Whether it involves tennis or the community, Eric Striesfeld wants to make sure his service game is in tip-top shape.
Striesfeld, who is approaching his 11th year as owner of Bay Area Racquet Club, finds himself and his business in a unique position during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Following six weeks of limited or no activity, BARC held a soft reopening on May 1 at its facility at 17901 Kings Park Lane in Clear Lake and has gradually broadened its services as federal- and state-level orders have allowed.
“Tennis is one of those unique sports that provides that natural social distancing. That’s obviously been helpful, and we’ve been able to utilize that, and the response has been very, very positive.”
Even though tennis is almost exclusively a noncontact sport, there are occasions when contact can happen, and Striesfeld and his staff have addressed those concerns.
“We did remove the water coolers from the tennis courts, and we removed any of those touch points you would think about,” he said. “The court benches are there, but are blocked off at this time.
“We’ve hosted a few tournaments, and players have brought a cooler and sat on it or brought pop chairs.”
Change to prevent two people from touching same ball
Bay Area Racquet Club
Where: 17901 Kings Park Lane, Houston
Details: 281-488-7026; Info@BayAreaRacquetClub.Com; http://bayarearacquetclub.com/
In tournaments, four balls are now used instead of the usual three.
“Two of the balls will have a specific number which the server will use, and when it’s the other player’s turn to serve, he or she will use two other balls with a different number,” Striesfield said.
Ideally, only the server will touch the balls designated for use during play.
BARC is a busy facility, catering to more than 250 members in addition to having 200-plus students in its junior program.
“We have 10 lighted outdoor courts, and members get free court time,” Striesfeld said. “The tennis courts are in banks of two courts; so we’re easily able to take care of social distancing.
“The players are happy to be back on the court, in the sunshine and moving again.”
Striesfield and staff closely monitor traffic at the facility.
Temperature checks and hand sanitizer
“We’ve been able to minimize the flow pretty well for all the youth classes and programs we have,” he said. “We do a temperature check of all students, and we have a check-in station where staff members wear a mask.
“As students check in, they’re sprayed with hand sanitizer on their hands and given a temperature check with a touchless forehead thermometer. As long as they are within the acceptable temperature range, they are able to take the court and have a positive experience.”
Although many youngsters are eager to hit the court running, Striesfeld knows tightening the reins is imperative.
“The most important thing is to provide the safest and healthiest environment possible,” he said.
“Part of it is the education … making sure everyone is adhering to the safety policies. People are not congregating in our clubhouse. We keep all doors propped open to minimize touch points.
“We’ve tried to go above and beyond with safety, and we’re adhering to all the guidelines of the (Centers for Disease Control), county and federal government.”
Striesfeld said BARC was closed from mid-March through April. Now, he hopes BARC’s doors can remain open.
“We’re excited that people in the community can be active,” he said. “Tennis is one of those lifelong sports, and we feel like it’s one of the healthiest and safest.
“Usually our marketing programs are back in March and April, and of course we’ve been forced to market them now,” he said. “Some of our summer programs are starting as soon as May 26, and those will last through Aug. 13.
“There are weekly options, daytime programs, evening programs — anything you can think of from youth to adults. So far, we’ve received a very encouraging response.”
Because BARC has been effectively functioning for three weeks in the pandemic, Striesfeld said he’s happy to offer tips to athletic facilities that have recently been allowed to open.
“I would say just take a look at your day-to-day operations,” he said. “See what needs to be modified in terms of equipment layout, facility layout, and ways you can create a healthy experience for your folks.
“You want them to be able to work out, but at the same time your focus and priority have to be the safety and well-being of all the students or participants at your facility.
“If you keep that in mind, your thinking and directives will always err on the side of taking care of the student or member.”