Shufflers are shufflin’ again
It wasn’t very long ago that shuffleboard was shuffling itself in the wrong direction, not just in the Valley, but around the country.
Not only were fewer Winter Texans taking part in the long-loved sport, but COVID-19 added to its rapid slow-down.
But shufflers are shuffling again, and new shufflers are coming in at a rate not seen in many years.
It's the shuffleboard resurgence.
“It hit a low maybe 6-7 years ago,” said Brenda Noakes, president of the Texas State Shuffleboard Association for the past five years. “We are working hard and doing things differently. We signed up about 80 new players last year throughout the Valley and this year already there are 20 new players that have signed up.”
And the surge of players is expected to increase now that the New Year has arrived, and the full entourage of Winter Texans make their way to their southern homes.
Despite the fact that there’s just a morsel of northern visitors with the remainder heading this way, the numbers haven’t been shabby at all during the RGV Shuffleboard Association’s weekly tournaments.
The RGVSA season began Nov. 8-10 at Leisure World in Weslaco with a mixed doubles event. There have been tournaments every week, the most recent happening Dec. 27-29 again at Leisure World for a national mixed doubles event.
To compete in the events, shufflers must be part of the Texas State Shuffleboard Association. The cost is a one-time $10 for a lifetime membership and a $3 entry fee per event ($4 if it’s a national tournament).
Noakes said there were more than 100 shufflers for the first event of the year and 164 shufflers competed in the Leisure World tournament.
Eric and Marcy Polzi, from Llano Grande Resort, won the Expert division at the national mixed doubles tournament at Leisure World. Pine to Palm’s Dave and Kathy Lamphere captured second and Clancy and Marion MacDonald, also from Llano Grande, earned third.
In the Amateur division, Kathy Dixon and Denny Herold, of Ranchero Village, took first place, followed by Casa Del Valle’s Joe Harris and Loretta Holland and Bob and Kathy Clelland from Pine to Palm in third.
Siesta Village is hosting the tournament this week and the Jan. 10-12 event is scheduled for Pine to Palm. A complete season schedule and results can be found at rgvsa.weebly.com.
Those interested can still sign up for tournaments and have to have their entries in the Friday before the tournament. Flyers with more information can also be found on the website.
“What we are seeing happening across the United States is that a younger group, many of them still working and in their 30s and 40s, want to play the game,” Noakes said. “There’s a facility in St. Petersburg, Fla., with 78 courts. They run it like a bowling alley with leagues and food.
“We travel to some tournaments and went to one at Royal Palms in Chicago. They have a bar and a food truck out there and run leagues several nights a week. Probably 75% of those shufflers were under the age of 50.
“It’s a different atmosphere, but that’s the direction we are heading.”