HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Take tennis and shrink the court size in half. Now swap the fuzzy ball and stringed racket for a plastic Wiffle ball and ping pong paddle and you've got pickleball.
People of all ages, shapes and sizes competed in the day-long tournament at the Sandra Moon Community Complex courts, with brackets naming champions at a variety of skill levels.
A2M organizer Raj Kosaraju said the collaboration between the Huntsville Sports Commission, Huntsville Pickleball Club and other groups made the event so successful.
“They were open to us coming in here and leasing the space here,” he said. “It's amazing. They were fully open to say, ‘Hey, just do the tournament and then we can look at how it works out. And we might do long term things.’ and they were really encouraging there, in that sense.”
Kosaraju said A2M was intentional about coming to towns like Huntsville, unlike other groups which look for big cities.
“Those don’t come to small towns like this, right? So we want to attract the crowds and people that are actually here having fun and they just want to compete and they don't have the facilities or means to go there to the big events,” he said. “And Huntsville is amazingly good. I mean, it's so freaking good here. I love it, I mean, it’s amazing.”
Kosaraju said that they’ve held other events in Birmingham and Albertville, but if he had his way, A2M would be back in Huntsville in the next six months.
Tournament results can be found here.
In the meantime, folks like Sue Marshall and the Huntsville Pickleball Club will run indoor and outdoor tournaments as well as offer free lessons. Marshall said events like the Space Open furthers their mission of growth as an organization and sport.
“We want people to be involved. We want to grow the sport,” she said. “It is the fastest growing sport of all the sports and so we want to be a part of that.”
The HPC’s next big event is their Labor Day Shootout in September at the Athletic Club Alabama in Huntsville. They’ll play four pickleball games for each one tennis court. The Shootout will raise money for Alabama High School Athletic Association officials and referees.
Marshall said that with nearly 500 members, the Huntsville Pickleball Club is quite active. Kosaraju added that the Space Open is likely to encourage membership in groups like HPC among novices who are getting their first exposure to the sport.