You are 72 and sign up for a tournament. You show up and find your age group has been lumped into the 65+ group. Gulp….what’s a super senior pickleball player to do?
Though we are still in the 60-64 age division, I can understand the disappointment some seniors may feel. (Grant you there are a fair number of super seniors who can whoop me any day of the week…but I digress.) More to the point, we are sensitive to the dilemma tournament directors face when fewer players in a category or division sign up and as such were pleased when we learned about the SSIPA.
Super Senior International Pickleball Association
I contacted Ford Roberson, President and Executive Director of the SSIPA to learn more about how the organization got started. Ford explained,
Super Seniors was presented to a group of interested pickleball players over 65 at the USAPA Nationals in November of 2016…about 9 months ago. The concept was to develop a player based organization that would allow older players to compete within their age groups and not be combined with younger age groups at tournaments. Also, to promote play at skill levels within the age groups if enough players entered a tournament for more balanced competition. Providing for different skill levels at age groups would encourage those players to begin tournament play at a more advanced age with their peers.
Clearly, there was interest as the group reached its goal of 100 founding members in less than six months. A seven-member board was formed and planning began for the first tournament. Ford continues,
The first event was held at El Mirage with Jeff Stone (Surprise Pickleball Association President as the Tournament Director) in March of this year. There were almost 300 players in age groups 65+ at all skill levels. Since then, there have been tournaments in California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and most recently Colorado where we had 175 competitors.
Denise and I were pleased to see that they have extended membership to players 60 to 64. However, this change does not adversely affect older players due to tournament rules. The SSIPA guarantees a participant will have the opportunity to play in their age bracket as long there are at least three teams entered. If there are fewer than 3 teams, then the player is given the option to play down (i.e. be moved to the younger division) or receive a full refund.
Three more tournaments (New Mexico, Madrid, and Georgia) are planned for the remainder of the year. You’ll note that in Madrid the SSIPA tournament is embedded in another tournament (the Pickleball Grand Slam Event). I asked Ford if this is something we will continue to see.
Yes. We are currently developing the 2018 schedule and expect more tournaments will allow for the SSIPA format to be embedded in their event.
We are pleased to see a focus on super senior pickleball, and that the organization is offering refereed (i.e. sanctioned) tournaments to this important pickleball sector. If you want to promote the growth of pickleball among active senior adults, join the SSIPA today.