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Fall Paddle - Not if, but how?

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Over these past months, the craziness of our world has been front and center.  Civil discourse has become an endangered concept just when we need it more than ever. 

I know, in COVID terms, fall paddle is light-years away.  I also know there are many more important debates/discussions happening.  However, here is a strawman for fall paddle.  Let’s contribute positively to a dialogue about how, not if, we have fall paddle.

Unlike school, work and other essentials, an individual’s choice to play, or not to play, paddle is 100% DISCRETIONARY.  If people are uncomfortable playing for any reason, they should not play. For those that want to play, and want some normalcy, we should have a fall season.

So, Step 1, people can opt-in or out – simple.  Fall 2020 may not have as many players and/or teams as last year and that is ok.

Step 2 is more challenging.  It involves host clubs’/courts’ understandable liability concerns.  I think 23.7% of the paddle population are lawyers so someone can draft a suitable liability waiver that each player will need to sign.   Just like dues – folks should be prohibited from playing without having a signed waiver on file with the WPPTA.  There is strength in numbers and a universal waiver will definitely allow our clubs to feel more comfortable supporting fall paddle.

I think these are the only critical path issues.  There are other (potential) modifications that can lower the COVID risks for those that choose to play.

  • Booze?  Absolutely.  What is the point of paddle if there is no booze?

  • Food?  Tougher question.  Community food is a no-no yet many local businesses/restaurants desperately need support.  I think the answer should be no community food but if it is possible to arrange individual meals, such meals should be permissible. 

  • Hut?  Picturing a small hut, packed with 16 people drinking after a match seems like a CNN breaking news alert comparable to Florida beach/Michigan bar photos and hence a bad idea.  The easiest solution would be no hut access (beyond restrooms) for the rest of this year and, as the cold months of Jan/Feb arrive, re-evaluate. 

  • Balls?  I’ve participated in an attempt at each player having his/her own ball to serve with (marked with a sharpie) where non-servers avoid picking it up and use paddles and feet to get the ball back to the server.  It is possible.  I think, if one or more players in a match request it, all players do it.  After all, balls are so inexpensive . . . oh, wait.

  • Masks?  Amazingly, a hot button issues today.  I think masks before/during/post-match should remain an individual choice.

  • Fans?  Like most big-time sports, sadly, I think fall paddle should be without spectators.  For that one person last year who watched a match, life just isn’t fair.

  • Common Sense?  A big yes!  Social distancing off the court, fist/elbow/paddle bumps instead of handshakes, sanitizer/wipes before and after sets, etc. all go a long way to mitigate exposure.

Unfortunately, the percentages dictate that players will contract the virus.  If that happens, paddle has built-in contact tracing.  Those on both sides that played with an individual who tests positive, should not be allowed to play for the 14 day period (hence one match).  That likely means more matches will need to be rescheduled and/or played in pieces.   League standing wise, teams should not be punished for COVID match cancellations that cannot be rescheduled. 


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