Nick Preston built up a beginners group at Cambridge from zero to 45 players, with 20 now attending regularly, within 3 months. Here he shares his tips for successful recruitment with EFA Development Manager Alex Knight.
What did you do?
Get permission / support. The starting point was to ensure the authorities responsible for the courts would allow and support me to hold adult beginner classes. The Sports Centre saw it as a great idea to ensure the courts would be used.
Publicise. I and the University Sports Office produced 1,000 publicity flyers in both A3 and A4 formats [the flyer templates are available from the EFA]. I spent one weekend at the start of September distributing these around all Cambridge sports centres and Rugby/Cricket/Tennis/Golf Clubs, as well as sports physio practices and popular coffee and farm shops. My wife (who works for the University) also arranged for some to be circulated around the University’s 70 Faculties and meeting centres, to be placed on noticeboards, staff rooms and kitchen areas. I also wrote to all the local press.
Arrange taster sessions. I ran initial taster sessions on Saturday mornings for 5 weeks targeted at complete novices. Strong demand has led me to continue with these new beginners, and I have scheduled additional sessions into 2018. Players are encouraged to bring a friend or work colleague along, and there are several groups of friends who play together.
Follow up. Players want to play with others of a similar standard, and there are evening sessions during the week for more experienced players. When the beginners get to the point of arranging a game between themselves during the week, I stagger the groups so they’re turning up on different nights.
How much time did it take?
I spent at least one full Saturday just going around from place to place and asking permission to leave 20 flyers to be circulated on a stand or whatever. I did the same one Sunday morning.
Where did your players come from?
A variety of places, including groups of Vets and Astronomers (their Faculties are located close to the courts), as well as several university staff and some from the Badminton Club.
What about costs?
I’ve ignored the costs for the moment – everyone has free fives. It costs £1, but they may or may not be paying that. The idea is to get people playing first and then to ask them to pay for it once they are attending regularly.
What’s the secret to your success?
You get out what you put in, and persistence is crucial. The sports centre was important, because they have so many members doing different things – a captive audience on the doorstep!
Also, you need to aim high. I was a bit disappointed when only 5 people showed up initially, but was assured that many established clubs don’t have many more than this! Like a local tennis club, I think we should be aiming for at least 100 in the club, with 20 regulars, which allows you to play with people of your standard.