The English OPEN was blessed with alchemy!

‘Alchemy – a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination.’

Alchemy played its part in making the inaugural English OPEN a fantastic success.  12 months of detailed planning by 2 Tournament Directors, a dedicated Tournament Committee, bespoke software, a group of wonderful volunteers, an amazing venue, a fabulous hotel within walking distance, a dance inducing disco playlist and 305 happy picklers were the major components that combined and transformed into a seemingly magical weekend in Nottingham, England from 23-25th August.  The feedback we received after the tournament exceeded our wildest dreams.

So what was so special about this tournament?

The Venue – The David Ross Sports Village – brilliant venue with 24 courts (just 20 were used this year), changing rooms and toilets, physio room, players’ lounge, space for welcome desk and pickleball shop, water fountains, Starbucks Café and 190 seat viewing balcony with views of all courts within the beautiful Nottingham University Campus.  

Just across the road was the Orchard DeVere Hotel which provided a special rate to pickleball players which meant there were a good number of players staying there and always someone in the foyer or at the bar that you would recognise.  The hotel also has a conference centre next door which was the venue for the post tournament dinner and party.  

The Software – Pickleball England Tournament Software – PETS – was launched at the tournament.  The software enabled the team to provide a personalised schedule of games to be played in the round robin section of each day.  The schedule was printed and inserted into player goody bags and was also available online for access anytime (along with results of all games played and group standings and visual representation of the knockout stages).  

In the foyer of the venue and in the players’ lounge, there was a big screen with a list of the games being played on each court and a list of upcoming games, so that players could see who was playing where.  When it came to the knockout section these screens also notified players where they will be playing next.  We managed to get through 1044 games over the 3 days of the tournament, maximising usage of the courts. QR codes on the scoresheets meant that the court monitors would scan the QR code, the match details would come up and they entered the result, got the player to validate the result was entered correctly and submit the result so that the software was updated real time.  Matches finished and scores were on the software immediately, which then meant the scrolling screens were updated. There was no delay between the end of round robin and the start of knockouts as all the games had been set up ahead of time and the software populated the player information immediately after the games were completed.

The Team – Sam Basford and I originally agreed to collaborate to put on the tournament and worked on the detailed planning for around 6 months before we were joined by my husband Chris and Frank Arico (the other pickleballEngland founding Director).  Chris helped shape the requirements for the software and Frank did an amazing job developing the software.  Chris, Sam and Frank tested the software and when satisfied all was working well, set up all the events and fixtures for the tournament.  A few days before the tournament, the core team was swelled by a core group of volunteers that included Sam’s mum, brothers and sister; our Pickleball in Eastbourne friends Steve and Shirley; Frank’s wife Jackie and 6 work experience students from Nottingham University that had been engaged a few months earlier.  Then during the weekend, an army of other volunteers helped everything run smoothly.  These volunteers were so helpful, so welcoming and reflecting the same spirit as the core team.

Cameras everywhere – The Championship Court was set up on court 10 with bleacher seating and a live feed to Facebook all day long.  Players took turns to provide commentary.  There were also several other cameras filming activities over the weekend from several media outlets, adding to the excitement of the event.

Sponsorship – The team secured sponsorship from WPF and the UK Pickleball Shop as well as donation of equipment from Paddletek, Engage, Gear Box, TMPR and Hudef.  Orange goody bags were provided by Pickleball Central, and filled with a souvenir t-shirt, snacks from the Happy Snack company and PhD, WPF caps, Official Programme and personalised players badge and match schedule. 

Seymour Rifkind, President of WPF also attended the tournament as a player and sponsor and he helped so much over the weekend. He conducted player clinics  (as did Steve Paranto and Jonathan Moore); commentated on a lot of the live streamed matches, hosted a drinks reception for players and presented all the medals over the 3 days (assisted by Lucy, the youngest of the incredible Basford family).  Thank you Rif!

There was a Players Lounge with a phone charging station, free fruit, raffle prizes on display, some stress busting games as well as tables and chairs.  The Lounge might not have been used as much as expected because the weather during the tournament was gorgeous, so players took advantage of the seating outside to enjoy a little sunshine.  The ice-cream van that turned up was also a popular feature!

The After Tournament Dinner and Party – There was a pre-dinner welcome drink in the atrium before we were ushered into the dining room for a 2 course buffet.  The food was very good.  I then got up on stage and after a lovely glass of prosecco, I was slightly tipsy (I am a very cheap date – ask Chris!) and gave a speech that was more a stream of consciousness than formal speech.  I was enormously proud to present the travelling Finnish paddle to Sam Basford, co-tournament director, pickleballEngland’s West Midlands director and the eldest of 3 siblings all playing excellent pickleball.  Sam was chosen by Cyril Dirand of France because Sam is the future of pickleball. Great music was provided by Sam’s cousin and men’s doubles partner Peter Hitchman – his playlist kept everyone on the dance floor until the end of the evening.  One of my fondest memories will be the Proclaimers 500 miles with a packed dancefloor.  The evening was attended by over 110 happy picklers who made the party one to remember and a fabulous way to wrap up the weekend.  Thank you everyone for being part of the magic!

The English OPEN was pickleballEngland’s first International tournament and the event was staged to raise funds for pickleballEngland.   We haven’t finalised all the numbers but we have definitely made a profit of around £4000.  £1640 of that was from the raffle – thank you everyone for buying tickets! 

Next year, the same team will host the Bainbridge Cup and the 2020 English OPEN from 2nd-5th July at the same venue – you won’t want to miss it!

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