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Tampa Bay Pickleball resumes league play, schedules high school tourneys

Having recently hosted the Snowball Slam solely for high school players, Tampa Bay Pickleball has scheduled three more tournaments for that level. The indoor facility at the Oldsmar Flea Market already has resumed its 10 leagues.


Eric Klaus, who co-owns the business with sons Kennedy and Ben, noted how more high school players are picking up the sport. Ben, a senior at Alonso High, is among that group.

Following the Snowball Slam with a turnout of more than 40 teens, Klaus said high school play “will either be a series of tournaments or leagues.”


Tampa Bay Pickleball has scheduled three upcoming high school tournaments. Here, high school students play pickleball together.
Tampa Bay Pickleball has scheduled three upcoming high school tournaments.

For now, tourneys are scheduled for Feb. 1 as well as March 1 and 20, with the possibility of league play sometime in the near future. The ultimate goal, Klaus emphasized, is for pickleball to become a sanctioned high school sport.


As for leagues, Tampa Bay Pickleball, which opened last spring, initially had two leagues. That number has swelled to 10, all of which got underway earlier this month.


“There’s a demand and a desire to play competitive pickleball at all levels,” said Klaus, adding, “There are people who love the social aspect.”


Betsey Herd and Melanie Dunn teamed up to win the Ladies Lunch Low Intermediate division. Here, they pose for a photo together.
Betsey Herd and Melanie Dunn teamed up to win the Ladies Lunch Low Intermediate division.

Whether it is beginners improving their skills significantly or accomplished players taking their games to the next level, league play, round-robin formats that call for changing partners and clinics provide several alternatives.


“I just like playing there,” said Melanie Dunn, who has played pickleball for a year and has competed in four leagues at the Oldsmar facility. “It’s fun playing with a set partner.”


Four high school players touch paddles after a match while two more get ready to play on an adjacent court.
Four high school players touch paddles after a match while two more get ready to play on an adjacent court.

Dunn and Betsey Herd teamed up this past season to win a title in the ladies lunch low intermediate division. Both have a background in softball and racquetball.


“I was a true beginner,” Herd said, mentioning that she started off by taking a pickleball 101 course.


Laisa Drake, who also plays in a meet-up group at Hillsborough Community College, noted how far she has come since taking up the sport last May.


Tony Carrasco and Bob Damon were the top players in Saturday’s Beginner’s League. Here, they pose for a photo together at the Tampa Bay Pickleball facility.
Tony Carrasco and Bob Damon were the top players in Saturday’s Beginner’s League.

“It was horrible,” she said of her initial foray into pickleball, crediting her improvement to “a bunch of things. It’s not just the leagues. It’s the clinics, the drills.”


Like many pickleball players, Herd noted the relevance of the social aspect.


“This is not only great exercise but the people I’ve met have been wonderful,” she said, adding that she likes playing with different partners in the round-robin format.


As for newcomers, Dunn offered some sage advice: “Find a partner that you like and that you want to go out and have fun with.”


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee and courtesy of Melanie Dunn and Tampa Bay Pickleball

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