It was 2009. Scott Baxter was coaching tennis full-time, and his students kept asking how their friends could get lessons without joining a private club.
Baxter saw a chance to pick up some extra hours, so he approached his boss at the Chevy Chase Country Club outside Washington, D.C., and asked if he could coach lessons to non-members on his days off.
“The demand was greater than I ever thought possible and the idea for PlayYourCourt was born,” said Baxter, a USPTA Elite Professional. “There were tons of players that wanted lessons, but couldn’t afford private clubs, and plenty of coaches that needed more hours to make ends meet.”
It took a leap of faith – Baxter said he emptied his savings account into the first version of PlayYourCourt.com
– but it paid off.
“The original business was just an Uber for tennis lessons model and it was originally just based in D.C.,” he said. “I saw the two-sided demand in the marketplace and started pairing coaches with players for lessons.”
He continued coaching 45- to 50-hour weeks, and when he got home, he worked on PlayYourCourt, an online platform to connect players and coaches in the local area.
The idea is simple enough. Once a coach is accepted onto the platform – they must have at least five years’ coaching experience and meet other criteria – they can begin giving tennis lessons at times and locations convenient for them. It’s free for coaches; students pay a small fee per lesson. So far, nearly 2,100 coaches have signed up nationwide.
“At this point, I think every tennis coach in the country knows if you need to pick up some extra business, we’re the place to go,” Baxter said.
That went on for a couple years, with Baxter coaching full-time and managing the business on the side. It wasn’t until 2014 that PlayYourCourt became his full-time focus.
After several years of steady growth on the lesson business, PlayYourCourt launched its membership service in late 2017. For $5.99 a month, or $49.99 for a year, PlayYourCourt members can use a variety of tools to meet evenly matched players in their local area. On top of that, PlayYourCourt offers personalized video coaching segments that are sent to members each week based on their skill level.
The goal, Baxter says, is to make tennis more accessible.
“You can’t afford tennis lessons, so you never try tennis. Well, what if I could connect you with other beginners in your area and give you the coaching you need to learn the sport, all for just six bucks a month? Everyone can afford that," Baxter said. "The real mission here is to break down the barriers that prevent people from trying tennis and grow the sport as fast as we can.”
And he has his sights set high. Baxter said later this year, PlayYourCourt is going to “scale into Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and beyond."
"By the end of 2020 we should be offering the membership nearly worldwide. The number one reason people quit tennis is because they don’t have anyone to play with. We know if we can help pair players that we can grow the sport tremendously.”