The challenges faced by the tennis industry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced tennis clubs and facilities to adapt and reconfigure the way in which they operate on a daily basis. With cases surging as we enter winter, measures to safeguard the health and safety of staff members, coaches, players and customers have never been more important.
From the start of the outbreak earlier this year, Sportime Clubs took immediate action. This included frequent and transparent communications from Sportime’s CEO, Claude Okin, to Sportime’s staff and player community around the temporary closing of its clubs, and the implementation and sharing of plans to safely reopen when allowed to do so. As outdoor tennis resumed in May, and when indoor tennis resumed in July, Sportime continued to fine-tune and share guidelines and protocols, both in response to New York State directives and CDC guidelines, and based on common-sense and the day-to-day experiences operating Sportime’s 13 tennis and sports facilities. To date, Sportime, which serves more than 30,000 players over a typical indoor season, has not had a single case of COVID-19 in any of its facilities, though the company stands ready to follow contact tracing protocols and isolation and quarantine procedures if that were to be necessary.
As outdoor tennis winds down, Sportime is poised for a busy indoor season, already underway. CEO Okin recently sent a detailed communication to Sportime’s members and parents to share information about indoor tennis safety, air quality in its indoor playing environments, its policies on social distancing and face coverings, and other actions that Sportime is taking to ensure that indoor training play is as safe as possible. That list that includes:
- No spectators in clubhouses or lobbies, with closed-circuit live court streaming now offered in lieu of live viewing
- All staff, players and guests are required to wear face coverings and observe distancing at all times inside the clubhouses and support buildings
- Health screening, temperature checks and contact tracing info required for anyone that enters a Sportime facility
- Installed upgraded HVAC systems to include highest MERV rated filters available, and installed free standing HEPA filter air scrubbers in all smaller spaces
You can see all of Sportime’s protocols and guidelines by visiting https://www.sportimeny.com/covid19_guide.
Notable is that Ben Schlansky, VP and Chief Legal Officer at Sportime, monitors all State and Federal mandates and directives, and updates the company’s safety guidelines on a daily basis. CEO Okin, in addition to routinely sharing clear updates, personally responds to all emails, calls and other inquiries from members and staff around such updates. The unabridged versions of Sportime’s global and site specific updates can be viewed here: https://www.sportimeny.com/important_alerts.
Says Okin, “Trying to do a great job managing 13 facilities across New York is challenge enough, but setting and implementing sensible policies and procedures in response to the pandemic has been a once in a lifetime challenge. We have worked tirelessly, at every level of our company, to try and get this right, and that work continues. We are doing our best, as is our industry, to get through this.”
New York Tennis Magazine spoke to employees, parents and players from Sportime to get their thoughts on why they feel safe returning to play and work:
“Having two small kids at home, I was nervous about coming back to work. But seeing the investments that Sportime made to combat the Virus put my mind at ease, knowing that I am working in a safe environment. The upgrades to our ventilation systems, sanitizing stations everywhere, and the detailed and effective guidelines that we are all following make my work experience enjoyable and as safe as possible.”- Eric Meditz, Assistant Academy Director and Coach – Sportime Syosset
“I am blown away by how Sportime has taken every precaution to ensure my kids’ safety during this pandemic. From pickup and drop-off to ensuring everyone is wearing masks in the lobby to sanitizing stations to upgrading their ventilation system, I can rest assured when I drop my kids off at Sportime they’re in the best care possible.” - Rachel Belkin, Sportime Syosset parent
"We have three children (ages 6, 9 and 11) who go to Sportime in Syosset multiple times a week. Like most parents, we share concerns about COVID-19 and believe that nothing is more important than our kids' safety. We would not be sending them to Sportime if it was not for the high standards of care and cleanliness exhibited by the whole Sportime team. Sportime has worked hard to create a culture of safety and oversight that has helped to put parents like us at ease. They check temperatures every time anyone enters the building and they enforce both masks and social distancing.Additionally, they keep the facility very clean with hand sanitizer everywhere. Furthermore, the Sportime team does a great job directing safe and well managed drop offs and pickups of our kids outside the facility which provides us with even more comfort since access to the facility is understandably limited to spectators. Finally, they do all this in a compassionate, friendly and helpful way... which is much appreciated in these difficult times. We give Sportime our highest recommendation and gratitude." - Nancy and Simon Prince, Sportime Syosset parents
