Pickleball tourney brings strong turnout

Susie Flynn connects with a ball during the Tellico Village Pickleball Club Fall Shootout. Flynn won the women’s singles under 65 division.

The Tellico Village Pickleball Club held its second annual Fall Shootout Oct. 8 at the Wellness Center.

“This particular tournament, we had last year registered around 140 players,” John Reed, tournament co-director, said. “This year we’re at 165-170, in that range. So yeah, it’s grown. There’s a lot of competition for tournament players, which reflects the growth of the sport.

“There’s more tournaments going on every weekend, so we have to compete with participants with the other tournaments that are on the same weekend,” he added.

With the growing field came a growing crowd of players from outside Tellico Village, something organizers and pickleball enthusiasts want to push.

“About 50 percent of (the players) represent Tellico Village Pickleball Club members, and the other 50 percent would be from outside of the Village, which would include Chattanooga, Knoxville, Maryville, Nashville, maybe some players out of Alabama, Georgia,” Reed said. “So it’s more than just Tellico Village and more than just Loudon and Lenoir City.”

Bringing in players from outside the Village means better competition for the tournament, which can be a nice challenge for local players, Warren Hunt, co-director, said.

“They get a chance to test themselves from people outside the area,” he said. “They know they’re good in our community, but how good are they compared to others. We have people here from Georgia, from Alabama, from other parts of Tennessee. So it’s been really nice.”

Added competition helps grow an already fast-growing game in the Village, Reed said.

“The value of having people outside of the pickleball club come and pay in the tournament is that it adds additional competition from players the club players have never seen before,” he said. “So it adds a new element of competition that is always good for growing the game, improving your game by playing somebody whom you’ve never played before.”

Those visiting the Village — some for the first time — for the tournament spoke highly of the area, Hunt said.

“They’re very impressed with Tellico Village and our facility,” Hunt said. “They think it’s a terrific facility. The tournament has been well-organized for them and they definitely enjoy the opportunity to play the folks from our club. ... It’s important for the club because it gives them enthusiasm to play. It’s also good just for Tellico Village because it introduces people from outside the Village to what we have to offer here, the great facilities we have, the great place to live.”

Weather for this year’s tournament was a mixed bag, something organizers may have to continue to be ready for with the fall event.

“Last year, which was our first shootout, Saturday and Sunday morning it was 32 degrees and we had to scrape ice off of our scoring tables,” Reed said. “This year it’s quite a bit different. The warm weather is currently welcome and the sunshine. We could use a little less wind, but we have no control over it.”

Hunt and Reed began work on the tournament in August, reaching out to other pickleball communities online. Next year, Reed said, the club plans to start earlier in hopes of continuing to grow the event.