Tournament pickleball picking up steam along the Pickleball Coast

Date Published: 
May 19, 2017

The First State Pickleball Club’s Fourth Annual Beach Blast this coming weekend is expected to be a resounding success. This year, it will be played indoors at Dave Marshall’s Tennis & Fitness at the Plantations in Lewes.

On Friday afternoon, June 19, at 3 p.m., one of the top professional pickleball players in America, Sarah Ansboury, will be in attendance, mixing and playing with the weekend participants and members of the First State Pickleball Club on the Exhibition Court.

If you are interested to learn more about pickleball, this exhibition would be the perfect opportunity.

The men’s and women’s doubles will be played the following day, Saturday, and the medal matches toward the end of the afternoon. It is in the medal matches where we are always treated and reminded how this game should be played.

Kathy Casey, president of First State Pickleball Club, said they had to stop accepting registrants for the event well over two weeks ago, when the number of participants almost doubled from the prior year.

The proceeds of the Beach Blast help First State Pickleball Club function as the Delaware advocate of the game of pickleball, and help support their efforts in conducting free public clinics from time to time.

Several ladies politely cornered me recently after the Ocean City, Md., tournament asking if I was responsible for their first-round whipping. They went on to explain that they wished they had played a weaker team, because the team that beat them won the women’s division.

I asked them if they had learned anything, and they said they felt bad about their loss. I pointed out that I was proud they entered, happy they were lucky to play the top team and went on to explain how a similar situation had helped me and led to a college scholarship.

When I was 16, I qualified for the National High School Tennis Tournament, and in the first round, I faced an unorthodox tennis player from Arizona who went on to win every national junior championship in the country that year. His name was Billy Lenoir, and he hit every ball with two hands and served with either hand, depending what side of the court he was serving wide.

Unlike my match with Ashe the previous year, this fellow chewed me up like I wasn’t even there. He brushed me away like a shadow in a dustpan. Afterwards, I reflected on how he so trounced me, what shots I needed to develop to play near his league, and what speed and fitness work I needed to shorten the gap.

I also learned that there was more than one style of game to take you to the top. I wasn’t devastated, I wasn’t embarrassed — I was schooled by the best junior that year. And I wanted the ladies who had cornered me to reflect on how they might improve as a result of their match.

I encourage each of you to consider playing in at least one tournament this year. First State Pickleball Club will periodically conduct various round-robin events, to be played on dedicated pickleball courts in Frankford, so joining them is something you might want to consider. You can learn more on their website at firststatepickleball.org, about both the Beach Blast and future events.

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.