December 8, 2022
2022 English Nationals
Four days of well-organized, brilliant pickleball, including 430 happy players with an age span of 12 to 79, at Bolton Arena, Greater Manchester, NW England.
By Karen Mitchell
We usually start a tournament with a practice day for players. For this tournament, following the success of the three-team Major League Pickleball (MLP) English Style event at the English OPEN, we decided to use four of the 22 courts to stage an eight-team, mixed-age MLP English Style event. Thirty-two players pre-qualified for the draft by participating in an intense ranking weekend we held in Norwich in early September and finishing in the top eight in their category: Men and Women 19+ and Men and Women 50+.
Sponsorship from eight brands (305 Wear, Drop Shot, Franklin, Newman Rose, Roehampton Club, Scan, UK Pickleball Shop and Zcebra) was secured for team naming rights, and team selection was made using our English Style version of a snake draft. Player cards were created, showing each of the eligible players together with their position in the ranking exercise and their DUPR rating. After the teams were selected, team cards were created and shared via social media and a page developed on our website.
We started the day with two groups of four teams in a round robin: three matches per group, with the top two from each group going through to the semifinals.
For total DUPR rating, Roehampton Club (17.95) and UK Pickleball Shop (17.90) would have been the favorites to get through to the Group 1 Semifinal, but Franklin Family (17.88) managed to get all three of their matches to go to a dreambreaker, and their singles strength came to the fore and they won two of the three dreambreakers, including the one against Roehampton Club. In Group 2, Scantastics (18.17) and Newman Rose (17.93) would have been favorites. In fact, it was Scantastics and 305 Wear (17.52) who got through to the semifinal.
Roehampton beat Scantastics three games to one in their semi and Franklin Family beat 305 Wear three games to one, so there was perfect symmetry with the semifinals, and Roehampton Club and Franklin Family were going to meet again in the final.
We livestreamed from the Championship Court all day. We have developed a great relationship with John Molyneux, who was working with us for the third time. I think the quality of the stream for this event was the best we have had so far. We also had a video review system in place for this event. Ed Hares and team had set up cameras in strategic points and were able to respond to “challenges” within seconds, so that the flow of the game wasn’t really interrupted. This was a bit of a test for Ed and his team, and apart from the fact that we couldn’t connect their line calling equipment to our livestream, it worked fabulously.
When Franklin Family and Roehampton Club met each other in the round robin, Thaddea Lock and Karen Farnhill lost to Antonella Giuliano and Rachel Kirk. In the final, the result was reversed, with a 21-17 victory for Franklin Family.
In the round robin, Jamie Basford (17) and Chris Mitchell (64) beat Louis Laville (27) and Mark Johnson (63), but that result was also reversed, with Roehampton Club winning 21-15.
In the 19+ Mixed Doubles, Louis and Anty beat Jamie and Thaddea as they did in the round robin, so it was down to Chris and Karen to win (as they had previously) to force a dreambreaker. With a thrilling 23-21 win for Franklin Family, the scene was set for a dreambreaker to decide the winner of the event.
By this time, Scantastics had managed to secure the bronze against 305 Wear by winning a dreambreaker, and now all the participating players were watching the final dreambreaker of the day.
Franklin Family lost the toss and named their player order: Thaddea, Jamie, Chris, Karen. Louis decided that he would set up a “battle of the sexes” and played himself, Mark, Rachel and Anty. It was a very close game with the lead being taken by both teams several times along the way. Thaddea managed to take 4 points off Louis, Rachel took 4 points off Chris. In the end the youngest player in the event, Jamie Basford, hit the winning ball for Franklin Family to win 25-23.
During the event, the team sponsors represented by Jared Franklin and Aaron Stahl watched every game played by their team with smiles on their faces throughout, but their joy when their team members were victorious was pure. They proudly received the Medhurst Cup, and their players proudly received their trophies and prize money—£500 for each player is nothing compared to the original MLP, but the players were all pleased to receive it. Roehampton Club players received £200 each and Scantastics won £100 each.
I was particularly thrilled that Scantastics, sponsored by local company Scan, got the bronze because of all the help and support the company provided in the setup of the English Nationals. After the prize money we were also able to make a £1,000 donation to Boot Out Breast Cancer, a local charity focused on providing equipment to local hospitals to help with earlier diagnosis.
After such an amazing opening day event, players prepared themselves for Singles day on Friday. There were 447 games played that day—19+, 50+, 60+ skill events and 70+ all skill level events—and we managed to finish on time despite the venue’s Wi-Fi being down. Given that our tournament relies on our software, my co-tournament director Frank Arico had a backup plan, carrying his own 4G router so that we could stay on track! Jared Franklin and Aaron Stahl presented the medals to the winners.
Saturday was Gender Doubles day and 527 games were played.
Sunday was Mixed Doubles day plus a Men Without Partners event. We also held our first Junior event and our first Wheelchair event. The wheelchair event was enjoyed by both players and spectators. It also resulted in players from different clubs being able to network and make arrangements to play again outside of the tournament. A total of 499 games were played on Sunday.
Everything ran like clockwork, and we were out of the venue on time. This is largely due to the fantastic volunteers at the weekend, helping to set up the venue and packing it all away.
Volunteers are the vital ingredient to a successful tournament. From the welcome desk volunteers who made the first impression as players arrived, to the essential role played by court monitors to ensure that players got to courts promptly and scores were captured so that we could efficiently use all the courts, commentators, scorers, referees and those handling a host of miscellaneous tasks—thank you to everyone who helped. My biggest thanks goes to Salli Griffith, who creates our graphics, and to Frank Arico and Chris Mitchell, my co-tournament directors. Without Frank’s Pickleball England Tournament System and Chris’s setup and scheduling of the matches, we wouldn’t have been able to get through 1,473 matches on 22 courts in the 28 hours of play Friday-Sunday.
Inspired by Major League Baseball, Major League Pickleball (MLP) was introduced in 2021 at Dreamland, Dripping Springs, Texas. The founder of Dreamland, Steve Kuhn, is also the founder of MLP and DUPR.
MLP is an innovative pickleball format involving professional players of mixed genders competing as teams. Team matches are composed of four games (women’s doubles, men’s doubles and two mixed doubles) with a unique Dreambreaker singles tiebreaker.
MLP English Style has slight modifications:
At the English Nationals, all MLP English Style participating players are English.
The players who were part of the snake draft had earned their place in it after coming in the top eight of the following categories: 19+ Men, 19+ Women*, 50+ Men and 50+ Women at the first England Selection Process weekend in Norfolk. All competitors at the weekend had to be 4.0+.
Snake draft wild card – each team had one wild card whereby they could draft someone who was not in the snake draft but met all other criteria (4.0+, English born).
There is one women’s doubles mixed age, men’s doubles mixed age and 19+ mixed doubles and 50+ mixed doubles game as part of each fixture. •
* Thaddea Lock and Faye Plummer could not make the weekend but since they are the top two in the country, they were included in the snake draft.