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SMPA August Update

Hi Friends,

One of the things I want to do as president of SMPA is spend some time writing on this page to give you updates and visibility into some of the things the Board and other folks are working on. Well, here it is 3 months since I took this role and I haven’t posted a thing. We have a lot of catching up to do. It’s been a busy 90 days and there’s a lot happening both on the courts and off.

First off, I want to thank and congratulate everyone involved with the recent Seattle Metro Pickleball Classic. That includes the tournament organizing committee, the volunteer captains, the hundreds of volunteers and all the players and spectators that made the weekend so extraordinary. If you haven’t seen Kyle Yate’s glowing review of the tournament in The Dink newsletter it’s a great read and a testament to how special this area is and can be for pickleball. Besides Yates, some of the biggest names in the sport came to play, reigning U.S. Open Champion Callie Smith was here, as was Steve Deacon, Erik Lang, and Seattle’s own Lindsey Newman. We had local legends and Hall of Famers Mark Friedenberg and Fran Myer play and participate. ProPickleball was here to stream the Open matches. We received local news coverage on KING-5 TV, and sports anchor Chris Eagan, a pickleball fanatic just like you and me, played in the Pro Men’s event.

The SMPC is the signature event of our calendar year, but it’s more than just a tournament. It’s a showcase for local governments and area businesses to see first-hand the growth of the sport and how it can draw tourists from the entire region and beyond to come visit and spend money. It’s a signal to Parks and Rec departments the need for more courts, and to demonstrate that an investment in pickleball courts can not only sustain itself but meet and exceed their missions of enabling health and fitness to a diverse set of citizens. We all have a lot to be proud of and I’m already excited about next year’s tournament. Let the countdown begin!

Speaking of getting more courts, let’s talk about the South East Seattle saga that Miguel de Campos has been chronicling on this page and other exchanges with SPR regarding pickleball matters. I don’t need to get into the details since Miguel captures it all, but I do want you to know how I see SMPA’s role in driving this, and other discussions about pickleball, forward. I’ll start with yet another thank you to all of our members, and non-members, who wrote or called SPR representatives and other government officials to voice their opinion about the South East Seattle courts and the Green Lake resurfacing project. In an email to one of our members, Laurie Dunlap from the SPR Superintendents office called the pickleball-related correspondence they’ve received “overwhelming.” I bet it is! Let’s keep it up. Just remember to be polite and respectful. SMPA will continue to work directly with SPR in trying to change policy and practices that discriminate against pickleball players. We recognize that SPR’s job isn’t easy. They have a lot of different groups they need to deal with and serving the historically underserved is rightfully their highest priority. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for the decisions they make and the processes they put in place to make them. When battling against bureaucracy it pays to be persistent and patient. We will continue to use our strength in numbers to be a voice for pickleball players and push for more access to courts and more opportunities to play in the Metro area.

Meanwhile our work continues in other areas. SMPA has recently worked with a group of players to fund four new Douglas semi-permanent nets for the Bitter Lake courts and another group has raised money to purchase four more at Green Lake and one at Shoreline Park. You can now find these nets all over the metro area, in Shoreview Park in Shoreline, Walt Hundley Playfield and Delridge Park in West Seattle, and in Miller Park on Capitol Hill. If your group would like to raise funds for semi-permanent nets at your park, reach out to us at info@seattlemetropickleball.com. We can help by setting up a portal for tax-deductible donations and purchasing the nets for you once the money is raised. Thanks also to the volunteers who help assemble them once they arrive.

