Ready? Set? … Wait!

With “no-tennis” order starting to lift in different parts of the country (my Pelican Bay courts just announced they are opening up today!), the USTA has put out some guidelines to consider before getting back onto the courts.

BEFORE YOU PLAY

  • The USTA Medical Advisory Group highly recommends competitive players ease their way back into play prior to competition. Given the layoff from competing, players will be more susceptible to under-training, over-use and other injuries. The USTA strongly recommends at least three weeks of on court and off court conditioning before competition begins.
  • Arrange to play only with family members or others who live in your household or with individuals who are considered to be low risk.
  • Do not play if any of you: 
    • Are exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus: mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, or other symptoms identified by the CDC.
    • Have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. 
    • Are a vulnerable individual and your state and region is in Phase One or Phase Two. A vulnerable individual is an elderly individual and/or an individual with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy. (For states and regions in Phase Three, a vulnerable individual can resume public interactions, including playing tennis, but should practice physical distancing.)

 PREPARING TO PLAY

  • Protect against infections:
    • Wash your hands with a disinfectant soap and water (for 20 seconds or longer), or use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, before going to the court. 
    • Clean and wipe down your equipment, including racquets and water bottles. Do not share racquets or any other equipment such as wristbands, grips, hats and towels.
    • Bring a full water bottle to avoid touching a tap or water fountain handle.
    • Use new balls and a new grip, if possible.
    • Consider taking extra precautions such as wearing gloves.
    • If you need to sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue or upper sleeve.
    • Arrive as close as possible to when you need to be there.
    • Avoid touching court gates, fences, benches, etc. if you can.

 WHEN PLAYING

  • Try to stay at least six feet apart from other players. Do not make physical contact with them (such as shaking hands or a high five).
  • You should consider not playing doubles, which could lead to incidental contact and unwanted proximity. If you do play doubles, avoid all incidental contact, NO Bryan Brothers Chest Bumps and NO whispering to each other from a close distance to strategize. 
  • Avoid touching your face after handling a ball, racquet or other equipment. Wash your hands promptly if you have touched your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks or towels.
  • Use your racquet/foot to pick up balls and hit them to your opponent. Avoid using your hands to pick up the balls.
  • Stay on your side of court. Avoid changing ends of the court.
  • Remain apart from other players when taking a break. 
  • If a ball from another court comes to you, send it back with a kick or with your racquet.

AFTER PLAYING

  • Leave the court as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer after coming off the court.
  • Do not use the locker room or changing area. Shower at home. 
  • No extra-curricular or social activity should take place. No congregation after playing. 
  • All players should leave the facility immediately after play.

My advice?  When you first get back on the court, don’t expect too much of yourself – in either skill or stamina.  Be patient and wait for your “old self” to emerge over the next week or so.

But at this stage, I would agree to wear a clown’s costume to get back on the courts!  How about YOU?

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13 thoughts on “Ready? Set? … Wait!

  1. That list of cautions seems to me way too long. If the USTA is that worried, they might be better off saying nothing at all.

    Marc, i think they are making up for their lack of voice early on in supporting limited play time. George

  2. Since tennis has been rated the #1 activity of the lifetime sports, I think it would be great to mention that in the suggestion write up!

    Chuck, as two addicted players, we both feel the same way! thanks, george

  3. Some of these guidelines sound a bit over-cautious:
    Preparing to play – use a new grip if possible
    When playing – avoid changing ends of the court

    Jack, i felt the same way. thanks, george

  4. Please use caution. As seniors you want no part of this virus. In addition to the other precautions I would advise using hand sanitizer every time you change ends or take water.

    I managed to “sneak in a hit” on Tuesday for an hour and was surprised how tired I was at the end(only a 2 week layoff). Well worth it tho…70 degrees and it felt good.

    Chris, i am still going to wear my golf glove on my ball-handling hand! thanks, george

  5. We are fortunate to be able to return to play and protect ourselves from all of those regular illnesses that might get us. The USTA has done a good job in setting the bar very high. Treat this virus with the respect that a serial murderer deserves . We don’t know all we need to know about it yet. For those of us who have dealt with death and suffering, as this disease will continue to cause, over-cautious may be a good thing!

    Noble, yes, it should not be “biz as usual” yet. thanks, george

  6. None of us are in a position to really criticize the USTA for this because it has at least made a good faith effort to set out precautions that would get players back on the courts.

