College Tennis Dual Match Safe Play Guidelines
As college tennis players, coaches, and administrators, we are fortunate to participate in a sport that naturally lends itself to physical distancing. If administered properly, a college tennis dual match can be conducted in a way where teammates, opposing players, coaching staffs, officials, and administrators will not meet the CDC criteria of a “close contact”.
As you prepare to host or participate in a college tennis dual match this winter and spring, the ITA would like to stress the importance of running safe collegiate competitions where all players, coaches, event staff, and spectators are adhering to local public health authority protocols. Failure to comply with such protocols not only potentially endangers the health of participants and fans, but also hurts our ability to showcase tennis as a low transmission-risk, physically distancing sport and puts into question the short-term viability of tennis events at all levels. While the dual match experience may feel more “restrictive” in 2021, we hope that you will treat any opportunity to compete with the respect and gratitude it deserves, and work together to create a safe and sportsmanlike experience for all involved.
General Guidelines for Safe Play Protocols
Please note: The following guidelines are only recommendations. This list is not exhaustive and host sites are encouraged to implement any additional measures that are deemed necessary.
Prior to administering a college tennis dual match, all host institutions are encouraged to create a set of health safety protocols, taking into account institutional, conference and NCAA/NAIA/NJCAA/CCCAA guidelines along with local, state, and federal regulations necessary in running a safe event. When establishing these protocols, host institutions should consider the following documents for guidance: Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition, Second Edition (Updated); Guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the USTA’s Guidelines for Facilities. These protocols should be clearly communicated to all participating programs prior to the event and should include:
- In conjunction with the local public health authority, establish a COVID-19 testing and contact tracing policy that visiting teams must comply with in order to participate in the college tennis dual match on your campus or home facility. This policy should consider testing and contact tracing requirements for teams prior to travel as well as during the event should the event last multiple days. The policy should also address financial responsibilities concerning testing. The policy should be clearly communicated to participating teams at least three (3) weeks prior to the event.
- Require masks/face coverings to be worn by all coaches, players, team personnel, event staff, fans and media while on site. The only exception should be players while actively competing or officials while chairing a match. Wherever possible, require players, guests, and staff to wear a mask/face covering and to stay physically distanced (six feet away from each other).
- Identify which personnel associated with each participating team are deemed essential and will be allowed on site (players, coaches, training staff, SID, etc.). Inform participating programs of this policy and inform them of measures that will be taken if essential personnel do not comply with stated protocols (warning, removal from facility, etc.). Ask for a list of essential personnel to be submitted pre-event and use this list at the entrance to the facility. Identify essential personnel using wristbands, credentials, etc.
- In conjunction with the local public health authority, establish a policy regarding allowing non-essential people (spectators, fans, family members, media, etc.) on site during the event. This policy should include specific instructions regarding capacity restrictions, face coverings, physical distancing and seating and should also include measures that will be taken if those non-essential personnel do not comply with stated protocols (warning, removal from the facility, etc.). This policy should be stated on your athletic website, posted at the entrance and throughout the facility and announced over the public address system whenever possible.
- Travel parties should be limited to essential personnel, with all travelers observing universal masking and physical distancing as possible.
Facility & Event Staff Preparation
- In a sport such as tennis, the greater concern is not necessarily the competition, but controlling the non-competitive spaces and ensuring no extra interactions, especially at indoor facilities.
- Provide a thorough cleaning of all high-contact areas within the facility such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, toilets, benches, umpire chairs, etc., using disposable latex gloves.
- Install signage at the entrance and throughout the facility reinforcing health safety protocols and consequences for not following stated protocols.
- Provide sufficient event staff throughout the facility, including the entrance, and authorize them to enforce health safety protocols and to manage ingress and egress to assure physical distancing. Staff located at the entrance should be set up in a way where they are physically distanced from people entering the facility.
- For those facilities allowing fans, follow the recommendations of the local public health authority.
- If budgets allow, provide additional masks/face coverings at entrance to the facility and set up hand cleansing stations including hand sanitizer and/or hand wipes.
- Prop open doors/gates wherever possible within the facility – courts, training rooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms (if locker room/bathroom setup allows without violation of privacy issues). Restrict high-contact and fan congregation areas such as bleachers, water fountains and concession stands (provide touchless water stations or sell bottled water and pre-packaged food if possible with cashless payment).
- Limit the number of people allowed in indoor areas at any given time (meeting rooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, training rooms).
- Require racquet stringers to wipe down racquet frames and/or wear latex gloves when handling tennis racquets and stringing supplies.
- Limit or eliminate fan give-aways and similar fan promotions that require distribution of promotional materials and/or close contact between event staff and fans.
- Eliminate the use of ball kids in an effort to minimize the number of people on court during a dual match.
- Use walkie-talkie/phone communication whenever possible among officials, athletic trainers, staff, etc.
- Assign each participating team an arrival time that ensures adequate warm-up time but does not unnecessarily prolong their stay at the facility.
