Happy Thanksgiving to all the pickleball players in and around the St. Louis area. This holiday we are especially appreciative of all the people and wonderful things that the game of pickleball offers to us...
1) 2015 celebrates with 50 years of pickleball. St. Louis had a terrific pickleball celebration with a unique play event with over 100 players participating and socializing. A great tribute and event with so many of us gathering to show how much pickleball has really grown in the St. Louis area.
2) We are now estimated at over 500 players in the St. Louis area! This is a significant increase with more and more venues and places to play being added throughout the year. Outdoor Tennis court to pickleball court conversions in St. Charles County, Tower Grove Park, Tilles Park, Webster Groves, Kirkwood Park, Kennedy Park, Chesterfield Valley, Festus, Edwardsville, really helped fuel this increase in growth. Clinics and special training programs for new players to experienced players have strengthened the level of play for everyone besides helped make wonderful donations to the Alzheimer's Foundation with efforts from Desmond Hilton.
3) 23 Indoor places to play each week. The various community recreation centers and gymnasiums that have open play keep us active and warm in the cool weather months or cool during the warm weather months. We are fortunate to have so many offerings and are always looking to add more in the future.
4) Permanent pickleball courts. Lake Forest Country Club in Lake St. Louis, MO showed off their 2 new permanent courts along with their 2 portable net courts during their first annual Lake Forest Classic Tournament back in August. It is a terrific pickleball venue where they offered memberships and weekly play to their members and guests. Kirkwood Park offers 1 permanent pickleball court that opened in the fall of 2014. The ball sometimes doesn't bounce up real high, but it is a great little court. We are looking forward to the building of multiple permanent pickleball courts at Tower Grove Park and Tilles Park in 2016.
5) Pickleball Tournaments in St. Louis were just getting started in 2015 with smaller venues compared to nearby tournaments that many of us traveled to throughout the year. The JCC held a fun indoor tournament in March. The St. Charles Senior Games was in May. Ballwin Days and Festus held tournaments in the Summer. As mentioned Lake Forest C.C. held a terrific one in August. Tournaments are a lot of fun and offer a chance for us to play a little more competitively than our social open play, and challenge ourselves against good players in our skill and age levels. We will look forward to more St. Louis tournaments in the next year. Certainly plan ahead and give it a try if you haven't been in one yet. Who knows... USAPA Nationals are only less than a year away! Congrats to all the competitors at our tournaments and especially to our medalists!
6) The USAPA estimates their membership country-wide in 2015 to be over 10,000 folks (a 102% increase since the start of 2013). In St. Louis, we are also growing in numbers and believe we are just scratching the surface for the amount of players that we will see in the coming years. Thanks to those of you who have joined to support our national organization and all the work they do to develop this game on the national and international level. Also a big amount of THANKS goes to the local USAPA Ambassadors who have volunteered their time to really develop and grow the game locally; Kathy Westerbeck, Jim Harriss, Cindy Butler, Jim Berger, Michael Cullinane, Jack Zdvorak, Michael and Ann Chapin. There are many others that are not Ambassadors who do so much for the Pickleball community that we are also grateful for; Gloria and Pete Reilly, Tim and Betty Sullentrup, Desmond Hilton, Steve Altis, Connie Reker, Ruby Moss, plus many others I am sure I am not mentioning. We are all thankful for your efforts!
7) Pickleball brings health and wellness to so many. In 2015, we learned of really amazing stories of people finding pickleball after battling cancer like Linda Gurley and Debbie Padzerka. We are fortunate to have such a fun game that allows so many the chance to get out to gain the exercise and health benefits of playing. Unfortunately for some of us like Kathy Westerbeck, Dave Pott, Doug Huff, Boyd Keys and myself, injuries and surgeries are set-backs but they also give us perspective on how much we enjoy the game and look forward to working ourselves back to good health and playing pickleball again.
Yes, St. Louis Picklers there is A LOT to be thankful for in 2015. Please feel free to comment back what you are most thankful for. We'll look forward to the upcoming holidays and hope to see everyone on the courts soon!