HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — Some of the top pickleball players in the nation are in Hoover competing for championships.
The USA Pickleball National Indoor Championships started Tuesday morning at the Finley Center. Players ages 19 and up will compete through Sunday, including senior competitions Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s the first time the Finley Center has hosted the event, and Hoover Met Complex general manager E.J. Brophy says the facility is a big reason Hoover was chosen as the site.
“You know the old saying is: if you build it they will come,” Brophy said. “A lot of people don’t believe that on the front end because things are expensive, but it works.”
If you’re not familiar with pickleball, it’s similar to tennis, but players use paddles and a wiffleball. It’s also played on a smaller court, which makes it accessible to more people as it doesn’t require players to run long distances.
“If I’m trying to play tennis, that’s very taxing on me,” Brophy said. “But if I’m playing pickleball, it’s not as far to run, even though you are running hard.”
The Finley Center offers pickleball as a recreational sport, and Brophy said about two dozen or so people play there regularly.
This week, however, advanced players are showing off their skills.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S.
That welcoming, friendly yet competitive atmosphere is why many like Audrey Phillips, who came here from San Diego, CA, took on the sport.
“What we see differently from competitive or even social tennis is the ability to laugh and make so many friends,” Phillips explained.
But that doesn’t take away from the competitiveness of the game…
Wexler: “What are your thoughts going into these games?
Phillips: Win…. that’s really my thought.”
USA Pickleball CEO Stu Upson explained that the winners of the National Indoor Championship in Hoover move onto the National Outdoor Championship in Indian Wells scheduled in December.
“It’s prestigious, but like all of our tournaments they’re competitive. But it’s also people coming out to have a great time, traveling to a new city, playing in a new venue. It’s all part of the experience,” Upson said.