Pickleball Magazine 2-3 - Page 32

FROM THE USAPA LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD IN PICKLEBALL TOURNAMENTS JERRY L. BRINEGAR, PH.D., PAST PRESIDENT - ATHENS AREA PICKLEBALL ASSOCIATION T he purpose of this article is to bring awareness to pick- leball players and tournament directors about the ne- cessity to level the playing field in their tournament play. I am in hopes that, via the USAPA, this leveling process will become procedural on behalf of peer competition and fun. Pickleball originated as a makeshift game of miniature tennis similarities for seniors as an alternative for the ebb and tide of aching joints and receding reflexes. After years of meandering in pockets of interest here and there, it became increasingly popular with retirement communities in the late ‘90s and early 21st century. Permanent courts indoors and outdoors became a real estate requirement for many people, young and old, moving to new communities. It became common to hear a buyer ask, “Does this subdivi- sion have pickleball courts?” or “Does this community have pickleball facilities?” The Villages in Florida and the perfect year-round climate for outdoor play in Surprise, Arizona, led to some of the best players taking up residence, e.g. Steve Wong in Surprise. Pickleball has become the fastest 30 growing sport in the United States and is played interna- tionally in countries such as Sweden, France, Spain and England. When a sport grows in popularity, it does so by numbers of people flocking to the new game in town that everyone’s talking about. With these new players come the younger generations, slowly at first, but rapidly proliferating into college sports programs and classes, even at the high school level. National champions have become younger with each passing competitive year, and this influx of youth is great and ensures the longevity of the game. Per- haps the Olympics are in pickleball’s future? But…what about us old guys? What happens to our competitive motivation to take our game to the next level when we can’t compete on an unlevel playing field with players in our skill levels who are 10, 15, even 50 years younger? Being in the same skill level alone does not take into account the athlete’s aging factors. Case in point: I recently traveled 300 miles round trip to compete in a tournament where my 65-year-old partner and I played against an 18-year-old and his 30+ year-old brother. The only common denominator was our skill rating of 3.0. I am 74 years old! We didn’t have a chance. They, in fact, went on to beat everyone and win the gold. Pickleball is a great game for all ages. However, aging has its way with our bodies even when our minds keep saying, “Go, play, run, jump, dive.” The natural evolution of life is such that reaction times decrease noticeably in the 60s, and agility, eyesight, joint pains-aches-stability, muscle tone and physical endurance levels weaken — quite often and predictably so elders do not find their game skill go- ing to the next level up. Instead, it stays the same or goes down…a difficult adjustment to say the least. So, what is a level playing field? It’s very simple and fair. No elder should be disadvantaged because of their age! They compete within their own age group and skill level. Tournament Directors may argue there are not enough players in every tournament to make a level playing field for all the participants. This is true only if you’re concerned about the cost of medals. TO SUBSCRIBE CALL 888.308.3720 OR GO TO THEPICKLEBALLMAG.COM