Saturday, January 16, 2016 - Viewing the Tennis World as a Map

15 years ago I was living in Austin, TX and was starting to really get involved with league tennis through the Austin Tennis League and USTA. As a player I was given a t-shirt, a schedule of matches, and a list of the match location addresses with driving directions. I loved the tennis and getting to know people and after about two years I formed my own team. As a captain, I had to figure out which tennis centers suited our key players and often had to do last minute venue changes due to spotty rain or court problems. Maybe it's the way my brain works, but even after years of playing all over town, I couldn't visualize where court locations were in relation to one another. So, I set about drawing a map of Austin (using MS Paint) and putting all of the tennis courts on it (See

It was a fun project and I especially enjoyed finding hidden tennis courts and sharing the map with my fellow league players. I printed out copies and even started a Web site ( What was great about the map on the Web was that you could click on a location and see its information. What was not so great was the onerous process of maintaining it. Some people had asked whether I could do the same for their city, and I had to explain how my project really wouldn't scale due to its "hand drawn" nature.

But that changed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. I read an article about how some software engineers where I work (National Instruments) used a thing called Google Maps to create a Web-based system to help New Orleans refugees find their families. It was an awesome application of technology for the greater good. You could add your information and point on the Google map, scroll around, zoom in, search by name, etc. I realized I could use the same Google Maps technology to replace my hand drawn map with a feature rich map of the world with tennis courts pinpointed on it. I also confirmed that the satellite images available on Google Maps were good enough to find tennis courts across the globe.

Mapping the United States - let alone the World - was a daunting task to contemplate, however. I had determined from my initial Web site that I wasn't going to get rich doing it - I would need to keep my day job. But, I would always imagine some kid finding a court to play on and getting out there because of the work I was doing. I truly believed that tennis is a life changing sport and I wanted to do things that would help grow the game. And so in 2006, TennisMaps ( was born with the goal of creating a tennis courts map for every city in America.

Ten years later TennisMaps is about 40% of the way there with over 40,000 tennis court locations mapped in the United States. It is available free of charge for use on desktops at and any tablet, phablet, phone or mobile device at TennisMaps also now includes all USTA tournaments on its maps as well as teaching pros affilliated with Why is the job only 40% done in ten years? Well, much has to do with my own stubborness about data quality - wanting to ensure that the process of discovering courts covers every square inch of a region and follows a standard format of data collection. Have I tried more automated ways of finding courts? Yes. Have I given up on better techniques for finding and maintaining court data? No.

One of my core beliefs is that seeing tennis courts, events, and people on a map without a lot of distractions is a better way to get more people playing tennis. Finding the data itself may become easier and easier as we march further into the information age. What will be key is presenting it in a way that encourages discovery of new opportunities to play in your tennis community. I'm going to continue to look for ways to incorporate new technologies for gathering tennis information and making it available through the lens of TennisMaps. Just like playing tennis, I am greatly enjoying the challenge, personal growth, and the people I am meeting along the way.