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Statewide pickleball tournament at Catawba College in September expected to draw hundreds of visitors

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With more than 100 people already signed up and three months left to go, the North Carolina Pickleball Championships tournament is expected to bring hundreds of visitors to Salisbury and Catawba College.

Local pickleball player Jon Post, who contributed to a donation for six pickleball courts at City Park last year, is leading the tournament scheduled for Sept. 24-26. It will be held at the Johnson Tennis Center on Catawba College’s campus.

September’s event won’t be Post’s first time hosting a tournament, but it will be a first for Salisbury. He’s expecting at least 325 players for the tournament; the venue can host up to 425 players across six tennis courts, which converts to 18 pickleball courts. He credits his wife, Livvy, with helping organize and coordinate the tournament as well.

The tournament will include $6,000 in prize money for open events based on 20 teams in each event. All ages are welcome, but some singles and doubles events are limited to men, women, older players or those within the 3-4.5 skill range. In pickleball, skillset levels range from No. 1 to No. 5.5.

Players are charged a registration fee of $45, plus $10 per event and $35 per open money events. To register, interested players can visit pickleballtournaments.com, or email Post at jon@jonpost.com.

Post said he attended the North Carolina Open Pickleball Championships in Winston-Salem in 2019 to watch his son play. Because of his past experience hosting tournaments, Post was eventually called on to assist with the tournament before the organizers requested he take over for 2020. Plans were in place for the tournament to be held at Wake Forest University, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.

With the help of Catawba College, Post was able to bring the state tournament here for 2021. He coordinated with Catawba College Interim Athletic Director Craig Turnbull to use the school’s six tennis courts for the weekend events.

For the school, the tournament is another recruiting opportunity because of the hundreds of players and families set to visit the campus and its facilities. Turnbull said the tournament allows the school to “show off the campus a little bit.”

“Moving forward, we want to get more people exposed to the school’s facilities,” he said. “So anything we can do to have people on our campus and assist us in telling our story on what we could do for a young 18- to 22-year-old.”

Turnbull is familiar with the sport because his father-in-law was an active player locally before moving out of the area. There’s been talk of introducing the sport to the school on an intramural level, and soon it could be a club sport offering, he said. Multiple campuses in the University of North Carolina system currently offer it as a club sport.

To become an official sport, it would first need to be recognized as such by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA. Some players are hopeful because the sport is currently reported to be the fastest growing in the nation, with a steady group of at least 3 million players across America.

Turnbull said he’s looking forward to collaborating with Post, who he credited as “someone with a proven track record of putting on successful tournaments.” The school is open to hosting future tournaments as well, he added.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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