- Assign each participating team a pre-match waiting/meeting area (outdoors if possible) and ask that they remain there until it is time to take the court. If multiple teams are sharing a locker room/bathroom/meeting area, etc., coordinate specific times they will be available to each team, ensuring no overlap or breach of physical distancing. If possible, sanitize these common areas before the next team uses the space.
- If the visiting team requires training services from the host, coordinate specific training needs prior to the match. Designate specific times for pre-match treatment, ensuring no overlap.
- Require that visiting teams provide their own practice balls, towels, ice, water, sports drinks, and food.
- During warmups, no more than two teams should occupy the official match courts at one time and under no circumstances should opposing teams share a practice court. In a multi-team event, it is recommended that teams involved in the next match are not allowed to warm up on the official match courts during the doubles point of the prior match.
- During pre-match lineup exchange, coaches and officials must be wearing face coverings. To avoid physical exchange of scorebooks, it is recommended that coaches and officials use cell phone or tablet cameras to photograph lineups.
- Teams are discouraged from conducting pre-match huddles and similar pre-match team cheers that violate social distancing norms.
- Require masks/face coverings to be worn by all coaches, players, team personnel, and officials. The only exception should be players while actively competing or officials while chairing a match. Coaches, team personnel (trainers, SIDs, etc.) and roving officials should always wear masks. Players receiving treatment on court or who leave the court on a bathroom break must be wearing a mask/face covering.
- Singles players and doubles teams should stay on the opposite side of the net and six feet away from their opponent.
- Opposing coaching staffs should make their best effort to remain on opposite sides of the court and maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.
- Wherever possible, place opposing team benches on opposite sides of the court to ensure that teammates are sharing the space between courts & opponents do not share the same side of the court for changeovers as shown in the following diagram.
- Both coaches and the head referee should exercise caution when designating allowable areas for non-playing bench players.
- Regardless of location of allowable area, non-playing bench players from opposing teams should be kept separate.
- At facilities where fans are allowed, it is recommended to look for allowable areas at court-level so as to not mix fans and student-athletes.
- Regarding ball usage, a recent study determined that the surface of tennis balls are unlikely to harbor SARS-CoV-2 in a manner that is compatible with risk of developing COVID-19 from handling the ball during normal play. Therefore, the ITA recommends no changes to ball usage rules.
- During coin toss, the official should be wearing a face covering and all players and officials should maintain 6 feet of distance. In matches without a chair umpire or the presence of officials, place tennis balls on the court prior to the start of each match, preventing the need for a person-to-person exchange.
- In the absence of one official per court, keep scores verbally, as opposed to traditional scorecard/scoreboard methods. Alternatively:
- Have a staff member/volunteer to exclusively operate all scorecards/scoreboards, with proper safety procedures such as gloves or constant sanitization.
- Designate the home team to be the sole keeper of scorecards, preventing opponents from touching the same scorecards.
- When teams gather on the court of finished matches to view ongoing matches, teams should change ends on opposite sides of the court.
- At the completion of the match, replace player handshakes with racquet taps and eliminate chair umpire/player handshakes altogether.
- Between doubles and singles matches, have facility/event staff wipe down on-court benches and umpire chairs.
- Provide a place for disposal of used balls.
- Ask visiting teams to exit the facility as soon as possible following the completion of the match to avoid large numbers of people congregating in indoor spaces or to avoid overlap with the next dual match.
- If possible, ask that visiting teams shower and receive treatment at their hotel to avoid large numbers of people in indoor spaces. If this is not an option, provide visiting teams with a secondary locker room or coordinate times to use the showers and training rooms to avoid competing team overlap.
- Deep clean of the facility at the end of the play each day.
- Assign an arrival time for officials that ensures adequate time to prepare but does not unnecessarily prolong their stay at the facility.
- Provide a pre-match waiting/meeting area for officials that is separate from all others.
- Require officials to wear masks/face coverings at all times when on-site, the only exception being when they are chairing a match. If an official takes off their mask while in the chair, the mask should be worn during all changeovers and set breaks or at any time when speaking to a coach or player in close proximity. Roving officials should wear masks/face coverings at all times when on the court.
- While officials will be involved in limited mask wearing and physical distancing enforcement while on court, allow officials to perform their normal duties on site. Do not use them as virus maintenance workers.
- When providing hospitality and meals for officials, use bottled water, juice or soda along with pre-packaged snacks/meals or custom orders from local establishments rather than buffet-style meals.
- Require athletic trainers to wear masks and gloves when treating a student-athlete.
- Avoid having athletic trainers work in small, enclosed areas with more than one student-athlete at a time.
- If at all possible, provide separate training areas for opposing teams.
If the visiting team requires training services from the host, coordinate specific training needs prior to the match and designate specific times for pre-match treatment, ensuring no overlap.
- Avoid the use of community water/sports drink “igloo” coolers or shared ice bins on court or in the training room.
- Require athletic trainers to wipe down all equipment following the completion of treatment for an individual player.