Tysons, VA

The county is seeking to gauge the public’s support for pickleball, a new and rapidly expanding paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched an online survey to gauge support for new pickleball activities. The survey is open through Jan. 24. County officials say they’ve received multiple requests to expand the number of pickleball facilities in its parks, recreation centers, and community centers.

The game was invented in 1965 by two dads in Washington who wanted to entertain their kids and use an old badminton court.

A feasibility study is underway on how to address the desire for the sport, identify sites for possible improvements or new facilities, and develop criteria and design guidance used for selecting and constructing pickleball amenities.

Local pickleball players advocating for Fairfax County to develop more facilities devoted to the sport officially formed the Vienna Pickleball Club in June.

Now boasting 179 members, the group successfully convinced the Town of Vienna to turn the Glyndon Park tennis courts into hybrid tennis/pickleball courts when they underwent renovations earlier this year.

However, Fairfax County currently does not have any facilities specifically for pickleball. The closest dedicated facility is Pickleballerz, which opened in October in the Loudoun County portion of Chantilly.

The county’s feasibility study will be completed by the spring of 2021. Currently, the county has 15 parks with either a tennis or basketball court lined for pickleball. Within those parks, there are 28 courts available to play the game.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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For the first time since Mar. 12, high school athletes in Fairfax County have games to play.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball teams around the county will tip off tonight (Monday) to usher in an unusual winter sports season that will unfold in front of largely empty stands, marking students’ return to athletic competition after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out this year’s spring and fall seasons.

Under Virginia’s current COVID-19 rules, spectators are limited to 25 people per field for indoor sports and two guests per player for outdoor sports. The total number of spectators for any venue is capped at 30% of its occupancy capacity.

Though Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order on Oct. 30 permitting school sports to proceed, the Virginia Department of Health says participating in recreational sports that require close contact with others “during times of substantial COVID-19 activity in a community…is not advisable.”

With COVID-19 transmission rates now higher than the spring surge that led schools to shut down, winter sports have been postponed or canceled in Washington, D.C., and nearly all of Maryland. The City of Alexandria announced in November that its schools would opt out of the season.

Most of Virginia, though, appears to be forging ahead with the Virginia High School League’s “Championships + 1” schedule, which pushed fall sports to Feb. 2 and spring sports to Apr. 12.

However, Fairfax County Public Schools has put some restrictions in place.

While the VHSL is “strongly” encouraging masks without mandating them, FCPS is requiring nearly all athletes to wear masks even while competing, providing limited exceptions only for swim and dive, wrestling, and cheerleading. Athletes will also not have access to locker rooms this year.

“The expectation will be that kids come to practice/games ready to compete and will leave the facility immediately after the event,” FCPS said in a news bulletin sent to families yesterday.

While fans can’t attend games in-person for now, at least some competitions will be streamed live through the host teams’ websites or social media accounts.

The basketball season will officially begin with freshman games at 4:30 p.m., followed by girls’ junior varsity games at 5:30 p.m. and boys’ junior varsity at 5:45. Girls’ varsity games tip off at 7:00 p.m., and boys’ varsity teams will start at 7:30 p.m.

Here is what to expect tonight for schools in the Tysons area:

  • James Madison is facing Annandale, with boys’ teams playing at home and girls’ teams visiting Annandale
  • McLean faces Chantilly, with boys’ teams at home and girls’ teams away
  • Marshall plays Justice, with girls’ teams at home and boys’ teams on the road

Langley High School’s games for tonight have been canceled, since the Saxons were supposed to play T.C. Williams High School, which is no longer participating in the season. However, the girls’ basketball teams are scheduled to visit Chantilly on Wednesday (Dec. 23).

Photo via Marshall High School Athletics/Twitter

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(Updated at 7:15 p.m.) For Alex Chappell, covering the Washington Nationals is both a dream come true and a homecoming.

Now a resident of McLean, the MASN on-field reporter spent her childhood on the other side of the Potomac River in Montgomery County, and she still remembers the thrill that accompanied the news that the Montreal Expos would move to Washington, D.C., in 2005, giving the nation’s capital its own major league baseball team for the first time since 1971.

Growing up, Chappell rooted for the Boston Red Sox, since her father had played in the minor leagues for that organization. However, once the Nationals arrived in D.C., her family quickly adopted them as their favored National League team.

