Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The New Crosswalk

Some great news about courts in the Hendersonville area recently has recently developed. A private club was formed that will make additional courts available to area players at Xcel Sportsplex. The new club is currently limited to advanced players but will ultimately expand to accept others. 

But that club is NOT the subject of this post. It is relevant only due to the ripple effect of some of the club's players leaving the Crosswalk facility. Their departure means the Crosswalk courts are now available to supplement play at Henderson County Athletic and and Activity Center (HCAAC) and other local sites. 

Crosswalk and other background

Before progressing into the future plans, some history of Crosswalk is important to know. Crosswalk is an activity center associated with the First Baptist Church of Hendersonville. The church was gracious enough to allow the previous sponsors of pickleball play to set up 3 courts in the gym and allow play from 9 AM - 1 PM Monday through Thursday. As a private facility, the players were required to provide all equipment including nets, balls, and the taping of lines on the floor. While the facility was rent-free, the sponsors donated residual funds (after expenses) to the church and Crosswalk employees for their help and maintenance of the court surface, respectively. The sponsors chose to fund the expenses by collecting a daily fee of $2 per player - a fee that was a bargain for quality courts (with air conditioning!).

The Crosswalk sponsors - including Rick Ezrol, Buncombe County USAPA Ambassador - will be part of the Xcel club and want to keep the Crosswalk courts available by passing sponsorship on to someone more local. I have agreed to sponsor the facility, at least on an interim basis, and set up the parameters for play at Crosswalk. In order to start the process, I kicked off a meeting at HCAAC where a group discussed the possible uses of the additional courts. A couple of unmet needs were quickly identified, which I will describe as 1) relief for the overcrowding at HCAAC and 2) developmental play for competitive players who want to improve. 

Crosswalk going forward

Group activities can often benefit by developing a mission statement that forces management to keep its focus on the group goal. The past Crosswalk group and other private pickleball groups have mission statements that work for them and it is appropriate for us as well. The Crosswalk mission statement (for now) will be based on the identified needs. It will be similar to the past Crosswalk statement:
Our mission at Crosswalk is to provide an opportunity for competitive players to drill, play, and improve their game. We will only support friendly and positive play.
Now, let me lay out the playing parameters that will support this goal.

Playing schedule:

Monday and Wednesday:

9 AM -11 AM - Advanced play on 1 court and intermediate (see below) play on 2 courts, with court flexibility based on player numbers

11 AM - 1 PM - Open play for both advanced and intermediate players on 3 courts

Tuesday and Thursday:

9 AM - 11 AM - Advanced play on 1 court and competitive (see below) play on 2 courts, with court flexibility based on player numbers

11 AM - 1 PM - Open play for both advanced and competitive players on 3 courts


Advanced Play - strong 3.5+ level with minimum skill to include:
  • Demonstrates a broad knowledge of the rules of the game
  • Able to serve and return serve deep
  • Hits to the weak side of opponent often
  • Demonstrates more strategies of playing during games
  • Works better with partners in communicating, covering court, moving to net
  • With varying consistency executes: lobs, forehand/backhand ground strokes, overheads, net volleys, and sustained dinking
  • Starting to use drop shots in order to get to the net
  • Knows when to make some specific placed shots in the game
  • Working on mixing up soft shots with power shots to create an advantage
  • Hits fewer balls out of bounds or in the net
  • Dinks mostly in opponents' kitchen and dinks lower over the net
  • Able to sustain dinking in the game
  • Has a moderate number of unforced errors
Intermediate Play - 3.0+ level with minimum skills to include:
  • Working to keep the serve and serve receive deep
  • Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone when opportunity is there
  • Trying to make flatter returns (where appropriate)
  • More aware of their partner’s position on the court and moving more as a team
  • Developing more power in shots
  • Beginning to attempt lobs and dinks with some success
  • Demonstrates improved skills with all the basic shot strokes and shot placement but lacks control when trying for direction, depth or power on shots
  • Gets high majority of serves “in”
Competitive Play - 2.5+ level with minimum skills to include:
  • Able to serve “in” more regularly
  • Knows the two bounce rule and demonstrates it most times
  • Knows where to stand on the court during serve, serve receive and general play
  • Aware of the soft game and occasionally tries to dink
  • Working on form for ground strokes, accuracy is variable
  • Makes longer lasting slow paced rallies
  • Sometimes lobs with forehand with varying degrees of success
  • Beginning to approach the non-volley zone to hit volleys
  • Court coverage is weak but is improving
  • Knows fundamental rules and can keep score
Since this is a learning environment, all players should be willing to give or take advice freely without pushback. Crosswalk will be used for players who wish to play aggressively and competitively as well as those who want to improve their skills for tournament play or personal growth. While pickleball will always be friendly at Crosswalk, social and recreational players should not expect such play here.

During the 9-11 time slots, play on specific courts should be limited to the levels described...assuming proper numbers are available. Lower level players may request to play in higher level games but there should be no expectation of open play during restricted hours. Guidelines for both sides to follow during open play will be posted over the next several days. Players should be honest in the skill level assessments. If it is determined that players are are unable to meet the level of play, they may be asked to shift their schedule or location. Remember that our objective is to develop players skills and every effort will be made to bring such players to their desired level. 

During the 9-11 time slots, playing as a team is encouraged in order to prepare for tournament play. Players may rest or sit out games in order to set up competitive matches. But this should not be done to the exclusion of one or more players who meet the playing level criteria. During the 11-1 time slots, a general mixing of all players should take place in order to allow development of newer players. Until a need arises for change, there will not be a paddle lineup. As adults, we can keep a general idea of when our turn comes up. I would expect that the numbers of players would not be so excessive to require a formal waiting process, at least in the beginning. Depending on numbers, at least one court will be reserved for advanced players and their rotation will be separate from the others.

Since Crosswalk is a learning environment, drills are encouraged, but generally after 11 am. If a group wants to drill during the 9-11 time slots, they may do so but must rotate out after 15 minutes if the court is required for players of the same skill level. In other words, a group of advanced players may use the advanced court for drilling. If other advanced players are present, the drilling group must make the court available for the non-drilling advanced players. If their are no other advanced players, the drilling group may exclusively use the advanced court without a break. During the 11-1 time slots, 1 court may be reserved for exclusive drilling.

Finally, we will use a sign-up system to provide awareness to others of the numbers of players planning to attend each day. It will consist of a weekly email showing that week's schedule. In order to use the system, players who have not done so will be required to set up a free account with Sign-Up Genius. When complete, simply click on the day or days that you want to play and submit your notification. You can check back anytime to see whether enough players have committed to play. Players are expected to sign up before playing. It is a courtesy to other players so they are aware of the numbers and type of playe expected. Please contact me in order to be added to the email list. 


I recognize that these parameters may be more restrictive than some would like. Frankly, I believed that HCAAC was too open and did not allow for competitive play and player development. However, as a public facility, it is more appropriate for open play than a private facility might allow. At Crosswalk, we will try to strike a happy medium by welcoming intermediate and competitive players and freeing more court-time at HCAAC. We will also have more court-time available for formalized training like clinics and oversight with advice. This will allow players to develop skills more quickly and give them wider ranges of options for play.

The creation of Xcel and this new Crosswalk will provide a tiered approach to play in the Hendersonville area. HCAAC and various private outdoor sites have a mixed level of players, generally social or recreational in nature. Xcel will have advanced players. Now, Crosswalk will provide an alternative for those in between, wanting to play competitively while improving their skills.

No comments:

Post a Comment