Many of our members have expressed concern regarding the decision from NAGVA to de-sanction the Austin Summerfest Volleyball Tournament and DIVA’s subsequent announcement that the tournament would continue. I want to take this opportunity to be as transparent as possible regarding this decision – which was not an easy one to make.
Throughout the process, Dan and I have worked with NAGVA to answer questions and continually improve our plans for the tournament in order to provide a quality volleyball experience that includes a long list of safety precautions for the players.
We have worked diligently with our host facility to ensure that we will meet or exceed the expectations of local event guidelines. For example: the RRSC has an occupancy of 3,053 persons. We do not intend to have more than 750 (24.6%) persons present each day. All 750 will not be in the facility at the same times, only about half to three quarters of that at any given time. We currently estimate 650 players, 15 referees, 15 staff members, and a few volunteers and spectators. There are plenty of private rooms and bleacher space to allow teams and players the opportunity to distance themselves as they deem necessary while not playing/officiating. We have a Saturday schedule which will allow the entire left-half of the facility to be “open” for 40-45 minutes, followed by the right-half shortly thereafter. This should allow nominal overlap on Saturday as morning players leave the facility and afternoon players arrive.
The RRSC has enhanced procedures in place to include hand sanitizer stations throughout the facility and the continuous cleaning of “touch-points” during the event. We are planning to host Saturday registration outside under a tent, one-way entry, checking temperatures of each person upon entry, offering masks and headbands (optional but encouraged), and more. Player R2’s will only use electronic whistles which will be switched out and sanitized along with pens/pencils, etc between matches. A complete list of enhancements was provided to the Captains yesterday, giving teams/players plenty of time to assess the mitigation strategy and decide whether they wish to participate before the refund date (July 5th).
The RRSC is remaining diligent in making sure that their facility is one where athletes can safely return to participate in the sports they enjoy. They intend to follow the guidelines published by the State of Texas in the Open Texas Report (https://open.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Checklist-Adult-Recreational-Sports-Operators.pdf) and encourage all users to do the same.
Canceling the tournament at this time would also present a significant financial burden for DIVA. We have signed a $14,000.00 contract and have already paid a $7,000.00 non-refundable deposit to the Round Rock Sports Center. This deposit was paid in August 2019 – long before COVID became a piece of our reality. If state or local regulations cause the contract to be canceled (which admittedly is very possible), then the deposit will be refunded. If we make the decision to cancel the tournament on our own, it will not be. While this decision is not truly a financial one, we had to consider the financial impact on the organization as we made our decision.
The most important thing that needs to be considered is the desire of players and teams to re-join the volleyball community. While the social distancing guidelines and mitigation strategies involved in the tournament will understandably hamper the full community experience, many of the paid teams have recently re-committed to their desire to experience the volleyball community in as safe a manner as we can provide through this tournament. We traditionally get about 650 players for the Austin tournament. This year half of them are not from Texas. They are coming in from all over the United States and Puerto Rico. Many of them have already bought their airline tickets (many of the tickets are non-refundable). These players signed up for the Austin tournament, bought plane tickets, requested time off from work, booked a hotel, etc. Our current decision reflects our desire to fulfill our core mission: community through volleyball.
The players on these teams are all adults and we need to give them, not us, the opportunity to decide if they want to participate in a volleyball tournament this August. They are the ones who registered, they are the ones who bought airline tickets, they are the ones who understand their personal situation better than any of us. Those 7-8 players on each team can come together and have an educated discussion to decide what they want to do. As we have worked with our host facility, we are convinced that we are able to offer mitigation strategies to provide as safe a tournament as possible should they choose to attend.
Things WILL change with Covid-19. Things will probably look very different next month at this time. We have no way of knowing what Texas will look like in 6 weeks and we will continue to monitor what is happening in Texas and specifically the Round Rock area. We plan on outlining many precautions to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the tournament. Can we guarantee that they will be 100% effective? No, but we can make the courts as safe as possible for those who choose to play.
If the state of Texas issues an order or the city of Round Rock closes the facility due to the Covid-19 virus we get our deposit back so we are out nothing and we are able to continue with our good relationship with the play facility and the host hotel. No one is really out anything.
If we cancel the tournament now, five to six weeks out, we do not get our deposit back. We also damage our relationships with the play facility, host hotel and hundreds of NAGVA players who want to attend the tournament (many of whom are attending the Austin tournament for the first time).
If anyone would like to discuss this decision with me specifically, I am willing to make myself available. This was not an easy decision to make, and I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.
Brian Borski, President
Dallas Independent Volleyball Association