Operations and amenities in a new age
In this new age of the coronavirus, tennis facilities need to rethink how they operate, their maintenance procedures, their programs and amenities and, of course, their safety guidelines. Of course, before you reopen, you’ll need to effectively communicate with members and players to let them know what your club is doing differently.
A key goal is to make amenities as touchless as possible—everything members and staff can touch needs to be reviewed. Players should make reservations, sign-ups and payments online. We need to rethink how players enter a court or open a door. You may need to consider leaving gates and doors open or removing them altogether. Consider changing light switches so they’re automatic or motion-sensing.
Court benches and tables may need to be removed or at least wiped down after every use. Many facilities are removing or blocking off water coolers (new guidelines are requiring players to bring their own water.) In many locations, each player must use and touch their own tennis balls. Even picking up tennis balls needs to change—in some locations, only the teaching pros are allowed to touch/collect balls.
The maintenance and cleaning of your facility and courts will need to be stepped up. Areas will need to be sanitized more frequently. Anything that people may contact—counters, railings, doors, handles, ball tubes, chairs or other equipment—will need to be wiped down regularly. Plan and schedule staff for this important responsibility.
At least for now, social programs and activities where people could gather need to be suspended. All competitive and instructional programs need to be delivered so members can participate with physical separation. Stagger tennis lessons and group exercise time.
If you had pros whose primary responsibilities and income were teaching large groups, they’ll need to readjust to teaching privates or very small groups where distancing is the norm. In many areas, doubles play is not allowed yet, but singles is safe to play, with players using and only touching their own set of tennis balls.
If you have fitness equipment, staff and users must be trained in wiping it down after each use. Limit the number of people using the fitness center at any one time. Consider holding socially-distanced fitness classes outside. Also, consider delivering group exercise classes through video platforms with real-time feedback where members can participate from home.
Many facilities are using infrared thermometers to check the temperatures of staff and players whenever they enter the property. Also, many locations require face masks to be worn at all times, except when active on the courts. You also might consider providing or selling masks and protective gloves.
To help with teaching, I recommend a first-rate ball machine (which only the pro is allowed to touch and set up for players). If you can, build a practice wall or integrate one into fencing. (If you hang a backboard on a fence, the line poles and foundations need to be in very good condition.)
In reopening, key questions you’ll need to address include the number of staff needed, their roles and their compensation. In the short-term, participation in programs will likely be a fraction of what it used to be, and it will take time to rebuild attendance. So you may need less staff, and those who continue will need to be creative and open to doing other tasks, such as maintenance and sanitizing.
Pros who used to make significant income from large groups will need to teach more hours for comparable pay. Some salaries may need to be reduced; staff may be doing more, but earning less. While this new reality may not be welcome news, managers should look to offer reasonable incentives and be willing to look at contracts again down the road. Sometimes, a step back is necessary before taking two steps forward, and a person’s willingness to do this can reflect their motivation and fit for the job.
In reopening your facility and amenities, show members you are competent and consistent in delivering tennis and activity safely. This will give people the confidence to sign-up, play and stay well.
Chris Hagman, ACE, USPTA, is a Wellness and Tennis Director and leads Atlantic Recreation (www.atlrec.net). He works with clubs and communities in program development, professional recruitment and amenity courts.
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