Following the rules is too important to ignore
Today, we learned a big lesson on following the rules—even when some may have believed the rules may not really apply anymore.
On June 1, on the public park courts in Roswell, Ga., we started our “re-entry” into tennis, specifically for our Academy Tennis Program, which has more than 100 players. Our re-entry was in line with the new COVID-19 protocols.
The way we designed the Academy’s re-entry was:
- The tennis court gates would be zip-tied open so players wouldn’t have any contact with the gates.
- The players would sanitize their hands as they entered and exited the courts.
- Their temperatures would be taken just prior to entering the courts.
- The coach taking the player’s temperature would be masked.
- No one with a temperature above 100.4 degrees F would be permitted to enter the court to participate.
- Pre-assigned groups no larger than 5 or 6 would go to their assigned court, half on either side of the net, where they would have a basket of balls and they would take turns doing “self-directed drills” with verbal direction from the coach, all while social distancing from each other.
- Once the ball was no longer in play, the ball would be kicked to the back of the court if it was still in the area of play, not handled by the player.
- Once the session was over, coaches would retrieve the balls, disinfect them and keep them out of play for at least 24 hours.
So where was the lesson we learned? One of our academy players was preparing to go off to sleep-away camp and had to be tested for COVID-19. Well, the test came back positive. This youngster was in the academy on a Wednesday and tested for COVID the next day, Thursday.
We are following strict CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines and are not taking any risks with our participants’ health, so even when players felt, after six weeks, that they should be able to relax the physical distancing, we insisted they keep their minimum 6-foot space. Because we insisted on maintaining this physical distancing, the young players did not have any “direct exposure” to the player who tested positive. (“Direct exposure” is defined by the Georgia Department of Public Heath as anyone in contact with a positive COVID-19 person less than 6 feet in distance for 15 minutes or more.)
The result was that only that one player who tested positive had to be removed from the program, for at least 14 days. Had we not followed the re-entry plan we established, all six players in that player’s group may have had to be removed—or worse, if we had merged the entire academy of 100 players, rather than had players in smaller groups that they stayed with throughout, the entire academy could have been shut down.
On a side note, the player who tested positive was asymptomatic. If they were not going to camp, we may never have known. We are, of course, thankful this player’s parents told us immediately, since they legally did not have to share that information. (Remember, there are asymptomatic people everywhere, so protect yourselves!)
But had we not followed the rules and stuck to our guns, our program could have been in real trouble. Don’t let up when it comes to protecting your players, your staff and your business from the effects of COVID-19.
Scott Laakso is the Athletic Coordinator for the City of Roswell, Ga., and the chairman of the USTA’s national Public Parks Committee.