I see comments periodically saying that participation in USTA League has been declining the past few years. Naturally, that gave me reason to take a look.
Using the data I have from calculating Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports, I took a look at how many players have played in the 18 & over, 40 & over, 55 & over, and 65 & over Adult divisions regular season. These number do not include players that only played Mixed, or only played in Tri-Level, Combo, Singles, or other non-advancing leagues/divisions.
First, kudos to the USTA for organizing leagues that get nearly 300K players participating. I'm sure this is a small fraction of all the tennis players playing in the United States, but is still a good sized number.
But to answer the question about participation, there does appear to be a small but consistent decline the past few years. It may be hard to see in the chart, but total participation was down about 4,000 from 2013 to 2014, and was down another 2,000 this year. So just over 2% from 2013 to 2015.
And the decline is pretty consistent across genders, although men's participation almost stayed flat from 2014 to 2015.
With all data and analysis, we need to understand what we are looking at and this is looking just at participation in the advancing leagues as noted above. It could very well be that while these have declined, the other non-advancing leagues haven't and could even have grown.
As to why there might be a decline, I can only speculate. There could just be fewer people playing tennis, or perhaps league fees have gone up and driven a few away, or some have decided they don't want/need to play in the advancing leagues and taken their play to other leagues/divisions.
What do you think?