As a holiday tradition, I wanted to blog and wish everyone a 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) 2016 celebrates with 51 years of pickleball! Carrying on from our 50th anniversary celebration, St. Louis had a terrific pickleball celebration in June 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 750 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. I’d like to highlight the efforts of Ruby Moss, Beverly Simmerman, George Ruh, Bob Parsons, Mike Najjar and all the others that teach pickleball weekly at St. Elizabeth’s. Several other learn to play events/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. This is especially highlighted with all the strong medal finishes in area tournaments at all skill levels by St. Louis Pickleballers. Congrats to everyone who achieved success in tournaments this past year! Our email listserv system has over 650 people on the email. If you (or someone else you know) are not on the listserv or would like to be added and included on info and events happening with pickleball locally, please email email@example.com
3) 30 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. It is great to see the growth in surrounding counties such as Jefferson and Franklin Counties. Michael Ives, Jim Berger, Jeff Lauridsen, and Kathy Rothschild-Zuroweste deserve a lot of credit for the work they do to build and grow the game in these areas.
4) Permanent Pickleball Courts. YEAH… I am SUPER EXCITED and THANKFUL for the brand new pickleball courts now open at Tilles Park in South St. Louis City (Hampton and Marquette Aves). This is a 6 court facility with dedicated nets and gorgeous painted courts. The cost is FREE and we are hoping that nice weather days this fall/winter/early spring allow for many of you to come enjoy them during the daylight hours (no lights). Other court projects completed or are now in the works including Tower Grove Park (Spring/Summer 2017 estimated completion), Jokerst Park - Festus, MO, New Haven, MO, St. Peters, MO Rec Plex, Chesterfield Valley, MO Athletics Complex. “If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams) is happening as we are seeing momentum to building more and more courts in the area. Keep “pushing” your Parks & Rec Directors, Politicians, and other decision makers to build courts in your area. There’s a community of support available to help your individual efforts. Thanks for all you do on this front!
5) VettaSports Commitment to Pickleball. VettaSports is a terrific organization that provides great sports programming throughout the year. They are well known for Soccer, Racquetball, Tennis and their summer camp programs. They are now major players in the midwest by providing the largest indoor pickleball court facilities at both of their local facilities (Concord and West). Both locations offer up to 12 courts for open play formats. So there are no wait periods plus they offer games/play with all skill levels. Great facilities, strong play, friendly staff, player development programs, and fun socials are just some of the reasons why you should be playing at VettaSports this indoor season!
6) Pickleball Tournaments in St. Louis were growing and great fun in 2016. The JCC held a fun indoor tournament in March. The St. Louis and St. Charles Senior Games was in May. Festus Firecracker, Ballwin Days was held in July. Lake Forest Classic in August. Festus YMCA in Sept. and Innsbrook Gherkinball in October. Besides all the regional tournaments that St. Louis players traveled to including Columbia, Springfields, Branson, Nashville, etc. we are really seeing the level of competition in tournament play grow in the area. We even have our very own US Open Champions with Steve Altis and Deb Padzerka who won Gold in Naples, FL in May in their 3.5 mixed doubles event! Ruby Moss and Connie Reker also medaled at the US Open!
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. If you are experienced in tournaments, challenge yourself and “play up” a skill level in 2017. Congrats to all the competitors at our tournaments and especially to our medalists!
7) The USAPA estimates their membership country-wide in 2016 to be over 15,000 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 Berger, Cindy Butler, Jim Harriss, Michael Cullinane, 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 (who moved to Punta Gorda, FL in June, Desmond Hilton, Michele Berger, George Ruh, Rich and Mary Altis, Connie Reker, Ruby Moss, Jeff Lauridsen, Bill Kress, Michael Ives, plus many others I am sure I am not mentioning. We are all thankful for your efforts! Please consider becoming a member of the USAPA. For only $25 a year, you are supporting a great organization trying to promote and develop this game. Please go to USAPA.org for more info.
8) 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 & Dave Westerbeck, LeAnn Brand, Doug Lorella, Jim Hoggatt, 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. Unfortunately, we lost a great pickleball friend in Dave Pott this late summer. May his memory and spirit be always with us on the court as he loved the game and was a consummate competitor and friend to us all. Please keep his wife Patti and their family in your thoughts and prayers.
Yes, St. Louis Picklers there is A LOT to be thankful for in 2016. 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!
Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays and Cheers!
Michael (& Ann) Chapin