Did you tune into Campus Rec Magazine’s COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable: Industry Update?
If so, you may not have had your questions answered. Fortunately, the roundtable’s panel has answered them here.
- Michael Howard, the managing director of Recreation Facilities at Duke University
- Grady Sheffield, the director of Campus Recreation at Towson University
- Sean Smith, the associate director of Campus Life – Sport and Recreation at the University of Auckland
- Jordin Williams, the executive director of Wellness, Recreation and Campus Events at Delaware State University
Question 1: How do you get participation totals when using Zoom to keep stats?
Michael Howard: Simply pull the highest participation number shown at the bottom of the screen.
Sean Smith: If you have a paid account you can, so login to your account on a web browser. Then on the left hand side click reports. This gives you a choice of usage or meeting, select usage. From there, change the date range and then download as csv. For reporting, we are counting the highest number held throughout the class, so as to exclude those that just drop in and then leave, particularly at the start of class.
Jordin Williams: We also have a free Zoom account so we just pull the numbers from the participation number on the screen.
Question 2: What does physical distancing look like in a rec center? Are basketball courts, MAC gyms and other “sport” spaces open? Does equipment get moved around and some taken off the floor in order to preserve the six feet between those exercising?
Grady Sheffield: Not sure for courts. May not open these at all because of lack of control. Other areas like a fitness center can be controlled by spacing equipment out six feet apart. Occupancy numbers will most likely be reduced, but that will be based on an unknown number at this time. It could be based on federal/state mandates of the number of people allowed in an area. For example, 50 people max which could also lead to a “one in, one out” scenario.
MH: Not sure and I agree with Grady, these space may not open. They may also be repurposed to host group fitness classes under the social distancing guidelines.
SS: Due to our government guidelines, we were required to operate with a maximum loading of 100 people — including staff — for any indoor space and 500 for any outdoor space. We were also required to maintain at least one meter between individuals. In practice we enforced a six foot minimum distance while open. It is also important to be aware that when you limit capacity, you may also need to manage a booking system, or you will end up with a queue of users waiting to come in who you must also manage and distance.
Opening courts is OK in theory, but only if you are able to enforce the required separation between people and contacted equipment. For example, you may find it very challenging to keep small casual groups apart, but easier to control a sports training session with a coach. Individuals will need their own equipment and can’t share. You should review what specific activities would be appropriate in the space and be prepared to supervise all spaces. If you can partition larger courts into smaller zones, you may be able to operate as “one in, one out.”
JW: This is tough and very different depending on the activity you are conducting and the state in which you are located. We are focusing on group, instructor or virtual led classes that we can enforce the distancing guidelines because maintaining proper distancing in an open weight room floor seems unrealistic. Opening up the basketball courts is going to be tough unless you literally have one person per half court. The biggest challenge we are working through is how to keep the distancing in the locker rooms and/or properly cleaning private bathrooms between each use if we don’t open the locker rooms. My biggest advice would be to create policies that are realistic with daily activity and natural human behavior and not policies that sound great “in theory” but realistically can’t be maintained daily.
Question 3: How are you all focusing on the challenges that your professional staff are facing in this “new environment?”
MH: Grady nailed it below. Just to add, we conducted a staff climate survey a month before this happened, so we are excited to conduct this survey once we return to compare the differences.
GS: We have taken “your well-being first” approach. There is no “fair” or one size fits all approach to this. Staff with kids or family obligations are challenged in ways staff who do not have those responsibilities aren’t, but that doesn’t mean those without or living on their own do not also have challenges — i.e. isolation, loneliness, etc. If we are working from home, we are getting paid as regular hours, but if we can’t work from home, for whatever reason — except for previously scheduled time off — we are tracking that as administrative leave. For some, this may mean they are working eight hours a day, while others may only be able to work a few hours or not at all. Either way, the total hours that are accounted for are either eight hours of regular, eight hours of admin or a combination of both. We also recently put out a survey to our staff to find out what they need/where they are” based on these questions:
- Truly, how are you doing? Emotionally, physically, mentally. Whatever you want to share, good and bad.
- While we don’t know when the recreation center will be operational again, we do need to consider the action items completed in order for us to reopen. What items are on your list?
- What is it you want to work on during this remote work time? Or do you prefer to be left alone, to focus on your home/personal life?
- Are you interested in departmental professional development? If so, what ideas do you have? They can be specific books, podcasts etc., or you can just use your preferred medium — i.e. webinars with guest speakers, book club, LinkedIn Learning, etc.
- Are you already planning personal professional development? If so, what is it?
- Is there anything else you would like from the director or senior leadership team right now?
- Are you planning on taking an extended vacation/time-off this spring/summer?
SS: The only thing I’d add is how important it is to constantly check in. Ideally, try to ensure collaboration and teamwork continue online where possible even if in a small way. The landscape is changing so fast that someone who was fine yesterday may be overwhelmed today, and by keeping tight as a team, you will be able to identify this and respond quickly.
