Giant Tennis Thinks There’s an Opportunity for Tennis to Come Out on Top

Without small business, we’re nothing. TheLatch— and GoDaddy have teamed up to rally behind local businesses and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented time of change.

We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand

For non-competitive and amateur sport across Australia, social distancing measures mean that we won’t go back to ‘normal’ for quite some time. For tennis however, a non-contact sport, played with only two people on a huge court, it could be back to business as usual sooner than most.

Aidan Fitzgerald from coaching company Giant Tennis is hoping restrictions are eased sooner rather than later. In particular, to get kids out and moving, and keeping active.

An ex-pro tennis player, Fitzgerald has a passion for both playing and teaching tennis. Social distancing restrictions have meant his coaching school, Giant Tennis, has had to temporarily close its courts.

In order to keep kids active, his business has released a series of training videos to encourage weekly participation to continue, even if that means from home. Using GoDaddy website tools, his business partner and brother-in-law, Brandt Fleming, has been able to keep their website updated, and clients informed through the use of their mailing list.

Just over a third of students are taking part in virtual lessons each week — which shows the hunger to get out on the court is well and truly alive.

We caught up with Aidan to hear more about how his business is operating online, and the opportunity for tennis to come out on top.

TheLatch— Tell us a little bit about your history, and what led you to launching Giant Tennis.

Aidan Fitzgerald: I was a washed-up tennis player. I went to America for college tennis, played around Australia, and went to Europe for a couple of years. When I finished up, I spent 10 years down in Bairnsdale, Victoria, coaching tennis and then moved back home to Bendigo where my family still live.

Dad was a tennis coach too, so, I took over his business. When I came back to Bendigo, he referred to me as his “retirement plan” [laughs]. My brother-in-law was doing some coaching as well, and so, we teamed up to make our Giant Tennis company.

TL: How good! Being an outdoor business you’d think you wouldn’t really be as affected by COVID-19 but unfortunately, that’s not the case. How have you been impacted?

AF: Well, we’re not allowed on court — all tennis courts have been shut down. We’ve been able to do some lessons, as I’ve got a personal court at my house. But apart from that, there’s no tennis allowed.

TL: Which sucks because we need our exercise.

AF: I know! It’s hard. Hopefully, those restrictions are going to be lifted soon, it feels like we’re finally heading in that direction.

We feel there is a chance tennis will be one of the first sports to open back up purely due to the nature of the sport, being that there’s no contact with anyone.

TL: Yes exactly, plus you are physically distanced when you’re playing.

AF: Exactly. We feel that we will be back before a lot of other businesses. It’s just a matter of when that will be.

“We feel there is a chance tennis will be one of the first sports to open back up.”

TL: In the meantime, while restrictions are in place, how have you pivoted your business? Have you changed your offering?

AF: We have. We’re still owed a week that we lost due to finishing up before the last week of term. So, if you enrolled in term one, we’ve given you weekly free lessons online. The email goes out to the students every Monday morning — one class a week.

TL: How are you operating online lessons?

AF: We’ve filmed videos of different training sessions of what students have got to do. Students can go and practice as often as they can or want to. It’s optional, and just something extra we are offering. So, we can’t follow it up very well. But right now we’ve got about 400 people we coach and we’re getting 150 to 200 watches on these videos. The percentage of views is pretty good!

This was just our way of trying to keep connected with all the students during this time. The lessons are ranged from three-year-olds to 18-year-olds. We try to make the videos fun for all ages.

We also talk a bit about more tactical stuff — about how to play tennis rather than just the physical side of things.

TL: So, how did you update your website and your customer base to let them know about these videos? Was that an easy process? 

AF: Yeah! Our mailing list is managed through a GoDaddy page, so it’s easy to contact our clients through the mailing list and refer them back to the website. That’s the main message on our website at the moment — our online coaching program.

TL: How do you find the technical side of running the business? For example, updating your website.

AF: I am not the man for that stuff. It’s wonderful because I don’t like any of the business side but my brother-in-law, he’s all about it. So, he’s the businessman and he loves it. People have tried to offer him their services or other options and avenues for the website, but we use GoDaddy and he’s like, “Nuh. This is the easiest format. This is what I like best and I can just smash it out. No worries.”

“It’s easy to contact our clients through the mailing list and refer them back to the website.”

TL: Do you think that COVID-19 will change the way you operate your business for good? Do you think that offering these videos will be something that you keep in place moving forward even once restrictions are lifted?

AF: Yes, definitely. I like the way it helps us communicate with the parents. If we can get these type of things going and keep in contact with the parents more, hopefully tennis will become more of a family activity.

When parents get involved and understand what the kids are learning, they can go and help them and play with them. And then the parents are playing tennis and there’s more people playing tennis, which is fantastic.

TL: Yeah that would be amazing! We need more people out and about exercising. Do you think that there will be a positive to come out of this for your community as a whole?

AF: With Giant Tennis, we’ve got a few communities. We’ve got five different locations. We are very community based anyway, as it is. We try to get inside the communities to help out as much as we can. And I think it’s going to be fantastic when this all comes back. Just the support that people are going to have for each other.

We’re going to look at a few new programs when it finally does come back. And just try to get people out of the house a bit more; try and not make it as costly. It won’t be very cost-efficient for us, but we want to do something.

“It won’t be very cost-efficient for us, but we want to do something.”

Money won’t be there. But if we can get kids back on the court to play, then that’s the goal. I can’t see footy and netball and all that type of stuff being played any time soon. So, tennis is a great avenue for exercise.

TL: There’s a real opportunity for tennis to come out on top.

AF: Yeah. It’s huge. We normally lose maybe 25% of our kids over the winter anyway. And most of that is due to other sports and the time commitment those sports take up. So, if we can manage to hold onto those students, then that’ll be a win for us.

We’re going to look at adding some competitions to our programs as well when we get back. Tennis is an amazing game, it’s just a matter of this old stigma that tennis is a summer sport, so we’ll try and change that mindset.

It’s okay because you can play footy, and keep up tennis year-round. Training’s not on the same night and competitions on a different night. You can do both!

TL: And the desire to be outside has never been stronger.

AF: No, exactly. It’s a matter trying to take big advantage of that to try to get people into our great sport.

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