Some of SaddleBrooke Pickleball Association INC’s (SPA) newest members have yet to experience pickleball “drop-in,” which is one of the most accessible and fun parts of playing. To backtrack to pre-COVID-19 times, imagine Ridgeview’s sideline, filled with members arriving at all times of the morning. The members greet one another, catch up on the day’s goings-on, the weather, a funny t-shirt, and discuss remedies for various aches and pains. The paddles are lined up along the fence waiting for a rotation onto a court. Some of the groups of four “stack” together, but most are individually placed with random paddles, creating games with people of many levels with members that may or may not have met one another. Play started first thing in the morning and continued for as long as the body could support the enthusiasm. The ease of showing up to play whenever in the mood (or after a second cup of coffee) and the social connection gained by mixing games is sorely missed. For those that have not yet experienced this scenario, we cannot wait until you can.

Fast-forward to today’s challenge of playing in an environment that requires the utmost attention to the continued health and safety of SPA members. SPA has expanded Level Play options to connect players with one another. The Event Calendar on the SPA website is used for members to individually register for a Level Play session. Players have the option of signing up for any group at or below their rated level. This opportunity to play by level requires that SPA help players get rated if they are not already.

Particular attention has been given to the best possible method to rate players in a manner that is as approachable, fair, and as unbiased as possible. One of the rating programs, currently under consideration, was developed by an elite group of pickleball players and instructors. The organization they formed, the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA), standardizes methods of teaching pickleball and rating pickleball. IPTPA recognized the need for Clubs to rate their members to group them based on their ability for club events, such as Round Robins, Club Tournaments, Ladders and Level Play. An official rating, achieved through IPTPA, is being accepted at other clubs around the world as a standardized skill measurement. Those that spend time elsewhere, or travel to play, may find that an official IPTPA rating will gain entry to other Club’s events.

SPA continues to recognize the need to provide court time for private multi-level or same-level groups to play together (by reservation) outside of organized club events, with or without a rating. Perhaps you are someone who does not want to have to qualify by rating to play in a club-organized group. That is just fine. There is no requirement for getting rated just because you are a member of SPA. Those that get rated, or have a rating by SPA, IPTPA, or USA Pickleball, simply have an additional option to play pickleball in Level Play—as if we needed more encouragement to have a good time!

Comments on IPTPA as a rating system are welcome on the website in the Forum area. Those that have gone through the IPTPA rating process formally or experienced the SPA 3.0 club rating program (currently using IPTPA guidelines), are especially encouraged to share their feedback.

While SPA will likely be able to offer “drop-in” again in the upcoming months, the Board of Director’s focus continues to be involved in member health, enjoyment, and making sure everyone has an avenue to play. The all-volunteer Board, committees, coaches, and all of the members volunteering their time, continue to work hard to investigate ways to make sure SPA can offer all players the best experience possible during this unsettled time.

Have fun, stay safe, and see you on the courts!

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