It was almost as if God smiled on New Canaan, Ct., for the 2011 APTA Junior National Tournament. Falling between record-breaking snowfall leading up to the event, and the threat of severe winter storms immediately following the day’s play, it would seem that a window of clear skies and cleared roads would be unlikely for the weekend.
But, as cars pulled in, bumper to snow bank, to Waveny Lodge, to unload young players from as far away as Chicago and Pittsburgh, it became as clear as the skies above that some serious platform tennis was about to be played.
The Junior Nationals, organized by Steve Caccam, Hooey Wilks, Tish Tregellas, Amy Burger, and Thea Ross took among others, took place in one day at 12 locations around New Canaan, all within a 15-mile radius of Waveny, and included 224 players. Finals were brought back to central Waveny Lodge to play in front of one of the finest paddle huts offered in a public facility.
Caccam viewed this tournament as a statement to the world of platform tennis on the strides the sport has made in recent years.
“This game’s been around since 1928. Virtually every tournament has been hosted is a growth in municipal paddle. I’ve played at a lot of places across the country, mostly private. This is a unique example of the renaissance of the game, the robustness of the program and the town leagues. We’re pretty proud of that. It’s impressive.”
Spread out among 12 court sites surrounding New Canaan, Connecticut, the Junior Nationals also proves the strength of the sport in Region I. Within a 15-mile radius, approximately 40 courts are available for paddle players.
Most of those courts are newer courts. Caccam said the main courts at Waveny Park were built in October of 2004.
Shortly thereafter, in the fall of 2005 community momentum inspired a public/private capital campaign to make further site renovations, completely updating Waveny Lodge, which used to be a caretaker’s cottage. The campaign was able to raise $485,000 for the project in just 18 months.
That availability and willingness to cooperate from the participating clubs and the community at large is something not lost on organizers.
“Without their reciprocity, it would be impossible to do something like this in one day. We’ve got over 100 teams. That’s a lot to do in a 7 hour tournament” Caccam said. “Unlike other tournaments, where you fill up the draw, the challenge here is running eight concurrent tournaments. You’re not playing Boys 18s with the Girls 10s. When you run an adult tournament, you have one big spread. Here, it’s all spread out. It’s geography, timing and volunteers that make the day.”
Last year, when Caccam and volunteers were finished with tournament play, it dawned on them that despite the hectic hustle and bustle with putting on a tournament, they all had learned some valuable information about the tournament sites themselves. Keeping the tournament in the same location allowed them to capitalize on that knowledge and make improvements for this year’s play.
“The moment it was over, and we were cleaning it up, letting out a collective “whew,” we all looked at each other and said, ‘What a shame, next year it will be held somewhere else,— he said. “We knew what we could improve upon. When it came back around, and we were asked to do it again this year, we said, ‘Sure. No problem We knew that we could make it an even better tournament than the year before.”
Caccam said thanks should go to Scott Gress, Chairman of the New Canaan Park & Recreation Commission and Stephen Benko, Director of the New Canaan Recreation Department, for supporting the effort to host this national championship at their town site; and sponsors: Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery Specialists, Karl Chevrolet, Bank of New Canaan, and the Fairfield County Platform Tennis League.
Source: Mike Berton, Platform Tennis Magazine, Vol. 12. Issue 4, March, 2011