Friday, April 3, 2020

USTA Statement Recommends No Conventional Tennis Competition; College Coaches Give Advice on Continuing Recruiting Process During COVID-19, Discuss Implications of Extra Year of Eligibility

The USTA provided a statement today recommending no tennis competition while Stay at Home orders continue throughout the country. While some states are allowing golf courses to remain open (with a few modifications to cups and flags and social distancing), tennis is more problematical, given its joint use of a few balls. Here is the USTA statement:

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges for everyone across the globe. American tennis players are asking for guidance regarding the safety of playing tennis, especially when social distancing and space sharing issues are now paramount.

Based on the recommendations of the USTA COVID-19 Advisory Group, the USTA believes that it is in the best interest of society to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love.

Although there are no specific studies on tennis and COVID-19, medical advisors believe there is the possibility that the virus responsible for COVID-19 could be transmitted through common sharing and handling of tennis balls, gate handles, benches, net posts and even court surfaces.

As a result of this, the USTA asks that as tennis players we need to be patient in our return to the courts and consider how our decisions will not only affect ourselves, but how our decisions can impact our broader communities. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay active and healthy with at-home exercise and creative “tennis-at-home” variations.

We look forward to our return to tennis in a safe manner and will provide updates as new information becomes available. By practicing all the recommended guidelines presently put forth by our medical experts, that return will happen in the soonest possible timeframe.

Five college coaches from all three NCAA divisions participated in a discussion posted yesterday on the USTA's collegiate section, with advice on how those still seeking a place on a college team should handle the next two months, with on-campus visits prohibited, and no visits by coaches to recruits allowed during this extended dead period. They also provided their thoughts on the impact the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to seniors competing in spring sports. I wasn't aware that some conferences do not allow fifth year or graduate students to compete, which Bucknell's Bruce Myers mentions here:

With the Patriot League and Ivy League not allowing fifth years or graduate student-athletes, unless under unique or relatively unusual circumstances, the only impact upon our student-athletes is they might have the opportunity to transfer to finish their final year of eligibility.

I would think that this would qualify as a relatively unusual circumstance, but I assume this is the kind of question that will be resolved by each conference once coaches and administrators begin grappling with who and how many express interest in that extra year.

UPDATE: Ivy League affirms above policy:

via College AD-The Nightcap
As NC State's Simon Earnshaw says:

There are many perspectives, as there’s a huge ripple effect that every athletic department, program, student-athlete, recruit and their families are feeling. I’m still trying to grasp all the ins and outs, and with most everything there seem to be more questions than answers currently.

The USTA also has an COVID-19-updated resource page for college tennis, which includes links to NCAA updates, articles from newspapers around the country on the impact of the season's cancellation, and even links to the SAT and ACT testing sites. 

Tennis Recruiting Network also recently provided a primer on how to make the best use of this down time as a member of their site, including how a recruit can improve the likelihood college coaches will visit his or her profile.