The Alabama High School Pickleball State Championships took place in Clay, Alabama, near Birmingham, on May 13. The tournament saw the participation of 84 students from 11 high schools and middle schools, making it the largest field in the event’s history. The number of players had doubled compared to the previous year.
Pickleball For The Younger Generation
Pickleball’s growing popularity among the younger generation was evident in the tournament, reflecting the sport’s increasing appeal. Tournament director Shane Shelnutt attributed this popularity to factors such as parents and grandparents introducing their children to the sport, the construction of more pickleball courts in the area, and some schools incorporating it into their physical education curriculum. He also mentioned how the sport had grown rapidly, especially in the Birmingham metro area.
Students from various parts of Alabama, including Spanish Fort along the Gulf Coast, traveled long distances to compete in the tournament.
Hewitt-Trussville And Bragg Dominate
Hewitt-Trussville High School from Trussville, located near Clay, dominated the high school division, winning the boys’ and girls’ team state championships. Bragg Middle School from Gardendale was the other top school, emerging as the team champion in the middle school boys’ and girls’ divisions.
Hewitt-Trussville’s Nolan Armstrong and Ryan Stauffer were victorious in the high school boys’ state competition and Lacie Shelnutt and Riley Edwards won the girls’ doubles.
Youth pickleball is alive & well…look no further than the Alabama High School #Pickleball State Championships!— USA Pickleball (@USAPickleball) June 5, 2023
Pickleball players from all across the state took part in the tournament, with one team traveling more than 200 miles! 😱 #youthsports
More: https://t.co/jwgpH9nWfR pic.twitter.com/mhMh13iKBx
Bragg’s Josey Shackleford and Natalie Thornton lifted the middle school girls’ state championship, while Bret Sizemore and Cameron Roberts won the boys’ equivalent.
Open To All Teenagers
The Alabama High School Pickleball State Championships were open to all teenagers in the state, regardless of whether they were homeschooled or attended public or private institutions. The tournament did not require qualification; participants simply had to sign up through PickleballBrackets.com.
Since its inception, the tournament has grown substantially. Initially held in Trussville due to its six indoor courts that could stage matches during inclement weather, the event has expanded since it moved to Clay, which boasts a population of around 10,000. This year, the tournament had access to 18 pickleball courts throughout the city and received strong support from the local community.
“When you have that many courts, you can do a lot of pickleball,” Shelnutt said.
Pickleball Growth In Alabama
While this year’s tournament featured only doubles teams, there are discussions about including singles matches in the next edition. The growth of pickleball in Alabama, a state known for its passion for college football, has been remarkable. The USA Pickleball National Indoor Championships in this article were held in Hoover, Alabama, in 2021 and 2022, attracting nearly 1,000 players from across the country to the Birmingham area. We covered the 2022 championships in this article.
Pickleball’s popularity in the Birmingham area can be attributed to the construction of new courts, which allow children to play the sport year-round. Multiple courts have contributed to a thriving pickleball community, with numerous young players actively participating and enjoying the sport.
Shelnutt said: “We have six courts in one area. There’s 11 courts in another city. There are probably 50-60 kids every night when the weather is good that are just playing now. The young people in this area, at least, have really bought into it.”
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