The Pickleball Haven at Camp West Fork

If you are looking for a pickleball getaway, look no further than Camp West Fork in Montana. Situated a mere 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 7 miles from the sky runs of Big Sky, Camp West Fork is an ideal vacation spot for pickleball fanatics.

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Not only do you get to bask in the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountainside, but temperatures are the perfect conditions for pickleball. This is especially true during the months of summer where daytime temperatures reach upwards of the 70’s. During the summer season, the sun illuminates the sky until 9:30 at night, when the temperatures drop to a high of the 50’s. That makes almost any time of the day the perfect time to play pickleball.

Camp West Fork has everything a pickleball lover would desire – a beautiful backdrop, ideal temperatures, and of course…a court! Although the first two have everything to do with Mother Nature, the second is thanks to a couple who fell in love with pickleball, Barry and Zoe Silverman.

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From Courtship to Pickleball Court

The couple first bonded over their love of fly-fishing. Taken away by the beauty that is Montana, the twosome decided to do more of what they love. They purchased a 26 foot Jayco bumper pull bunk house trailer. They attached the rig to a pickup truck, and a lifetime of adventure began.

Five years into their adventure, the two purchased a co-op in Orange County, California called Laguna Woods. They did this as a way to keep their dogs away from Montana’s “mud season.”

While spending time at Laguna Woods, Barry and Zoe stumbled upon some people playing pickleball. With the encouragement of the pickleball players, the Silvermans picked up a paddle and never looked back.

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What drew Barry to the sport was its correlation to ping pong. His father, George Silverman, served the United States Army during World War II. During his time of service, Mr. Silverman became quite the accomplished ping pong player.

As Barry fondly remembered, “He drilled me on the proper strokes and strategies for tournament level play.  I maintain that ping pong is THE closest game of all to pickleball and strategies and shots translate very well.”

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Barry with his father, George

From Passion to Pet Project

Following a great mud season in Laguna, the Silvermans headed back to Big Sky, where they brought along their newfound passion. Barry remembered coming back to the resort and meeting with the parks department.

He suggested, “That one of the four public tennis courts be lined as a dual purpose venue to accommodate both tennis and pickleball.  They were quite receptive and we soon had two pickleball courts on which we put USAPA’s temporary nets.  They gave us a grant which helped purchase the nets.”

Located on the west fork of the Gallatin River, Camp West Fork was born.

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Barry’s passion led him down a path of DIY extremes. Taking the bull by the horns, the Silvermans held this project close to their hearts. They jumped right on the renovations.

As Barry recalled, “I acted as the general contractor on the project and brought my concrete from Belgrade, my court painter and fencer from Polson and ordered equipment from Tennis Court Supply.” The pickleball fanatic beamed with pride. “Scott Moore, National champion and all around great guy, called ours ‘the prettiest courts I have ever played on.’”

The evolution of the pickleball courts continued.

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As Barry explained, “A few years later, we decided to put two courts on our property. We wanted dedicated courts and felt that our 14 acre property was a perfect venue for pickleball courts and the social aspect they provide.”

From Idea to Reality

With courts in place, now all Camp West Fork needed was people to play on them.

Barry and his wife discussed how to go about this endeavor. “After much thought, my wife and I decided that the best avenue for growth of pickleball in our community of 2,500 permanent residents would be by forming a club and charging a token annual fee for membership.”

With an official pickleball league in place, the twosome decided to turn Camp West Fork into the ultimate pickleball destination by offering pickleball boot camps.

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The concept of holding a pickleball camp was first sparked from a conversation with aforementioned pickleball player, Scott Moore.

Barry spoke about the conversation:

“We began talking to Scott Moore about ordering PaddleTek paddles and showed him pictures of the property while sharing our vision of hosting pickleball training camps.  I hold downhill skiing boot camps for my good friends, as I am a certified PSIA instructor.  I found the total immersion they received was so helpful for their skiing that it seemed only natural to offer it to pickleball players as well.  Scott immediately jumped on the concept and we put the first camp together.”

As Barry put it, pickleball boot camp is a total immersion in pickleball covering theory, strategy, stroke analysis, shot selection… just about every facet of the game.  We begin each morning with stretching and warm up.  We work on paddle skills, hand eye coordination and then focus on a single skill each day.

