As you know, I have been very appreciative of all the efforts of the folks in Ocean City (Md.) Recreation to accommodate pickleball, because there are a ton of other demands on that facility. For pickleballers located below Indian River, the Northside Park indoor facility is clearly the best indoor option available.
Over the last three years, they have tried multiple formats to satisfy the needs of the majority of the players. This year, a new format is evolving.
Before discussing the coming changes, I would like to point out that we should all be polite when we play pickleball anywhere. It seems to be the old 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the players are delightful, and 20 percent can be trying.
I was disappointed to see some of the players “cheat” the system as I watched them on the closed-circuit security system. They were fooling no one, other than making fools of themselves. Why should Ocean City or any other venue expand their pickleball facilities if they have to manage us like 6-year-olds? Our grandparents told us to play nice. Now, three generations later, we are grandparents, so let’s heed those words.
Beginning Aug. 26, there will be afternoon sessions from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday, and then drop-in pickleball sessions on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
One major change will be that, each day, the six indoor courts will be available for various skill levels, as follows: Depending on the skill levels attending, there will be so many courts for 3.0s, so many for 3.5s, so many for 4.0s+, etc. This is quite an improvement because, before, the only day during the week you could attend might not be your skill level.
Ocean City will adopt the “paddle system.”
Here is how it normally works: At the conclusion of a game, the four players will leave their court and put their four paddles at the end of the queue. The first four waiting paddles available at the beginning of the queue will be taken by their owners to that same court. To expedite things, it helps if someone shouts “Court 6 [or 4, etc.] is available.”
If there is not a large crowd, the venue might advise that the winners will remain on the court, but split up on the next game. The two new players who will join then will be the next two paddles waiting to play next. The two people who lost will put their paddles at the end of the line.
So, paying attention to where your paddle is in the line is important, because when your paddle is next available to play, you want to be ready to go.
The paddle system at any location is a self-policing system that allows the longest-waiting persons to rotate back on the court. I have had people actually move my paddle backwards so they could get back onto the court sooner. Collectively, we need to call those people out.
Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. will be reserved for court rentals. A person, at the beginning of each week, can rent the court for four or six persons, by the hour, or the three hours between 1 and 4. We tried that on a limited test basis last year, and it was very popular.
In summary, a pickleballer can select from four days, and six sessions, in drop-in or by court rental. The key, of course, is that folks will need to know their skill levels.
Darryl Noble, who I introduced in last week’s column, has offered to conduct some skill-level assessment sessions to folks who do not already have a rating. The first session will be on Sept. 5.
There could not be a better person in America to do this, since his project for the governing body of pickleball has been universal skill ratings. Thanks, in advance, Darryl and Ocean City.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
Northside Park pickleball drop-in pickleball hours:
Monday and Wednesday, 1-4 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon
Court rental (by reservation only), Tuesday and Thursday, 1-4 p.m.
For court rental reservations, call (410) 520-5171, or email email@example.com.
Reservations must be made the same week.