STATE COLLEGE, Pa (WTAJ)–Nearly 100 folks rang in the new year with racquets and excitement by participating in the first ‘Dinking in the New Year’ pickleball tournament.
This tournament took place at the Nittany Valley Sports Centre in State College. The facility featured 11 pickleball courts. The tournament staff wanted to provide players an opportunity to come together and play a few matches all in fun.
The tournament had 270 matches throughout the day, basing the teams on age and difficulty level. The Director of the tournament, Donna Reese, said that most people find pickleball an addicting sport, and it’s adaptable to anyone at any age.
“It’s an active sport, but also there’s a lot of strategy. So that’s why a lot of people tend to gravitate towards it,” Reese said. “They find they can play the game even when they’re not in the best physical shape. There’s so much strategy.”
The game of pickleball is a hybrid of badminton, tennis, and ping pong. According to Yahoo!, it’s considered one of the fastest-growing sports within the nation. Between 2019 and 2020, the sport saw a 21.3% growth, with at least 4.2 million people playing at least once a year.
Reese said that the sport is social, that many people who try it once end up taking up the sport entirely. She said that the tournament allows people to expand their network and have fun.
“It’s a social sport, so as communities develop their programs, it’s about more than just coming in and playing the game,” Reese said. “It gets people together, and it just develops this whole social network, and so it just grows.”
Players in the tournaments described the atmosphere as fun with great sportsmanship. After playing tennis for multiple years, player Pat Dandrea took up the sport three years ago. He said that players still want to win even though it’s for fun.
“Everyone here is here to have fun, but I don’t think there’s anyone in the building that’ll tell you they aren’t here to win,” Dandrea said.
Dandrea is a member of the Blair County Pickleball Club, where they play the game multiple times a week. His group made the initiative to expand pickleball in the county by starting Garfield Park Project. This project aims to turn the old tennis courts into six pickleball courts. Dandrea said that they hope this will be open by the summer.
“It’s a sport that’s still fairly new to everybody, but you’re getting more and more younger kids involved also,” Dandrea said. “So, it’s becoming the game of choice to a lot of people.”
The tournament concluded with 66 medals distributed to the players. Reese said she’s looking to have the event happen again next year, hopefully stretching across two days.
“All the comments we’ve got have been positive about the event and about the facility,” Reese said. “Like I said, we’ll be doing it again next year.”