“We hold two planned pickleball sessions daily with the morning being the most focused and intense.  We incorporate training aids, some of which we have developed here exclusively for our campers.  We have a Simon ball machine, which campers can sign up for to practice specific shots.  Afternoons are geared towards open play and utilizing their newly acquired skills.

“We also video tape every camper in a competitive game and analyze their performance with them.  Our final day, we bring in local players from our club to hold a round robin tournament on the two courts.  We can always find players of just the right level to push our campers and test their new skills and strategies in a real live situation.”

Guests usually participate in two sessions a day.  The morning session runs from 8-11 and the afternoon from 3-5.

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If you would like to learn more about Camp West Fork Pickleball, including rates for accommodations, please visit their official website.

Pickleball Ken Shows How to Build a Community around Pickleball

“Pickleball has totally changed my life.”

Those are the words of Ken Marquardt, or Pickleball Ken, as he is affectionately known to friends and fellow players alike.

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Pickleball Ken has taken his life-changing passion and turned it into fodder to transform the pickleball scene of the metro Denver area.

When we last left off with Pickleball Ken it was December of 2015. As the holiday season rolled along, we presented Ken with our Pickleball Central “All Heart” Award alongside the APEX Parks and Recreation District for organizing a Pickleball for Heroes event.

Since then, Pickleball Ken has kept himself pretty busy. Around the same time Pickleball for Heroes was coming to fruition, Pickleball Ken had another iron in the fire. He was going to find a way to get the Denver area outside and playing pickleball!

Fueled by his passion, Pickleball Ken jumped head first into a project that saw the creation of 8 pickleball courts turn into 16 before finally turning into 24! Follow along as we uncover how one person’s dedication can influence a whole community.

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“I have overcome so many challenges in my life.”

As a cancer survivor who also endured two shoulder replacements and two knee replacements, Ken Marquardt has had his share of setbacks. Always an athlete, Ken was crushed to learn that he would no longer to play the sports he loved, such as tennis.

Ken spoke about how he could no longer play tennis to a classmate who travels around in her RV. She informed Ken that they don’t stop at any RV park that doesn’t have pickleball. When Ken informed her that he had never heard of the sport before, his classmate urged that he give it a try.

With his interest piqued, Ken Googled local pickleball courts and came up with one in the Denver area. Ken made the trek and played his first game.

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It was on that day that Ken Marquardt became Pickleball Ken.

“When I started playing, it changed my life. And then I saw other people with sadness in their lives, how they just forgot about that (sadness) when playing pickleball. It’s good for them mentally and physically. I want to share that with everyone. “

Traveling from the north-end of Denver to the sole pickleball court in the area, Ken and a few other local pickleball players agreed that they needed a court closer to where they lived. That’s when Pickleball Ken turned a dream into a community project.

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“The director of APEX  (Park and Recreation District) Mike Mills and I, talked about our community needs outdoor courts. Mike had 10 acres off of 82 and Sims that were free.”

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Mike Mills of APEX

With a place in mind, the project now needed funding. Ken and Mike Mills took their plans to Jefferson County Open Space.  Funds received from Jefferson County Open Space are derived from lottery money, making it tax free dollars.

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The first time Jefferson County Open Space was approached was back in November of 2013. Following a presentation by Pickleball Ken and company, the project was allotted $255,000. This was enough money for the first eight courts to be created.

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From there, the vision grew and funding was approved for eight more courts that were completed in the following year. Now, the project is in its final stages. To the tune of 1.7 million dollars, this 24 court park is going to be completed, and fully operational for all to enjoy.

Looking back at Ken’s initial charitable endeavor with Pickleball for Heroes, this new 24-court facility also pays homage to those who have sacrificed for their community. Ken stated,

“We want to honor all veterans. Whether, firefighters or policemen, and especially the military. And that is why the park is named Community Heroes Park. ”

 

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Not just in name alone, the park also pays homage through a symbolic eagle.

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Although its beauty is undeniable, Ken didn’t feel that displaying an eagle was enough to give thanks to our servicemen and women. That is why he organized the aforementioned Pickeball for Heroes event where proceeds went to veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Using pickleball for charitable efforts didn’t end there. As the park has grown, so has its community outreach. Pickleball Ken and the Denver pickleball community started putting on clinics for autistic and disabled children. As Ken fondly recalled,

“I had a mother come up to me and their son was 17 years old and never stood up in his life. And she had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘Thank you, Ken.’ And it just totally changes my life and other people’s lives. And so, I wanted to share that with everybody.”

