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UNC Pickleball Club Pioneering the College Sports Scene

UNC Pickleball Club Pioneering: In the vibrant landscape of collegiate sports, one game is quietly making waves: pickleball. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), the Club Pickleball team has emerged as a trailblazer, transforming from a casual gathering during the pandemic to a powerhouse with over 600 members. Led by club president Hunter Boyd, their journey reflects a meteoric rise in popularity and competitive spirit. This article delves into how UNC’s pickleball enthusiasts have not only embraced the sport but have also excelled, marking their presence in the collegiate sports arena with significant achievements

As pickleball gains momentum across college campuses nationwide, the University of North Carolina Club Pickleball stands at the forefront of this burgeoning trend.

Boyd reflects on the club’s rapid growth since its inception in fall 2020, initially as a means for friends to stay active during COVID-19. “The pickleball club started in the fall of 2020 as an excuse for some friends to get together during COVID and have a reason to be outside and stay active. It began with just one friend group, and then the group brought more people in,”  Boyd explains. “I got to Carolina during the fall 2021 and it was still run by all the people that founded it. It was probably about 20 members.”

Following the founders’ graduation, Boyd assumed leadership, witnessing a rise in membership. “By then, pickleball just exploded. Now, our pickleball Group Me has over 600 people,  Boyd proudly states. Amidst overwhelming interest in Chapel Hill, organizers of the UNC Club Pickleball have opted to split the group into two categories: a competitive team and a recreational team.

With such overwhelming interest, UNC organizers opted to split the club into competitive and non-competitive teams, a move necessitated by the fierce competition for spots. “Our competitive team has tryouts, and we had roughly 300 people show up,”  Boyd reveals, describing the rigorous evaluation process.

We evaluated candidates based on their ability to hold their own on the court,” Boyd notes, highlighting the club’s commitment to building top-tier talent. Currently, the competitive team comprises 30 players, including 10 women and 20 men, with their top performers competing at the 5.0 level.

The club’s success ended in a significant milestone at the 2023 DUPR College National Championships, where they clinched first place. Former tennis standout Collin Shick, recruited for his exceptional skills, has since transitioned to a professional career but remains actively involved in club activities.

The inaugural Collegiate Club Pickleball Showcase further showed the tight-knit camaraderie within the team, showcasing their unity both on and off the court.

Collin Shick was on our team at the time. We looked at everyone through the lens of “Could this person be on the pickleball court with Collin and make it a relatively competitive game for him?” If yes, then they can make the team, mentioned Boyd.

Currently, the competitive team consists of approximately 30 members, including 10 women and 20 men, with their top three players competing at the 5.0 level.

Clearly, making the grade to play alongside a top professional indicates their considerable skill.

Boyd also shared how Shick was recruited to join the team.

“Two years ago, Collin was just a former tennis player at NC State and I found him in a park just playing singles with a friend. At the time, we were trying to grow the club and get as many racket sports and athletes in general out there,”  he explained. “I went up to him and invited him to come to club practice. When he came out for the first time, we quickly realized that his hands were insane.”

 

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A post shared by Hunter Boyd (@hunterb_pickleball)

Shick and the rest of the team achieved significant success, ending in their victory at the DUPR College National Championships in 2023, where they secured first place.

Shick has since pursued his professional career, yet he returns to campus to assist in evaluating the competition team tryouts.

At the inaugural Collegiate Club Pickleball Showcase during the Fanatics Sportsbook North Carolina Cup, the infectious team camaraderie on the court was a joy to witness. Each member enthusiastically cheered and celebrated their teammates from the sidelines.

Boyd noted, “A lot of us are friends off the court as well,” Clearly, club pickleball is flourishing in the Tar Heel State.

News in Brief: UNC Pickleball Club Pioneering

The University of North Carolina Club Pickleball has rapidly grown since its 2020 inception, originally as a casual gathering during COVID-19. Led by Hunter Boyd, the club expanded to over 600 members on its Group Me platform, prompting the creation of competitive and recreational teams. The competitive team, with 30 members including 10 women and 20 men at the 5.0 skill level, saw success at the 2023 DUPR College National Championships. Former tennis player Collin Shick’s recruitment exemplifies the club’s talent focus. Despite Shick’s move to a professional career, he returns to help with team tryouts, showcasing the club’s tight-knit community and thriving status in North Carolina.

Also Read: New Pickleball and Tennis Courts Coming to Columbus Parks

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