Electronic Tennis Court Booking System

Dear Membership

As many of you may have heard, the Club is looking to move forward with plans to install an electronic tennis court booking system to replace the current membership disc approach. The purpose of this communication is to clarify a few key concerns that have been raised as well as outline some of the potential for such a new system. In doing so it is important to note that whilst certain key attributes will of course remain in place, we have an opportunity to develop additional functionality that could be of benefit to members.

First and foremost there is absolutely no intention for the new system to enable courts to be booked in advance. As is currently the case, to book a court, all members must be present at the Club and must continue to book the next available court of a given group. What will be achieved by introduction of an electronic system includes:

  • A smooth and intuitive system will reduce confusions over bookings and court availability (and potential abuses), especially at peak times.
  • Improved understanding of court usage by all sectors of tennis at all times and seasons. This will in turn enable us to make more informed decisions to ensure we maintain a fair balance of court availability for all.
  • Greatly simplified office administration benefits, including diarised events (coaching, team matches, social tournaments and events etc) and permissioning.
  • This in turn will give the membership better visibility on upcoming events and hence anticipated court availability at certain times.

What is important to note, and what we would value the comments, ideas and suggestions of the membership on, is that while the key principles involved in booking a court will remain in place, there are a handful of areas where we must decide how rigid we want the rules that govern the new system to be. Below are some examples of considerations when designing the new system as well as the range of possible outcomes:

  • All Players Being Present To Book A Court: The current rule requires all members to be present before a court can be booked. This is of course a rule we ask all members to adhere to on a ‘good faith’ basis (but which perhaps is not always observed, especially when it involves doubles). The new system could continue on the same ‘good faith’ grounds or alternatively the system could require all players involved in a booking to verify their presence by logging in (this could be achieved by introducing a password/login step to the booking process or even requiring all players to swipe their membership cards). There are of course benefits to the latter approach, namely reducing abuse of the rule, however it does increase the time and complexity involved in the booking procedure. As always, we must achieve a balance.
  • Visibility Of Who Is On Court: At present it is of course possible to see who has booked which court by looking at the discs on the board. Is this something we want to maintain? We have the option of simply showing the various courts as “In Use” or alternatively we can show exactly who is on which court, the latter approach having the benefit of allowing tennis members to be self-policing and ensuring the courts are actually being used by the people shown on the booking.
  • Remote Visibility Of Court Availability: One of the key challenges we face is ensuring the membership are aware of general court availability at all times. This is a combination of full visibility of “Pre-Booked Courts” (coaching, team matches, social events) as well an awareness of busier times. A possible offering of the new system is the ability to see upcoming and/or live court availability via the Club’s website, giving members the opportunity to understand how busy the courts are at any times. Again, there are a range of options here and we must decide what we want to adopt.
  • How Rigid Do We Want To Be About Court Booking Times: There are a number of factors here to consider. Of course there are times when the flexibility of having a manual disc-based system are of benefit, and we must bear these in mind when designing the new system. Will members be able to move their court booking on if they are running late getting to court and no-one is booked after them? Do we have auto-rebooking where your booking is automatically extended if no-one is booked after you? What if people do not want to go on court immediately, can they book a later court?
  • Junior Priority: Juniors currently have equal booking priority on a number of courts, this is something we must be aware of when deciding the logic as to which courts are available and should be booked in certain scenarios to ensure Juniors continue to have good access to their equal priority courts and have as good a chance of possible of getting on one of these courts.

The above are some of the key considerations we will be factoring in when designing the rules and logic for the new system and it is important we recognise that we must achieve the right balance on this front. It is also important to note that the system can of course be changed and evolve over time as the system is adopted and used. If after 6 months it is felt there are particular changes that would be of benefit, we will of course review.

Again, we would like to stress that this new system will still require members to be on site to book the next available court. It will not be possible for courts to be booked days in advance, nor will it be possible for courts to be booked remotely (be it from home or on a mobile device). The key principles that govern the current booking rules will remain in place.

Work is ongoing in building this new system and we hope to have a version available for trial in the coming months, with further updates to follow nearer the time of course. In the meantime, please can we encourage all tennis members with questions, opinions or suggestions to email us at tennis@essapp.co.uk. We will endeavour to reply to any such emails and factor them in to our thinking.

Jono Sumner, Tennis Chairman




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