Maryland Senior Olympics

Maryland Senior Olympics

Our Biggest, Our Best: MSO Pickleball Tourney Is a Smash

June 4, 2024—What a wild ride! MSO’s four-day pickleball tournament, held May 16-19 at Dill Dinkers in Columbia and Finksburg, hosted 389 singles and 1,009 doubles matches over 82 events. The final number of players to step on the courts was 693. Professional, organized and prompt, matches were played on time and moved along swiftly with minimum fuss.

The success of our tournament, a qualifier for the 2025 National Senior Games and by far the largest event in our 44 years, was primarily due to the exceptional efforts of our tournament group, led by Ken Billingsley, Scott Keenum, Dee Berkholtz, and Lisa Babcock. Jody Bonn’s proficient oversight of volunteers at Columbia was also instrumental.

As we know from our harried pickleball experiences in the past, this feat is no small accomplishment for a tournament of this scale. “The player experience was the priority,” MSO Director Stacy Sigler said, “and this was evident in the improvements we made.”

In our first year at Dill Dinkers, we welcomed indoor restrooms, announcements over a clear and concise public address system, a stable wi-fi network, and support from their staff and owners, Will and Denise Richards, who mingled with players at both sites.

The reliable wi-fi kept players updated on their playing times and courts. At Columbia, we streamed match information from on large displays. At Finksburg, we forgot to turn on the monitors. Really.

“Best run tournament ever!” a player emailed. “No delays! Great communication! Thank you for your hard work!!”

“Preparing logistically for a tournament of this size split between two locations took a lot of planning and organization, and we had the perfect team to pull it off,” Stacy said. “It was great to be in a facility dedicated to pickleball. The Dill Dinkers staff was super.”

More than 80 volunteers stepped up and worked over 520 hours. Several enjoyed helping for multiple days, and many traveled at least an hour to reach their locations. We had volunteers from as far away as Waldorf and Western Maryland, and several players stayed after their matches to help however they could.

“It was actually pretty fun being a court monitor,” one volunteer said. “And it seemed very well run, everyone knew where to go and what to do. I certainly will volunteer again next year.”

We were fortunate to have many terrific people contributing to our success, including Montgomery County Recreation, which provided top-notch logistics and staff going to neighboring Howard and Carroll counties. When your biggest issue is whether you have enough power in your electric cargo vehicle to get home (they didn’t), you have done a great job.

We were also pleased with the reception of our new all-black t-shirts, which each participant receives for playing in MSO events.

“Proudly wearing my shirt here at Wheaton Rec Center. Hearing the same thing from folks who played in the tournaments!” a player emailed us.

But most of all, the athletes had a great time. We appreciate their participation.

“The tournament was such a wonderful experience in large part because of you and your staff and volunteers,” one player emailed. “I have been in other tournaments and this tournament is in a different league.

“Games were run on time. Staff and volunteers were friendly, competent, and so helpful. Good sportsmanship and senior solidarity were the vibe of the day. Such a positive and delightful experience.”