The Pittsburgh WPPTA
Platform tennis happened to Pittsburgh when a few diehards built courts in Sewickley (1951), Edgeworth Country Club (1962), and Fox Chapel Racquet Club (1964). In that era, Phil Osborne bussed people in to play at FCRC and worked with his engineering team at Alcoa to create the first aluminum court. Once the WPPTA (Western Pennsylvania Platform Tennis Association) took root in 1967, the area couldn’t build courts fast enough.
Today, the WPPTA “punches a little above our weight class,” said WPPTA President Jeff Troutman. “For our population, we have higher numbers—about 1,000 men and 1,000 women players—than other areas with more people. Paddle tennis has just exploded here in the last 10 years.”
Men’s League President David Brooks added, “All of the area’s top male players are not pros, which is kind of unique. It makes for a slightly different texture of things, without a pro on either the women’s or men’s boards.”
Women’s League President Liz Allen said, “This term was about updating, electrifying, and having significant growth. We expanded the divisions and the number of teams in each division, so all of the old schedules had to go by the wayside. We also showcase a member, nominated by someone in the league, who has contributed to the community, and not necessarily just in paddle.”
There are 16 clubs in the area, with the farthest distance between them at about one hour. (Pittsburgh is crisscrossed with bridges over three rivers.) The league uses all the clubs, and everyone must travel. Troutman said, “We’ve been very fortunate having four public-access venues. North Park, Sewickley YMCA, and Mt. Lebanon all have four courts, and there are two courts at Upper St. Clair Township.”
Brooks, said, “We’ve seen great growth at the clubs and facilities we have, and the engagement is definitely there.”
Troutman added, “Public court access is critical and a big part of our growth strategy. Just as much as we greatly appreciate the country clubs that strongly support their platform tennis programs.”
The men’s league and women’s day league each hold nine divisions. The women play on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and the men fill the courts on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings from October until February. The women’s night league (225 strong) on Wednesday has five divisions. Brooks said, “Seven years ago, we had about 80 men’s teams, about 800 players. We’ve added 200 players and 14 teams in that time period.”
The women’s league recently created a board, updated the by-laws, and instituted three-year terms to keep the leadership fresh. Allen said, “There is now a five-person board, a nominating committee, and an approval process for leadership in the day league. For the evening league, we rotate every two years so that one club takes over the management of it. We went from running on paper to becoming electronic just three years ago. With that came Paddlescores and PTI.”
Allen described their method for accruing new players. “We host clinics, on the league’s dime, for new players. The clinics have been very successful—and one of the reasons that we have seen such growth. We pay the pros, and they gladly participate in it. We communicate with all the captains, heads of paddle programs, and tell the newer players to bring a friend. This year, we held four different sessions, on both sides of the river, and almost everyone who came was brand new to the sport.”
Brooks added, “Most of our young players are not high-level college tennis players. They move up the ranks mainly by playing a lot—we've created a lot of grinders who can dig out of the corners. From the Division 8 team I started with, one player is now in Division 1, six are in Division 2, and the rest of us are in Division 4.”
Pittsburgh has been the home to four Nationals (1997, 2005, 2014, 2019) so they understand how to throw a tournament. Troutman said, “Our league is very healthy financially. This year, we are making our big APTA Tour tournament, the Steel City Classic (formerly the West Penn Open), into a first-class event, offering $20,000 prize money split between men and women and free registration to many top teams.” Pittsburgh also stepped up to host two 2024 PTI Nationals—the Men’s 40+ and the Women’s 50+—a new arena for the area. “That checks the box on the league member level,” Troutman added.
Brooks said, “I do love a good tournament. For the first time, the league is holding an end-of-season 96-team draw tournament—like the New Jersey Classic. I also run our local Tops and Tails. I created it because my team was at the lower level and we wanted to play with the better players and they never would play with us. It is great fun.”
The women host the Fall Fantastic, Spring Fling, the Silver Bullet 55+ (Age), and a Women's Evening League tournament.
Liz Allen I have a philosophy that I have to volunteer for every organization that I participate in. That is why I said, “Yes.”
Jeff Troutman I’ve lived in Pittsburgh my whole life and have been playing paddle since I was 10 years old. My dad (Jay) ran the league and was an APTA board member, too. That gave me perspective. I ran the men’s league in the 1990s and then got into fundraising for two Nationals. I work at PNC and enticed my company to be the lead sponsor. I volunteer because I love growing the game and being able to bring the best of paddle to Western Pennsylvania.
David Brooks I first got involved with helping player development at Mt. Lebo by running tourneys for new players. It is a very sticky game. Once you get into it you love it and want to play all the time. Friends and I found the Mt. Lebo courts by accident. Once October came, we couldn’t get a court unless we created our own team. I was “nominated” as a captain. Next, I ran tournaments, became a division rep, and joined the board four years ago. I was asked if I would serve as President (for my sins). I moved here for work 18 years ago, and now I can never go back to England—there isn’t any paddle.
Top Players Jessica Guyaux (Top 20) Scott Kahler (Top 15) Filip Rams (Top 10) Mike Wagner (Top 15 ) Casey Watts Craig Perry Kelly Fischer John Moyer Bill Dollard
WPPTA Tom Wiese (Top 50) Men’s Tournament Chair Diane Staggers Women’s Tournament Chair
Jon Kilmer Tournament Director of the Steel City Open Scheduler Hank Lansett
Webmaster Mike Lansett All Division Reps Platform Tennis Magazine founder Wayne Dollard
The next level really enjoys getting their butt kicks by the top players. I struggle to understand how many levels there are. I think of it as layers of double bagels. That guy can double bagel me, and those guys can 6-0, 6-0 them, etc. I think I’m Five Layers of Double Bagels from Scott Kahler—David Brooks