Thursday, March 19, 2015

President's Report 2015 AGM - March 9, 2015

The Following is the annual report presented to the members in attendance at the Annual General Meeting of the Rincon Country West Pickleball Club, held on site on March 9, 2015.

Rincon Country West
Pickleball Club
Annual General Meeting
President’s Report March 9, 2015
Last March we started up the Rincon Country West Pickleball Club.  It began as an idea to separate pickleball from tennis, bocce, and basketball, so that we could focus on the needs of our pickleball venue and on pickleball players.

Our first order of business was to establish a set of Bylaws for the club, and to elect a Board of Directors.  The Bylaws are available online on our web presence, which many of you have accessed during the year.  The first Board of Directors was presented as a slate of officers that was accepted by the first official club meeting.  It is composed of Michael Brandon President,  Sally Lyddon, Don Heimke, and Bert Coates as Vice Presidents, Dave Lyddon as Secretary,  Mike Wood as Treasurer, and Allan Schreiber as Director of Communications.

All have agreed to stand for reelection except for Dave Lyddon, and as of me speaking to you there are no additional nominees, though we will accept additional nominees to fill all positions, though we are most in need of a Secretary to replace Dave, as he retires from the Board.

Our next and most important order of business was to work with Rincon Management to secure an additional 4 courts, which have been great, and have gotten lots of play.  They are as good as the courts that many of us have played on at other locations, and will serve us well for many years to come.

Also, of importance to us was refurbishment of the old courts regularly, which are used daily as well.  We understood that Rincon would repair and resurface the courts, but this was not completed before the season began.  and as we work on the repairs I will mention below we will get even more use out of them.

As you may recall, we committed to charging membership fees, rather than doing a spaghetti dinner, our logic being that the amount of work being done by the few was not valued by the whole.  As well, we invited others from outside the park to join with the approval of Rincon Management.  

To date we have had over 100 members, many for the season but some for shorter periods.  Of the 100 members, less than 20% are outsiders but they have partaken of Rincon hospitality, which was our aim.  I had hoped that we might have a greater influx of outsiders to improve the quality of play, and grow our club more quickly, but instead we have worked on ways to grow more internally, which I will describe in a few moments.

For Rincon guests that wanted to participate in club activities, but were only staying a few days, we offer a 1 week free membership to let them play during club activity time.  For Rincon residents who did not want to participate in club activities, but just wanted to hit the ball or play games with their friends, we allow them to use unused courts at any time, and provide them with balls for their play, and access to club paddles.

It was our original intention to run a major tournament, but the state of the original courts is not up to the standards required for a major tournament, and we did not have the critical mass to pull off such a venture.

So, instead we ran a Shootout, which is a particular style of competitive play, in November, and invited in close to 20 quality players from the various locations around Tucson to play, and to stay after for brats and beverages.  My wife and I ran and paid for this event personally, because we were unsure of how it would end up, and did not want to burden the club, if it turned out to be a harebrained idea.  As it was, it was a success.

On February 18, 2015, we ran a small invitational tournament.  We had 46 players in the event of which about 34 were from outside the park.  This tournament was an opportunity for our club members to see what it takes, as even a small tournament has all the elements of a larger one.  Club members stepped up and it came off without any major snags.  Again we concluded with brats and beverages.  We received good reviews from the participants.  

Then on February 25, we ran an internal club tournament.  Part of the reason for doing the invitational first was because the players invited are regular tournament players and they helped us with refereeing and making it run smoothly, which gave us hands on experience.

The internal club tournament had about 30 players, all club members, involved, and we again played a shootout format, which worked well as we were able to arrange for players to play with others at their own skill level, meaning nobody lost or won by such large margins as to discourage themselves or the other players.

Once again, we ended with brats and beverages, setting up the Rincon barbecue at the putting green, and eating in the shade there.

Most tournaments on the circuit here in Southern Arizona are much larger, typically three day events or more, and do not refocus on the social aspect of a meal on conclusion.  We hope to leverage this further in future years, as our approach has been well received.

These 3 events are not all we have done to engage members.  Each of them was challenging from an organizational perspective, but was able to be executed in a matter of a few weeks of planning and volunteer execution.

As well, we have had occasional shootouts and Round Robin events, but the demand for them is more limited, and they take additional volunteer resources that have not been available yet to us.  By this I mean less that there are not people who could do the work, than that we are too inexperienced to be able to delegate much of the work until we had seen it and done it ourselves.

The most important thing we have been doing to grow the club is introducing new people to the park to the game, and providing training and skills development for those who are now playing here.  The members of the Board all noticed that the calibre of play during our in house tournament was significantly increased over the beginning of the year.  This may be where we are best able to attract outside members as well, by providing a training venue for them during our winter season.

One of our Vice President's Bert Coates has been running new player lessons regularly, and we have introduced 30-40 new folks or so to the game this year.  As well John Szabo has been providing instruction to those who are not far along in the game at the original courts most every morning.  Both have volunteered many hours to our members, and to those who have shown an interest in the game, but are undecided on their commitment to playing with the club.

As well, we have been running Skills and Drills sessions twice a week, to teach some of the game nuances to those who are further along in their pickleball journey.  Further, John Szabo and I often meet in the afternoons with players eager to improve their skills and work on skill development for a few hours at a time.

What might still come as a surprise to many of you is that we have also introduced many players to using the boards at the new tennis courts to work on swing and shot techniques.  This has made for an inexpensive method of training.

