A Simple Tip for a Playing Safely: Lower Your Touch Points
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As we adjust and adapt to the new normal, it’s hard not to think of ways we can get back to playing the game we love, while taking into account social distancing and minimizing touch points. Whether it’s making sure your benches are 6 feet apart or changing sides in a clockwise rotation to align with social distancing, many of us are trying to find ways to minimize the number of touch points to make our tennis experiences as safe as possible moving forward.
The USTA, in its Playing Tennis Safely: Player Tips and Recommendations, suggests that players use their racquet or foot to pick up balls—and avoid using hands whenever possible. As an extra precaution, they recommend using two cans of differently numbered tennis balls and only touching the set of balls from your own can.
The great thing about tennis, and all racquet sports for that matter, is the fact that your racquet is the thing touching the shared ball(s)—not your hand like the vast majority of other sports. With great awareness and careful consideration, we have the ability to not physically touch the ball with our off-hand, with the exception of the serve. When it comes to implementing your serve into play, consider having two sets of balls for singles, and 4 sets of balls for doubles. This will allow only the server to come in direct contact with his/her sets of balls.
While many have suggested that group lessons are put on hold for a while, it doesn’t have to be that way. Proper alignment of drills, along with the teaching professional and players, can accommodate safe distancing AND still provide the great social interaction that make group lessons so special.
For teaching professionals, there can be hesitation in using big baskets of balls. Not to worry. Teaching professionals will want to discard carts and baskets and use a ball mower so they are the only one that ever needs to touch a ball with their hand. With ball mowers, you can eliminate nearly all of the touch points of your students.
While the pro should be the designated feeder and always push the mower themselves, the students can assist by using their rackets to push balls to the net or back fence to quicken the pick-up. Please be sure to sanitize the handle after use so it is ready for the next pro.
If you need to upgrade your mowers and ball gear, or simply don’t have them, please note that the USTA has released a statement about grants for the purchase of such items, something to consider and really be on the lookout for.Lastly, as we all get back to the game we love, please be safe and have fun!