As we move through the Scottish Government’s phased approach of easing lockdown restrictions during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, outdoor tennis courts have been re-opening across the country.
Highlighting the importance of being active and the benefits of sport to physical and mental wellbeing, we take a closer look at two community tennis clubs whose courts have re-opened to allow the safe return of play.
Giffnock Tennis, Squash & Hockey Club
The reopening of the courts at Giffnock have been a welcome return for old and young alike in the community, with more than 500 participants aged four to 83 picking up their rackets.
Led by the club president, Richard Cook, the committee met on a weekly basis using Zoom throughout lockdown to develop systems and policies to ensure the club was ready to return when permitted by the government, as Richard explained.
“Safety for participants was paramount for the return of tennis at Giffnock and we have made significant investment to ensure this was the case," he said.
“We undertook an extensive refurbishment programme to ensure the clubhouse was COVID-19 compliant, particularly for those most vulnerable in our community. You can now enter the clubhouse and courts without ever having to touch a surface!”
Changes within the club and courts so far have included:
- Units dispensing hand sanitiser in every room of the clubhouse, as well as two external units at the tennis court area
- Fire-door holders fitted to all common surface doors so that they are pinned open when an area is in use, to eliminate the need for a member to touch it
- Automated doors to the toilets to allow for touch free entry and exit
- Touch-free soap dispensers, taps and hand dryers fitted in the toilets
- Tables and chairs throughout the clubhouse have been moved or removed to enable 2m social distancing between tables
- Setting up the entire court area in accordance with Scottish Government and Tennis Scotland guidance, which includes gates held open and 1m markings either side of the net to denote safe distancing during play.
Communication during lockdown was key to the club staying connected and ensuring the wellbeing of its members, but also to reassure members that hard work was continuing behind the scenes to make the facility ready for a return.
Richard recalled: “We set out in the early part of the Coronavirus pandemic to reach out to every member to ensure they were not going without basic support. We did not know the individual circumstances of each member, so [we did not want to] presume everyone was okay. Because of this we launched our Giffnock Community Outreach programme which has proven very successful.
“What was clear to us is that there is no point in claiming to be a ‘Giffnock family’ unless we respond to this crisis in a manner befitting of a family in a time of need.
"We made sure to email all members, sometimes daily, with information and initiatives where we felt we could add real value in the community. These have included food deliveries, online social events, a telephone call buddy system, mental health support, physical daily skills challenges, support on IT and expert advice on a range of different topics.”
The community outreach programme has been hugely popular and seen almost £7,000 worth of food delivered to members, their families, friends and neighbours.
The club continues to engage with members in relation to developments of the rules on play and for use of the clubhouse. With their own lounge bar and outdoor patio area, Giffnock TSHC are looking forward to welcoming members back to enjoy full access to the facilities and the social interaction that comes with being part of a club.
Since the courts reopened the club has seen an increase in membership, specifically family memberships, as well as welcoming back those who were shielding, with arrangements in place to help keep them safe. By maintaining a high level of communication the club has helped keep all members up to date and confident about the return of tennis.
Forthill Community Tennis Club
Forthill CTC responded swiftly in reopening their courts, which have been hugely popular with the local community.
Similarly to Giffnock, the Forthill committee met virtually on a regular basis to develop an action plan setting out what needed to be completed for the tennis courts to reopen in line with Tennis Scotland and Government guidance.
“Through this plan, we were able to safely develop our membership, comms and marketing plans; court maintenance and safeguarding plans; health and safety management; our website and return to tennis policy development; and finally how we would conduct our risk assessments,” said Ross Taylor, Forthill Community Sport Hub sports development officer.
“Through speaking with the CSH sports development committee, we identified a need/demand for members of all the clubs and the local community to engage with physical activity in one way or another, and so we developed our membership offering.”
As one of six clubs within Forthill CSH, the club decided to create two new membership offerings. Current hub members (members of one of the other five clubs) could pay £5 per month, with membership for new members set at £7. Both categories allow for members to book the courts an unlimited amount of times per month, in comparison to the non-member rate of £5 per court for one hour.
Ross said: “From our tennis club perspective, this meant that we were able to increase our short-term income generation, but also support fellow clubs within the CSH to try and minimise the negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing while they struggle to engage with their own sport.
“The hub membership is also a rolling contract, so new members can opt out when they choose, or when their own sport returns.”
The £5 membership offer was shared with more than 700 people through the member clubs while the £7 newcomer offer was circulated to communities via the CSH mailing list, a social media campaign and phone calls with local residents.
The offers have generated huge interest locally and seen many new members taking to the courts.
Ross said: “We have members who have re-joined from years gone by, and where once they played with their younger children, they are back on court and playing with their now grown-up children, which for me was the vision for this.
"Our loose strapline for community projects at FCSH is 'Family, Fun, Forthill', which sums up nicely how we aim to support our local community.
“In what has been a difficult and challenging time, the support we have received from Tennis Scotland has been invaluable in getting our courts and facility back up and running.”
Kirsty Humphries, Tennis Scotland head of participation & development, said: “It’s great to see so many clubs reopening across the country, and so many people participating again in a safe environment.
"We are continuing to work closely with the LTA, sportscotland and the Scottish Government to offer appropriate and relevant guidance to the Scottish tennis community, and focus on our back-to-tennis campaigns to attract new and existing players back to the game.
“Tennis Scotland and the LTA has developed a set of practical guidelines to follow so that tennis can be played in Scotland consistent with the new route map of moving out of lockdown, and where the local environment allows.”