I am one of the Assistant Coaches and Chairman at Letterkenny Tennis Club in Donegal, Ireland. I do not do much coaching myself (just help out at the Academy Sessions), however we have a fantastic head coach – Gerry Clarke who is great with the young people. We have a strong junior programme with some great players coming through, however they really lack the opportunity to take it one step further.
Letterkenny Tennis Club provide sessions as an Academy for the performance players three times a year for 6 weeks at a time and are actively looking for progressive and experienced coaches to take some one off camps throughout the year. We have current Irish Fed Cup Captain John McGahon and his team coming to do a camp for us in May, and have had Kris Soutar doing a session for the juniors previously. Our performance players lack the exposure to larger tournaments and indoor facilities due to our location.
Gerry Clarke has grown the junior programme above and beyond all expectations over the years, however the adult section has not been quite as successful. Senior members have remained stagnant at the club whilst this has been going on. Gerry has tried several times over the years to increase the senior membership by offering ‘rusty racket’ lessons and beginner sessions at various times in the year, some of them even for free. Each time he would fully admit that he hasn’t marketed these sessions as much as he could have done and he may have had between 6 and 8 people turning up.
However Gerry is always determined to make a difference at the club. He decided to give the beginner adult sessions another go. With the full support of the current committee he decided to run an 8 week session for adult beginners at a cost of €50. The committee were behind him and offered to help out wherever required. Off his own back Gerry went to the local printers and asked for help with flyers and posters. The printer did a fantastic job building the posters from scratch. The committee helped by sharing Facebook posts, handing out flyers and putting up posters in large employers within the town.
Social Media and Marketing:
Gerry has a good following on social media, and he was able to get a lot of people commenting and sharing Facebook posts, and he spent a little money on paid Facebook advertising. He also works closely with Donegal Sports Partnership, Ulster Tennis (the local governing body) and Tennis Ireland in various projects throughout the year.
As it happened last night (Thursday 7th March) was to be the first session. It was a cold and damp night, although that is no different to what it normally is like in March. The session was to last an hour and there were some assistant coaches waiting in anticipation…. Then 7 o’clock came and 28 adult beginners turned up! Gerry was also aware that at least 6 others could not make the first week! Letterkenny Tennis Club has 4 courts, so you can imagine the carnage that could have pursued with the club potentially expecting maybe 10 people to arrive! The session ran smoothly and with the assistants on hand were able to take the heat off the coach.
Within the group, Gerry has arranged to split the group into two sessions since the numbers are too high for 4 courts. This will make it easier for the groups to enjoy the experience and help them to come back time and again. Gerry has informed me that he will be setting up Whatsapp groups for them to connect and arrange to play some tennis in between lessons, and he will provide them with video tips to help make them better players.
The moral of the story is that marketing works. If you do all the right things to help market your classes as a coach, you are in control of helping to increase the participation in this fantastic sport. With organisation and teamwork and an effective committee as a coach you can really help to achieve your goals. The next step is keeping these players, and that is for another day.
As Assistant Coach and Chairman of Letterkenny Tennis Club, and owner of SportsProsConnect, I am proud of the way marketing and teamwork has combined to help the sport of tennis and Letterkenny Tennis Club.
Mark Wylam (Owner Sportsprosconnect.com)