And whether you’re looking for ways to improve your game, play more competitively, or just looking for some open rec play, several SMPA members (and Directors) are teaching or organizing different play events around town. On Mondays you’ll find our Vice President Theresa Haynie leading a women’s group in skills and drills at Shoreview park. SMPA member Fielding Snow has organized drill sessions with play twice a week also at Shoreview. Several members, led by Director Sarah Webb, are helping SPR teach the game to beginners at Bitter Lake.  And yours truly runs a round robin tournament for more advanced players there on Saturdays. Former Director Sean Oldridge continues to organize open rec play at Green Lake every weekend. SMPA helps these groups by reserving courts for longer chunks of time than an individual might be able to. For example, SMPA reserves all six pickleball courts at Green Lake every Saturday and Sunday for the entire summer. Sean takes donations every weekend and pays SMPA back over time. Reserving courts in big chunks demonstrates real revenue opportunity for SPR and illustrates in a measurable way the growing demand for pickleball. If you need some help organizing similar events in your area, reach out to us at info@seattlemetropickleball.com

I told you we had a lot of catching up to do! But I’ll stop there for now. If you’re reading this and you’re not an SMPA member, please consider joining our group. We’re not a club, just a group of players looking to advocate and advance the sport as best we can. If you have any questions or suggestions for me directly you can reach me at president@seattlemetropickleball.com.

We’ll talk again soon, until then…

Paddles up!

Frank 

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Thank you Jerry Kindinger!

The Seattle Metro Pickleball Association reached a bittersweet but important milestone this week. 4 years ago, SMPA was formed by a group of passionate pickleball players with a vision of growing the sport and enabling more people to discover, learn and fall in love with this great game. Since that first meeting over coffee and donuts, the organization navigated its early formative years led by the steady hand and calming presence of its first president, Jerry Kindinger. For those of you who have met Jerry on the courts, you know all about his easy smile and friendly demeanor to go along with his mean dink game. What you may not know is he has also been a fierce advocate for pickleball with government officials and community center directors these past 4 years and has led the way for SMPA to seek more opportunities for all of us to play. He has presided over SMPA from the original 8 founding members to its current total of more than 300 members. But all good things must come to an end, and this week Jerry served his last day on the Board of Directors and President of SMPA.

This is an important time for SMPA. Our Vice President, Theresa Haynie and Director Miguel de Campos are the last two founding members still on the Board. They are both serving final terms before they too ride off into the pickleball sunset. So the questions we need to ask ourselves as an organization are What Now? What Next?

The founding members have done a great job of forming the Association, establishing its policies and rhythms that make this thing go. From being officially designated a 501 c3, working with SPR to add more and more pickleball lines to tennis courts, to establishing the Seattle Metro Pickleball Classic as the premier outdoor tournament in the Pacific Northwest, SMPA has accomplished a lot under the leadership of its first president. It’s now up to the next generation of Directors to keep it going, keep the momentum, and to take it even further, to build on what’s been done by Jerry and the other founding Directors.

I believe the time is right, we have the structure in place, we have the right folks on the Board, and we have a powerful community of passionate pickleball players ready and willing to take some big swings, to reach our goals of building a permanent pickleball facility somewhere in the metro area, and to continue to grow our influence and promote the sport in our communities.

The challenge for us is to make those big swings count. To seek the right opportunities, to work with the right people, to find the right time to mobilize our forces. That’s the job the current Board is willing, and excited, to take on. But to have the kind of success we seek it will take all of us. We all need to continue to raise our voices for new courts, more access to existing courts, more opportunities to play. We all need to be active participants, in both big and small ways, in growing the sport. Together we can make a difference.

Though following in Jerry’s footprints is daunting, I’m honored to succeed him as SMPA president and push SMPA forward. As is the case with all our Directors I promise to be bold, be the squeaky wheel you need me to be, and to swing for the fences to reach our goals.

If you’re not yet an SMPA member, join and add your voice to hundreds of others in support of growing pickleball in the Seattle metro area. If you are a member, thank you, and let me know how SMPA can help in your community or how you can help SMPA!

You can learn more about your SMPA Board of directors here and you can reach out to me directly at president@seattlemetropickleball.com

See you on the courts!

Frank Chiappone

President, Seattle Metro Pickleball Association