By Matthew Lewis, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Founded in 2016, the Delray Beach Pickleball Club is dedicated to ‘encouraging, organizing and promoting’ the sport of pickleball in Delray Beach. Even as the coronavirus crisis lingers, the club is planning their annual tournament, and also aiming to increase the number of public courts in the area.
Pickleball is similar to other racket sports, with two or four players using solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, with 26-40 round holes, over a net.
It is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., with more than 2.8 million players and a twelve percent increase in the past year, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Norm Dickman, Delray Beach Pickleball Club (DBPC) President shares the clubs progress locally, “In just over three years since the club started recruiting players, over 300 members have joined, making it one of the fastest growing, successful pickleball clubs in South Florida.”
With its partners, the City of Delray Beach Parks and Recreation Department, and the City of Delray Beach and Palm Beach County, the club has expanded to include free clinics for members, charitable fundraisers and organizing an annual tournament, the Gunther Delray Beach Pickleball Classic. Last year’s tournament was held with 507 players, from beginners to professionals.
Dickman explains, “In my opinion our biggest accomplishment to date has been the success of our club run annual pickleball tournament. The Gunther Delray Beach Pickleball Classic is an annual event, now in its fourth year.”
“Held at the Delray Beach Tennis Center on Delray’s famous Atlantic Avenue,” he explains, “the Classic attracts 500+ participants from the local area and beyond as well as family members, friends and spectators.”
Dickman explains the pickleball tournament is one of the largest in the south eastern United States. The four-day event features Men’s, Women’s, Mixed doubles and Pros organized by age and skill level as well as on-site merchandising including retail, food and corporate vendors.
Adding, “We are very proud to have Gunther Volvo/Volkswagen as our title sponsor, in part, as it represents their commitment to the local community.”
The club itself controls no facilities, but the Delray Beach Tennis Center is thought of as home base. In normal times they ran weekly round robins, teaching clinics for beginners and intermediate players, and referee clinics for members only. Those came to a halt with coronavirus.
Dickman shares that through the pandemic closures, the center itself, with the dedication of Jeff Bingo, General Manager of Racquet Sports, DBTC & DBST complied with all State guidelines for re-opening and it has gone “very smoothly”.
The club also supports charities, and during the closure the club donated to The Achievement Center of Delray Beach to assist with feeding families in need. Also the club sent a link to all members with information so they could make contributions on their own independently.
In terms of the future of the club, Dickman shares the goals of continuing and expanding their philanthropic activities. Also of course to resume and expand their round robins, free clinics for new and intermediate players and expand and improve upon their referee training.
“Most importantly,” he says, “continue to lead the local effort to have more public pickleball courts built in the area. The sport is growing rapidly and our local area is falling behind other areas of the state when it comes to providing public courts.”
Membership monies raised support the Delray Beach Pickleball Club’s operations as well as their mission to support local charities including Gift of Life, Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida, Achievement Centers for Children and Families, Habitat for Humanity to name a few.