The sounds of laughter, shoes scuffling and pings of pickleball paddles are again filling the air where silence and empty courts previously inhabited the Wellness Center property.
The Tellico Village Pickleball Club is swinging back into action after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The turnout’s been great and people are enjoying it,” Pat Clemens, TVPC president, said. “I think now they’re looking forward to having more opportunities and to play longer. Sooner or later, we’ll get back to normal.”
Many members regularly played pickleball throughout the week before the pandemic shut down most activities in the Village. Since returning, members have packed the courts to get back out and play with friends.
“For me, pickleball is an outlet. Prior to COVID-19, I was playing three times a week from 6-8 in the morning prior to getting to work,” Dean Varillas, TVPC member, said. “For me, it was a big hit. I use athletics as a form of stress relief; it’s something to look forward to and all that kind of stuff. To not have that outlet was obviously a little bit rough.
“They’ve allowed golf more or less to continue, so I have a lot of friends it didn’t affect as much because they just played more golf or they went fishing or did other things,” he added. “It was a little bit more challenging for somebody like myself that relies so heavily on pickleball or tennis that you weren’t able to do anymore.”
Several guidelines have been put in place upon returning to ensure the safety of players.
“It’s four people to a court, and you’re supposed to use your own ball to serve,” Clemens said. “Make sure you haven’t been exposed to anybody with the virus. Those are the big ones. Everybody has to check in every time they come to play.”
Play time on each court has also been cut to limit exposure and allow more people to squeeze in games.
“Luckily, they did start out with some strict safety guidelines allowing us to play, cutting down the number of people playing on the courts,” Varillas said. “They are cutting down on the length of time you can reserve a court for, cutting down on the hours of accessibility from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. In general, you’ve just got to roll with the punches I guess. There aren’t too many options, and you’d rather be safe than sorry. We’re just all really happy to be out there to be honest.”
Loudon County has entered phase two of Gov. Bill Lee’s plan to reopen the state, which allows social gatherings of 50 people maximum while still following social distancing guidelines.
Clemens hopes to return to a “more normal” schedule this summer if the phases continue to progress.
“We’re going to hold off on all of our tournaments for the time being, so right now we’re just in a holding pattern,” he said.
“They’re talking about really not too many changes, and they’re looking into seeing what they can do regarding man hours and start playing on the weekends again,” Varillas sais. “Right now, they just want somebody out there to regulate the courts, so that can only be when they’ve got actual people hired and staffed, so that’s why they haven’t been able to extend the weekend or the hours. They’re looking at that still, but rather than allocating a 45-minute block of time, they’re going to start allocating an hour-and-a-half block of time. Other than that, not too many other changes right now.”
For more information and updates on the TVPC, visit online at http://tvpbc-gameon.org/.