Safely Returning To Play

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By Melissa Kildow  Pickleblogger

The sun is shining brightly and a warm breeze is whispering promises of a beautiful day. It’s already 60ᐤF and my clock says it’s only 7:30am. Today would be a perfect day to play pickleball and I would have a group set up already, if today was a normal day. However, this is not a normal day and Michigan is still under lockdown for the foreseeable future. But let’s pretend everything opens up and I’m about to meet some friends to play. What steps are necessary to play safely and why is it important to be safe?

The death toll in the United States is about to reach 100,000 and the New York Times recently released the long list of people whose lives were lost to the pandemic of the coronavirus on its front page. This is a real serious and highly contagious disease.

Let’s start with a quick breakdown on coronavirus and what makes it so complicated. It’s a viral illness that spreads from people to people mainly through respiratory droplets, close contact, and contact with infected surfaces. Because people may be carriers without symptoms, we must assume everyone is a carrier, including ourselves.

What happens if you get Covid-19? Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after virus exposure such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, headache, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, etc. They can be mild or severe effects of the virus. More severe side effects include multi-organ failure, septic shock, respiratory failure, death.

Scary, right?

In the “ideal world,” everyone would continue to social isolate until a vaccine is developed, we obtain herd immunity, or somehow the virus becomes eradicated. Realistically, people have to return to work and continue with their lives at some point, and that includes weighing risks and worth. It’s a struggle to balance risk while trying to reclaim our lives.

So how can we minimize danger when returning to play?

If you live in a state where the mandates have been relaxed/released and pickleball is allowed, it is still necessary to be cautious when returning to everyday life. These guidelines are based off of the CDC’s and USAPA’s recommendations.

  1. Avoid large groups and close contact.
    • Ideally play singles or skinny singles. If you are playing doubles avoid close contact on and off the court and it’s recommended to only play with people from your household.
  2. Wash your hands/ sanitize hands often.
    • Even if you think you didn’t touch anything, respiratory droplets from you and others could be on your hands (And you’re about to wipe the sweat out of your eyes…)
  3. Avoid touching the ball with your hands.
    • A great idea is to have everyone have a different color ball or specific marked ball that they use to serve with.
    • Kick or hit the ball back to the server.
  4. Don’t touch anything unnecessary.
    • Bring your own water bottle and snacks, no sharing. No high fives. Don’t touch your face.
  5. Don’t change sides after a match.
    • Trying to reduce risk of exposure to your opponent’s respiratory droplets.
  6. Wash your paddle and pickleballs after the match.
    • Sanitize everything you touched during play, including all equipment, water bottles, phone etc.
      • Bleach solution: ⅓ cup bleach per gallon of water (wear gloves when using)
  7. Don’t play if you are sick or have been around anyone who has been sick in the last 14 days.
    • You could be a carrier without symptoms yet
    • If you or someone you live with has a medical history ( lung disease, asthma, immunocompromised, diabetes, etc) which causes an increased risk of complications, weigh your pros and cons.
      • Not only are you exposing yourself to people who might be carriers of the disease, but you are also bringing it back home to your family.
  8. Masks and gloves are recommended.
    • If you wear a mask it should be a basic cloth or surgical mask
      • These aren’t respirators and their purpose is to minimize droplets
        • Cough, sneeze, breath hard= respiratory droplets
        • Don’t wear an N95 while you exercise
    • I think it’s rare that anyone utilizes gloves correctly. I would focus more on hand washing/ sanitizing than gloves.

CDC stop the spread of germs graphic - Picklesphere.comI see a lot of posts on different pickleball forums, some asking for a safe way to return to play and others laughing at the recommended guidelines put in place because they don’t take the virus seriously. If only these people had to work a day in a hospital or belonged to healthcare/first responder/nursing forums they would quickly change their minds.

Get your information from trusted real sources such as the CDC, which is the nation’s health protection agency. No one’s googling is more skilled than an agency that spends over 5 billion dollars on professional scientific research.

A player’s risk level is personal and is dependent on some things that cannot be controlled, such as his or her individual health, age, and frankly how bad COVID-19 is in that area. However, a player has the power to take precautions (wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing), and they can greatly reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Use your power wisely. Wash your hands, wear a mask, save lives.

Still waiting to put on my sunglasses (and mask) and head to the courts. Hope to see you soon!

“Friendships first, competition second.”
~ Yao Ming


Melissa Kildow
PPR-Certified Teaching Pro

Melissa is a 5.0 tournament player, teaching pro, and devoted mother with a serious passion for pickleball. Follow her foray through the Picklesphere as she writes about all the things we love about this sport, including strategy, the mental game, training, drills, diet and more.


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