The Huntsman World Senior Games is considered one of the leading pickleball tournaments, second only to the USA Pickleball Association's National Tournament. This year the Huntsman Directors made a choice not to be a USA Pickleball Association sanctioned tournament. It's pretty shocking news for one of the largest pickleball tournaments in the country to forgo sanctioning by the sport's governing body. But, the change hasn't impact registration numbers. Registration is full and has been closed for several months; many of the world's top senior players will be competing.
Why did the Huntsman Directors choose to forgo USAPA sanctioning this year? Here's the response I received from tournament director, Ken Schoonover:
I can confirm that the 2014 HWSG is not going to be a USAPA sanctioned event this year. There are several reasons, and it's related primarily to the referee requirement but it would be an oversimplification to say 'not enough referees'.
- The requirement that every match have a referee for such a large tournament (we'll have well over 1,300 matches) is generally doable but taxes the volunteer staff that is already responsible for executing the many, many other functions that are necessary to successfully execute a well-run, week-long event.
- Refereeing that many matches necessitates reliance on players to volunteer to referee. In our experience, players are becoming less and less interested and willing to step up and referee matches. So yes, at times it throughout the week, there can be a shortage of available referees. The worst case scenario is having to delay playing matches until someone steps up to referee. That doesn't happen often, but when it does, it significantly disrupts the flow of the tournament. The more regular effect is that it overburdens those few individuals who go way over and above expectations and referee many more matches than one should have to.
- Many players would prefer not having a referee. The volunteer ref system means that the quality of refereeing skills varies greatly ... from excellent to frankly very poor. An inexperienced referee can hamper the natural flow of a match compared to what players are accustomed to. Many players have been heard to admit that having no referee is preferable to having a bad referee.
Having said all that, it is important to note the following, which I hope you will emphasize in your piece:
1. We will run the tournament in all other respects as though it were a sanctioned tournament.
2. We will plan on providing a referee for every match. Choosing not to sanction will give us the flexibility to a) go ahead and play a match without delaying the tournament, should we have a temporary shortage of refs, and b) allow a match to be played without a ref if all players in the match request no referee. As an alternative, we can provide a non-volley zone judge whose only duty will be to watch for kitchen line foot faults.
3. We fully expect to provide a quality, enjoyable tournament experience that will meet players expectations.
4. The HWSG will evaluate the results of 2014 tournament in deciding the future direction of the tournament going forward.
Thanks Ken for such a well reasoned response.
We wonder, will no USAPA sanctioning have an impact? Will other big tournament follow the Huntsman's lead? It will be interesting to see.
The 2014 Huntsman World Senior Games Pickleball Event is scheduled for October 13 - 17, 2014 in St. George, Utah.