Utah Tech University in St. George has announced it will provide four scholarship opportunities for competitive pickleball players to compete nationwide.
A Broader Audience
Utah Tech University is demonstrating that pickleball caters to a broader audience than just casual players. The institution now offers scholarships to support competitive collegiate pickleball enthusiasts.
These scholarships, provided by UCP Holdings, a local company, cover six credit hours for students who exhibit leadership within the Pickleball Club or compete for the university. The inaugural recipients of this scholarship are Kylar Lemmon, Averee Beck, Dylan Ciampini, and Logan Rosenbach.
Utah Tech University Pickleball Club President and junior engineering major from Las Vegas Hunter Aiono expressed, “It means a lot to be a part of an organization and community that not only has the best collegiate pickleball talent in the nation but also comes together to invest their resources back into our students.
“It’s the literal embodiment of being a Trailblazer — setting this precedent and moving into territory that has never been touched by any other school.”
This development aligns with the surging popularity of pickleball in Utah, particularly in the state’s southwest region.
St. George has led the way in responding to the demand, approving a $2 million expansion of the Little Valley pickleball complex last year. While it is estimated that over 75% of players are 55 and older, college students are also joining the ranks.
Aiono added, “Pickleball is absolutely blowing up and shows no sign of stopping,” especially within the collegiate scene.
Utah Tech competes in DUPR Collegiate Pickleball, the sole collegiate-level pickleball league. Last season, the team secured a second-place finish nationally and has already earned qualification for the DUPR Collegiate National Championship in November.
Six Refurbished Pickleball Courts
For those not engaged in competitive play, Utah Tech has also recently refurbished six pickleball courts in the Human Performance Center to accommodate their Pickleball Club. This club attracts over 80 students to their weekly club nights.
It offers students the chance to take part in matches from beginner to advanced levels. The club convenes Monday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Vernon Worthen Park.
Aiono, “Pickleball is growing super big right now, especially in St. George. We are pretty lucky because we have the infrastructure for it, and we are able to field all the growth.”
In addition to the weekly social gatherings, two pay-in tournaments are held each semester, along with service opportunities.
Every Monday night, students have the chance to socialize while enjoying music, food, and more, with pickleball paddles and balls provided.
Brandon Chelsey, a senior majoring in cyber security from St. George, mentioned, “We usually have more people than courts, so we take the four on four off approach through a ‘paddle queue system.’”
Competitive Pickleball Team
Apart from the pickleball club, the university has a competitive pickleball team, an invitation-only entity that competes against other collegiate teams.
This team collaborates with the club, allowing students to compete against opponents outside Utah Tech.
The competitive pickleball team is set to face off against universities such as Utah State University and Brigham Young University, culminating in a national tournament for the inaugural collegiate championship later this year.
Chelsey told Sun News Daily, “The club has added a sports team that will be covering travel expenses to play in tournaments and represent Utah Tech.”
Highest Number Of Recurring Members
Although the pickleball club is the second largest on campus, it organizes the largest events and boasts the most recurring members at these gatherings.
Chelsey, reflecting on his experience, mentioned that while he has helped initiate clubs before, the pickleball club has been one of the easier ones to manage due to the consistent participation of its members.
Makenna Loveless, a sophomore majoring in dental hygiene from St. George, expressed her enjoyment of meeting people from various backgrounds and appreciated the inclusive atmosphere of the club. Chelsey echoed this sentiment: “We as a leadership circle try to mix and mingle with everyone and try to create a very safe and fun environment.”
Everyone Feels Welcome
The club is committed to ensuring everyone feels welcome, regardless of their prior pickleball experience.
It is customary for players of varying skill levels to team up and play together, and as Chelsey points out, “There’s a reason we won club of the year last year.”
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