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Middletown Ohio Celebrates 15 Years of Pickleball

August 17, 2022

This year marked the Middletown Ohio Pickleball Association's 15th Annual 50+ Pickleball Tournament. We caught up with tournament director, Michell Cook, to discuss the history and successful longevity of this milestone event.

Middletown Ohio Pickleball AssociationMiddletown Ohio Pickleball Tournament Director Michell Cook pictured Stanley Volkens. Volkens is credited with bringing pickleball to Middletown, Ohio 15 years ago. 

Stanley Volkens brought pickleball to Middletown, Ohio in 2006. "Stanley Volkens is credited for initiating the transformation of the unused tennis courts to pickleball courts," said Michell Cook, Middletown Ohio Pickleball Tournament Director.  "His vision was to have 6 courts, so he gathered devoted pickleball players, and the task at hand was an indescribably large task.  With all of their own funds and work, mission accomplished! Due to Stanley's persistence in getting a paddle in everyone's hand that walked by, and offering a free introduction to pickleball, more courts were needed.  More were added 2 or 4 at a time, and we now have 18 dedicated lit courts," added Cook. 

Lefferson Park eventually became the current 18-court venue, which is more than any other facility in Ohio. As the facility grew, so did the association's annual tournament. The first tournament hosted about 80 players. This year [2022] boasts over 400!

"Small tournaments were held to bring in revenue and camaraderie.  At that time, I was a volunteer as I was not old enough to participate in the tournament, so I ran score cards, and helped with anything that needed to be done," said Cook. "The current directors had their share of that task.  The tournament at that time was less than 100 players.  Stanley told me he would feel better going to Winter in Arizona if he knew I would run the tournament, as there wasn't one to follow at that time. I thought about it and went for it.  Never had I done such an event in my life, but I had been to many, and watched while volunteering and thinking how I would change and tweak things had I been in charge.  Well, put your money where your mouth is.  So, I did," Cook stated.

Middletown Ohio Pickleball Tournament

Fans gather to watch the 15th Annual Middletown Ohio Pickleball Tournament. This year's event featured more than 400 players.

It is easy to see why this tournament continues to be so well attended and so successful. It is obvious that Cook loves this tournament. Her energy, planning, and meticulousness are also evident. The thought of all aspects from the music selection, vendors, training, registration process, the flow of matches, and much more probably keeps her up at night. She admits to trying to focus on even the smallest details. 

Cook is quick to credit Stanley for the opportunity and all the amazing volunteers for the success of the tournament. "We have a wonderful team of volunteers," said Cook. "The vision for this event is for it to be much like a festival and family/friend reunion. We want everyone to get great pickleball, have an efficiently run tournament, and enjoy themselves and that would not be possible without the amazing job of the volunteer team.  We try to celebrate after the tournament is over, but quickly assess what we could have done better for next year" she said.

Cook is also quick to focus on the positives when asked about the challenges regarding the planning of this growing event. "We had to convert the original paper registration system a few years ago over to the online system. There was a learning curve but in the long run, it helped us accommodate the growing number of participants. The weather is always a concern but again, our wonderful volunteers are at the ready with the rollers and blowers when needed."

The 15th Annual Middletown Pickleball Association's Tournament was the first year they added a non-senior day. The last day of the tournament hosted Mixed Doubles for ages 14-49. This will surely add to its popularity. Be sure to register early for next year!

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