy sport. Fundamental to the campaign is the use of slower balls by coaches working with starter players, ensuring that their first experience of tennis is a positive one by serving, rallying and scoring from the first lesson.
In January 2007, the ITF launched the Tennis Play and Stay campaign on the advice of the Intro to Tennis Taskforce, aimed at increasing tennis participation worldwide. The campaign was officially launched at the first organised seminar which was held at the Queen's Club, London and was attended by 76 delegates from ITF member nations and supporting organisations such as the ATP and WTA. In November 2008, the second seminar was held at the British LTA National Tennis Centre, London and was attended by 112 delegates with a significant focus placed on the development of a 10-and-under programme for the world. The British LTA have kindly hosted both the two previously staged Tennis Play and Stay seminars and once again will be at the third seminar in November 2012, London.
In 2009, with the support of the Introduction to Tennis Taskforce, Tennis10s was launched as the first supporting programme of the Tennis Play and Stay campaign. Tennis10s is the ITF programme for players aged 10-and-under, played on smaller courts with slower Red, Orange and Green balls to make it easier for children to take up the game.
At the 2010 ITF AGM in Washington, ITF members unanimously agreed to change the rules for 10-and-under competition, to come into effect on 1 January 2012. The rule states that 10-and-under competitions can no longer be played using a regular Yellow tennis ball, with the mandatory use of slower ‘Red’, ‘Orange’ or ‘Green’ balls on the appropriate size court. This was only the fifth occasion the ITF Rules of Tennis have been changed in the history of the sport, following on from the foot fault rule, introduction of the tiebreak, introduction of set breaks and the new optional scoring methods.
To date, the Introduction to Tennis Taskforce continues to meet and discuss the common challenges facing the sport and how best to position tennis to increase participation globally. The group meets face-to-face once per year, with up to two conference calls organised. The group is pivotal in supporting the development of the Tennis Play and Stay and maintaining that the campaign continues to address the five underpinning messages.
In 2012, Tennis Xpress, the ITF programme for adult starter players will be launched, having again been developed within the Introduction to Tennis Taskforce and based on 71 pilots that took place in nine nations around the world. The programme will be launched at the third Tennis Play and Stay to be held in London in November 2012, with the taskforce heavily influential in the delivery of the seminar discussion.
Over the coming years, the Introduction to Tennis Taskforce will be working with the newly formed Health Benefits of Tennis taskforce to invest in some research that can best position tennis as a model sport for tackling improved health globally. A strategy will be developed to move the Tennis Play and Stay campaign forward between 2013-2016 which will include developing programmes for the teenage market; an internationally recognised clubmark system to promote minimum standards of delivery within tennis facilities for member nations of the ITF to use; as well as fully review and update the International Tennis Number (ITN) which was established in 2001.
Current representatives of the Intro to Tennis Taskforce:
- Bernard Pestre, Fédération Française de Tennis (FRE)
- Dave Miley, ITF / Chair (IRE)
- Kirk Anderson, United States Tennis Association (USA)
- Fred Viancos, United States Professional Tennis Association (USA)
- Iñaki Balzola, Professional Tennis Registry (COL)
- Mark Bullock, ITF (GBR)
- Miguel Crespo, ITF (ESP)
- Olly Scadgell, Lawn Tennis Association (GBR)
- Rüdiger Bornemann, Deutscher Tennis Bund EV (GER)
- Ronald Pothuizen, Koninklijke Nederlandse (NED)
- Sophie Curthoys, Lawn Tennis Association (GBR)
- Robin O’Neill, Tennis Australia (AUS)
- Stuart Miller, ITF (GBR)
- Miguel Miranda, ITF / COSAT (CHI)
- Tim Jones, ITF (GBR)
- Dan Santorum, Professional Tennis Registry (USA) - Observer
- Øivind Sørvald, Norges Tennisforbund (NOR) - Observer