Pickleball tournament raises funds and awareness for mental health efforts

Event Coordinator Michele Todd Davis, left, practices playing a game with tournament director Albert Noda.

Pickleball tournament raises funds and awareness for mental health efforts
January 05
04:50 2017

Photo by Timothy Ramsey



On Saturday, Jan. 7, the Gateway YWCA at 1300 S. Main St. will hold a pickleball tournament to raise funds for the Mental Health Peer Support Center.

The sport of pickleball is not as popular as other sports – yet. It started in the Seattle, Washington, area in the 1970s.  It is currently one of the fastest growing sports not only in North Carolina but in America.  The game is similar in style to ping-pong and tennis.

The pickleball program started at the Gateway YWCA several years ago has expanded to providing play five days a week with as many as 50 players participating at a given time.  Although mostly-popular with seniors age 50 and older, there are more younger people participating.

The Mental Health Peer Support Center is a place for people who are living and coping with a mental health struggle to be together with other like-minded individuals.  Event coordinator Michele Todd Davis says because of her work with Green Tree mental health facilities along with personal experiences, this cause became a passion for her.

“I wanted to find out how to go about reaching the community to address the fact that it does exist because I think a lot of people deal with it but don’t deal with it,” said Todd Davis.  “They have experiences with it but don’t know what they are going through.”

She says her working with Laurie Coker, who is the head of peer support for Green Tree, led to the birth of the tournament to help fund their facility.  Her introduction to pickleball came as she went to attend a bootcamp style workout.  Because the bootcamp was not there, she spotted people playing pickleball and wanted to find out more about the game.  She said as soon as she put the paddle in her hand, the game became an “addiction” for her.

When asked what she wants people to get from their experience during the tournament, Todd Davis said, “Awareness, awareness to mental health is the baby of it all and how pickleball is an up and coming sport.”

Doors for the tournament will open at 7:30 a.m. for registration and warm-ups.  There will be separate tournaments for men and women’s doubles along with mixed doubles.

Tournament director Albert Noda says he picked up the game because he was an avid tennis player.  He says because he was becoming older and could not see the tennis ball because of the speed of the ball, pickleball offered him an alternative that allowed him to stay competitive regardless of age.

Noda and Todd Davis said pickleball will soon be introduced to the middle schools throughout the state of North Carolina.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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