Even over the phone, Chappell’s joy at getting to report on a team that she spent her summers home from college cheering on is unmistakable.

“Getting to go to games at the ballpark, it was just a really special experience, so yeah, to be a fan of the team and now to get to cover them was really, really exciting,” Chappell told Tysons Reporter.

Chappell had her sights set on a career in sports journalism since attending Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, but her journey to MASN began in earnest when she joined the University of Alabama’s campus radio station.

Drawn to the university for its communications school as well as its reputation as an athletic powerhouse, Chappell gained valuable experience and skills covering Crimson Tide football that she later translated into gigs as a sports reporter for local TV stations, first in Birmingham, Ala., and then in Boston, Mass.

After covering the Tampa Bay Rays for a season in Florida, Chappell got the job she had been waiting for: the chance to return home to report on the Nats.

The opportunity came in 2018 when MASN promoted on-field reporter Dan Kolko to an anchor position. Chappell learned about the rare opening from colleagues at ESPN, where she has been covering college football on a freelance basis for the past four years.

“Working in the media industry, it’s really challenging to ever get the chance to work in your hometown,” Chappell said. “The timing has to be there, the opening has to be there, just almost all the stars have to align, so it was just such an incredible blessing and opportunity.”

Perhaps Chappell brought some of that lucky timing with her when she joined MASN, because her arrival to the network coincided with a mesmerizing season for the Nats that culminated in the franchise’s first-ever World Series victory. Read More

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Friday Morning Notes

Metro Silver Line Phase 2 Delayed Again — “Metro executive vice president of capital delivery Laura Mason said Thursday based on the latest information from the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority – which is in charge of building Silver Line phase two – fall 2021 appears to be the best estimate for when service can start.” [ABC7-WJLA]

VHSL Issues New Face Mask Requirement for Student Athletes — “Starting tomorrow, winter athletes must wear a face mask at all times. This includes while they are engaged in physical activity. Because of safety concerns the only exceptions would be wrestling, gymnastics and swim & dive (when engaged in activity).” [McLean High School]

Fairfax County Suggests Pause on 495 NEXT — “Fairfax County supervisors approved two letters to the state transportation secretary Dec. 1 urging the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) not to finalize decisions on its 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project until Maryland officials make highway-capacity arrangements on their side of the Potomac River.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NOVA]

Comcast Expands Network in Tysons and Other Parts of Virginia — “Comcast Business today announced it has completed construction in Virginia – expanding the company’s advanced fiber-optic network to more than 2,800 additional businesses.” [Comcast Business/PR Newswire]

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Updated on 10/30/2020 — The Virginia High School League announced that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed an executive order allowing high school students to start playing sports in December.

“Keeping our student athletes safe is critical during this pandemic,” Northam said. “I know I join many parents in looking forward to the safe return of school sports.”

Earlier — The Virginia High School League is currently working with the governor’s office to potentially get a waiver that would let public school students compete in sports starting on Dec. 7, even if the state remains in Phase 3 of its reopening plan.

Signs point to Virginia public schools “likely” getting permission to proceed with a truncated winter sports season, Fairfax County Public Schools student activities and athletics director Bill Curran said in a virtual town hall on student athletics hosted by Hunter Mill District School Board representative Melanie Meren on Wednesday (Oct. 28).

“VHSL has worked very closely with the Virginia Department of Health and governor’s office with regard to opening back up and what guidance and changes would need to be made so we can have high school sports on Dec. 7,” Curran said.

Virginia has been in the third phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan for guiding the Commonwealth through the COVID-19 pandemic since July 1.

Under Phase 3, both indoor and outdoor recreational sports are limited to 250 people, including players, staff, and spectators. Those individuals are also expected to maintain 10 feet of physical distance “where practicable.”

As it is now written, Phase 3 “basically does not allow for high school sports” beyond optional workouts for individual teams, Curran says.

As the nonprofit that serves as Virginia’s governing body for student athletics and activities, the VHSL has spent the past several months developing guidelines that it hopes would enable high school sports to resume this winter with Phase 3 restrictions in place.

After voting on July 27 to delay all sports and activities until mid-December, the VHSL executive committee unanimously agreed on Sept. 17 to adopt a condensed schedule with winter, fall, and spring sports.

