Schools are a great way of building, promoting, marketing your tennis programme – one of the best!
I’m not really talking here about just going into schools and asking them to give out leaflets or promote your sessions in their newsletter, although we talk about that in Part 5. What I’m talking about here is building links with local schools, and there are many ways in which this can help your tennis programme.
Our schools programme as an example
My previous club was in an affluent village. We only linked to 3 schools, but 2 of those were big private schools, where we ran a big programmes (5 days per week). My current club, Sutton Tennis & Squash Club, is in a less-affluent area, but highly populated. We work with 10-12 schools and a large number of children.
The point is that the type of programme that you offer will really depend on the area where you operate. There are pros and cons to most locations and your success will depend on using those factors. Example:
So you can see that here we may be aiming for less schools, less children but more hours and at a higher cost. A focus on quality of coaching and coach qualifications in order to justify the cost.
Here we can (and do) have far more schools and children in the programme, but the cost has to be lower. We need more coaches, ideally some level 2 coaches because of cost. There is quite a lot of logistics and management needed.
Both the above are successful schools programmes but in very different ways.
Ok, you get the idea - areas and programmes are different. But how to do it?
It can take some hard work up front to get that initial relationship with the school. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, and I think it has got harder these days with teachers being so busy and being bombarded with requests from outside companies. But once you can get that relationship going, it can last for many years and be highly beneficial to both you and them.
How to get the initial link with the school
Obviously you need to talk to someone at the school – may be the head, deputy head or head of sport. It helps a lot if you have a contact , such as a parent of a child that you teach, or a member of your club who has something to do with the school – someone who can get you a meeting or make an introduction.
If you don’t have that contact, visiting the school is the next best option. There’s nothing like that face to face contact. I’ve found emails worthless. Phone calls are ok, but you may or may not get your call returned. I’ve had some great results from walking into schools.
Ultimately, I think every school is different and will come about in different ways. Here is how our school links started:
- A primary school around the corner – there was already a link when I came to the club. But I did extend it from summer term curriculum time only to all-year-round after-school sessions at the school.
- Primary School – a member of our club is a parent and arranged a meeting. We run after school clubs 3 days per week for years 1-6, summer term only.
- Primary School – a member of our club is a teacher there and arranged the introduction. We run after school clubs 2 x per week, all year round for reception to year 6 (4 to 11 years old).
- Boys Grammar School – there was already a link. We have developed it further. They come to the club for after school lessons during the summer term, play their inter-school matches at our club and have a whole-week ‘camp’ during the summer term at the club.
- A Girls’ high school – we already had a link. I developed it further and now we run 3 after-school sessions per week at the school with 16 girls in each.
- Another primary school – and another member who is a parent there who introduced us. We run 2 x after-school sessions at the school all year round.
- Another girls’ high school – I made contact with the school several years ago, but they only replied recently, when their coach was unable to continue and were looking for a new solution. We go to the school once per week to teach a large group of girls.
- A secondary school who we give our facilities to – this large school is in walking distance and we do nothing more than let them use our facilities at an off-peak time.
This list could go on a bit, but just goes to show that the initial contact can happen in a few different ways, but in the majority of them, a friendly contact has been a huge help.
What to offer the school
Not to labour the point, but every area is different and every school is different, but here are some examples of what you might offer
- After school / breakfast / lunchtime tennis club at the school (usually paid for by the parents).
- Curriculum time tennis at the school (paid for by the school).
- After school / breakfast / lunchtime tennis club at your club / venue (usually paid for by the parents).
- Curriculum time tennis at your venue (paid for by the school).
- Individual lessons at lunchtimes – tends to be private schools only.
- One off events at the school.
If you are going into the school, this will be an obvious factor. Some secondary schools will have courts. But none of our primary schools do – sessions are all on the playground using mini tennis nets or race tape.
Marketing Your Tennis Programme
Let’s fast forward a bit and imagine you are now running sessions for this school. This is a massive opportunity for you to promote your tennis programme to a large amount of children and parents, so how can you do it?
- Make sure all the children get leaflets for your tennis camps
Also give them leaflets or letters inviting them into the term-time programme at the club
- Special offers of membership
- Do a parents’ session at the end of term – this is where you invite the parents to the final session, chat with them, maybe give out awards. This is a great opportunity to have some face-to-face time with the parents, tell them about your club / programme, invite them to come along to try a session at the club etc.
- If you are doing non-curriculum sessions where the parents book directly with you, you’ll get their contact details, particularly email addresses and mobile / cell number. Now you can promote your sessions to them by email and text/SMS.
- Now that you have a relationship with the school, they will likely be open to giving out your leaflets to the whole school and / or putting you in the school newsletter or emailing the parents.