As more and more Bay Area counties slowly open up their cities and towns from the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, more and more we’re learning it’s not so simple to do.

The local San Mateo County sports scene was abuzz April 30 as it was decided that beginning Monday, May 4, some outdoor activities could be unlocked from the shelter-in-place order.

Many pulled their golf clubs out and polished them up for a round of golf using the new social distancing rules and regulations. Tennis players dusted off their rackets as they dreamed of getting to rally again.

May 4 came. Some golf courses opened up, with more following over the next couple of weeks.

But there were no squeaking shoes on the city-run tennis courts around the Peninsula as they were still closed to public use.

“We’re taking calls all the time (about court availability),” said Eric Newby, community services manager, adult sports for Redwood City. “Everyone is anxious to do stuff (outside).”

Tennis players will be happy to know that courts are slowly starting to come back on line.

San Mateo plans to open courts at Central and Beresford parks — a total of 10 courts — beginning this week. Other cities hope to following in the coming days and weeks. Foster City parks and recreation director Jennifer Liu said in an email her city is hoping to open some courts this week and the courts at Edgewater Park no later than June 1. Newby said courts at Red Morton Park and Dolphin Park in Redwood Shores, a total of six courts, are the first facilities to be opened with a June 1 target date.

It’s not that cities and the counties have it out for tennis players. But unlike golf courses that have a marshal patrolling the grounds to make sure players adhere to the social distancing rules, there was no such oversight for city facilities. Cities simply don’t have the manpower to station marshals at each tennis facility to make sure players follow the “new” rules of tennis.

“I think the operative word when you read the FAQs (on the San Mateo County website) is, [tennis courts] can be open as long as they are actively managed to ensure they are following the health department guidelines,” said Sheila Canzian, city of San Mateo director of Parks and Recreation. “We’ve gotten some interest from (local) USTA players who have said they will volunteer (to oversee the courts).”

The United States Tennis Federation released guidelines to ensure minimizing the contact between players and equipment that have been adopted by several counties:

• Only members from the same household can play against each other;

• Singles play only;

• Open two cans of tennis balls that do not share the same number. One player takes one set, the opposition take the other can of three balls;

• Proceed with play, making sure to pick up your numbered balls only; and

• Should a ball with the other number end up on your side of the court, do not touch it with your hands. Use your racket head to send the ball to the other side of the court.

That’s all fine and good, but the sticking point has been finding people to serve as court monitors to ensure players are abiding by these rules. To help ensure compliance in San Mateo, Canzian said players need a reservation, made through the city website, and usage hours will be limited.

“Each time period will be an hour and half, from 7:30 to 12:45, then start again late in the afternoon until 9, 9:30 (at night),” Canzian said. “By doing that, we can at least actively manage those courts.”

Newby said the ability to “actively manage” the courts is one of two main hurdles for Redwood City. Finding people to serve as court monitors is no easy task.

“We have some old softball scorekeepers, so old basketball scorekeepers, refs (who can be tasked as court monitors,” Newby said. “We’re trying to find people who are not necessarily working right now (in the district) that we can use as [court monitors].”

Newby said the other major obstacle in the parks and recreation department is to incorporate a yet-unfinished reservation system. Then he said they have to decide what hours the courts will be available. Newby said the courts at Red Morton and Dolphin parks have lights, but it hasn’t been decided if the courts will be available for night play.

“Before it was just open play. [Players are] just there to play pickup and we can’t allow that (right now),” Newby said. “It’s going to be a truly trial-and-error type of thing. … We’ll just see how it goes.”

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(1) comment


I believe the county should remove restrictions for monitoring. I agree that families can play. I agree that singles can play, from different households, with two sets of balls. We are all adults, aware of the issues, and an monitor ourselves. The other players on the court can also serve as incentive to follow the rules.

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