A Winning Strategy for Indoor Tournaments

December 15, 2020

This year, helping young people find ways to cope with the stress of the pandemic and feel some sense of normalcy was critical.  Playing tennis is one such sport that allows kids to be active, have fun, and see their friends all while remaining socially distanced. Providing young people safe opportunities to play, and prioritizing health and safety of all is a guiding principle for the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section and this extends to tennis providers the section works closely with, such as tournament directors for youth and junior tennis events. 


Tournament Directors are integral in the planning, scheduling, and hosting of tennis tournament events and making sure players have a great experience. Their roles now include effectively adding in a layer of safety for all involved and ensuring proper protocols and guidelines are maintained. And this can be especially intricate when bringing players to indoor tennis courts. 

How do you give young tournament players the fun and exciting experience they crave, and desperately need during such a challenging time, while keeping everyone safe?       


Recently two tournament directors held indoor youth tennis tournaments with success integrating new health and safety protocols. They met the challenges head-on and explained precisely how they succeeded with their events.  


The first tournament director we spoke with was Chris Tran of Strike Zone Tennis. Located in the Washington, D.C. area, he hosted the Strike/Zone Summer Series Open Level 7  tournament for boys and girls 12  and under and 16 and under at Onelife Fitness.


The second tournament director we caught up with was Doug Hornak of Summit Tennis Academy in Morgantown, W.Va. He hosted the Open Level 5 Indoor Fall Tournament for boys and girls ages 14 to 18 at Summit Tennis.


Given the nature of the pandemic, both Chris and Doug had a great deal to consider in preparing for an indoor tournament. According to Chris, their top consideration was safety for the kids participating,  and the employees of Onelife Fitness, the club location for the tournament. For Doug, in addition to safety, one of the biggest factors they needed to grapple with was how to maintain social distancing for players and parents.

As Chris and Doug began planning their tournaments, they each performed copious amounts of research. They began with brushing up on their respective state and local regulations, the USTA Safety Guidelines, and the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s Required and Recommended Return the Play Guidelines for tournaments. Then they studied other local tournaments, social distancing best practices, and even researched office building cleaning protocols. From all of their research, they developed the following protocols for their tournaments:


  • During the tournament check-in, both parent and child had their temperatures checked using a touchless thermometer.

  • During check-in, each player was given a can of balls and initialed them.  They used their own tennis balls to serve and did not touch another player’s tennis balls.

  • At Onelife Fitness, parents and players stayed outside of the facility until their match time.  

  • At Onelife Fitness, players and parents wore masks while waiting in the check-in area located outside of the facility.    

  • At Onelife Fitness, there were only eight players, eight parents inside at any given time - meaning one parent per player was allowed to watch the match and all spectators were arranged 10 feet apart. 

  • At Summit Tennis, the number of spectators was limited to one to two max per player and masks must be worn at all times. 

  • At Summit Tennis, the bleachers were removed and folding chairs were added to maintain social distancing.

  • Players were allowed to remove their masks on the court during play only.  

  • Provided hand sanitizer on each court 

  • Sprayed, wiped down, and sanitized player/observer chairs and the scorekeeper after each match.


Once the protocols were in place, the tournament directors communicated them widely including on their websites; on the tournament page in the TennisLink registration system; and in email communication to parents. They also required parents to sign COVID safety agreements and provided a final reminder at check-in on tournament day of what to expect.


Both Chris and Doug believe that good communication and a commitment to high-level safety protocols is essential for hosting an indoor youth tennis tournament. All of the hard work resulted in success for both tournaments and they reported receiving excellent feedback from all involved. 


“Pre-COVID, our tournament had approximately 20 to 30 players, and this year we had 44 players,” said Doug Hournak of Summit Tennis. Doug continues that once tournaments were running again, “there was more demand to play.”


Chris Tran of Strike Zone added, “we received many compliments from parents on how we provided a safe environment. Being proactive and learning from others, both good and bad, helped prepare us to be successful.”


USTA Mid-Atlantic is committed to helping you stay safe while getting out to play tennis. Check out our resources for indoor play including information on the NEW “MAS Promise”  that recognizes indoor tennis facilities committed to high levels of safety protocols. You can also find links to helpful resources, and tips, from USTA.

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