Tennis is on its way back (and other bits of encouraging news)

It’s been more than two months now since I made the decision to put a pause on tennis lessons and I think its safe to say it’s been a real rollercoaster ride for everyone since then. In recent weeks, as outdoor recreation facilities (including tennis courts) have begun to open up again, I’ve started teaching on a one-on-one basis. I’m happy to report now that I see a lot of positive developments and can see a lot more tennis in our near future!

Tennis has a number of natural advantages over other sports and activities that considerably reduce the risk of Covid-19 contraction:

Tennis is a sport that requires no physical contact. Players can avoid ever coming within six feet of each other with relative ease.

Tennis, in the case of Santa Barbara, is played exclusively outside and that typically means a warm, sunny environment. Coronavirus research suggests that outdoor spaces are much safer than indoor environments as far as the passing of the virus. Not only do outdoor sports allow for the dispersion of droplets, but it has also been demonstrated by the DHS that Covid-19 has a lifespan of only 1.5-2 minutes when under direct sunlight.

In addition to the rapid inactivation of the virus, sunlight also provides the human body with Vitamin D, a critical element in a healthy immune system. It’s estimated that approximately half of all people living in the United States have inadequate levels of Vitamin D. Considering the areas that have been hardest hit (parts of the US and Europe that were deep in winter), there is a likely correlation between sunlight and the rate of serious complications from Covid-19.

Research conducted by Northwestern University concluded that healthy Vitamin D levels could reduce mortality rates in Coronavirus cases by 50%. It should also be noted that there is a very strong correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and the age-group most likely to die from the virus: those 65 years of age and up.

Recent data points to much lower mortality rates than previously thought, and those deaths are heavily predicated on age and pre-virus health condition, which means its fairly easy to comprehend the potential risks on an individual basis:

Today, I came upon a research study just published by USC, which determined the rate of infection in LA County based on antibody testing. Their data suggests an infection rate of 4.65% of the overall population of the county (10.6 million).

By my math, that’s about half a million people, of which so far only 1,821 have died due to Coronavirus. While every death is regrettable, that works out to a mortality rate of only 0.36% in LA County. I find this number to be very encouraging, because prior to antibody studies like this one, we were using “positive test result” as the denominator. In this case, there are 38,100 positive cases in LA County, which led to an estimated mortality rate that was 13X the number we now estimate.

In addition to the lower-than-expected mortality rates, data about susceptibility to serious illness also should offer most tennis players some peace of mind. The best data I could find regarding co-morbidities and age-grouping is a weekly report for New York City Coronavirus related deaths.

In the most recent report, it was found that only 0.87% of those who died were known not to have serious underlying conditions such as vital organ disease, diabetes, cancer, immunodeficiency, or obesity. In addition, 71% of those who died were more than 65 years of age. In short, if you are under 65 and healthy like the vast majority of tennis players, the risk of serious illness from Coronavirus is very low.

Speaking of antibody testing, it’s becoming more widely available (including in Santa Barbara) and early research indicates a high likelihood of at least short-term immunity following recovery:

According to the largest antibody study to-date, carried out by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, nearly all Coronavirus patients developed a healthy amount of antibodies to the virus. While not a guarantee of immunity, there is a high correlation and studies of other coronaviruses have consistently shown it to be the case. Dr. Fauci, head of the NIAID, has gone on record saying “it’s a reasonable assumption that this virus is not changing very much. If we get infected now and it comes back next February or March we think this person is going to be protected.”

For those concerned about “reinfection” stories circulating in the media, these are very rare instances that have very logical explanations in the form of statistically expected testing inaccuracies. In the South Korean case, false positives were registered due to sensitivity levels that picked up dead virus cells.

A few words of caution:

While, for the vast majority of players in the Thorpe Tennis Community, the risk of spreading or contracting a serious case of Covid-19 is close to zero, caution is still needed in order to protect those around us who do not fit the low-risk profile. It’s not just the individuals playing tennis, but also those they come into contact with off the tennis court that need to be considered. Also, while I’ve been quoting some of the foremost researchers in the field, there is still plenty we don’t know about this virus, so a gradual and thoughtful progression back to the courts is still advisable.

What’s Next for Thorpe Tennis?

For the time being, I will be continuing to teach only on a one-on-one basis, but I’m certainly hopeful that one day soon we’ll be back to our Sunday Sessions and Summer Tennis Camps. It has been so great to get back out with a few students these last couple of weeks and the time off solidified for me just how much I love my work!

Coach Trevor

Thorpe Tennis Girls Named Co-Player of the Year for Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable has recently announced Carol Cai and Grace Fuss as the co-winners of the “tennis player of the year” award for the 2019-2020 school year.

I’m very excited for Grace and Carol to be receiving the player of the year award as a doubles team. Together, they were a top-16 team in CIF Southern Section this year and were also excellent Co-Captains of our team at Cate. 

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Thorpe Tennis Coronavirus Update

In the week since my last post, much has changed, especially as California leads the country towards “stay at home” policy. I had four predictions about Coronavirus and it’s impact last week, which all still appear to be spot-on, but there are a few new things to address.

