Steamboat Classic bigger than ever, thankful for volunteers
When players enter the Steamboat Classic, they are given a hard plastic, colorful lanyard with the Steamboat Classic logo and tournament dates on the front. On the back is a map of the courts, two QR codes and social media information.
The lanyard is more than a nifty information center or keepsake for players. It’s a symbol of how legitimate Rocky Mountain Pickleball has become.
“I think we had trouble two years ago in that people didn’t really trust us. We were out-of-towners. Why can’t we host our own tournament, ‘Why do you need to come in and do it?,’” I think since then, we hope, we’ve proved ourselves. I think we have a lot more locals that have come in and said hey, this is a cool tournament. We’re hoping to make it THE tournament in the mountain area.”
The tournament is being run by Rocky Mountain Pickleball but the manpower behind every aspect is a happy herd of volunteers. Nearly 50 Steamboat Springs Pickleball Association members showed up to contribute their time and energy to the tournament.
“It’s always nice to give back,” said Steamboat Springs Pickleball Association member and volunteer Audrey Small. “So I’m giving back.”
Small was manning the desk where players pick up their scorecard when their assigned court is open. She hands them a basket with a 3×5 clipboard, their scorecard, two pickleballs and a pair of rubber bracelets.
They then proceed to the court where the gate monitor lets them in during a gap in play. Some players self-referee, but other games have a designated referee, who is another volunteer, but a very knowledgeable one.
Bryan Everhart is a friend of Don Siegel, the Director of Rocky Mountain Pickleball. He’s also participating in the tournament, but on Saturday morning, he was a referee. He stood next to the net against the fence and monitored a very competitive 4.5 mixed doubles match.
“I try not to mess up the players matches,” he said jokingly of his job. “I call the scores out, make sure they’re following all the rules. When there’s a non-refereed match, there’s times certain smaller rules like kitchen violations, it’s hard to watch. The referee, that’s one of their primary objectives is to make sure certain violations don’t happen.”
Three hundred players attended the tournament, including Gio Giovetti of Louisville, Colorado.
“I remember it was the middle of COVID winter and we saw we could register for this,” she said.
“All my friends and I were like, ‘We’re going! We’re going to Steamboat.’”
Giovetti was paired with Kevin Wesolowski of Colorado Springs for the mixed doubles bracket on Saturday. Both will play women’s and men’s doubles on Sunday as well. Despite not knowing each other ahead of Saturday morning, the pair worked well together in their first match.
“She’s a great player,” he said. “She knows the intricacies, the details of pickleball, so it helps. Sometimes you get linked up with someone and they don’t.”
When the game is done, Ian McPherson and Marcy Pummill enter the scores into the software system on their computers then work on sorting out the next round of games. McPherson is the Operations Director for Rocky Mountain Pickleball and Pummill is the Assistant Business Development Director and coach at Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center.
“We’re keeping the whole thing running,” Pummill said. “Nice and smooth. Technology is great.”
Siegel runs the technical stuff, running wires, setting up speakers and music and ethernet. Otherwise, McPherson and Pummill wouldn’t have the ability to do their jobs just feet from the pickleball courts.
“Honestly, if I was going to give a shout-out, I’d give a shout-out to the volunteers,” Pummill said. “They’re amazing. We could not have done this without the volunteers.”
The only downfall of the whole weekend was the weather. The heat capped out at 90 on day one and threatened to do so on Saturday as well. Thankfully, there were tents and tons of water and hydration breaks to keep players cool. The courts weren’t so lucky.
“It got so hot about 90 degrees in the air, on the courts it gets obviously hotter and they’re asphalt courts,” Siegel said. “We’re using two tennis courts that are taped for four pickleball courts. It got so hot, the tape was peeling off. A little breeze and all of a sudden half the court was gone.”
Thankfully, they acquired some rough surface tape and some chalk and were able to proceed with using the tennis courts. It’s something Siegel and Rocky Mountain Pickleball will remember going into the Rocky Mountain Championships in Denver.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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This summer, Yampa Valley Youth Baseball players have raised about $20,000 through the Field Well Project, part of Generation U, a nonprofit created by Steamboat Springs resident Joel Cobb.