50+ & U3A Daytime Groups Initiative – Ebbisham Sports Club

Ebbisham sports club: Badminton, tennis, squash & racketball

The biggest challenge for the club was to reach the target audience of 50+ men and women who did little sport.

Other challenges were:

  • How to market the Get Active 50+ Campaign and daytime sessions outside of the Club
  • How to fund it and decide on appropriate level of session fees to be charged
  • How to ensure its sustainability

1. The objective(s)

There were several objectives:

  1. To increase usage of daytime squash courts and revenue for the Club
  2. To encourage 50+ Members, Non-Members and U3A Members to learn and enjoy Racketball/Squash 57 as part of the Surrey Squash 50+ Get Active campaign
  3. To promote physical, mental and social wellbeing of 50+ age group within a friendly community club setting
  4. To encourage a few of the participants to become Silver off-peak members of the Club using daytime courts at other times with friends and family.

2. The challenge

The biggest challenge was to reach the target audience of 50+ men and women who did little sport. Other challenges were –

  1. How to market the Get Active 50+ Campaign and daytime sessions outside of the Club
  2. How to fund it and decide on appropriate level of session fees to be charged
  3. How to ensure its sustainability

3. Who decided on the initiative?

From the results of one of Ebbisham’s general Members’ surveys held every 3 years, two main things were highlighted as needing attention – daytime usage/income of courts and increasing memberships. Jo Robinson took on an additional role in the Club Office as Club Development & Membership Co-ordinator and used the Active Surrey Get Active 50+ campaign and her links with Surrey Squash, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council and U3A Epsom & Ewell to promote new Racketball, Social Rackets Mornings and Tai Chi sessions.

4. How did the daytime group sessions start and who leads it/drives it?

Ebbisham Sports Club members photo

As a volunteer Squash & Racketball Coach at Ebbisham and a Member of the local U3A, Jo started beginner Racketball short courses and advertised them via the U3A newsletters, meetings and website. Participants then formed the basis of two new weekly beginner morning Racketball groups and an afternoon improver group. Word of mouth, Members’, friends, Facebook targeting ‘boosted’ posts and advertising via local Council, Surrey Squash and Active Surrey then resulted in increased numbers of around 8-16 participants per group. Jo became the U3A Group Leader and demand was so great that the Club also started a weekly 50+ Social Rackets Mornings (7 different racket sports for all abilities) and charity Tai Chi group (on squash court). Jo was overall U3A Group Leader but each individual daytime group has an
enthusiastic friendly group leader who sends out a weekly email to all to encourage attendance and social cohesion.

5. How is it run?

Weekly Racketball and other daytime groups run themselves with an attendance group register and participants organise session fees payment themselves on the day and total amount then given to Office staff at end of session. Non-marking indoor trainers essential. Equipment provided (up to March 2020). New players welcomed and shown the ropes by other participants or are encouraged to attend ad hoc Racketball short courses at the Club.

6. What are the outcomes and were the objectives met?

Weekly group 50+ Racketball (x 4), Social Rackets Mornings (x 1) and charity Tai Chi (x 1) groups are held on each weekday with overall participant weekly attendance numbers averaging 50-70 per week, with individual session fees ranging from £2.50-£5, thereby resulting in thousands of pounds of income annually for both the Club and also for charity from Tai Chi (100% fees split 50/50 between 2 charities). In addition, some groups have sociable coffee chats (from Club coffee machine – more income) which helps to motivate repeat attendances, the formation of friendships, a few Club memberships but, most importantly, helps to improve the physical, mental and social health of the 50+ participants.

Ebbisham Sports Club members photo

7. Were there any issues/obstacles along the way and how were they dealt with?

The sessions have been running very smoothly, successfully and independently since 2016 and there have been no real issues apart from the high numbers attending requiring more court time or staggering start/finish times. Ebbisham has 3 courts each for squash, for badminton and for tennis and only 2 courts in each area can be booked for daytime group sessions as Members must be able to book the other court.