With his passion and dedication, Pickleball Ken has blown the door open for pickleball in the Denver area. Seeing firsthand how pickleball transformed his life, he is now sharing that gift in a park made by the community, for the community. Who knows what Pickleball Ken will be up to the next time we check in with him?

 

 

 

Tournament Tips: Arizona’s Sun City Festival Pickleball Club on Brackets and Delegation

For Ann Purvis, pickleball is a community affair. Seven years ago, her husband bought her a paddle and they embarked on their pickleball journey together. The two of them began taking lessons together. As they honed their skills, Ann and her husband began teaching the rest of their family the joys of the sport. Now, Ann enjoys playing with her children and grandchildren when they all get together.

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Ann Purvis at an archaeological dig in Mesa Verde.

 

Ann became fully immersed in Buckeye, Arizona’s Sun City Festival Pickleball Club. Four years after she first picked up a paddle, Ann found herself with a unique opportunity. The President of the Club needed volunteers to learn how to put on a tournament. Six members volunteered. One of them was Ann. With three years of experience under her belt, she was kind enough to share some advice with PickleballCentral.

What is the name of your tournament?

The Sun City Festival In House Pickleball Tournament.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

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The Sun City Festival Pickleball Club. Our club currently has a little over 500 members.

When was your tournament?

It was this past year. March 20 through 23, with a scheduled rain day on March 24.

Where was your tournament?

Sun City Festival Pickleball Courts located in Buckeye, Arizona.

How many players registered for the tournament?

We had 162 registrants.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?

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Eight outdoor courts. Hence the need for a rain day!

What events/brackets did you offer? 

Since we are a retirement community, we broke the brackets into skill levels. We wanted new members to have the tournament experience and created round robin brackets just for them. They were able to have a tournament experience while playing with people they play with every day.

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?

Absolutely! The more people who are involved, the better the tournament and the learning experience. We had lots of committees so people did not have to spend their entire lives on the tournament. Committees were:

Set Up and Clean Up
Vendors
Volunteers
Photography
Referees
Food/Snacks/Hydration
Raffle
First Aid/Safety
Registration
We also did a lot of cross-training and mentoring.

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

We did have sponsors. Most of them run small businesses in the community and people who participated in the tournament knew them. We charged $25 and a banner. We displayed the banners prominently.

We also had vendors who set up tables and sold their wares. Some of these were from the community and some were national. We offered them a choice of days since there was another tournament going on at the same time. Most came for two days.  The fee was $25. We provided the tables.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?

We did have a Food/Snacks/Hydration table where we offered players and volunteers oranges, bananas, cookies, pretzels, water and Gatorade. That was to support the players. We also had a food vendor who sold breakfast, lunch and drinks at the event.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

This was an in-house tournament fee of $20.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?

Our club hosted the USAPA Nationals for the first six years the tournament was held. It is important to know that this tournament was started in order to teach our members how to put on a tournament and how to participate in a real tournament.

What are your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?

Choose your team carefully. Everyone on the team must be a self-starter and must be willing to take on other jobs to make sure the tournament works. The goal is to have the players enjoy their play and to make sure only the team knows when things go wrong.

Having mentors on the team was very helpful. They knew several tournament jobs and were able to help others learn and fill in when there was a problem. Also, having people on the team and in the community who knew how to operate pickleballtournaments.com was a great help.

Develop a checklist and a budget for your tournament.

Most importantly, having a supportive community and club are keys to success.

Tournament Tips: State Games of Mississippi on the Importance of Volunteerism

“I believe that volunteerism is an important contributor to the quality of life in all of  our communities and believe that we should all pitch in as we are able.”

Those are the words of Ron Eaton, tournament director for the State Games of Mississippi. Being a former racquetball, cyclist, and tennis player, Ron picked up his first pickleball paddle 20 months ago. The physicality and mental challenges of pickleball is what initially hooked Ron. However, it was the great social circle that got him to stay.

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Ron Eaton (L) with Men’s Doubles Partner, Jason David (R)

When USAPA Ambassadors in his area, Tom and Deonne Linenberger, approached Ron about taking the lead of the tournament, he couldn’t turn them down. After all, they worked tirelessly to build pickleball in his community. Ron noted, they took the pickleball community from “a very small base of people into robust program that has improved the quality of life for many people.” So when the Linenbergers asked for a helping hand, Ron Eaton was more than happy to step up. 

