Every facility owner deals with utilizing court space during non-peak times. One way is to bring in alternative sports that do not conflict with the club volleyball season. As the manager of the Orlando Sports Center it is a challenge we face year-round. The OSC is a 92,000 square foot facility located in the heart of Orlando. When OTVA volleyball is not utilizing the courts, we seek out alternative sports and events to fill the space.

Our recent efforts focus on the sport of Pickleball, which is becoming widely popular around the country. We started working with AAU in their efforts to bring the sport of pickleball to the youth market and not just the senior market.

What is that you say? Pickleball?

Pickleball is described as a combination of Badminton, Tennis and a full-size version of Ping-Pong. The court is Badminton size (20’x44″), smaller than a tennis court. Competitive paddles used in pickleball are constructed from a high-tech composite. An official pickleball (looks like a wiffle ball) is made of plastic and is approximately 3 inches in diameter.

Here are a few reasons the sport is becoming so popular:

Fast-paced and fun
The sport of pickleball has grown to 2.5 million players in the U.S. Players range in age from 6 – 80+, with skill levels ranging from Novice to Pro. This game is for everyone and can be played as singles and/or doubles. Games are scored to 11-points, a team must win 2 out of 3 to win the match. More and more youth players are getting hooked on pickleball because of the fast-paced fun.

Easy, convenient set-up
Gyms, tennis courts and most hard open spaces can easily be converted into regulation pickleball courts with removable tape and portable nets. That is what makes this ideal for sport venues, a court can be set-up and torn down in 15 minutes or less. Since starting pickleball at the OSC we have filled open court time with clinics, demos, open play, tournaments and most recently the National indoor championships. Day time open space can potentially be filled with the Senior athletes or lessons. We have also created cross-over events where we had our mini-club volleyball participants join us for an afternoon of pickleball play.

Variety of Levels and Opportunities
There is limitless potential to fill those open hours from teambuilding events, tournaments, leagues, fundraisers, school events, ref clinics, summer camps, club teams and more. This is an ideal youth sport because most players can pick up the sport within a half hour of playing while leaving plenty of room for growth to master the sport. They control the level they want to play at and just have fun.

Next steps
Contact Yvonne Devlin, AAU Pickleball Chairman at 407-466-9239 if you are interested in starting a pickleball league at your facility. You can purchase insurane for your pickbleball program through AAU. While competition is inherently fun, there is an inherent risk involved in any athletic endeavor either as an athlete, coach, spectator, parent or event operator. In today’s litigious society, even small mishaps can result in lawsuits. That’s why general liability insurance is essential. General Liability coverage is provided for properly registered athletes, non-athletes (i.e. coaches), people affiliated with the AAU through its members and clubs covering claims due to damage or injury caused by negligence or acts of omission during performance of duties or conducting business (i.e. running an event or hosting a practice). A one-year athlete membership is $16 for adults and $14 for juniors.

About the Author

Yvonne Devlin graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1979 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. While there, she participated in three volleyball National Championships, and two softball National Tournaments. Yvonne was voted MVP and nominated to the Metro Hall of Fame for outstanding contribution to athletic competition. She played USABA volleyball for six years, and has officiated NAGWS, NCAA, and USVBA volleyball for 25 years.

In 1996, she founded JVA member club Orlando Volleyball Academy (now OTVA) and has served as Tournament Director for the National Amateur Athletic Union and the Sunshine State Games. In 1999, Yvonne was the tournament director for the National Senior games held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports for both volleyball and badminton. Her work over the past several years hosting girls’ junior tournaments earned her the Best Tournament Host Award for the Florida Region in 2007.

Yvonne has been very active in building youth and adult volleyball in Florida. She served as the commissioner for USA Volleyball Florida Region from 2001-2005 and the Junior Region Coordinator for girls volleyball from 2005-2008. Yvonne also led her 13 Asics team to two National Championships (AAU and USAV) in 2011.