Much of America is still on lock-down – but it is not going to stay this way forever. In fact, a few States have already begun to loosen the regulations and are incrementally allowing businesses to open. The time-frame will vary greatly across the nation, but at some point, we are all going to have the ability to return to the tables.
I’d like to open the conversation of how best to open a table tennis club – and we’d like to request feedback from club owners and members with additional ideas. We’ll catalog the suggestions and may provide follow-up articles as needed.
I expect my club (Rhode Island Table Tennis) will open when we are allowed to open. Rhode Island is not yet opening our State economy, so the club still has plenty of time to plan. We have discussed a number of parameters internally including the following:
Clean. Businesses across the board have been closing early so that employees can clean at the end of their shifts. This is something that will need to be done as a part of the normal operation of a table tennis club. We will need to clean thoroughly between sessions (counters, chairs, tables, club balls, club paddles, doors, bathrooms, etc). Soap and water would appear to be a safe cleaning option for all surfaces. Alcohol and bleach will work well for most surfaces in the club. Hydrogen peroxide appears to be a safe option for cleaning more delicate surfaces. **Because of how valuable tables are – One should always test any cleaner on a small section of the table before exposing the full table to anything stronger than water and a mild soap. I will further recommend that you dry the tables so that liquid does not pool on the table surface – and that you also wash any cloth used for cleaning. *I have tested hydrogen peroxide on my personal table and it did not damage the surface.
Screen and Communicate. We will need to be honest with our members about the exact conditions at the club and we need our members to be honest with us. If you are sick, stay home. If you have traveled or have sick family members, take some extra time before coming to the club. If you have health issues or are otherwise at high risk, our club may not be the right place for you until Covid-19 in further in the rear-view mirror.
Limit and Schedule. We are going to need to limit the number of people in the club. Our facility is small, and when we draw a crowd – we are stacked in pretty tightly. We are going to have to figure out how best to bring people in and out while allowing sufficient space – and that likely means limiting the number of people allowed in the building. It is likely that we will need to run shorter sessions, and possibly multiple sessions – each with few people to assist in keeping the ever-important social distance in place.
Distance. Our game has the advantage of being played with a 9-foot table separating competitors. The main contact points for the virus are the ball and the table surface as players change sides. If players do not change sides and the table is cleaned between matches, then we can largely eliminate contamination via the table as an issue. If players will clean balls as service changes, we can limit contamination via ball as well. Many gyms require participants to bring a towel and to clean after themselves as they move from station to station – we may need players to bring a personal towel and to carry it with them to help clean as they move through the club. Depending upon the risk level in our State when we open, we also have the option of closing every other table in our club. This would greatly reduce the number of possible players at a time – but it would also expand the distance between players at neighboring tables (the distance between players at neighboring tables is often closer than the distance between players at the same table).
Follow the same rules other businesses are following. Wear masks when you are near other people – that is especially true for your club staff who are coming face to face with a number of members. Take precautions when you are cleaning. Don’t reuse cleaning materials without washing them. Allow sufficient space for social distancing. Don’t shake hands. Don’t distribute food or drink without precautions. Provide a way for everyone to wash hands regularly – and remind them.
There are some inherent risks to playing any sport. There are always inherent risks to being in public and making contact with other people. Everyone should recognize that there could be more risks this Summer and Fall than were present just a few months ago. We all need to take precautions – not just for our own safety, but also the safety of other players (and the loved ones waiting at home for all of us).
We’d like to hear from you as you begin to open your clubs. We’d like to know what has worked well and what challenges you’ve identified. Those who open early may be able to help ensure that other clubs have a smooth transition. Each smooth transition is good for players, clubs, and for the sport.
Please feel free to forward comments and suggestions to the author via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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