My son will soon return to the tennis court after what seems like an eternity. I could tell that he is happy about it because his eyes lit up when I told him I had called his coach, Rhonda Mohammed when it was announced that the first phase of the rollback of the lockdown restrictions from May 10-23 would allow members of the public to take part in outdoor physical activities such as walking, hiking or running in groups of no more than five people, wearing their masks, of course.
He did a little dance when I told him this meant she may soon be able to do one-on-one classes, with all safety protocol observed, because of the nature of the sport – it is not a contact sport. In fact, the Tennis Association of Trinidad and Tobago, with the launch of its Racquets Out campaign, is promoting the sport as one that is in-keeping with the physical distancing safety requirements.
“With this campaign we intend to take a proactive approach to educating the public on the guidelines for staying safe while playing tennis in preparation for the rollback of lock down restrictions. With these guidelines in place tennis can be one of the first sports to be given approval to reconvene its local activities,” a release from the association said.
“While respecting the government-imposed lockdown, preparations are being made to establish a safe return to local competition. Specific guidelines and standards have been developed which should be applied during local competitions to protect the players, staff, officials and spectators... Some measures include players using separate set of balls specific to them, eliminate handshakes and absolutely no sharing of equipment,” the release elaborated on the campaign.
So what does this mean for my boy? Simply – the ability to participate in the sport he seems to have taken quite a liking to, but not being able to play with any of his buddies from Bosses Academy, the tennis club to which he belongs. He can no longer, at least for now, team up with Elisha to play against coach Rhonda and coach Che. He will not be able to get involved in any sort of mischief on the court with Justin or Jenne when they think coach Nabeel isn’t looking. No more invoking the wrath of coach Rhonda when a group of them decide to huddle over a gadget instead of sitting and eating their fruit during their break.
The new reality is that it will be just him and the coach on either side of the court for a while, unless I decide to join him on his side. He understands that he cannot take the chance to deliberately throw himself on the ground and roll around as he used to do whenever he missed a shot. Nor can he forget to sanitise his hands before he reaches for his water bottle to take a drink. And as for the next tournament, who knows when that will come around, which is a pity because although he’s never won a first-place medal, he always looks forward to these tournaments. Maybe it’s because coach always says that while winning is a good thing, at this stage it is not about winning but more about learning and mastering the techniques of the game. This, perhaps, will turn out to be the litmus test on whether or not he really wants to be on the court.
And the really difficult part for me as a parent is that, at just 11-years-old, this is just one of the many new realities I will have to watch him face as the restrictions are gradually lifted. The reality of how he will be required to operate when he returns to school; what he’s expected to do when we eventually go to eat at a restaurant; the protocols to be followed when he’s finally allowed back into a mall; the fact that vacations will have to come minus getting into airplanes or staying at hotels for a while; the restrictions that will have to be enforced when he celebrates his 12th birthday and Christmas the following day – one that I know will be especially difficult for him because he’s never known anything else but large family events with an obscene amount of food and drinks, dancing and singing, and many, many hugs and kisses.
All I can do is try my best to prepare him for it, but I know talking to him about what to expect and the reality of the situation when the time comes may not match exactly. My contingency plan is to prepare myself to guide him through it as best as I can, just as I tried to make the transition to this new way of life as easy as possible during the initial stages of this pandemic.
There is a long road of new realities ahead for him and for children all over the world, there is no getting away from that because covid19 has made change more inevitable than ever before. I’ve found, though, that keeping as much of the familiar as is safely possible helps soften the blow, allowing them to still enjoy their childhood while learning the new rules governing living in 2020 and beyond.