    But there are some issues with some of this guidance that I think players are just going to have to work out themselves.

    For example, older players should only play singles and not doubles. Kind of defeats the purpose of playing for those of us who, owing to age or general health, usually only play doubles if we play at all.

    Also, the USTA’s own 55+ and 65+ tennis leagues are a doubles only format, so how will that work out or will those leagues be cancelled? And even the 18+ and 40+ leagues are a 2 singles and 3 doubles format so how will those leagues work or will they be cancelled as well?

    The bottom line is I see the footprint of USTA’s lawyers having gone over this advice carefully before it was allowed to be released. It is hard to blame them, of course, but it is like putting warnings on drug labels – the drug manufacturers generally do not get sued because the drug itself causes somebody to get sick or die. Instead, it is the failure to warn people that illness or death may result from taking the drug that is the usual basis for liability. It seems pretty clear from USTA’s guidance that its lawyers have gone over this carefully with the same intent, and some of the seemingly anomalies or arguably excessive advice probably came from that process.

    This is not to say people should not pay attention to this, however. This is an extremely dangerous disease for many people, and none of us will really know what our actual risk is of getting very sick or dying until it is too late. So an ounce of prevention is never a bad idea.

    Stay careful out there everybody.

    Marty, yes, it’s like the drug commercials on TV… “one of the possible side effects is death.” Thanks, george

  7. If we follow the USTA advice, most of your readers should not step foot onto a court. But we take calculated risks daily, including every time we get in our cars.

    We’ve continued to play throughout the pandemic at St. Petersburg CC. But we take precautions that go beyond the USTA recommendations. Their big oversight is the use of common balls—which creates one of the greatest risks. Keep in mind that the Coronavirus can remain on plastic surfaces for up to three days. And tennis balls are made of —you guessed it—plastic! And wearing a glove is not sufficient.

    We require each server to use his own set of balls. Once he is finished serving, he puts his balls away and the next server gets out his own balls (yes, this makes for a lot of ribald humor!). You never touch another player’s balls with your hands. Balls are returned using only your racquets and feet. With doubles, four cans of balls are required (new or used). Family members can naturally share balls. You actually adjust to the new system pretty quickly.

    Singles are inherently safer and members are playing more singles now—and getting more exercise.

    Stay safe and enjoy our great sport. None of us will get out of this world alive.

    Jerry

    Jerry, well, it will surely help make up for lost revenue with the ball makers! thanks, george

  8. The USTA has provided useful guidelines to help players stay safe. It is up to us to use common sense on the courts. Always be aware of never touching one’s face, mouth, nose, or eyes. Using hand sanitizer on change overs is a good idea. I never leave home without it. Never shake hands with partners and opponents. An acknowledgement towards others is all that is needed. When traveling, be upfront with fellow players as to where you have gone. When I get home, I wash my hands thoroughly before I touch anything in the house and then take a shower.
    As seniors, we need to be especially careful. As some of our facilities open up, be mindful of what you must do to be safe in these uncertain times. We cherish tennis too much to be careless.

    Glenn, good advice! Thanks. George

  9. Hi George – The Board of our Massachusetts outdoor club (6 clay courts) is wrestling to establish new interim safety rules that might hopefully permit reopening after May 18. I’m sure every club is in the same boat. Sharing such rules of clubs when they actually reopen would be a very enlightening and helpful blog topic!
    Best regards,
    Pete Allen

    Pete, the only restriction at my club is that only every other court is open for play. Otherwise, all is the same. Another club is trying to minimize contact by asking players to end their matches early and vacate the court before the next time slot shows up. Hope that helps. George

  10. I agree that we should only touch our own balls. And no spitting on the court, Marc… not even a little bit. And try not to drip sweat either, while you are at it. Long pants and long sleeves are in order. Silence will help us all to keep our mouths shut so as to not aerosolize our effluvium. We’ve got this, fellas. Have fun.
    DR

    Dan, i think most of us are smart enough to practice safety on the court (which i contend is still much easier than shopping in the crowded supermarket). thanks, george

  11. No mention here of pro shop protocol, for club members, teaching pros, and routine pro shop interactions.

    Guy, our pro shop remains closed (therefore, no guest fees!); and the teaching pro was on the court this morning. george

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