The 5th National Pickleball Championship is set to be held at Bhikshu Dham in Bengaluru from 3rd to 5th August 2018. This time there will be 16 states participating in the event with almost 200 participants in Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles events. At the onset of the tournament, Sportsavour was in conversation with Rajath Kankar, General Secretary of Karnataka State Pickleball Association (KSPA).
INITIATION OF PICKLEBALL IN KARNATAKA
Rajath Kankar: I started my sporting career in 1998 and soon became a national-level Volleyball player. As an avid sportsman, I started a club called ‘Free Lancers Sports Club’ with some national-level players representing different sporting disciplines. But while conducting events for the club, I found it difficult to deal with some sporting associations. Those associations often failed to recognize a player’s talent. This triggered me to start thinking of forming an association in some unconventional sport.
I started to search for a new game that would help in bringing out the sporting talents in Karnataka. I found about a growing sport called Pickleball that is being played in USA, Canada and in some parts of India. I also found that Pickleball has a national organization. I contacted the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA) for affiliation. But it was not a cake’s walk. I had to wait for more than six months before proving myself able to head a state organization. Finally on 9th Aug 2017, the Karnataka State Pickleball Association (KSPA) was given the affiliation by AIPA.
FOREMOST MOTIVE OF KSPA
Rajath Kankar: To me sport has the power to change the world and awaken hope in every individual. It is my firm belief that through KSPA, Pickleball will reach every individual and bring out the best in him/her. The Association aims to play instrumental role in reaching the children, youngsters and underprivileged in this state. It is their ‘Right to Play’ and channelize their energy towards meaningful activities, thus bringing out a positive sporting environment.
SPREAD OF PICKLEBALL IN KARNATAKA
Rajath Kankar: We are operational for only one year. Still, I would say that the growth is phenomenal. KSPA is successful in spreading Pickleball in schools and colleges in Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru. Five districts have already started playing Pickleball in Karnataka. Eight players from our state represented India for Bangkok Open Pickleball Championship in April 2018. So, we are taking these types of initiatives to develop the sport in Karnataka. We have conducted state-level seminars and also we have conducted a mega event at Bangalore Street Festival and Events.
MAJOR TOURNAMENTS IN KARNATAKA
Rajath Kankar: We have started from the scratch. So it took almost 6 months to settle down. So we needed time to organize an event. We are planning to conduct the 1st State Pickleball Championship in August 2018. But now we are only concentrating on the 5th National Pickleball Championship. AIPA has been a great support for us and acts as our spinal chord. They have shown the trust on us by giving us this great responsibility.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE NATIONALS
Rajath Kankar: Its only two days in between and so preparations are almost over now. But when we started we were really in deep water about how to pull the things up. Since we were very new and moreover Pickleball is not known to many people, it was difficult to get a proper venue. But we are really grateful to Bhikshu Dham to open the location for us for the competition. And since then, everything fell in places. We will be hosting 16 states and almost 200 participants along with officials and administrators. So overall, its an amazing experience for all of us at KSPA to work together for this event.
SPONSORSHIP FOR THE EVENT
Rajath Kankar: Our event sponsors are ATSIY, SELKIRK Sports, Sports Wizards, Olympic Sporting Co. & Paddletek. Our official partner FIT-O –SLIM. We are thankful to each and every sponsor to make this happen. AIPA has helped us a lot in getting international sponsors.
SPECIAL PROGRAMMES FOR THE EVENT
Rajath Kankar: We are planning to have a cultural event on 3rd August followed by a Sports Injury First-Aid Awareness Programme by Fitto Bull on 4th August
EXPECTATIONS FROM THE NATIONALS
Rajath Kankar: We hope that the Nationals are covered by local and leading media houses. This will help us in getting the much needed exposure. We are eagerly waiting for the response from Sports Ministry. Keeping our fingers crossed, we are expecting a grand success of the event. Pickleball will definitely grow in Karnataka after the nationals.