Senior prep tennis players the latest to pursue unsanctioned state titles, but COVID-19 is threatening

High school senior tennis players are gearing up for a tournament in July that would replace the championships canceled by the Utah High School Activities Association in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But recent rising case numbers all across Utah have put the tournament in some jeopardy.

“I definitely am concerned because I want this to be a great experience for these student-athletes that already had one thing canceled on them,” said Tim Smith, coach of the 3A Maeser Prep boys and girls tennis team who is organizing the tournament. “I’m hoping that we can still do this. But if we have to cancel, health and safety comes first here.”

The tennis tournament is the latest in unsanctioned competitions have that popped up throughout the state after the spring high school sports season was canceled. Most of them have completed without any apparent complications.

A group of 28 boys varsity soccer teams finished the Graduation Cup last week. The tournament included to brackets of four classifications — 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A. Spectators weren’t allowed at the games.

Two weeks ago, the Last Chance baseball tournament crowned American Fork and Timpanogos as champions. That competition spanned two weeks and included only 6A and 5A schools, many of which were in Utah County. A softball tournament occurred elsewhere in the state.

But an effort by the Jordan School District to hold its own tournament for student-athletes came crashing down when sports medicine experts advised against it.

The free, one-day tennis tournament — dubbed the Class of 2020 Invitational — is scheduled for July 11 and signups close Sunday. It will be held at Orem Community Park and is open to any classification.

Smith has installed several safety measures to the reduce risk of players or spectators contracting the novel coronavirus.

“Tennis, I think, fortunately lends itself to some natural social distancing,” Smith said. “But even still, we have a few differing things in place to make sure that we’re eliminating physical contact and that kind of thing.”

Smith said event staff will wear face coverings when interacting closely with players or spectators, and they will perform symptom checks when players check in. He said he is in the process of obtaining thermometers, but at the very least there will be a list of questions players have to answer.

Masks won’t be explicitly required for spectators, but they are recommended, Smith said. That guideline is contingent on what the state’s risk level is at the time. Utah is mostly in “yellow,” or low risk, status currently.

No high fives or handshakes will be allowed, Smith said, even between doubles partners. The traditional gathering of every team to introduce everyone before the tournament will be eliminated. Start times will be staggered to minimize gathering.

In addition, spectators will be limited to only the families of tournament participants.

“We don’t want parents to miss their kids’ last opportunity at competitive tennis because for some, it will be,” Smith said.

But, Smith said, it won’t be an event where anyone who wants to support a player or team will be freely able to do so.

“If you aren’t watching a current match or playing in a current match, we’re going to have people disperse throughout the park, which has a lot of space, or just leave and then return prior to their next match,” Smith said.

The initial idea for the tournament was just going to be for schools within Maeser Prep’s region. But once Utah went to “yellow,” Smith thought it was possible to put together a larger one. He said with the registration numbers he’s seen, it’s possible that the tournament will be expanded to other locations in Utah County.