Rip Van Winkle Syndrome
By: Al Valente
I feel like I went into a time capsule and recently emerged like Rip Van Winkle. The industry has changed beyond my wildest imagination. New trends and the sheer size of the industry exist today that no one could have predicted 17 years ago. I'd like to share some of those observations in the hope it may give you a unique perspective.
The Early Days Of Indoor Tennis
Fortunate for me back in the late seventies, I had the privilege of meeting and learning from some forward thinking individuals like Alan Schwartz, Rick Caro, Richard Trant, Dale Dibble, and Todd Pulis and others who names I frankly just can't remember.
Nothing new to your experienced folks, but back then, indoor cardio didn't exist and strength training had a very narrow market and was serviced by the YMCA's and a few niche commercial gyms. But the real growth was going to be the rapid adoption of tennis. Jimmy Connors and Chris Everett were popularizing tennis the way that Tiger Woods is popularizing golf today. Seemingly everyone was taking up the sport. The Snow Belt found an opportunity in offering indoor tennis and charging hefty membership and court fees for at least 6 months of the year.
Lesson # 1 Watch Out For The Fad Aspect
Once I listed to Dick Trant speak eloquently on the "changing world of fads and fashion". The basic notion was that product life cycles were directly proportional to the number and depth of needs satisfied. I was so moved by this that I did my own research into just what separates "fads", i.e. products with extremely short life cycles, and "classics", products with long life cycles. Becoming aware of the concept, I was deeply concerned about the "fad" aspect of tennis, especially indoor tennis.
The quick answer is that humans have a need for "stimulus variation" aka "novelty". We enjoy "new and fresh". But watch out, if all that a product is offering is new and fresh, it is satisfying but just one need, stimulus variation. Guess what, stimulus variation goes away in a short time because it's no longer a novelty and the product has a very short trajectory, remember the "pet rock"?
In the case of indoor tennis, it also wasn't too much longer than people discovered that it was a challenging sport, it took hours of practice to get the ball over the net but inside the baseline. Many members just got frustrated and just dropped out. Court occupancy started to wane.