Platform Tennis, with its multigenerational appeal, has been exploding across the country over the past 10 years. Platform tennis, which is affectionately known as “paddle,” by its enthusiastic followers, is a fun, exciting, fast-paced game which is easy to learn but uniquely challenging to those with advanced racquet skills. Originally thought of as a cold weather alternative to outdoor tennis, platform tennis courts have been popping up in some interesting warm climate locations such as Arizona, California, South Carolina, Georgia and even in Florida. Summer platform has also been gaining a following thanks to the development of a special warm-weather ball which bounces lower in warmer conditions.
Platform tennis was invented nearly one hundred years ago in Scarsdale, New York by James Gogswell and Fessenden Blanchard, two avid tennis players looking for a way to stay active and hone their tennis skills during the long east coast winters. Platform is played on an elevated aluminum deck (thus the name “platform tennis”), approximately 1/3 the size of a tennis court, over a 34-inch net, with the court surrounded by 12-foot-high screens. The ability to melt snow and ice with heating units underneath the gritty aluminum surface makes platform tennis a true all-weather sport.
At many clubs in the Northeast and Midwest, platform tennis has taken over as the number one alternative during cold weather months when racquets enthusiasts and golfers traditionally go into hibernation. The mass appeal and party atmosphere make platform tennis a fun, healthy outdoor activity that can be played socially or at a highly competitive level. Platform is truly a lifetime sport. The smaller court is easier to cover than a tennis court and the relatively quick learning curve allows players of all ages and abilities to become proficient rather quickly. Many people describe platform as a combination of tennis, racquetball and squash, as players utilize classic tennis strokes with the ability to play shots off of the wires. Almost exclusively played as doubles teams, the tight confines of a platform court make communication and teamwork imperative. Initially, players with proficient racquet skills have an advantage, but unlike tennis, many players can compensate with thoughtful strategy and a little bit of hustle. The inability to hit winners and the reliance on strategy has led many to call platform tennis the “chess game” of racquet sports. Platform tennis is unique in that players of varying abilities can still enjoy a competitive game, as the ability to use the screens becomes a great equalizer. So, as the court space shrinks, the tactics and strategies increase which has become the main feature in platform’s lasting appeal and growth in popularity.
Of course, there are financial benefits in developing a platform tennis program as well. The teaching options are endless, from new players, to junior programming, to players with elite racquet skills desperate to learn the intricacies of paddle strategy. Platform tennis is easy to learn, easy to coach and there are many opportunities to gain teaching proficiency and certification through the USPTA. Platform tennis programs are a fantastic way to increase pro shop sales at racquet clubs during the winter months which have traditionally been the slow retail periods. The ability to deliver an entirely new line of racquets, balls and cold-weather sports apparel can create completely new revenue streams. Clubs can additionally benefit from the food and beverage opportunities that are associated with leagues, tournaments and platform parties, which have become a major part of the platform tennis culture. The increased social appeal of platform lends itself to a more festive post-match atmosphere usually accompanied by a meal and an adult beverage.
As the decision makers at many clubs are searching for additional revenue sources, increased programming for its members and creative ways to compensate club professionals, platform tennis provides a comprehensive option that addresses each of these challenges.
Who benefits from a platform tennis program?
- Professionals/managers looking for a fun, new, winter program for their tennis players, golfers or a whole new group of members.
- Racquet professionals who can continue to teach through the cold weather months with little loss of revenue, without having to relocate to a warm weather destination.
- Clubs looking to increase pro shop sales
- The membership who will welcome an outdoor sport that they can play year-round with their friends and family.
- The general manager who will be grateful for the increases in food and beverage sales associated with keeping members engaged at the club through the winter season.