What is the name of your tournament?

State Games of Mississippi. We are 1 of 35 members of the National Congress of State Games.

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Mississippi State Games Medalist showing off his award.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

We are the Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball.

When was your tournament? 

May 5 & 6, 2017.

Where was your tournament? 

A. J. Holloway Sports Complex in Biloxi, Mississippi

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Sportsmanship brings the community together.

How many players registered for the tournament?

97 players registered.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?

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We used up to 8 outdoor courts, as needed.

What events/brackets did you offer?  

Round Robin format, USAPA rules, unrated players/brackets.

We offered juniors 17 and under, 18+

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One of the main reasons Ron joined the tournament was its inclusion of all ages

35+, 50+, 55+, 60+, 65+,  70+,  75+

We also had Men and Women’s open doubles for advanced players.

Did you have a team working with you?  What were their delegated tasks/roles? 

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Ron handing out medals to gold winners in Men’s Doubles 75+, George Hults (C) and Whitner Church (R)

Yes, the tournament committee consisted of 5 people and myself. We had shared tasks and roles. They included:

  • Strategic planning and marketing
  • Administrative
  • Rules and tournament design
  • Volunteer sourcing

Tasks that fell under any and all of the roles above included:

  • Establishment of tournament priorities
    • In our case:
      1. Hospitality
      2. Inclusion of all ages (Really wanted to get youth involved)
      3. “Noon to noon” tournament
      4. Deliver most competitive fields possible
  • Establish marketing outreach
  • Confirm outdoor facility as well as indoor rain venue
  • Ensure tournament medical response protocol is established
  • Figure out registration and fee collection processes
  • Partner matching
  • Handle all pre-tournament inquiries

We also had volunteers who performed half-day assignments. Their duties included tasks such as:

  • Court set up
  • Reception center
  • Registration packet delivery
  • Running the tournament desk, including real-time bracket posting
  • Award confirmations
  • Award presentations
  • Tournament announcements
  • Runners to assist players to correct courts
  • Runners to bring back score cards to tournament desks
  • Score keeping and refereeing
  • Hydration planning- bottled water and PowerAde in several locations

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

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State Games of Mississippi

Yes.  PickleballCentral  was very supportive in providing tournament balls, registration bags, and banners.  McAlister’s Deli graciously provided the box lunches.

Was the tournament a fund-raising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?

The State Games of Mississippi is a privately-sponsored, non-profit organization that promotes amateur athletics and healthy lifestyles for residents of all ages and abilities.  Pickleball was added as a new game to the SGM venue of 38 sponsored sports on its 25th Anniversary.

Playing pickleball at the MS State Games

Did you offer refreshments?

Yes.  Bottled Water, PowerAde, bananas, apples, Nature Valley Power Bar Products, and 1 McAlister’s Box lunch for registrants and volunteers.  Nothing was sold at the tournament.

Did you charge a registration fee?  How much?  

Yes. $30.  Registration packet included a T Shirt, hand towel, first serve bracelet, and several miscellaneous items.

Officers Brian Acuna (L) and Deputy Tyrus Mack (R) sporting gold medals

Officers Brian Acuna (L) and Deputy Tyrus Mack (R) sporting gold medals

Anything special or unique about your tournament?  

It was the first all age tournament of  its type in Mississippi.  It was also the first sponsored tournament hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball

What is your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?  

A tournament, particularly a first tournament, is much like a first impression in that you only get one chance to make it. An event that registrants and volunteers alike enjoy, feel included, feel challenged, and look forward to the next one is a goal to strive for.

It's all about the future of pickleball.

It’s all about the future of pickleball.

Our committee, with no pickleball tournament experience until this year, attended, observed, and learned from other tournaments. We held “mini” practice tournaments that built our experience and confidence.  A committee with varied skill sets, respect for one another, attention to detail, and a willingness to “real time” manage the tournament from announcement to breakdown will be appreciated by all.

 

 

 

Tournament Tips: Surf City Pickleball on Divisions and Multiple Courts

Diana Abruscato fell in love with the sport of tennis back in the 4th grade. After breaking her leg surfing, the former USTA-sponsored and rated tennis player was never able to cover the court like she used to. Looking to scratch the competitive itch she once felt, Diana found, and inevitably fell in love with, pickleball.

Immediately becoming an USAPA Ambassador, Diana naturally evolved into the role of Tournament Director. She was kind enough to share some tips with us on how to make your pickleball tournaments enjoyable for all within the community.

