Rusty Racquets Top Tips
5 Rusty Racquets Top Tips - make your sessions a success
Many tennis clubs around the country are struggling with membership numbers. However, post Covid-19 recovery can be an opportunity for you to kickstart your club’s activities and reach new members.
In our last post, we introduced the concept of Rusty Racquets sessions. We explained what these sessions are and how they can help grow a tennis club’s membership base. We hope this has inspired you and you are now open to introducing Rusty Racquets at your club.
This article covers the Rusty Racquets top tips from founder and expert Peter Bolla.
Peter, a long standing member of Minehead LTC, has been running Rusty Racquets at his club for over 8 years with outstanding results. He is perfectly placed to advise you on how to get your sessions off to a flying start and how to overcome initial resistance from other club members.
Pete’s Rusty Racquets Top Tips
1. Never turn anyone away
Rusty Racquets is targeted at people who used to play tennis several years ago, with the aim of enticing them back into regular active play. They may be a slightly older demographic thus by default they are not at the top of their game!
Pete explains: “It is vital that you are welcoming towards people who don’t play well. You want to nurture a philosophy of encouragement in your entire club, not just for your Rusty Racquet sessions.”
Many clubs still have so-called ‘playing-in’ tests for new members. Such entry barriers need to come down. Why not replace them with a ‘smile-in’ test?
Remember to look at the benefits, not only for your club, but for the individual as well.
Your club can make a difference to people’s lives by helping them to get fit and be active outdoors.
Playing standards become irrelevant in that context.
2. Make it sociable
People are social animals. Post-pandemic opportunities for getting together and meeting new people will become even more attractive. After the isolation of lockdown everyone will appreciate opportunities for cheerful group activities more than before.
People want to make friends, chat and laugh - they want to have a good time. Therefore providing an area where you encourage your Rusty Racquets participants to hang out, drink coffee, eat cake and chat after each session is vital for their success.
“If you get the social side right, you can build a loyal following easily and quickly.”
Actively encourage people to stay for a post-session coffee & cake chat. In addition, consider setting up a dedicated WhatsApp or Facebook group for participants to connect outside the sessions.
And of course, schedule the sessions in a time slot when people are likely to be free to hang around afterwards, such as weekend mornings or early afternoons. At Minehead Tennis Club this is on Saturdays from 2pm to 5pm.
3. Keep the format simple
If you run the sessions with volunteers who are coaches, they may be tempted to give lots of coaching advice. This can be counterproductive in Rusty Racquets sessions.
Keep any coaching to a minimum by limiting the number of teaching points to one or two. Try to keep the sessions as fun and non-competitive as possible. The goal is to keep everyone active, playing and engaged. Up-skilling people is secondary.
4. Make it easy to just turn up
Keeping new member admin simple is key to getting them involved. A complex booking system can deter new people from participating and put off your volunteers from running the sessions. There is nothing wrong with using old-fashioned pen and paper for keeping track of payments, attendance and signed disclaimer forms.
You may also want to have a few old tennis racquets handy for newcomers to borrow. Club members are often happy to donate their old racquets which may be collecting dust at home. With some spare racquets at hand, you can entice new people to join in and play right away, even if they had dropped by expecting to watch only.
5. Get the price right
Price the weekly Rusty Racquets sessions slightly lower than the cost of a full club membership.
At Minehead LTC the annual membership is £150 ie £12.50 a month or £3.00 per week. Taking part in a Rusty Racquets sessions costs £2.50, cash on the day. With such a small price difference, Minehead LTC manages to convert 90% of regular Rusty Racquets participants into full members.
If your club currently only offers annual membership payment options, consider adding a pay monthly payment option for everyone. This will lower the psychological entry barrier and help people understand the excellent value of a full membership.
Final piece of advice
For the successful implementation of Rusty Racquets sessions, you need to find a small group of trusted volunteers in your club. Volunteers are key to making the sessions work and we believe that every club possesses such wonderful people. You just have to find them, talk to them and help them buy into the concept.
Why not use the current lockdown and off-season to discuss a Rusty Racquets concept in your club and seek club volunteers who would like to contribute. Help them understand that they are making a difference, not only to the club but also to people's lives. What’s not to like about that?!
Be welcoming to everyone regardless of their playing standard. Create a format of non-competitive play followed by a social get-together. Make the entire experience low-admin where participants can just turn-up. If you follow these simple key points and you will succeed. Your club’s membership will grow while nurturing a friendly, vibrant club atmosphere.
We hope these Rusty Racquets top tips have encouraged you to take the leap. Do get in touch with any questions you may have. We would love to try and help if we can.
Please also get in touch if you have any success stories to share which may encourage other clubs to follow your example.
We look forward to hearing from you.