How I'm Reopening: Jason Wass
Please note: The USTA’s Medical Advisory Committee has established player and facility safety guidelines to be referenced and utilized by all of USTA Eastern's tennis providers. In addition to the guidelines, providers should also follow federal, state and local laws, regulations, executive orders and guidance, including, but not limited to, regulations and guidance from the CDC, OSHA, state and local Departments of Health, and other agencies, which are regularly updated. Our goal is to facilitate an open platform to encourage dialogue and share best practices so tennis providers can make informed decisions relating to reopening.
USTA Eastern is getting back in the swing as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wane. Over the next few months, we’ll talk to facility owners and managers across the section about their experiences reopening their businesses to learn what measures they are taking to keep staff members and consumers safe in this unmistakably new reality. Here, we speak with Jason Wass, Director of Tennis and Sports at Sportime Kings Park in Kings Park, N.Y. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” he notes. “I do not believe this is a race to be first, rather a race to be great.”
Many tennis facilities are facing similar challenges as they make preparations to reopen their doors. What would you say has been the most useful or productive measure you’ve taken to stay on schedule?
Wass: There have been many changes, but some of the most important details are our communication, new operational plan and staff training. It’s really important to communicate in all directions: To employees, to owners/bosses, to members/players/campers, and to state and local governments. All of this is without face-to-face interaction.
What has been the most challenging aspect of reopening your facility?
Wass: There is confusing information, but also a lack of information. It’s also challenging balancing the needs of the business with the needs of each individual and his or her family. Everyone has had a different experience over the last three months. For example, some employees do not have child care, or their child care is limited. We have to respect each person’s views and feelings toward reopening as well.
In addition to the USTA guidelines, are you taking any other measures to make customers feel safe while playing or while they’re in your facility?
Wass: I think one of the most important areas we can help is to provide supplies such as hand sanitizer and wipes. We’ve also ordered gaiters for our staff.
Operationally, how are you working with staff regarding training? What measures are you putting in place to protect them?
Wass: PPE is available to all staff and Sportime has created guidelines that must be followed by all employees. We offer zoom trainings prior to starting work [to go over the guidelines], followed by on-going weekly trainings for the foreseeable future. As more tennis pros begin teaching private and group lessons, we will collect “best practices” from them to see how the guidelines are working, what can be enhanced or eliminated. We are also requiring temperature checks, health screenings and symptom monitoring for all employees
How have you adjusted your schedule and programming timelines? Are you moving any programs to the fall, for example?
Wass: Although each Sportime site is unique, we have staggered start and end times to create less congestion in the lobby. We’ve also created a 5-10 minute buffer between lessons to allow for equipment changes and disinfection practices. We are attempting to have as many offerings from now until the end of the summer in hopes of creating a new and fresh start for the fall season.
Overall, how do you think COVID-19 will change the way players think about tennis? Do you predict any positive changes to the sport that will result from these unprecedented times?
Wass: I believe tennis has a huge opportunity at the grassroots, community level. Out East, in Westchester and in the Capital Region where outdoor courts have now been open for over there weeks, there has been a steady rise in participation and everyone seems to be exercising caution when in close proximity off and on the court. Most people have said that during play they almost forgot all the negatives and were happy to be playing and moving. I have begun to receive interest from new potential players despite not being fully open for business. If we play our cards right, we could be in a great position moving forward. Tennis is the best sport for social distance—it’s naturally socially distant.
Read how Ari Roberts is reopening MatchPoint Tennis in Goshen, N.Y. here.
If you are interested in attending one of our "ACEing the Return" webinars where facility owners and managers share more of their insights about reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, please email Monica LaMura at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.