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Diana, the Tournament Director, front and center for festivities!

What is the name of your tournament?
Surf City Pickleball Tournament

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?
Surf City Pickleball is an all-volunteer, fully-functioning program facilitated by Les Taylor, Catherine Navetta and myself.

When was your tournament?
The 1st Annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament was held in August of 2016. We were so excited that we began preparing in November for our 2nd Annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament scheduled for August 4-6, 2017.

We chose this time of year because the tournament calendar was open to the pickleball tournament community at the time in Southern California. We also selected this schedule because during the summer, we are the coolest place to play!

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Where was your tournament?
Murdy Community Park
7000 Norma Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Surf City Pier
How many players registered for the tournament?
Our first year we had 276 players. It was the largest tournament in Orange, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, including the Central Coast of California. In May of 2017, we had 218 players signed up thus far. We are on the way to meeting or exceeding our expectations. We are going to have some fun again this year!

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Paul and Sean Leaf readying for some defense

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?
We have 12 lighted, wind-screened, outdoor courts with room for inside seating and shaded tree areas. Towards the end of the day, dedicate 4 courts to host medal matches. That allows for spectators to watch with plenty of room inside the court area to enjoy a front row seat. We have room for 16 courts, however, players enjoy the roomier feel.

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Richelle Kulju (L) & (R) Carrie Dye in an intense pickleball battle!

What events/brackets did you offer? 
We offer a skill-based tournament. Our committee has agreed that this offering seems to really appeal to players in all skill levels and all ages. Our skill-based tournament by design, is very workable and true to original tournaments.

We like the idea that if a player feels up to the challenge of playing in that particular division/skill level, regardless of age, they can. It provides the younger folks the opportunity to embrace the maturity of the older players, and the older players have the opportunity to challenge themselves a bit by playing in an all-age category. It’s comprehensive and inclusive to meet the wider range of players coming into the pickleball tournament community. This format is tried and a true measure of success. We offer Men’s, Mixed and Women’s. Skill levels include 3.0 – 5.0+.

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Diana strikes a pose with IT Volunteer, Catherine Navetta

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?
The Surf City Pickleball Tournament is hosted by an impeccable bunch of hand-picked talent of an all-volunteer Tournament Planning Committee.
They are:

  • Tournament Director: Diana Abruscato
  • Co-TD & Referee Manager: Craig Haas
  • IT: Catherine Navetta and James Chretien
  • Court Preparation/MVP: Les Taylor
  • Our Friendly Registration Committee: Tami Bearardi, Dorinda Jung, Elaine Metz, and Bunny Estrera
  • Concessions: Ruth Woldhuis
  • First-Aid Station: Bryan Tice, EMT.

The most important decision when selecting a committee is to make sure that fluidity and a good flow exists among personalities within the group. At times, we all have to make tough decisions. You have to make sure we are enjoying the conversation while arriving at a tough decision. Our Tournament Planning Team has this ability, and we have mastered the art of it, which makes for loads of fun!

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?
Tournaments must rely on sponsorships, as this can determine the measurement of success of a tournament. When pursuing a sponsorship, the most important element is to make sure the agreement is mutually beneficial. We have pickleball industry sponsors and community-based sponsors. For our tournament, our sponsors have contributed company-branded products and services for distribution at the tournament.  Durafast 40 (featured below) is the tournament ball provided by Pickleball Central.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
We offer complimentary healthy snack options such as  fresh fruit, closed-package snack items, Gatorade. and water all three days of the tournament. Most players do not eat full meals while playing, and are looking for healthier bites to get them through the next match without weighing themselves down with a heavier meal.

At the end of the tournament day, everyone can enjoy an entertaining meal in our beautiful and historic downtown beach vacation venue at the pier. For 2017, the US Open of Surfing will be gracing our waves at the pier for all to enjoy!

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Surf’s up with Dura Fast 40!

We do encourage players to bring sandwiches or take advantage of the grocery store option, Sprouts, within walking distance from the venue.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?
We have to charge a registration fee and the price is determined by the cost to rent the facility, court rentals, required insurances, pickleballtournaments.com fees, transaction fees, truck rentals, food costs, t-shirt costs, and much more.

