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Let the Pickleball games begin

CARLSBAD — The invasion of pickleball continues.

The 2016 California State Games Pickleball Tournament kicks off today (Friday) at the Omni La Costa Resort.

One hundred eighty seven California pickleballers are registered to compete over three days. The tournament includes five divisions and skill levels and begins at 7:30 a.m. each day.

Tournament Director Brett Anderson said he has more than 80 matches scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but 145 on Saturday, which features the mixed doubles slate.

“They are playing for their points and their medal,” Anderson said.

Carlsbad landed the tournament, which is in its second year, after its inaugural event in Coronado. Anderson said the city of Coronado wanted to keep its tennis courts, which are used as a makeshift pickleball court, to tennis players.

However, an employee at the Omni reached out to Anderson and the two sides agreed the games would be held at the resort. Plus, Carlsbad is more centrally located for travelling players, Anderson said.

“We want to grow and build this and comes back to the resort next year,” he added.

The tournament also features at least six former or current national champions, Anderson said. One of those is Callan Dawson of Carlsbad, who has won gold three times in the past year including last year’s state games and two in the Tustin Winter Classic in the men’s open and mixed doubles divisions.

The state games, though, does not act as an automatic qualifier to any national tournament. Instead, players will accumulate points based on their finish.

“They are talking about doing a qualifying tournament in Surprise (AZ), but that hasn’t been made official yet,” Anderson said.

The California State Games is a statewide amateur sports festival and non-profit organization. The mission of the games is to promote and nurture the health, education and well-being of residents by managing a high quality amateur sports event encouraging community participation and providing an Olympic-style experience. The first California State Games was held in 1988.

An “Athlete March” will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 15 as U.S. Olympic qualifiers will lead the parade of California State Games athletes into Qualcomm Stadium.

Pickleball is played by people of all ages and is the fastest growing sport in America, Anderson said. As a result of such a furious movement, the city of Carlsbad approved more than $400,000 to construct six pickleball courts at Poinsettia Park as part of its Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget.

According to the Sports and Fitness Association’s 2015 Participation Report, pickleball is at 2.46 million players.

It is described as a combination of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. It’s played with a net, a solid paddle and plastic Wiffle ball on a court about one quarter the size of a tennis court.  It is fast paced with simple rules to move the game along.

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