“Sportime has done a great job putting measures in place to keep everyone safe, including putting sanitizing supplies and hands free water bottle fillers on every court. Sportime takes everyone’s temperatures when they enter the premises and does not allow additional spectators in the building. All of this makes me comfortable sending my son to indoor tennis.” - Kevin Chu, parent of JMTA player at Sportime Randall’s Island
“I think Sportime Randall’s Island is a very safe place to work. We all wear masks all of the time and stay socially distanced throughout the day. We have plexiglass dividers between our desks, new exit and entrance routes, and do not allow spectators in the building. And we coaches keep a good distance away from our players during lessons and programs. I feel well protected with our safety protocols in place and ours is a fun and safe working environment right now.” - Ion Efrim, Coach – JMTA at Sportime Randall’s Island
“My son resumed private and group classes at JMTA in August, with more impatience than anxiety. The staff is extremely vigilant and enforces all safety rules. Everyone is greeted with an infrared thermometer check and wears a mask at all times. Players are directed to their courts and parents wait outside so that the facility is never crowded. There are sanitizing stations with posters encouraging proper use, proper hand washing posters in the locker rooms, and no sitting allowed in the locker rooms. The maintenance staff keeps the facility clean and sanitized all the time. I love that all fountains were replaced with bottle fillers on every court. My son feels very comfortable playing at Sportime and I hope he can continue to do so.” - Florence Chaix, parent of JMTA player at Sportime Randall’s Island
“I want to share how much appreciation I have for Sportime Lynbrook during this difficult time. The reopening of this facility has been an uplifting experience for me and the manner in which the facility is operating is right on target. From temperatures taken upon arrival to the many sanitizing and water bottle filling stations in the playing and workout areas. The sanitizing of the club, including the courts, gym and workout stations are done very thoroughly.” - Tom Venza, Fitness Member at Sportime Lynbrook
“As the captain of two seasonal/league groups, I heard much concern about whether we would be safe playing indoors this fall, but my job was made much easier by the clear and informative communications from the leadership of Sportime throughout the summer and in advance of the indoor season. We are blessed with a new filtered water dispenser, plenty of hand sanitizer everywhere, a wonderful cleaning crew and a management team who is always there for us. Tennis is one of the few outlets these days that allow us to exercise and socialize in the proper way, and to have some good laughs along the way. We truly treasure the wonderful time we have playing tennis and we will never take that for granted again.” - Denise Crisci, Seasonal Captain/Player – Sportime Schenectady
“I, and my cohort of older tennis hackers, have been concerned about the safety of playing during the COVID pandemic. The physical and mental health benefits of playing tennis are obvious, but what about the current risks? For outside play over the spring and summer, Sportime instituted off-court mask wearing, social distancing and hand cleaning protocols, as well as discouraging mingling by removing tables and chairs. We cooperated by keeping our bags separate on the court and replacing fist-bumps with racket-taps. All good, but then came the winter. To play inside or not? Besides the continuation of the outside protocols, Sportime instituted personal temperature measurements on entering the building and upgraded air handling systems to ensure adequate air exchange and filtering. However, I’m an engineer and wanted to test the air before committing to playing indoors. So, I bought an accurate hand-held CO2 device and have been measuring outside/inside CO2 levels for a month as a way of testing the percentage of fresh air and its circulation. The upshot is that air quality in the Sportime Schenectady tennis buildings is almost the same as outside air quality. This, together with the club’s protocols, eases my concerns.” - Roger Clayton, Member/Player at Sportime Schenectady