Make your players ‘feel safe’
Our tennis facility in Connecticut has been opened for just over two weeks, and all has gone extremely well. Virtually everyone has accepted, and are strictly following, our guidelines. A few pushed back about having to wear a mask, but I made it very clear to them that there is no flexibility: no mask, no tennis at our facility. They’re now wearing masks.
We are allowing social doubles, and that’s also gone well. I personally greet every foursome when they come to the club and go over both our on- and off-court guidelines. I have told my 4.5 and above men to stay away from doubles for the time being as I believe they’re too competitive and intense to maintain the proper distancing. They agreed.
99.9% of our program participants have been happy with our policies for making up the lost time. THAT was a surprise. I expected many more demands for refunds or credits.
We've run several clinics, and those, too, have been great. In fact, I believe a group lesson can be one of the best ways for people to come back—provided they have an experienced pro who can design drills to respect social distancing and keep the atmosphere from getting too intense.
Without a doubt, my favorite experience happened the other day. One of my students is a 75-year-old woman who had not left her house since March 15. She was, needless to say, extremely nervous to come back to tennis. I invited her to the club to hit just with me (I’ve done this with many of my nervous members).
On the day we were to play, she sat in her car in the club parking lot, scared to death to come out. She ultimately got up her nerve and made her way to the court. We started slowly and ultimately hit for 45 minutes.
After seeing all we’ve done to the club as well as the on-court protocols we put in place, she walked off the court and said what may have been the most satisfying words I have ever heard in 45 years of teaching tennis: “I feel safe.” I can’t tell you how great that made me feel.
As our players return, making them feel safe must be our top priority. At our pros’ meeting the other day, I told my staff that, for the moment, teaching tennis is our third priority. The first two are:
1. Make our players feel safe.
2. Do all we can to relieve their stress.
At the end of the day, I really believe that if everyone follows the guidelines, we should be fine.
Greg Moran is the Owner/Director of Tennis at Four Seasons Racquet Club in Wilton, Conn.
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