To encourage your city to invest in pickleball, renting a city facility is very costly. However, our committee prides ourselves on keeping the registration costs down. We know folks are traveling far and wide to join our fun-filled tournament. We want our folks to enjoy the rest of their stay here in Huntington Beach, California. We charge $50.00 a flat fee that includes playing in 2 divisions.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?
There are so many unique qualities about the Surf City Pickleball Tournament. A tidbit is that a Huntington Beach City Council Member, Jill Hardy, will be singing our National Anthem.

Our city photographer has been running the tournament video on our local HB Website and TV channel for the last year. We hope to have it USAPA Live Streamed for 2017. We are still working on that possibility.

Other than that, our hidden treasures are kept close to our hearts, as you will have to come out and see for yourself, and experience our generous spirit! The same weekend of our pickleball tournament the, US Open of Surfing Finals will be gracing our waves at the pier for all to enjoy!  Come out and see what it is all about. Go to http://www.pickleballtournaments.com to register.

Surf City pickleball medalists

What is your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?
Keep your divisions at a predetermined, limited number that corresponds to the amount of courts you have.

Payment = registered
No payment = not registered

On a side note, I would just like to share something with other USAPA Sanctioned Tournament Directors and Ambassadors. The sentiment among the USAPA Pickleball Tournament Director Community it that it is a professional courtesy to hold a USAPA Sanctioned Tournament 1 month apart from each other in the same region. If you are planning to a new USAPA Sanctioned Tournament, keep the 1 month apart timing in mind, and try not to hold tournaments on the same weekend as another one in your region. Please, be courteous to your neighboring cities.

Tournament Tips: Directing the Grand Canyon State Games and Pacific Northwest Regional

Anne Reynolds has been playing pickleball for six years and is in her third year of tournament directing. Although there were some challenges along the way, her love for the sport and the help of her fellow pickleball fanatics got her through the rough patches. Here are some tips she wanted to share so you can avoid some of the bumps in the road.

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What is the name of your tournament?
I run two tournaments. The Grand Canyon State Games in El Mirage Arizona and the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament in Bend, Oregon.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?
The Grand Canyon State Games are hosted by Pueblo El Mirage Pickleball Club. The Regional tournament is  hosted by the Bend Pickleball Club.

When was your tournament?
The Grand Canyon State Games’ tournament was February 22-26th, 2017.  The Pacific Northwest Regional was August 12-14th, 2016. I’m going on my 3rd year as Tournament Director for the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament and 2 years with the Grand Canyon State Games.

Where was your tournament?
The Grand Canyon State Games are held at Pueblo El Mirage RV Golf Resort in El Mirage, Arizona. The Pacific Northwest Regional is held at Pine Nursery Park in Bend, Oregon.

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How many players registered for the tournament?
Grand Canyon State Games had 598 players. The Pacific Northwest Regional had 343. This year we have over 400 so far.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?
Both facilities have 16 outdoor courts with permanent nets.

What events/brackets did you offer?
For the Grand Canyon State Games we offered:
Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles by Age 19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+.
Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles by Skill groups 3.0-5.0 within age group 10-49, 50+.

Next year at Grand Canyon State Games, I will have the same age event as previous years, but will change the skill event to  a skill/age. Skill level 3.0-5.0 (19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+).

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For the Pacific Northwest Regional we offered: Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles and both Men’s & Women’s Singles. Skill only 3.0-5.0.

This year (2017) it will be a skill/age Event. Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles, and Singles. Skill level 3.0-4.5, (19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+).

We are also hosting the Professional Pickleball Federation (PPF) in conduction with our tournament. All 5.0 players will be playing either a Senior Pro event (50+) or the pro event, and playing for prize money.

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Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?
At the Grand Canyon State Games, I handle all registrations and sponsors/vendors. At both venues, we have leads for the various functions at the tournament. All leads are responsible for finding their volunteers, scheduling, and training. Lead duties include:

  • Registration (Their job is to greet players, check them in, and give them player bags. It is very important to have the most friendly people at that position as they are the first impression of a tournament).
  • Event Desk (Their duties are to print score sheets, enter scores, and keep the tournament running, and players on courts).
  • First Aid (We have persons with a medical background at the station).
  • Operations (They set up pop-ups, chairs, tables, banners, PA system, and tear it down. They also clean the courts, check heights of nets, place new balls each day, keep water containers full, and empty the trash).
  • Players’ Snacks (They purchase the players’ snacks. They cut fruits, and provide goodies).
  • Referees (Leaders of referees get commitments from players who agree to ref, and schedule them. Ref leaders check completed score sheets for accuracy, turns them into the Event Desk for posting, and handle rule questions).
  • Line Judges (They are in charge of training and scheduling line judge teams.  Having line judge teams already in place is a real plus, saving  you about an hour in the day’s schedule. We no longer have to beg spectators to line judge).