The stay at home request from Governor Newsom means I’ll be moving to on-court tennis hiatus for the next four weeks (at least). Some of you have asked what that’s going to be like for me, as someone who is not salaried, gets paid by the hour, and isn’t eligible for unemployment benefits.

As most of you know, my business cycle is typically 30-50 days on/5-15 days off. I have already worked 71 of the first 80 days of the year and had planned to be in Europe for part of this upcoming period. While I might go a little stir crazy and I know that I’ll miss my students greatly, Thorpe Tennis is in a great position to weather this storm.

There are many other local businesses that are not in a similar position, as well as many employees of those businesses that must be very concerned about the immediate future. It’s my belief that while the government can play a part in maintaining some basic safety nets, the very best way to have a better society is to be a good neighbor (and yes, I definitely watched Mr. Rogers as a kid).

To that end, I’m buying up gift cards at all my favorite local businesses and tipping a little extra for that delivery meal. As our government discusses how to implement no/low-cost small business loans, consider that those of us with the resources can provide the same thing directly to the businesses that bring us joy through good times and bad.

If I had to guess, I’d say tennis will probably not resume until about May 1, at which point I think we’ll all be ready to quickly make up for lost time. If we take this moment to consider what a valuable part of life getting to share the game of tennis with each other is, hopefully we can build a tidal wave of enthusiasm to have a great summer season.

In the meantime, I will not be idle. I’ll be working on new drills and lesson ideas as well as studying and perhaps sharing a significant backlog of videos recorded over the years. Expect a post or two here, with some tips and concepts to consider for when you are finally able to pick up the racquets again.

Stay safe and stay sane Thorpe Tennis Community!

-Trevor

Finding Normalcy in Times of Chaos or How to Make a Positive out of Anything :)

As I look back on the last few years living in Santa Barbara, it seems like there’s an almost annual winter calamity that disrupts the peace in this beautiful place. Years of drought, then the fires, then the mudslide, and now we are being tested again.

I won’t get into how I feel about COVID-19, other than to say these four things: 1) I believe it will spread much more widely, 2) I don’t think it’s as mortally dangerous as the media churn is making us feel, 3) I do feel it’s important to take precautions to protect those with serious pre-existing medical conditions and the elderly, 4) I think the global economic impact, particularly in places like Venezuela where oil is food and things are already desperate, will likely kill more people than the virus itself.

What I want to talk about is not Coronavirus specifically, but a broader philosophy that gives me comfort in these times of chaos. It’s my hope that sharing some of my deeply held personal beliefs might help others and that’s something to which I have dedicated myself.

Many of you know I’m into doing things like 200-mile, single-day bike rides and multi-day treks through the Andes and all sorts of other madness. When some poor, unsuspecting soul asks me what I did over the weekend, they often find themselves in pain just thinking about what I tell them.

What you might not all know is the reason I pursue these sorts of activities. While it’s clear that you need physical strength to complete those sorts of tasks and I enjoy that kind of proficiency, what I’m chasing is mostly mental/spiritual.

I believe we as humans are better when we are tested. There is a clarity that comes with confronting uncertainty, a fog that lifts when you face a challenge where the outcome isn’t a given. In all phases of life (school, work, relationships), we progress through grappling with difficulties and persevering against obstacles. A life without challenge is a recipe for mediocrity and that’s part of what makes learning and competing in tennis such a beneficial tool for life.

Once you accept that each obstacle is actually an opportunity to progress, you have a distinct advantage that nothing and no one can take from you. You can be positive when others despair and you can be ready to lead when others are fearful.

Those who have spent time on-court with me should be familiar with the concept of reframing; you cannot lose when you set the conditions for success. You cannot be negative when you know that every thoughtful interaction, whether painful or joyous, yields a knowledge that will serve you in the future. My message to you all is to embrace the uncertainty and let it galvanize your inner strength.

Now, here is what I intend to do during this time of chaos: once this rain passes, I will continue to teach. I know many of my young students will be anxious and probably more than a little stir-crazy after the first few days away from school (even the most dedicated teenager cannot play video games or pursue social media perfection forever!). I know that many of my adult students will be looking for an outlet as well. I know that in this time of social distancing, we do still need to interact. I know that in this unusual time, we need some normalcy and tennis is just the thing!

I intend to do my private lessons as usual, as well as Sunday Sessions and the Mini-Camp that is scheduled for the first week of April. Despite there being no cases of Coronavirus in Santa Barbara County at this time, I will be keeping an eye on group sizes and will ask that anyone feeling sick please sit out until COVID-19 can be ruled out. We’re also going to be washing our hands a lot!

So join me in taking proper precautions, but continuing to live this life in a productive and positive way. We’ll get through this, Thorpe Tennis Community! Keep calm, carry on.

Trevor

Owls Move to 2-0 with 15-3 Road Win

Laguna Blanca made it two-for-two in early-season matches, taking a 15-3 victory over Cabrillo High School in Lompoc today.

