Pickleball Points: It’s tournament day — let’s play!

I thought some of you folks might like to learn a little more about pickleball tournaments. The weather is finally cooperating along the Delaware and Maryland beaches, and the winds have subsided somewhat. Pickleball is in the air.

Many of the active pickleballers in our area were participating last week in an indoor tournament in Easton, Md. Easton was just one of 50 tournaments in the nation the same week.

There are three additional important tournaments in this immediate region over the next few months. Ocean City once again presents their Springfest (May 4-5), followed by First State Pickleball Club’s Beach Blast in Dover (May 18-19), and then Ocean Pines has their Summer Classic (June 8-9). All of those events offer free admission for folks interested in watching and learning about pickleball.

Depending on the number of participants, the organizers will put players of similar skill and age together in different events. An example might be all players with a 3.5 skill rating and 65 or older. But if there are not enough of that type, they might lump them with younger players.

As they ascend the ratings pyramid, some of our higher-rated players, such as Rick Bell and Bob O’Malley, are now playing 20- and 30-year-old opponents, but you never hear them complain.

I was an official last year at Ocean City, and two women told me it was unfair they had to play the two top women in the tournament. First, I congratulated them for playing their first tournament, and then pointed out they should have enjoyed playing the two top female players in the tournament to better understand where they need to improve.

Below I have listed all the categories played in the Easton tournament, and names of players from our coastal communities. As you can see, our local players continue to do well when participating in tournaments. Well done, Delaware!

After these three local tournaments, many of the serious competitors who have qualified will be off to the 11-day National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M., June 14-25, where they, our sea-level warriors, will most certainly discover that high altitude is not for sissies.

Are they nervous? You bet they are. The best senior players from around the world are participating.

First, these nervous feelings in the stomach, if you can learn to deal with them, are what help you to reach exciting performance levels. You might have heard the expression, “I played out of my mind!” This is how your body responds to stress. The reason you are here is no doubt that an ancestor’s nervous system spiked the body with chemicals and they ran out of harm’s way when some hundred-ton sauropod stepped on their campfire.

The question is how your nerves interact with your positive attitude. It is easily possible to psyche yourself out of the competition long before you arrive, and this confidence rests on some shelf within your head. Repetition in practice is how most players deal with it. Those players you frequently see doing drills for hour after hour on a court at your pickleball center are preparing for a future tournament. Under the worse conditions, they know they can always revert to what we call “practiced muscle memory.”

The word competition gets a bum rap. There is a great deal of mutual respect among competitors. There were 180 pleasant pickleballers of like mind playing the two-day tournament in Easton, and most of them showed up hoping their training would pay off so they would simply win two more points than their competition.

Perhaps you played what you consider a top-notch game with your friends last week at the local pickleball venue, and you are feeling good and are strutting around like a peacock. It all “goes south” when you arrive at the tournament and hit your first ball!

It might have gone south before that, when you got the yips and completely missed the ball. What happened to your peacock feathers? There can be a thousand reasons. It might just be the energy-depleting physical stress of high altitude or the background color of the facility, the P.A. system, breakfast, etc. It might just have been the unrelenting pressure of extremely talented players hitting what you thought were impossible shots.

The court umpire says, “First Game: 11-3” for your opponents before you even break a sweat. At this point, you and your partner must focus only on one point at a time, and trust that those long hours of repetitive practice kicks in. You have to have the confidence that when you bring it all together, you still have a chance to win the next two games and match, as you focus all your energy and practiced skill into doing just that.

Why not give up? Because your opponents are also sucking for air at high altitude, hear the same irritating P.A. system you do, have never seen your behind-the-back volley and have the same internal doubts as you might.

This is tournament day, and why so many of us like to play!

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.

By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point






MenDoubles, 3.0, 18-49, 50-64



Doubles Men, 3.0, 65+

Joesph Neudeck, Michael Siegert


Doubles Men, 3.5, 18-49



Doubles Men, 3.5, 50-64



Doubles Men, 3.5, 65+

Bob Adams, Kevin Lawrence



Ron Kurtz, Peter Felix


Doubles Men, 4.0, 50-64, 65+

Paul Turner, Chic Stearrett


Doubles Men, 4.5, 18-49, 50-64, 65+

Ben O’Malley, Kevin O’Malley



Rick Bell, Hamid Rayman


Doubles Mixed 4.5, 5.0, 18-49, 50-64, 65+

Pearl Morris, Kevin Reading



Diane Milam, Rick Bell


Doubles Mixed, 3.0, 50-64



Doubles Mixed, 3.0, 65+

Sue & Joseph Neudeck


Doubles Mixed, 3.5, 18-49



Doubles Mixed, 3.5, 50-64

Kathy Casey, Bruce Smart


Doubles Mixed, 3.5, 65-69, 70+

Claire Walker, Geoff Goodson


Doubles Mixed, 4.0, 50-64, 65+

Georgia Billger, Bob Adams



Wendy Sparrow, Don Tomb


Doubles Women, 3.0, 18-49



Doubles Women, 3.0, 50-64, 65+



Doubles Women, 3.5, 18-49, 50-64

B.J. Ferguson, Carol Miller



Sherry King, Becky Moody


Doubles Women, 3.5, 4.0, 70+

Georgia Billger, Sue Brooker


Doubles Women, 3.5, 65-69

Kathy Casey, Carol Gustafson


Doubles Women, 4.0, 4.5, 18 -49, 50-64

Pearl Mortis, Diane Milam



Lynn Casey, Courtney Vaughn