At the Pacific Northwest Regional, I have another person helping me with Registrations. I design and order medals & shirts (or whatever we have as a player’s give away) and  get commitments from sponsors/vendors. We have the same set up as far as leads as the Training and scheduling of line judge teams. Having line judge teams already in place  is a real plus, saving  you about an hour in the days schedule. No more begging of spectators to line judge.

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?
Yes, I contact all potential sponsors.

For Grand Canyon State Games:

  • PickleballCentral – Donated balls and player bags
  • Onix Sports – Donated $750 cash
  • Pickleball Bling – Donated paddles
  • Selkirk Sport- Donated paddles and $350 cash

For Pacific Northwest Regional:

  • Big Country RV (Last year’s title sponsor. They donated $5,000).
  • Pickleball Zone-Bend (This year’s title sponsor. They are donating $5,000).

Was the tournament a fund-raising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?

Grand Canyon State Games (Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission) uses all the proceeds to fund sponsored youth sports here in Arizona.  Specifically, these sports include Native American track and field and Native American cross country, baton twirling, dodge ball, 2 diving events and golf. We raised approximately $25,000.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
Yes. In addition to having water, we also have an electrolyte product (Sqwincher) in one of our 5 gallon water containers.  It has really cut down on cramping and dehydration. At both venues we have cut bananas, oranges,  power bars (bars are donated), and  pretzels. Both tournaments have food vendors with lunch for sale.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?
Grand Canyon State Games charges $50 registration fee plus $10 per event. Pacific Northwest Regional charges $50 registration fee plus $5 per event.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?
Grand Canyon State Games is one of the largest tournaments in the country and draws the best of the best!

Pacific Northwest Regional is located within a 159 acre sports park. There are 3 mountain ranges in full view when you are on the courts.  The town of Bend is a popular destination spot and is known for its river running through town, numerous lakes, top rated golf courses and a plethora of breweries.

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What is your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?

  1. Get your volunteers early. They are the ones who make a tournament a success!
  2. During the tournament walk around, talk to the players and make them feel welcome.
  3. Make sure your event is tidy, picking up trash as needed. Check bathrooms and thank your volunteers throughout the day.
  4. Have training for your referees and line judges.
  5. When you have hiccups, don’t panic – relax and smile, because most times no one knows there’s a problem, only you.

Tournament Tips: The Happy Trails Classic and the Power of Committees

Mike McKay has directed two tournaments which involved over 20 committees of volunteers. Thanks to his strong sense of organization and the teams’ efforts, each competition has run smoothly. If you want to get an idea of what it takes to manage a big group of volunteers, Mike is your guy!  

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Mike McKay (center) with his pickleball buddies.

What is the name of your tournament?

The Happy Trails Classic. This was the 14th year of the tournament. As for me, this the second one that I’ve directed. I’ve helped in different capacities in the past as more of a worker bee. 

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

The Happy Trails Pickleball Club in Surprise, Arizona. It’s a northwestern suburb of Phoenix.

When was your tournament?

January 16 through the 20th. Our tournament ran over five days. 

Where was your tournament?

Happy Trails RV Resort in Surprise, Arizona. 

How many players registered for the tournament?

455 players registered.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?

We had 10 pickleball courts. 4 were temporary courts. They were all outdoor. It’s a blessing in Arizona. There’s not too much indoor stuff because weather isn’t too bad. This year though, we had some weather to contend with. On Thursday, 10 in the morning, we had showers water down the courts, and had to suspend play. From Thursday to Friday, we had to dry the courts four different times.

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The pickleball community gets together to dry off the courts.

We had to put beach towels on top of the court to help dry, and then wring out the towels. Across from our venue, we had to go the laundromat, and dump quarters into it. We had to go 4 times! Everyone is hunched over, dragging towels over, ruining our backs. It was quite a challenge, and the club stepped to it. It was really a great memory for me, and I think the community in total. 

What events/brackets did you offer?  

It was men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles. Our tournament was a culmination of skill and age. We had 50-59, 60-69, and 70 & up.

