Nearly 200 players set for weekend-long pickleball tournament at Albany Capital Center

Scott Green

Scott Green

In his seven years as an avid pickleball player, Scott Green has yet to see anything resembling a heated discussion over a line call.

“In the thousands of games I’ve watched, I haven’t seen any arguments about anything, anyone throwing a paddle, nothing like that,” said Green, a Long Island native and lifelong tennis player who is organizing the Albany Capital Center Classic Pickleball Tournament Friday through Sunday. “I’m probably the only guy I know who might have rolled his eyes and got mad over a line call. It just doesn’t happen like it does in tennis, and it’s not going to start this weekend. We just say, ‘hey, it’s pickleball,’ and we get over it. That’s why this sport has become so popular.”

Now in his mid 60s, Green got so enthusiastic about pickleball that he started up his own company, Around the Post Pickleball, out of his hometown of Hampton Bays to host tournaments. While he has held several events in Long Island, this is his first venture into upstate New York and it looks like a good idea. He has attracted over 185 players to this weekend’s event, and play will be held in two different age divisions (14-49 and 50 and over) and two skill levels (intermediate and advanced). The singles and women’s doubles competition will be held Friday, mixed doubles on Saturday and women’s doubles on Sunday.

Green said about 60% of the field will be in the older division.

“You can go crazy and have 10 different age divisions, but we only have six courts to use and we just don’t think having that many divisions is necessary,” said Green. “There will be plenty of good competition, but we don’t want people to take it too seriously. We want people to have fun and that’s why this sport has become so popular. It’s a lot of fun, and the atmosphere will be fabulous.”

Juliana Chromik and Frank Pioggia, both Halfmoon residents, didn’t have to think twice about signing up for the intermediate mixed doubles division.

“I was actually in the YMCA tournament this past November and I tore my calf muscle playing so I was out for about a month,” said Chromik, 30, a teacher’s assistant in the Watervliet City School District. “So, I am excited to get back into a tournament again. Pickleball is just a great way to meet new people who you might not have gotten to know before.”

Chromik and her husband, Paul, have competed in the U.S. Open down in Florida two years ago in the intermediate division, and before hurting herself in November the couple won the gold medal in the Malta/YMCA Pickleball Tournament.

She’s not setting her sights too high for this weekend’s event.

“It would be nice to win a game or two and not get shut out,” Chromik said. “Our main goal is to have fun.”

Pioggia is happy to have a tournament event inside the Capital Region.

“I’ve been playing tournaments for about three years, and I would say I know about half the people we’ll be playing against,” he said. “It’s great to have an event in our own backyard. Usually we’re traveling to Connecticut or playing the senior games in Cortland. To get the opportunity to compete around here is great.”

Green said the response to his event in Albany has been even better than he had hoped for.

“When we held our first tournament down in the Hamptons, with very little social media, the response was ridiculous,” said Green. “We had people coming in from New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. I had no real ties, but I kept on seeing these Facebook posts related to pickleball and I thought to myself, ‘maybe there’s a hotbed of pickleball activity up there?’ Well, with the help of some fabulous people up in Albany the response has been great. We got great help from Discover Albany and found a number of other sponsors. The people in the Capital Region seemed to have embraced this event.”

Before hosting this event, Green and his group held a clinic in the Albany area late last year.

“We came up there and held a two-day clinic, and that was sort of our dress rehearsal for this event,” he said. “We had the bleachers set up with three courts on each side, people can get a good look at the matches, so we’re very excited. It should be a great atmosphere throughout the weekend.”

Green was a tennis pro for years in Long Island before creating his own special events company, Play at the Plate.

“We’ve done a lot of special father-and-son events at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, and we also did an event at the ‘Field of Dreams’ park,” he said. “We put on men’s adult tournaments at Major League parks, spring training facilities and Triple-A stadiums across America.”

His success in that endeavor made it easy to do something similar with pickleball.

“When I started playing seven years ago, after that first summer I could tell that something was happening in this sport,” he said. “It’s a great niche game, and now there are 10 to 12 places on Long Island where you can play indoors. And things like that are now happening up in Albany.”

Unlike sanctioned tennis tournaments, there will be no seeding for the different events this weekend. Green said the sport is so young there isn’t enough result data to determine proper seeding.

“We just don’t know enough about all the competitors,” he said. “But that’s not a bad thing. The primary goal is for players to show up and have fun.”

Along with Discover Albany, the tournament is being sponsored by the Albany Convention Center, the True Pickleball Club and Sportime Schenectady. Admission is free.

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