Pickleball players all know that part of the fun of pickleball is how social the sport is in nature. Well, a club in Maryland has taken the social aspect to a whole new level by creating a sport and social pickleball league. For those who don't know, sport and social clubs are clubs that bring people together for a short amount of time - typically an 8-week 'season' - to introduce people to a sport through a casual, social atmosphere. Players of all skill-level are usually welcome, as is beer. Sport and social clubs are popular around the nation and range in sports from skeeball to soccer. For the first time, as far as we could find, pickleball has become a sport and social club through an organization called Play Pickleball in Baltimore: www.facebook.com/playpickleball. We were curious how things were going (beer on a pickleball court seems like it adds quite a few obstacles to those dink shots) so we caught up with Autumn, one of the co-founders of Play Pickleball, and asked her a few questions. Here's how the conversation went:
PickleballCentral (PC): Can you tell me a little about your organization? Do you run a multitude of social leagues, or just pickleball?
Play Pickleball (PP): This is Play Pickleball’s 3rd season. John and I started the league May 2013, ran a Fall league in September 2013, and are currently running our 3rd league in April 2014. Yes, Pickleball is the only social league we personally run.
PC: What is your personal experience with pickleball?
PP: John and I learned to play Pickleball while vacationing in Florida.
PC: Where did the idea for a social league come from?
PP: After our experience in Florida, we searched for a Social Pickleball league in Baltimore and found nothing. We thought it would be a fun game among our peers, so we created Play Pickleball.
PC: What has the response been to starting the league? Are you getting a lot of interest/people signing up? Or are people saying 'what's pickleball'?
PP: The name “Pickleball” is actually what has helped the most in spreading the world about Pickleball. Since the majority of the population has never heard of the sport, when asked the question it allows us to explain the sport and how it is played. To assist in spreading the word, we have added videos and the basic rules of Pickleball to our website www.playpickleball.org. The response to starting our league has been great! Play Pickleball’s 1st season was the hardest to recruit, but once the league started more people became interested.
PC: What's the structure of the league? That is, what kind of scoring will you use, what kind of bracket system, and how will it differ from typical tournaments?
PP: Play Pickleball is set up for each team to play 3 games per session for 7 weeks. Each game is played first to 13 points (win by 2) or to 20 minutes. The last session of the season is a single elimination End of Season Tournament to declare the season Champions.
PC: Who is your target audience/demo?
PP: Play Pickleball was designed to bring exposure to the sport in a social atmosphere to all interested in playing.
PC: What was your main goal in starting this league?
PP: Spread Pickleball in a fun and competitive environment.
PC: The league is social in nature and welcomes beer - will more accomplished players want to participate, or is this more for the casual player looking for an introduction to the sport? Both?
PP: Play Pickleball is designed to welcome all who are interested, whether an accomplished player or a rookie. Play Pickleball has attracted a large mixture of both competitive players and those interested in learning the sport in a social atmosphere. The more accomplished players are attracted to our league because there is currently no other opportunity for them to play and socialize in the Baltimore area. At the same time, we are attracting many who are interested in learning more about the sport and adding it to their social league 'resume'. As Play Pickleball grows, we have plans to offer different levels of competition, such as Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Social.
PC: How does the introduction of beer into a precision sport like pickleball affect the outcome of matches?
PP: Play Pickleball welcomes beer to create a social atmosphere. It allows people to socialize in between matches over a drink and use the beer as an excuse when they don’t preform well. :)
Thanks for sharing Autumn, and best of luck in growing the league! Great idea!