Many sport organizations face the challenge of declining sport participation. Traditional methods of addressing this challenge such as promotional ads and top-down initiatives that ignore community needs have not succeeded in sustaining sport participation. This action research study assessed the impact of the building tennis communities model, a community development approach based on three key elements: identifying a community champion, developing collaborative partnerships, and delivering quality sport programming. Eighteen communities across Canada were supported by the national sport governing body, Tennis Canada, to participate in the study. Findings demonstrated that communities were able to identify a community champion and deliver quality programs that aimed to increase and sustain tennis participation; however, partnership building was implemented in a very preliminary and incomplete manner. Recommendations about the benefits of using a community development approach to not only increase sport participation but also develop communities through sport are presented with implications for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners.
The author is with the School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada.