Get Out and Play at Columbia Association

October 11, 2020

The fall season is here which means milder weather for outdoor tennis. Fall also means that you may be playing more indoor tennis as well. This year, given the ongoing pandemic, safety continues to be a top priority so that tennis can continue no matter the location or season.  Facilities and communities across the region are stepping up to ensure that players can play indoors as safely as possible. One such community is the Columbia Association in Columbia, Md.


Columbia Association (CA) is a nonprofit organization that serves the residents of Columbia, Md.  Open to memberships from all communities, the organization offers tennis in addition to other sports and fitness programs. The community boasts 37 indoor and outdoor tennis courts and 6 pickleball courts. More than 3,000 players participate in their tennis programming and play on average about two to three times a week.  League play is extremely popular. The association runs USTA Leagues from January through October and then community leagues from October through December.


When the shutdown happened in March, Columbia Association, like many organizations, pivoted some of their programs to digital format. They engaged with their members through emails and on social media by sharing tennis tips and tricks videos created by the association’s tennis coaches. Further, their Evolution Kids Junior Development Program published weekly activities and challenges that kept their juniors as well as coaches engaged.


But more than keeping members connected, Anish Manrai, Assistant Director of Sport and Fitness for Columbia Association recognized that sports – including tennis, can help keep people healthy during a global pandemic. The way Anish sees it, “Health, fitness, and sports are part of the solution and not the problem.”

With the thought of getting players back to the courts and offering peace of mind during indoor play, Anish and the Columbia Association studied best practices from around the world as well as referenced USTA Mid-Atlantic Return to Play Guidelines. Additionally, they worked collaboratively with their internal Medical Advisory Board and other clubs across the industry by participating in weekly calls and webinars that helped them develop their back to court strategy.


Out of their research and collaboration, Columbia Association created a re-opening playbook. This playbook detailed the association’s safety protocols which guided their re-opening - especially for their indoor courts. Further, the playbook established the safety guidelines for all of their tennis facilities moving forward. 


Changes that were implemented:

  • Increased air turnover rate in every HVAC system and adding Air Purifying Fans with UV light filters designed to kill airborne viruses and surface bacteria

  • Use of electrostatic disinfectant sanitizing units

  • Making a greater number of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and antibacterial/virus wipes available across all indoor and outdoor facilities 

  • Requiring face coverings at all facilities

  • Daily temperature checks and health screening questions for all CA team members

  • Removing all touchpoints including benches and trash receptacles

  • No cash transactions

  • All high touch surfaces and areas are thoroughly cleaned, sanitized and disinfected following strict procedures and protocols

  • All group programs limited to a maximum of 4 players on a court


On May 13, when state restrictions were eased in Maryland, Columbia Association was ready to welcome players back to the court and had actively prepared their membership for the return by communicating through emails, social media, and signage around the tennis facilities.


Columbia Association’s reopening has been a success, particularly for indoor play. One way Anish measures that success is through active participation in the courts in lessons, programming, and leagues. For example, between June 3rd and the end of September, coaches taught 1,335 private and semi-private lessons, approximately 275 junior and adult players enrolled in programs, more than 500 players have returned to USTA and inter-association league play, and about 600 players renewed their indoor season court times. Anish owes Columbia Association's accomplishment to following the process they mapped out in the re-opening playbook and “doing the right thing every day.”  


Thanks to Columbia Association's hard work and dedication to the safety of the community, tennis players can feel comfortable playing on both indoors and outdoor courts. 


USTA Mid-Atlantic and facilities like Columbia Association, are committed to the health and safety of all tennis players, coaches and staff. Over the coming weeks, we know many players will start to head indoors for tennis so be on the lookout for tips and resources to come.  Click HERE to find more about the USTA Safety guidelines.

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