The win was bolstered by three 6-0 sets from Ryan Purkait at the #2 singles position. Purkait, a junior who spent the majority of the last two seasons at #1 doubles, is now 6-0 on the season as a singles player.

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Owls Open Season with 13-5 Win Over Rival Santa Ynez High

The Laguna Blanca Owls boys’ tennis team got the season off to a winning start with a 13-5 victory over visiting Santa Ynez High School (1-1).

How it Happened:

The first round of play was very even, with Santa Ynez taking early leads at #2 singles and #2 and #3 doubles and Laguna up by small margins in the other sets. However, the Owls overcame the overall the “beginning-of-season-jitters” to take all but the #3 doubles for a 5-1 lead.

From there, Laguna continued to roll, winning the second and third rounds 4-2, thanks to six set-wins in singles and seven in doubles.
Junior Ryan Purkait recorded a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 sweep while playing at the #3 singles position, while junior/senior combo Nic Richmond and Kevin Khodabandehlou swept with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 showing on the day.

The Owls also got two of three from John-Henry Schulz in singles, as well as doubles pairings Rodrick Zhu/Owen Pryor and Ben Rodgers/Aiden Meisel. Senior captain Kai Nakamura took an important 7-5 victory at the #1 singles position, despite illness, and finished 1-1 on the day.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments:

To be honest, the first match of the season is always a bit of a question mark, so I was super impressed by the level my guys showed in this season-opener. The match was very close early on and, of course, everyone’s going to be nervous, but they came through and took control of the match.

 I was particularly pleased with the way Ryan played in what was essentially his singles debut for our team. In doubles, there was a ton of good stuff going on, but I saw major improvement in particular from Rodrick; the kid abhorred doubles last season, but he stepped up big-time for us today and showed us how hard he’s been working since the end of last season.

What’s next for the Owls?

Laguna Blanca will play away on Thursday against Cabrillo High School in Lompoc at 3pm.

Thorpe Tennis: 2019 Year-in-Review

This year, the main change at Thorpe Tennis was the development and expansion of mini-camps. The once-yearly Thorpe Tennis Summer Tennis Camp was a much-loved event each June, but was very difficult for me to prepare and run. This spring, I tested a more nimble camp concept, something that would be repeatable on a more regular basis but that included the beloved elements of the more traditional camp I had been organizing.

To my delight, that spring mini-camp was a huge success and we managed to repeat the model six more times throughout the year. By following the ebb-and-flow of the school schedule and other patterns I’ve noticed over the years, I am now able to offer the Thorpe Tennis Mini-Camp Series on nine occasions throughout the year!

I owe a big thank you to Mark Polowczak for his help through the year, both with the mini-camps and also our Sunday Sessions. While he is heading off to college in Texas, he’s already committed to assisting again this summer.

In 2019, I worked on 260 days, including one stretch of 55 consecutive days. I worked with players as young as seven and a few players old enough not to want to be identified by their age! In total, I coached 66 different players during the year, across two high school teams, junior tennis, college tennis, ladies doubles, and competitive age-group mens’ tennis. When I wasn’t working, I was traveling!

My boys’ team at Laguna had a season of growth, after graduating most of the previous year’s starting lineup, but still managed to extend our 50% or better win-loss record to eight consecutive seasons. Having finally made their way into the Tri-Valley League after free-lancing for five years, this group now look primed to make a run at winning that league in 2020.

During the summer, Thorpe Tennis was firing on all cylinders, with mini-camps galore. It was so great to see the progress of players like Caleb Silverberg and George Nicks during that period. In addition, much fun was had, all sorts.

I also had the chance to play some tennis, myself, logging court time in Argentina and Colombia on clay, as well as rekindling my Redlands University partnership with Aron Ouye for the Santa Barbara Open. We made the semifinals of that tournament in doubles, taking out recent grads from the tennis programs at UCSB and Cal Lu in the process.

The fall marked the first time I’ve had a high school team go undefeated. My girls at Cate went 10-0, defeating Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos, and San Marcos high schools along the way. This was the 10th playoff appearance for Cate Girls’ Tennis in my 11 years coaching at the school and we’ve qualified for the CIF D1 Playoffs in each of the last three seasons.

Another real highlight of the year was the incredible run of senior captains Grace Fuss and Carol Cai in the CIF Individual Doubles Tournament. They repeated as Tri-Valley League Champions (and Carol completed her high school career with four doubles titles in four seasons!), before breezing through three rounds of CIF Regionals. They put in a devastating performance against their first opponents in CIF Sectionals, defeating a top-20 in Southern California team 6-0, 6-1 before their run came to an end in the the Round-of-16.

Both Cai and Fuss are being actively recruited by a number of college tennis programs and I look forward to seeing how their college careers take shape. That said, they’ll be sorely missed on the Cate Mesa. During their four years at Cate, the team went 45-3 (31-0 in league play), en-route to four Tri-Valley League Championships and a place amongst the top-30 teams in Southern California.

I’m as excited as ever to be starting the new year and getting to do it with such a great community of people makes it all the sweeter. Here’s to a new decade full of tennis!

– Coach Thorpe