8. What was the role of:

  • the club/committee – Fully supported daytime group sessions for Members, Non-Members and U3A links
  • the coach – only required for beginner and improver short courses. Not required to attend the regular group sessions except initially to get them going until a session Group Leader identified to stimulate attendance and social cohesion
  • Surrey Squash – shared Ebbisham’s Facebook posts with other Surrey Clubs about short courses or information/advertising about group sessions etc.

9. What were the critical success factors?

  • An enthusiastic Coach, Member and/or Office staff member to co-ordinate, promote, advertise group sessions
  • A friendly, respected session Group Leader to send out weekly emails to ascertain who attending and promote social cohesion, organise occasional social get-togethers and events.
  • Setting a realistic, affordable and competitive session fee which 50+ willing to pay. If too expensive, they will not attend regularly so Club needs to take into account the fact that there are many different 50+ activities they can choose from and make it attractive financially.
  • For the 50+ age group, a small Club environment can be less threatening and more appealing to all ages and abilities – for them to exercise and form friendships, especially for singles or widowers or those just wanting to keep fit, make new friends and enjoy sport and fun exercise for as long as they can.

10. Summary, including key learnings

Since 2016 at Ebbisham Sports Club, weekly daytime Racketball, Social Rackets Mornings and Tai Chi groups have resulted in: – Increased daytime court usage and thousands of pounds extra income annually for the Club – Physical, mental and social benefits for 50+ age group in the local community – Funding grants from local Council and Active Surrey Sports Partnership to help pay for courts and equipment

  • Increased awareness of Ebbisham Sports Club as a friendly Community Amateur Sports Club in the local community
  • Fun, friendship and feelgood factor for 50+ age group!

Quotes from 50+ daytime group participants at Ebbisham

Ebbisham Sports Club members photo
Ebbisham Sports Club members photo

Gill (Beginners Racketball Group Leader) says:I went along to a ‘Try Racketball’ course four years ago. At the end of the 6×1 hour course, Jo set up a beginner’s racketball group. There were four of us. I took over as contact for the group. I persuaded my husband to come along to swell the numbers to 5. Four and a half years later we are still all beginners (due to the fact we have no natural talent), a membership of 20 (attendance averaging 12-15 per week), with a social gathering that follows in the local cafe for nearly as long again as the initial racketball session.

Anyone can turn up and give it a try without sky-high session fees or potentially intimidating expectations of ability so they know they have found the right place for them. I also have joined the mixed racket group as well since giving up work. The same sentiments apply to this group. So, in summary, Ebbisham Sports Club gives an opening to those who have not got natural ability to participate, enjoy, reap the health and social benefits of sport, which I have not found to be available in ANY other club within 5 miles of Epsom.

WHY IS THIS CLUB UNIQUE, INSTEAD OF THE NORM?!!

Phil says: “The best part for me was the welcome and acceptance from the club and fellow members. Coming back to racket sports after 30 years, genuinely not picked up a racket in all that time, was a bit scary. I did not want to embarrass myself or spoil the games for others who were likely to be a lot better than me. However, there was a great range of sports and different standards that made it easy to fit in but everyone seemed to have the same aim – that is to enjoy themselves and help others to do the same. Brilliant!” Jane says: “Since we first came along last Summer 2019, we have always loved and appreciated the very warm and welcoming Ebbisham Club – the great friendships made, competitive but always inclusive play whatever your ability and fantastic facilities! Counting down the Thursdays until we can be together again!

Jane says:Since we first came along last Summer 2019, we have always loved and appreciated the very warm and welcoming Ebbisham Club – the great friendships made, competitive but always inclusive play whatever your ability and fantastic facilities! Counting down the Thursdays until we can be together again!

Keith says: I always tell friends that my time at Ebbisham, playing racketball and other racket sports normally three times a week, gives me a good workout, which helps my energy required during my dancing. The social side i.e. a coffee afterwards, is a bonus which is the icing on the cake for me. I would hate to just stop playing and go home. We are all friends and Ebbisham has built a nice community.

Ebbisham Sports Club members photo

March 2020