We hired pickleballtournaments.com to keep track of our brackets. We got a phone call from four guys in the area that were over 80 years young.They wanted to know if we would get them medals. We ended up making that work out. Pickleballtournaments.com scheduled them in the 70+ bracket first thing in the morning to play each other. They got their medals. It was a great memory.

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The Event Desk overseeing a successful tournament.

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?

We had over 20 committees that performed a lot of different tasks. 210 to 215 volunteers over the course of fives days  with many people doing many jobs different days. We try to keep the shifts shorter about 4 hours max so it’s fun for the people and not so much quote-unquote work. If you make that work fun, everyone is going to have a much more enjoyable time.

  • Check-in
  • Runners (They keep the courts full. To be timely and efficient with your day, as soon as you get the results from the most distant court to the tournament event desk, the faster you’re putting the next match out.)
  • Run the Boards at the Event Desk (Get the announcements out to keep the courts full.)
  • Court Maintenance
  • Hospitality
  • Parking Shuttles (Players had to park 3/10 of a mile away. People are directed to the parking lot, and then a shuttle crew with golf carts would cart people back and forth from 6 in the morning until the end of the day.)
  • Photography
  • Seating
  • Managing Referee
  • Safety Committee 
  • Social Committee  (This included overseeing a dinner and dance.)
  • Vendors
  • Signage
  • Lunches 
  • Technical Support
  • Posting (This person gets the results from the Runner at the Event Desk. They would input the results into pickleballtournaments.com software. They would also update the brackets so friends and families of players can figure out which court their loved ones are playing on.)
  • Fruit Gatherers

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

We don’t really seek out sponsors. Our resort really doesn’t allow us to hang banners on the fencing. We did have PickleballCentral. They were great to us. They gave us 625 of their nice, bright orange drawstring bags that we used as player gifts. We’ve got 455 players, so we had a bag for each of them. We had all these items that we gathered and purchased for each player, typically a t-shirt and a bottle of water.

We stuffed about 500 of them. Here in our park, we strung out 40 tables to fill these bags. We’ve got groups of ladies and men that will play 1 to 3 on Thursday, and after they play they’d stuff these bags. So we put food items, water, notices for other tournaments, pens, and gifts. We even had toothbrushes.

Was the tournament a fundraising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?

It was a little bit of a fundraiser. We take the money for court improvements. We’ve benefited by benches, shade structures, and new nets for the resort.

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Mike McKay and his wife after a hard-played game.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?

Here at our resort, we have a little restaurant. It’s all run by volunteers. We are fortunate to have this group of volunteers.  We had Waldorf salads. We had ciabatta sandwiches. Bratwurst was a big hit on the rainy day! We had chicken salad croissants. There were just so many great options. Each lunch consisted of  a menu item, chips, and a drink for $5.00. By doing all of this with volunteers, it keeps the food costs down.

We went through 12 jars of pickles! When you play this silly sport, people get leg cramps. Vinegar helps with the leg cramps. Players carry around packets of mustard for the same reason.

We also had 10 dozen donuts every morning to start.

We are huge on hospitality. Everything is free. I don’t care if you’re a player. If you’re playing, and your family or friends want something, they can help themselves. I don’t care if you’re a player or someone walking down the sidewalk.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

It was $45.00 to register, and then $5.00 for each event. So if you played men’s doubles and mixed, it was $45 plus $10.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?

It’s a very welcoming tournament. It’s got a great reputation. And the demand has grown so fast. Pickleballtournaments.com told us that our tournament was the first time women’s doubles filled before the men’s!

What are your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?

If somebody is putting a tournament together, include a lot of people. You’re going to need a lot of help. Start quite a bit early. You’re going to have a lot of challenges pop up. You’ll have to revert to “plan b” a lot of times.

Try to make it as fun as possible, especially for the volunteers. It’s just pickleball. Nobody’s making a living at this. It’s a very social game that brings people together. 

Start early enough. Don’t wait too long to start. I benefited from taking over from someone else. A lot of people have done it 12 years prior to me. I’m already talking over something that’s in place instead of starting anew.

Our tournament ended the January 20th. We have next January scheduled already. We have meetings and dates already set. All the committee chairs are established for next year as well.

I think there’s a tournament checklist on USAPA. I would recommend anyone new to this to check out the guidelines: Tournament director’s checklist. There’s a lot of food for thought on there that’s very helpful.

Running your event through pickleballtournaments.com is great and is a very reasonable fee.