A group of tennis players on the court
Photo courtesy of Conga Sports

Like golf, tennis can be perceived as elitist—a country club sport meant for rich white people and not as accessible an adult sport as, say, pickleball.

But perception isn’t reality. While pickleball is growing at a fast clip, the number of tennis players still eclipses the number of pickleball players.

In fact, there are more tennis players in the United States than pickleball, squash, badminton, and racquetball players combinednearly 24 million as of 2023, to be exact.

And people of color continue to be drawn to the sport as well. They now make up 38 percent of tennis players.

Despite that, tennis has a reputation for being less accessible or fun than other sports. A new company on the scene hopes to change that.

Courtside Chat With The Founder Of Conga Sports

I recently met up with Rich Neher, the founder of Conga Sports. As Conga’s website says, its aim is “to disrupt the tennis ecosystem by offering unique, new, and more interesting programs and ways to find matches.”

Yeah, okay, but how? Through a virtual racquet sports club and a complementary app.

The Quick Rundown Of Conga Sports

Members who join the Conga Sports family enjoy multiple benefits, including access to its app, which connects clubs with players and players with each other—a virtual tennis matchmaker, if you will.

Conga Sports is hyperfocused on adults new to the world of tennis. To make tennis accessible, the company is working to develop programs for newbies where they can learn to play locally. They’ll also be able to participate in fun tennis events in their cities.

“Conga Sports welcomes all beginners and provides lessons and clinics as well as match play opportunities for them. We also introduce beginners to facilities in the network and enable them to meet other players of their level,” says Rich.

While laying out the welcome mat for beginners is a high priority for Conga Sports, creating opportunities for intermediate and high-level tennis players is also part of the master plan. Leagues and tournaments will be available for all levels of play.

City Slams Tennis Tournaments & Hometown Pride

To up the fun level of tennis, Rich created City Slams tournaments. These are local tennis tournaments in which opposing teams represent their city and battle it out for bragging rights.

The winners of each city tournament advance to play another city team in their region (think San Diego versus Manhattan Beach in Southern California).

Each team consists of four players: two men and two women plus subs. The match format is eight-game short sets played as men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.

City Slams tournaments are meant to be light-hearted and fun. Rich is currently testing the concept in Southern California, with plans to expand first to the entire West Coast. If all goes well, Conga Sports will host City Slams events across North America by 2027.

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You can track the City Slams schedule via the app and the website, which are being revamped.

“Our new app, the Conga Sports Club and Player Exchange, is in beta testing and will be ready for launch at the end of June,” says Rich.

Three women tennis players posing on the court
Photo courtesy of Conga Sports

Ready, Set, Play Tennis With Conga Sports

If you’re interested in joining Conga Sports and live in Southern California, you can get started right away by signing up here. It’s currently $69 per year. The price includes discounts on Conga programs like City Slams or drop-in tennis matches. There are also other perks to being a member. like discounts on gear and apparel from HEAD and Cruise Control Gear.

If you don’t live in Southern California, fret not. Expansion plans are in the works for Northern California this fall. Rollout for the rest of North America will follow in the near future.

If you’re feeling nervous about trying tennis, Rich invites you to change your mindset.

“We’ll make you feel welcome and hold your hand. You won’t be left alone, and we’ll find clinics, lessons, and play partners for you,” he says.

Eventually, Conga Sports will expand beyond tennis to include other racquet sports like pickleball and padel, so keep an eye on its growth trajectory.

Already Connected To Tennis? Conga Sports Has An Opportunity For You.

Like any new company, half the battle is getting the word out. If you’re passionate about tennis, Conga Sports could use your help. They are hiring ambassadors to promote the company and its mission. Contact Rich at 818-738-8025 to find out more about this program and its benefits.

They are currently seeking ambassadors in Southern California.

Who Is The Man Behind Conga Sports?

Rich Neher and David Wagner, wheelchair tennis player, posing for a pic
Rich Neher posing with David Wagner, wheelchair tennis player

Rich doesn’t just talk the talk. He walks the walk. He’s been in the tennis world since 1994 and has worked in it professionally in some capacity since 2006.

“From 2006 to 2010, I worked as team lead for USTA’s Tennis Link Team for adult leagues and NTRP ratings. In 2010, I became a tennis consultant, and in 2014, I started writing a newsletter titled “Tennis Club Business” (now called “Racket Business),” Rich explains. “In 2021, I founded Conga Sports and began working on it full-time last year.”

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I also had to ask what other sport he’d like to try. His answer? “Golf. I’ve always wanted to really give it a try, but then I say I’ll do it when I get old.”

FAQs

Who is Conga Sports designed for/what type of athlete?

Beginners and novice tennis players with programs for experienced players from 18 to 80.

How can Conga Sports benefit beginner, intermediate, and competitive adult athletes?

We are developing programs for every level of play, some of them in conjunction with local clubs and independent teaching pros.

What is the cost of joining Conga Sports?

Membership is $69 a year and includes discounts on drop-in tennis, tournaments, lesson, gear, and apparel.