JW: Creating clear plans of action for each staff and communicating weekly with each staff member has been extremely helpful for us. During the first week, my associate director and myself created shared document plans of action for each pro staff and GA staff member. This allowed us to create clear communication and minimized the feeling of being lost in a new environment — each staff member can reflect on that document, know exactly what they are supposed to be working on daily, weekly and other projects. They can also get feedback from their supervisors and remain productive. We conduct a weekly WebEx meeting for all pro and GA staff, as well as have weekly one-on-ones with your direct supervisor to ensure everyone is doing well and provide them an opportunity to ask questions.
Question 4: Are there any different thoughts on reopening plans for outdoor spaces, fields, courts, etc.?
MH: Follow federal and state guidelines.
GS: We will probably impose the same policies or not open them at all. Again, this will all be based on state/federal guidelines.
SS: Yes agreed, this will be largely in line with the wider regions approach. We aim to align with our ministry of education guidelines for our spaces and places. We are finding these are likely to open sooner to help support the delivery of education than some wider public facilities which may stay closed for longer.
JW: We are currently on a stay at home order, all parks and gyms are closed. We are waiting to hear what the state will determine moving forward.
Question 5: What is everyones thoughts on planning for pool/aquatic programming areas? Locker rooms?
MH: I think they will play like the other common spaces (i.e. courts, etc.)
GS: I am thinking we will initially keep our pool and locker rooms closed.
SS: No plans to open aquatics facilities here yet. Aquatics facilities may also have a higher perceived risk by some users, due to all sharing the same water. I anticipate we will have an important role to play in educating users on our water quality and safety response when these facilities do open. Locker rooms are interesting. We have to open toilets once facilities open, as users may just need them. These may also then be linked to locker room spaces in some cases. You will need a plan to have enough space open to provide access to the necessities and also to allow adequate spacing between users. Then, you also need to ensure the areas opened are small enough you can deliver on the extreme cleaning required.
JW: It is tough because you can’t open your gym and not provide bathroom space for your members — we are currently challenged by this limitation. Even private bathroom space that is not in a locker room format will need to be cleaned and disinfected between each use, and that is an unrealistic expectation. We will have to do some more research on how the virus works on water and what is killed by the chemicals, etc.
Question 6: What are you looking for from partners/vendors/manufacturers to assist in helping drive students back into your facility? What are you looking for us to do as a manufacturer to help drive people back into your facility?
MH: Honestly, I haven’t thought about this. There may be some cool campaign/marketing ideas that could be helpful.
GS: Flexibility in changing dates of services/maintenance, billing, deliveries, etc. Stop offering free programming to students when we start to open back up. If not, we may be competing. Educate and provide partnerships on approved cleaning supply companies that we should be using on equipment to address COVID-19. Online training at low to no cost to help us educate our student staff on how ready they are to support our participants when they do come back. Larger stock of spare parts/increase in service for less down time since we will most likely be offering participants less equipment to use which may result in higher usage/more maintenance issues. Consideration to how a vendor/company can develop PPE for the equipment itself, like a plexiglass screen/shield to protect users and those around them to make it safer to workout in this environment.
SS: When adapting our spaces to achieve the required spacing between people, it required closing some machines to use and moving others. Some equipment required storage. We also required new items, such as to give all users in group training classes their personal, not shared, equipment. Technology has also become critically important in this sudden transition. These are all areas where our suppliers have supported us already.
JW: This is not a priority for us as I believe once campuses open, usage will naturally increase when students are looking for something to do. At this time we will work on informational signage to address any concerns our membership has about being safe in the gym.
Question 7: How do you anticipate reintroducing group exercise?
MH: Not completely sure, but I do see reduced numbers, use of courts, etc. being apart of the plan.
GS: This will be a challenge because of occupancy issues and social-distancing regulations. That being said, if we are offering some format of group fitness classes there is going to be a general apprehension, I think, from participants and instructors. Most of our classes occur in closed-off studios, so taking a group of people and having them breath hard/heavy or engage in close proximity may cause stress/concern even if we are way past the “it is now safe” point. I could see the industry possibly providing group fitness classes with larger, more open spaces because of this for quite a long time.
SS: Group X is a really important program to reintroduce, as it’s a chance to get people back together. Agreed you need to be cautious so you need room to spread out and some programs won’t be appropriate. People are required to be more spaced out, so you mark out zones on the floor, you create personal equipment so users don’t share, you introduce a regime of extreme cleaning before and after use. Ensure you have enough cleaning equipment for this. If you can, provide an outdoor area alongside the usual studio, or live stream to multiple spaces. Don’t forget to ensure a robust booking system to both control safe numbers, but also have contact tracing records.
JW: We do not have a clear plan as of yet, but will include limited numbers with a pre-registration mechanism, clear spaces designated for members/students to stay within, and disinfection of equipment between each class by the member/student.