Poor registration numbers for the upcoming Northland tennis championships has prompted its organiser to consider cancelling the tournament.
Tennis Northland chairperson Raewyn Heywood has confirmed the numbers for the regional senior and junior singles and doubles competitions scheduled for this weekend at the Thomas Neale Tennis Centre have been so low, she was wondering whether it was worth hosting the annual championships.
"I don't know what to do, really, it's the only Northland championships we have so if you want to get recognition, you really should be going in it," Heywood said.
"But I suppose once you get beaten so many times by the same top people, they don't want to go in it anymore."
Despite her concerns, Heywood was confident the competition would run this year and she hoped more people would come forward to register for the competitive and the friendly novice divisions.
However, the Northland tennis stalwart who has been involved in the sport since the age of 5, said the annual championships were once a hugely popular event but had seen a consistent drop off over the years.
"When I was a kid it was booming, so it's been gradually getting less and less.
"Kids prefer to do team sports, I think. When we were kids we played tennis at school but they don't do that much now."
While she acknowledged a substantial decrease in the number of young adult tennis players, Heywood said she saw most players leave the game in their teenage years.
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"The kids all get to high school and they drop out and then they go to university in Auckland and they don't come back," she said.
"What's in Northland for them? There's not much employment and then they've got all the tennis they want in Auckland."
In an attempt to slow the dropping numbers, Tennis Northland ran a "Taste of Tennis" programme in Northland schools over seven weeks of term four in October and November this year.
Eight schools between Whangārei and Ahipara took part in the initiative, which saw local coaches bring racquets, balls and portable nets to schools for young pupils to learn the basics of tennis.
Heywood, who was one of the programme's coaches, said she had been surprised at how many pupils did not recognise tennis equipment.
"These kids are all 8 years old and they've never even held a tennis racket, they don't know what one looks like," she said
"Unless it was handed to you at school, these kids would go through school and wouldn't even play tennis."
However, Heywood said multiple clubs in Whangārei had since reported an increase in junior numbers, which indicated to her the programme had been a success and she would consider making it a permanent fixture in Tennis Northland's calendar.
Heywood said there was a huge benefit to playing tennis for people with families and as they got older.
"It's about being active, it's a good social sport that you can play until you're old, it's one of the few sports that you can play until you're 80 or 90.
"I always played doubles with my mother, I play doubles with my daughter and I play with my son in mixed doubles."
While she admitted it would be a great shame to see the annual championships cancelled due to poor attendance, Heywood vowed to keep fighting to see the sport persist in Northland.
"I love the game, that's what it is, and I don't want to see it crumble down to nothing."
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