Rockholt, who owns a franchise that serves an area from El Segundo to Long Beach, said she jumped at the chance to add tennis to her golf program, which enrolls 500 children each semester.
“As a franchise owner, the added revenue alone from tennis is worth it,” said Rockholt, who is charging her tennis students the same $18.50 per class she charges for golf. She expects that the tennis franchise will nearly match the size of her golf programs by the end of the year.
A main driver of the tennis program is parental fears that their children are too sedentary, preferring video games and fast food to activity. About 20 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District students were considered obese in 1999, a figure that rose to 26 percent in 2006, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
What’s more, in California, elementary students are required to participate in 20 minutes of physical fitness education daily – and middle and high school students 40 minutes – but districts have found it challenging to meet those rules.
The LAUSD has received several grants to run pilot programs for its own after-school tennis programs, but layoffs drove the ratio of students to gym teachers so high that a task force recently recommended the district institute a cap on physical fitness class size of 55 students per teacher. Other districts simply have teachers trained in math, science and English overseeing physical education part-time.
Seth Strongin, assistant director for L.A.-based City Project, an organization that advocates for improved access to physical activity and healthy recreation in underserved communities, said schools have little reason to promote fitness among students since no state funding is tied to it.
“The schools have incentives to show improvement in test scores but physical education is not tested,” he said. “Basically, there is a need for additional opportunities for physical activity and it’s most pronounced in underserved communities such as low income and ethnic communities.”
Steve Tanner, TGA chief operating officer, said the company started a foundation that looks for corporate donations to help pay for children who otherwise couldn’t afford the camps.
“The ultimate vision is to reach all kids regardless of their ability to pay through the foundation,” he said.
He was convinced to expand to tennis when the U.S.T.A. signed on.
“We have the business model to penetrate schools and make an impact in communities, but the support of the national body of tennis really helped us move forward quicker,” he said.