Serving It Up: Niskayuna resident Laura Couch adds pickleball to repertoire

Laura Couch (Photo provided)

Laura Couch (Photo provided)

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SERVING IT UP – Laura Couch plays both golf and volleyball at a pretty high level, so why not add a third sport to her repertoire?

For Couch, a Niskayuna resident and Latham native, the question of whether or not to participate in the inaugural Martin Luther King Weekend Pickleball Classic at Albany Capital Center was a no-brainer. Of course, she would give it a try.

“My sister dragged me to play pickleball almost two years ago, and I became addicted,” said Couch. “I’m pretty competitive, so I thought playing in a tournament would be fun, and it was. We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Couch and her sister, Shirley LaPlante of Mechanicville, finished in fourth place in the women’s doubles competition, just coming up short of taking a bronze medal. Couch, however, is 62 and her sister is 66, and they were playing in the 14-49 age division.

“There were seven teams in the younger age division, so we just thought we’d do that because we liked the format,” said Couch. “You played every team, and we were one of the top four teams to come out of that round-robin competition. The older division had a lot of teams, and it just looked like there would be a lot of waiting around.”

Couch’s focus returns to golf this weekend when she competes in the Women’s 2023 PGA National Club Championship at Sea Island in Georgia. She earned that trip by winning the women’s championship at Mohawk Golf Club just last summer, and she also has a Gazette Women’s Golf Championship to her credit. As for her volleyball resume, she plays twice a week at Colonie High School, and has also competed in the Empire State Games and the Senior Women’s World Championships in Utah.

She hopes to continue to play golf and volleyball at a high level, and to keep on improving her pickleball game.

“The tournament was fabulous, and everything about it, the competition, the venue, even the parking was great,” she said. “Pickleball is a great sport, and if I’m not working, I’m heading out to Impact in Clifton Park to play.”


By just about any yardstick you might use, the inaugural MLK Weekend Classic was a sweeping success. In fact, it was so good, tournament organizer Scott Green may add a new wrinkle to the event in 2024.

“We had people showing up just to watch throughout the weekend, so next year, we might even sell admission tickets,” said Green, whose group, Around the Post Pickleball, Inc., is based in Hampton Bays on Long Island and runs a series of tournaments along the East Coast. “Everything went like clockwork. There were no problems, the players were great and the venue was fantastic. We may even lengthen it next year, or maybe use a satellite spot as a spillover location. But we were thrilled, and we felt like everyone who showed up had a great time.”

Nearly 200 players took part in the event, and while many of them were from the Capital Region, the tournament did attract players from Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. As many as six courts were utilized at the same time.

Green said the event benefited from a strong local contingent of volunteers, led by Cathleen Crowley Denbeaux.

“Cathleen did a wonderful job with the volunteers, and that’s one of the reasons why we will definitely be back next year,” said Green. “We may change it to Saturday, Sunday and Monday, using the holiday as another play day, but the response was so great we can’t wait to come back. We’re going to use this event as a major jumping off point to run some more big tournaments in Long Island. This event will help us increase our number of sponsors.”

As for Crowley Denbeaux, she’ll be using the event to bring more people into the sport.

“Sometimes open play can be a bit intimidating to new players,” said Crowley Denbeaux, whose group, Pickleball518, will hold a series of sessions called the “Novice Club.” “We want to help introduce people to pickleball and connect them to other new players and show them how to play and where.”

For more information, visit the Pickleball518 page on Facebook.


Pickleball may be taking the country by storm, but tennis isn’t going anywhere. It’s alive and well at Sportime/Schenectady on Curry Road Extension.

If you’re looking for some kind of organized play, there is a co-ed doubles group forming at the club on Friday nights from 6-8 p.m. Competition will begin this Friday, and the cost is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Pizza and beverages are included in the price.

A 3.5 singles and mixed doubles league for teams will also be forming later this month on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. The league will kick off on Feb. 19.

For more information, contact Peter Green at the club.

Categories: Sports, Sports, Your Niskayuna

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