Village pickleball players hit court

Tellico Village Pickleball Club member Ann Snell, right, prepares to serve during a tournament Friday as teammate Rita Kunberger watches.

The Tellico Village Pickleball Club skipped the 2020 club tournament because of COVID-19, but a new year presented another opportunity and members were able to hit the court for some competition.

The two-day tournament at the Wellness Center pickleball courts began Friday morning with women’s doubles matches. The first team to reach 15 points won in the round-robin tournament.

The tournament, which was held on eight courts, featured four classifications based on skill levels from intermediate to advanced and included matches for men and women, singles and doubles.

Winners in the tournament got “bragging rights,” Gordon Young, club vice president and tournament chairman, said.

About $20,000 raised went toward the Timeless Tellico Foundation, Young said.

“We want to give back to the community,” he said.

There were 110 players who played 550 games. Young said the tournament tried to ensure each participant got at least two hours of playing time. Members held a “Raise the Roof” party afterward at the Yacht Club.

Young described pickleball as “ping pong on steroids,” with the court about half the size of a tennis court. Players get relatively close to the net and, unlike tennis, there is no overhead serve. The game has an easier learning curve than tennis.

Pickleball uses a type of wiffle ball and honeycomb paddles with a solid surface. Newcomers can learn to play within about a week, Young said. The game is not as hard on bodies, with less stress on elbows and shoulders. Players are often active into their mid- to late-80s.

The club usually hosts an open tournament in the spring and a club tournament in the fall. With the fall competition now over, the club plans to have an open tournament in spring 2022, which will be larger and open to players from the region.

Donna Hannah, club member, played in her first pickleball tournament Friday. She said she enjoys exercising outside and meeting new people, and everyone who plays pickleball is friendly.

“It’s just a great way to have fun, be outside and exercise,” Hannah said.

Another player in the tournament, Lois Trader, agreed, noting the game is competitive and sociable.

“It’s popular,” Marty Inkrott, club member, said. “It’s a very addictive sport.”

Players get to know each other, and even those who were not playing in the tournament spent time as spectators, talking to other fans and creating relationships.

The club started with about 12 members on a borrowed tennis court 14 years ago and grew to more than 700 due-paying members by the end of 2020.

“Pickleball is now one of the most popular activities here in Tellico Village,” according to the club website. “... Banter is as much a part of the game as anything else.”

Final results from the tournament were not available by The Connection presstime.