Tournament Tips: The Delaware Senior Olympics, Finding the Right Resources

Apr 12, 2017

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Sue Brooker helps run the Delaware Senior Olympics in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. With over 150 participants at each tournament, she relies on a group of volunteers to manage the busy event. We appreciate her taking the time to share her work with with us! 

Susan Brooker and Georgia Billger

What is the name of your tournament?

The Delaware Senior Olympics Pickleball Tournament. Every other year we have the opportunity to qualify for the National Senior Olympics.  In order to qualify, you must come in first through fourth in the Delaware Senior Olympics Pickleball Tournament. Our qualifiers are going to Birmingham, AL the first week of June to play in the Nationals which should see over 600 pickleball players from throughout the 50 states of US and Canada.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

The Delaware Senior Olympics hosted the tournament. We are a not-for-profit, volunteer, sports and fitness organization with a 20+ member Board of Directors. Founded in 1991, the organization’s mission is to promote healthy lifestyles and fitness for senior adults through competitive and non-competitive athletic activities. 

 DE Senior Olympics 002

When was the tournament?

I've presided over two tournaments so far. One in September of 2015 and one in September of 2016. I'll be managing another one this year on September 8th through the 10th. We're going from two days to three days. Also, since this is a non-qualifying year, we are expanding the participation from just 50+ to 90+ age group  to 30+ year-olds to 90+ year-olds.

I also participate as a Sponsor for numerous small tournaments in Delaware and Maryland yearly as well, offering my expertise wherever I could. I was also instrumental in bringing the first pickleball pro, Sarah Ansboury, to the state last October to offer seminars to over 100 participates.

Where was your tournament?

The first tournament took place in 2015 at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. Last year and this year, our tournament will again take place at the Levy Court Kent County Recreational Center 1683 New Burton Road, Dover, DE  19904; 302-744-2495.

How many players registered for the tournament?

In 2015 we had 146 players. In 2016, we hit capacity at 175. We had to close registration three weeks early since we were full. That is another reason we are going to three days this year. We have players come from all over the United States. From California to Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And I'm only mentioning a few states. We have always had more out-of-state than in-state players. Our tournament is recognized as one of the best  tournaments in a five state surrounding area.

How many courts were available for the tournament?

There were twelve indoor courts. 

What events/brackets did you offer? 

Women's and Men's Doubles plus Mixed Doubles and Men's and Women's Singles. Age brackets play 30 to 39, 40 to 49 and 50 to 54 and every five years. Skill levels are asked so we can put top skilled players in byes as well as against one another. According to National Senior Games rules, you must play in your own age group, not by skill. 

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?

I've always believed that you're only as good as the volunteer staff around you. I have captains that oversee each area. They recruit others to help them and then report to me if any issues arise. These key captains are:

  • Referees
  • Fundraising
  • First Aid
  • Sign In
  • IT (since one of the first tasks was to bring our tournament from handwriting to computerizing through
  • Master of Ceremonies/ Announcer
  • Set up
  • Final Clean Up.  Each captain recruits others to help them and they report to me.

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

Most sponsors want their name out there! I have been very lucky to get sponsors that offer giveaways at no cost. They just want a place at the tournament to sell their products. All these sponsors are listed on our Website with We also post their banners at no cost in our facility during the tournament.
I continue to court my sponsors year long! Just ask PickleballCentral! Last year, they gave us sunglasses to give away and we posted picks after the tournament of players wearing the glasses. We took them to Oregon and Florida this past month, too.Thanks Again PickleballCentral!

SUSANDIANE Susan with fellow pickleballer, Diane.

Was the tournament a fundraising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?
We at Delaware Senior Olympics have been involved with helping to raising money for YMCA and Toys for Tots.  We have fundraising tables at the tournament where we sell sponsor giveaways. We raised over $1,100 last year at the fundraising table.
Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
We did in 2015. We had water containers and took sandwich orders. However, last year we found that the best way to go was with food trucks. We will do that again this year. Our facility has a number of water fountains that you can fill water containers with.
Did you charge a registration fee? Yes How much?
We charge $20 which is a membership to Delaware Senior Olympics. It is $11 per event entered.
Anything special or unique about your tournament?
We believe in having fun from the beginning to end. We make a big deal out of handing out medals. We take pictures of all winners and have it so that they can download them for free. We also have a great award ceremony that is decorated with our banner and our slogan for the year. Last year it was, 'Pickleballers Don't Quit!' The year before's slogan was, 'Past, Present, Future of Pickleball!'

sue3 Sue with pickleball partner, Patty Woodruff

What are your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?
Learn to be flexible and listen to your volunteers. They know how to do their jobs! Keep it light and fun. Play pickleball in the tournament. That makes you accessible to everyone. Walk around and see how things are going.
Make sure you have a first-aid table manned by nurses or CPR-trained professionals. We had 3 AEDs (automated external defibrillator) at our facility, and brought another one as well. It is surprising how few tournaments realize the importance of AEDs. We have also a cooler full of ice and first-aid kits.
Do a little planning everyday, and learn from others who are in the know!  Reach out to your local and surrounding states Ambassadors. They can help too.