Monday, April 21, 2014

Early Thoughts on Scheduling for 2014-2015

It is really too early and things are too uncertain for us to schedule play for next year, but the questions being raised by some of you are sufficient enough and significant enough that I thought I could outline where I think we will be heading to allay anxieties.  Pickleball is so much fun that about the last thing we need to do is have anxiety about it.

For those who have played here over the last several years, we have had 4 courts available.  We usually show up between 8:30 and 9:30 and play with whoever is available until 10:00 or 11:30, usually until we get tired.

Until last year, we actually only did this on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  It was only last year that we went to 6 days a week, and this year some people showed up to play on Sundays as well.  This year we added in some Beginner clinics and Skills clinics on some afternoons.  In short, the courts were seriously underused, but crowded at particular times.

For next year, we will have 8 courts available to us to play on.  So, unless people come knocking on the RCW doorstep, RV in tow, and paddles in hand, we are likely to have still more available court time.  That is one of the reasons that I have indicated that we will plan on bringing in members of other clubs at particular times to raise the competition level and to introduce other people to Rincon, and us to them.  The invitations are likely to be reciprocal.

But, the purpose of forming the pickleball club was to move past the status quo and make ourselves a more competitive club, while honoring beginners, and those who are happy just playing friendly games.  We have had many occasions here where the better players cannot get a game with other better players, since they have to play whoever is waiting (which is fair under the circumstances).  As well, weaker players have often gotten over matched because the better players were who was available at the time.

So, our first priority in any given day will be Open Play.  That is basically what we have done all along. Open play is likely to take place from 8-10 am every day.  So, for those for whom pickleball is not the primary thing in their life, they can have a few games and go and do some of the many other things that Rincon and Tucson have to offer.

For those who enjoy the Open Play format, we are likely to have a second two hour block of time in the afternoon set aside for this style of play.

Open play can include concepts like Challenges.  On courts where challenges are being played, the losing team leaves and the next team that has challenged in to the court takes their place.  Winners stay, and losers move on to challenge on some other court.  I saw this working at Palm Creek and it was an effective way for people to get good competitive experience at little emotional cost.

We might then have the time slot of 10-12 for round robin or shootout play for more advanced players, depending on the numbers, and possibly for invitees as well.  Whereas the Open Play that begins the day will be on all courts, advanced play will be on only those courts required based on numbers for advanced play. We will know in advance what the numbers are, and courts not required for this play will be released to Open Play.

Essentially, any court not required for a particular event will be available for Open Play.

Here is an example of the court schedule at Palm Creek for this past winter.  It is relevant to note that Palm Creek has 24 courts and over 700 playing members, so is not a perfect comparison.  But, the concept of booking the courts for 2 hour blocks of time is pertinent to what we want to accomplish.

Scheduled events can include Round Robins, where several pairs will sign up to play against other pairs, and may over time play one game against each signed up team in their bracket.  An objective is to have a winning team in the bracket, but the bigger objective is to get pairs competition in a relaxed atmosphere.

Another event is Shootouts.  In shootouts, players play as individuals, and play one game paired with each of the other 3 players on their court.  Each individual carries the score of his team in the game over the three games.  The one or two with the least points move down a court, and the two winners of the next court down move up for the next round of play.

In shootouts, the objective is in part to get people playing at their own levels, which occurs over time, but also allows the best two of any group of four to move up to the next court to get to play against better players.  Shootouts become very dynamic, and provide lots of challenge in a fun environment.

We will also schedule coaching sessions to allow beginners and advanced players to build up their pickleball skill set.  Other clubs have arranged for either Mark Friedenberg, one of the founders of the USAPA, and one of the best players, even at 67, in the country, or Prem Carnot, who is called the Pickleball Guru to give coaching sessions at a level far beyond what we are capable of doing, and we will be looking into that for next year as well.

Hopefully this gives you some thoughts on how we might be doing things next year.  Nothing is cast in stone yet, but these are a few of the ideas that have been bandied about.

The Fall will likely be heavily Open Play oriented since numbers are limited at that time.  But, by January we will focus on having a schedule that works for all.

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