Pickleballers from as far west as Parksville, B.C. and as far east as London, Ont. converged on the Alpine Boulevard courts for the St. Albert Pickleball Club's first-ever sanctioned-tournament over the weekend.
A sanctioned tournament is one that is sponsored by Pickleball Canada, the sport's national governing body. In order to be sanctioned, an organization must demonstrate to Pickleball Canada that a prospective tournament is well organized, safe, rule abiding, and able to have at least 75 participants.
With a membership of 648 players, the club had no problem meeting the participant minimum for a sanctioned tournament. Indeed, a total of 240 players took part in the tournament, which was officially called the St. Albert Pickleball Club Pickle Party.
Twenty champions were crowned in total, as players competed in brackets against others of similar age and skill level. There was men's doubles action on Friday, July 15, while mixed doubles and women's doubles took place on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s really, really exciting for our members with the Club to see this going on,” club president Eileen McLean said.
“It’s a big thing for us to have a sanctioned tournament.”
A major benefit of hosting a sanctioned tournament — besides the national recognition — is the ability for local players to boost their Canadian Tournament Player Ratings, McLean said.
Until now, St. Albert pickleball players who wished to establish tournament ratings needed to travel to a sanctioned tournament hosted elsewhere. The club's director of tournaments, Ken Dentzian, said the club has "numerous members — probably close to 100 members — who have played in sanctioned tournaments and already have a tournament rating.”
Dentzian said the process of hosting this tournament was in the works for about a year, and the main hurdle was coordinating with Pickleball Alberta to ensure St. Albert's tournament dates didn't conflict with others on a regional or national level.
A committee of 40 volunteers worked together to run the tournament, Dentzian said, and the club had prize draws for players, as well as snacks and plenty of fluids for the athletes as they played through the heat.
To open the tournament's action on Saturday morning, Coun. Shelley Biermanski and Coun. Mike Killick teamed up to play a match against Donna Hinchey and Nicole Synowec from the city's recreation and parks department.
'Onwards and upwards'
"As a club, we are growing in leaps and bounds," McLean said. "We’re the second-largest club in Alberta."
“With more members and a sanctioned tournament, our hope is to get more pickleball courts, because we need them.”
Dentzian explained that the club wasn't able to offer tournament singles play as the available court space wouldn't allow it; the Alpine pickleball facility currently has 12 courts.
"With only 12 courts, it’s tough for us to go for the bigger tournaments, so that’s why we’re working and hoping that we can get more courts,” McLean said.
Hosting more sanctioned tournaments in the future, McLean said, "[is] good for the community, and of course, it’s good for pickleball."
“We aspire to many more tournaments and growing the club and growing our youth — onwards and upwards.”