In a previous column entitled “Tournament Tough,” I discussed the subject of preparing for and competing in a tournament. With the 2019 Minto US Open Pickleball Championships taking place this coming week at East Naples Community Park, in this article, I am going to discuss how to attend a tournament as a spectator and get the most out of your time and have the best experience possible.
Just like being a competitor in a tournament, attending a major sporting event as a spectator requires some pre game strategical planning.
The first thing we need to deal with is getting ourselves to the event site. Onsite parking will be available, but spaces fill up early. Once those lots are full, nearby off-site parking with a shuttle service is available and there is a daily parking fee of $5. Another option is to take an Uber or Lyft and be dropped off right at the front entry gate to the tournament.
Once you are at the event site, you will find covered viewing areas next to all the courts, with temporary grandstand seating to allow you to have a front row seat for the competition taking place on the outlying courts. Access to all of the outlying courts is free, but matches held on the Zing Zang Championship Court will require a ticket.
With that said, there will be championship level matches being played on the outer courts and while it’s great to watch the pros compete, as a coach, I like to watch several different matches on all levels of play. Just like watching the qualification rounds at a professional tennis tournament, some of the most challenging and exciting competition is found in the lower ranks.
Besides all of the great competition going on, there are two giant tents which house all of the vendors. This area provides access to a variety of offerings and information from manufacturers. This is a great opportunity to educate yourself on all types of product, such as paddles, balls, clothing, shoes, etc., but remember most of the people you will be dealing with are sales reps for the companies and will be trying to convince you as to why their individual piece of equipment is far superior to everything else on the market, so buyer beware!
I personally prefer to do business with local companies, so I recommend you visit my good friend Roddy Cantu of ProAm Tennis and Pickleball. ProAm is a family run local Naples business and provides a full line of tennis/pickleball equipment, apparel, shoes and accessories at their store, which is located at 13000 Tamiami Trail North, as well as on their website at shop.proamtennis.com. This year, Roddy will be at the Maui Jim sunglasses booth, so stop by and say Coach Wayne sent you.
And let’s not forget that part of the experience of attending a major sporting event is like a night out on the town! There is daily live music at the Landshark Beer Garden, and for your dining pleasures, there is a variety of burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads which will be provided by Delicious By Design of St. Matthew’s House, and all proceeds from food sales will go to support St. Matthew’s House.
Here is a quick list of helpful suggestions for spending a day at a tournament as a spectator.
Coach Wayne’s Tournament Check List
- You will be doing a lot of walking around so wear a comfortable pair of shoes.
- Take a refillable drink container so you don’t have to keep buying bottles of water and make sure you stay well hydrated.
- Wear sunscreen.
- I also recommend a good hat or visor.
- Take a small backpack with some snacks but take advantage of the great food offerings for your main meal.
- Plan on going on a mini shopping spree, there will be plenty of pickleball merchandise available at the vendors’ tents.
My final thought and suggestion: If you found you had so much fun attending the tournament that you wish you could be there every day, this year, daily coverage of the matches will be available at pickleballchanel.com. I would also recommend you consider volunteering and being a part of the great team that makes the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships the spectacular sporting event experience which it is.