The proposed “Championships + 1” Condensed Interscholastic Plan would generally unfold as follows:

  • Dec. 7-Feb. 20: winter sports, including basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim and dive, wrestling
  • Feb. 4-May 1: fall sports, including football, volleyball, golf, field hockey, cross country, and competitive cheerleading
  • Apr. 12-June 26: spring sports, including baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, and track and field

Trying to resume sports when FCPS is still wrestling with how to reopen schools for in-person learning might raise some eyebrows, but Meren says she believes it is an important discussion to have.

“I know how important it is for kids to be active,” Meren said. “Sports can be a gateway to scholarships, academics, and careers.” Read More

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(Updated at 8:05 p.m.) The tennis courts at Glyndon Park, a wooded expanse separated from bustling Maple Avenue by a bend in the road, have a new look.

The cracks and other signs of age are gone, erased by the Town of Vienna’s resurfacing efforts, but perhaps the boldest change is the grid of yellow lines that reconfigures Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts into four pickleball courts.

Joined by members of the Vienna Pickleball Club and representatives from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the Town of Vienna hosted an opening ceremony for the new Glyndon tennis and pickleball courts on Oct. 27.

COVID-19 social distancing rules limited attendance at the ceremony to 24 players, but their enthusiasm for the new courts and the sport of pickleball was evident not just in the speeches and ribbon-cutting, but also the games that followed.

“In normal times, these four courts may support a community of 30, 40 people coming out to play pickleball together with enjoyment, satisfaction in exercise, the challenge of growing their skills, friendly competition, and a welcoming social community,” Vienna Pickleball Club founder Sally Unger said.

Unger first encountered pickleball, which loosely resembles tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, when looking for sports that she could play while traveling, something she regularly did in pre-COVID times to visit her children in Los Angeles and Chicago.

With rules that would be familiar to anyone who has played tennis and games that can be played in 20 minutes, pickleball has been gaining popularity nationwide since emerging in Washington state in 1965 as an improvised form of badminton.

However, because it is still relatively niche, facilities dedicated to pickleball are difficult to find.

When they learned that the Town of Vienna was planning to update the tennis courts at Glyndon Park, Unger and other local pickleball players saw an opportunity to advocate for their sport to be better incorporated into the renovated facility.

“We have a lot of residents in town who love to play pickleball,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “…We want our citizens to be happy with our parks and keep them up in good shape. So, it was a need that they helped us identify.” Read More

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Updated 8/10/2020 — Clarifies White started the advocacy group and how much money the GoFundMe raised.

Vienna pickleball players looking for facilities of their own in Fairfax County now have a new club and advocacy group.

Sally Unger, a new ambassador for pickleball in Fairfax County, wants to persuade county officials to further support pickleball players by providing more and better facilities. 

She has created the Vienna Pickleball Club Facebook group, which was created in June and now boasts 92 members. After the Vienna Pickleball Club formed, Unger said Helen White, the USAPA District Ambassador for Northeast Virginia and D.C., started the Fairfax County Advocates for Pickleball (FCAP).

In Fairfax County, there are zero courts dedicated to pickleball, according to Unger. Instead, players have to adapt the game to tennis courts, which Unger said makes for an inauthentic game. For example, a pickleball net is shorter than a tennis net, and both games have different court lines. 

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Unger, who is one of the advocacy group’s members. 

FCAP is fighting for a facility pickleball players can claim as their own. 

Unger’s three goals upon becoming an ambassador were to create a pickleball club, collect data about pickleball activity in the county and to understand how funding within the county works to ask for more support. She recently sent out a survey measuring trends and demographics within the pickleball community to bring to the county. 

While pushing for official pickleball facilities, FCAP is also looking for derelict tennis courts to save and remodel for pickleball play. They are already working with the Town of Vienna to consider resurfacing Vienna’s Glyndon Court into four pickleball courts. 

According to Unger, the public reception to the club and the advocacy has been “phenomenal.” One supporter of the group created a GoFundMe to raise money for nets, locks and other court essentials. The GoFundMe raised more than $1,900 in 72 hours, Unger said. 

Unger also credits some of the sport’s popularity to the pandemic — since the game is played outside and players are relatively distant, it makes for a safe way to stay active.