Where the old courts used to see play 3 times per week for 2-2 1/2 hours, we now play every day on all 8 courts, with Drop in play in the morning and more advanced Open play in the afternoon.  Many folks who have bought into our concepts of practicing to get better are coming to a court when it is empty and practicing with friends.

Many of the Board and Club members have stepped up to meet needs of the club.  We have borrowed screens that we have placed on the dog park end of the new courts, and have added plastic tile covers, which we purchased, over the exposed fencing separating the new courts as a safety measure.

When Palm Creek Pickleball Club was expanding this year, Bert Coates arranged for them to give us some of their older equipment, and we combined that with our own sign boards, including a sandwich board which we use to keep members informed of happenings in the club.

We had requested that the original courts be upgraded with new nets, and winders, and that they be resurfaced prior to the start of our current season.  This could not fit the budget and so we decided to do our best to help improve them.  We requested the purchase of new nets and winders, and planned their implementation.  Park workers were helpful but with the busyness of the season are not really available to make these changes for us.  So, we took it on ourselves and the installation of the new nets was completed on March 1.

Don Heimke and John Szabo in particular spent countless hours figuring out how to use the existing posts, and implement the new winders and nets into them.  The result is that the courts, though in need of resurfacing are far more professional looking and playable.

A number of our players have started to play in tournaments on the Southern Arizona winter circuit, and we hope that more will step up to the interesting and fun challenge of playing at other venues.

One of our areas of focus this year was to bring outside players in to the park as guests from time to time, and to play and be members of the club if they chose.  Some of them have just come, played and left, which is not unlike resident members in general.  But some of them are interested in helping us out with the club, and we intend to embrace their skills and eagerness, along with that of resident members.

A small number of resident members complained that we were charging the non residents the same amount for fees as the residents.  Accordingly, we adjusted the resident fee downward, since we had already committed in writing to the $20 annual fee for members, and did not feel it appropriate to change it.

The fees charged are a responsibility of the Board, not open for debate or open discussion.  If you have selected a Board to act on your behalf, then you must allow them to do so.  We did listen to members concerns in an number of areas, and as it related to nonresident members adjusted the rate somewhat and will decide on rates for future years, and even whether we will include nonresident members.

The Bylaws allow for paid up members to have a vote for Directors.  The Bylaws did not exclude nonresident members from voting and prior to the presentation of this report, we made a slight amendment to the Bylaws after waiving the 30 day notice requirement of the Bylaw regarding a proposed change.  Non Resident members are now officially precluded from voting at the Annual General Meeting.

So, where are we going from here?

We attempted to organize play time to allow for regular daily events, and for Open play for more advanced players.  For openers we are still too small for this to be effective, but we are in need of adding some committees reporting to the Board to help us run things more smoothly and be more diversified in our use of volunteer resources.

We need a Memberships Committee.  Memberships were handled by Sally Lyddon and Mike Wood, and should really be handled by a small, but nimble Memberships Committee.  That committee would focus on recruiting members, setting fee schedules for the approval of the Board, and ensuring that members have the proper identification cards for their status.

One area we were starting work on but the effort required was greater than the available resources is Competition.  A Competition Committee would oversee scheduling of play and events, including Drop In Play, Open and Event Play (like Round Robins, Shootouts, and Rated Play), and In House and Invitational tournaments.  Since the Competition Committee would be in charge of scheduling, it would also ensure proper scheduling for training sessions.  It is important that scheduling satisfies those who just want to play, and those who want to elevate their game.  Both Rob Silver and Bill Brown have indicated an interest in helping us out with this area.

Another requirement is for a Training Committee.  We started doing some beginner and skills training last year, and expanded it this year.  However, there is a need between beginners and more advanced players, and we could more properly define what skills will be taught at the various levels. John Szabo, Bert Coates and I have been involved in our training efforts, with John being available almost daily to help new players and assisting me with Skills and Drills training.  Bert has handled scheduled beginner training, also assisted by John Szabo. The committee would ensure that those involved in education have what resources they need to be successful, and that expectations of members and educators are managed.

We have done a lot of Facilities work this year, and a Facilities Committee would help us to work on what needs to be done, and get appropriate work crews together as required. We actually did pretty well, all things considered, but were a bit more reactive than would be good going forward. 

Bert Coates did yeoman service securing a shed for us, and cadging things from Palm Creek to help us organize ourselves at the courts.  As I stated earlier Don Heimke and John Szabo again were the brains and brawn behind our new nets and winders being installed on the original courts.  The  Facilities Committee would manage our physical facilities including ordering balls and paddles, cleaning and maintenance equipment, and court quality, including working with RCW management to ensure original courts are brought up to reasonable play standards.

Additionally, we need a committee to handle communications.  Allan with some assistance from me has done his best to keep folks informed, but there are gaps between what should be communicated and what we have been able to do.  The articles for our web presence have almost all been produced by me, and as you can tell if you have looked lately, it was far easier to create content when I was back in Canada than it is here in the thick of things.

We have a Facebook page which has basically no content on it, and is in need of someone to take it on.  We need to make a move to a specific RCW Pickleball Club email address, and that is not a 5 minute job so would be part of the responsibilities of the Communications Committee.

And finally, but not low on the totem pole, would be a Social Committee.  The Social Committee would manage our pot luck and other social events, including the social aspect of tournaments.  We had an excellent pot luck, a good early social event, great food and drinks at our tournaments.  The Social Committee would help put those things together, sharing the work load, and the fun.

I will now open the floor for any questions on matters raised in my report.

We will then hear from Mike Wood as to our Finances for the year.

Next, we need to fill our Board of Directors.  I received no nominations for filling any of the board positions, and so we need nominations for Board elections are now open,.

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