Johnson City’s first-ever pickleball tournament is coming to Memorial Park Community Center, and the event has players, organizers and potential sponsors buzzing about its potential growth.
The Johnson City Senior Foundation Inaugural Indoor Pickleball Tournament will be held Nov. 2-3. Sponsorship revenue from the event will make it the Foundation’s signature fundraiser for 2018 and help provide outreach and program support in the community for those 50 and older.
“We were looking for a fundraising opportunity to support our ongoing events, such as the Christmas Box,” said Frank Calderala, JCSCF treasurer and fundraising committee chair. “We saw this as being a major opportunity with a sport that’s growing at the Senior Center and locally, and we wanted this to be a tournament that includes all ages, not just seniors.”
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., with more than 2.8 million players in 2017, a 12-percent increase over the past year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. The tournament will make room for that expansion and offer novice, intermediate and advanced players over the age of 18 a chance to test their skills in a competitive setting.
Jonesborough resident Ty Petty represented half of the two-person team that recently won the national 40 and older doubles championship in Naples, Florida. Petty said he is excited about the inaugural tournament being played in Johnson City and hopes players will take advantage of the opportunity.“Pickleball is growing fast around the Tri-Cities, and I really believe this tournament will allow players in our area to gain more exposure,” Petty said. “They are going to see a higher level of competition. And for some people, it’s really going to be eye opening.
“This also is ideal for players coming in to their first tournament ever. Age, gender, speed and power mean very little in pickleball, and this can be very humbling. It is a sport at which you can improve in a short time, and it’s a great form of exercise no matter who you play.”
He said the main strategy is to play up at the “no-volley zone” if possible and embrace the “dink” – tapping the pickleball just over the net. This is the most commonly used shot for scoring.
The game was created by three men in Bainbridge Island, Washington, who were looking to give their bored children something to do during the summer. The wife of one of the men named it pickleball after the “pickle boat,” the nickname for the last boat to come in with its catch after a fishing trip.
Pickleball can be played by those of all ages, but the short court has attracted older players who may not be able to cover the ground on a full-size tennis court in as short a time as they used to. The dimensions also allow them to outthink younger players whom they can no longer outrun.
It’s played in elementary schools, community and recreation centers, country clubs and many other locations. The game not only provides exercise, but also an environment extremely conducive to socialization. Played much like tennis with a ping-pong twist, the sport combines the elements of those racket games, as well as badminton.
Pickleball is played with a plastic ball with holes in it, and a racket about 8 inches wide and 16 inches long. The court – often adapted from a tennis court – is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.
Only the server can score, and the ball must bounce once on the serve before a player is allowed to hit it in the air. Players also must avoid hitting the ball from inside the no-volley zone, also called the “kitchen zone,” which is 7 feet from the net.
“I took a beginner’s class at MPCC last fall – and it was on,” said Johnson Citian Dorie Schwab. “You meet so many people, and the social aspect is huge. You really get to know people.”
Tournament participants will follow USA Pickleball Association rules through an individual round robin tournament the first day, and a men’s and women’s doubles tournament the next day. Petty will conduct a demonstration and provide instruction at the MPCC gym the day before the local tournament.
Registration is underway at MPCC, and the entry deadline is Oct. 24. For sponsorship information and/or tournament details, contact Frank Calderala at 423-747-9918 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Senior Services Manager Deb Fogle at 423-434-6231.