“It’s a great way to meet people and build a sense of community,” said Unger. “When we’re restricted to our own yards and it’s the only outlet where I have social contact, it keeps me sane.” 

People with questions or who are interested in joining can email [email protected] or visit the Vienna Pickleball Club’s Facebook page. 

Photo by Frankie Lopez/Unsplash

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The pandemic hasn’t stopped a Vienna family from selling its new baseball training equipment.

John Morabito and his two sons Nick and Dominic are the three founders behind Perfect Swings USA.

Nick Morabito, the CEO, told Tysons Reporter that the company was going to open in the spring but then faced shipping issues and then decided to wait a little longer when George Floyd’s killing prompted massive protests. “Most of people’s focus was on that, rightly so,” he said.

Currently, Perfect Swings USA is selling the Swing Path Trainer for $349 to help athletes keep the bat in the hitting zone with the proper angle.

“The launch has been good,” Morabito said, adding that the company has sold several dozen Swing Path Trainers.

Morabito said that the company is looking to debut the Tempo Trainer (undecided price) in early fall after some delays due to the pandemic. The tool will help athletes with their tempo and rhythm during a swing.

“Both of our products are tools to help hitters become better,” Morabito said.

While originally geared toward baseball players, Morabito said that softball players are buying the equipment. “We’ve made a huge splash into softball,” Morabito said.

The pandemic also eliminated marketing opportunities by shutting down some tournaments and college baseball programs. “I think a lot of people are drawn to it when they try it out,” he said.

The company hopes to soon roll out an online search feature for people to find which facilities have the equipment, so they can try it out.

Even with the challenges, the company has managed to make some headway nationally with preorders from colleges and influencers in California and Colorado.

In the future, customers will be able to buy a variation of a baseball called a wiffle ball. When the COVID-19 risk decreases some more, the family hopes to bring Perfect Swings USA to local tournaments.

“I think it’s going to continue to grow,” he said.

Photo courtesy Nick Morabito

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Background Checks on Gun Sales — “A Virginia judge has ruled that most of the state’s new law requiring background checks on all gun sales does not violate constitutional rights, except for a wrinkle that effectively bans people between the ages of 18 and 21 from buying handguns.” [Inside NoVa]

ICYMI: Vienna Wawa Opens Today — “Wawa is encouraging people to watch a celebratory video and take part in an online contest for limited-edition Vienna Wawa t-shirts.” [Tysons Reporter]

No High School Football This Fall — “Football will be either played in the winter or spring or not at all, based on which of three plans the Virginia High School League’s executive committee approves July 27 for the 2020-21 high school sports season. The July 27th meeting convenes at 9 a.m.” [Inside NoVa]

Vienna Event — “A panel held by Town Manager Mercury Payton Tuesday night started a conversation on the Black experience in Vienna. Several Town of Vienna workers and residents who are Black participated in the discussion.” [Vienna Patch]

Photo courtesy Jeremiah Mosteller

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Baseball Blues — “Two of the three local Little Leagues in the Sun Gazette’s coverage areas canceled their 2020 spring seasons in recent days, with McLean Little League still hoping to play some type of regular season for baseball and girls softball teams in June and July.” [Inside NoVa]

Puppy Sale Fraud in Vienna — “A woman who does not live in Virginia told Vienna police on May 23 at 5:34 p.m. that she had made an online payment to purchase a puppy and was told to go to a residence in the 400 block of MacArthur Avenue, N.E., to pick up the dog.” [Inside NoVa]

Northam Outlines Phase 2 — “Most of Virginia will enter a second phase of reopening from the prolonged coronavirus shutdown on Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam said… Both Northern Virginia and the city of Richmond, which were hit harder by the novel coronavirus and began reopening last week, will remain under the more stringent Phase 1 portion of the state’s plan to return to normalcy.” [Washington Post]

Pledge to End Racial Inequalities — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pledged Tuesday to do more to end racial inequities in the state as he reacted to the death of George Floyd and increasing protests in Northern Virginia and other regions of the state.” [Inside NoVa]

County Aiming to Get 400 New Contact Tracers — “GattiHR, a leading HR consulting firm, has been retained by the Institute for Public Health Innovation – one of the region’s leading health organizations that develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia- to recruit 400 COVID-19 Contact Tracers in Fairfax County, VA.” [GattiHR]

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