In its third year, the NOT’Lanta Open pickleball tournament is maxed out.
“Our first year was 2020 because the Atlanta Open was cancelled,” said organizer Anne Rheins.
The pandemic shut down the event. Local pickleball players still wanted to play and compete, so local competitors started their own.
Last year, there were 176 players and this year’s tournament which began May 13 and runs through May 15 has 188 registered players — all that the courts at Montclair will hold. Many of the players are local but it also drew players from Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.
Matches have been held according to age and rank, but age is fluid. It only has to apply for one member of a doubles match, she said. In the 16-39 year-old category Saturday a few people paired with younger players to qualify.
One thing about pickleball, according to Rheins is that people of all ages play and enjoy it. During the weekend’s tournament, grandparents paired with grandchildren, uncles formed teams with nieces, and married couples played together.
Pickleball has been gaining in popularity during the pandemic as people looked for ways to get out yet stay socially distanced, according to Rheins, who is also a certified pickleball instructor.
She’s seen a jump in memberships to the Montclair neighborhood strictly for access to its pickleball courts on Crane Ferry Road. Pickleball has brought in enough funds to put outdoor lights at the courts and turn the former tennis courts into pickleball courts.
While the NOT’Lanta Open, which is held the weekend before the Atlanta Open, is the biggest tournament at Montclair during the year, Rheins said smaller events are held at other times.
Sometimes, the themes are silly, but Rheins said pickleball players embrace it pointing to a recent “dinking” tournament. Dinking in pickleball involves “a soft shot over the net,” said Rheins. It requires finesse and is often a move used in higher levels of competition.
With a theme of “dinking doughnuts,” the event featured prize medals that looked like doughnuts and doughnuts as refreshments.
In the long term, Rheins said she hopes that pickleball proceeds will help fund a pavilion and permanent bathrooms at the site.
To learn more about the sport or inquire about lessons, contact Rheins at (706) 399-4958 or email [email protected].