Shuffleboard isn’t a common sport, especially not among youths – at least not according to Tom Palmer, 71, of Ocean City.
This is still Palmer’s opinion, but one teen from Ocean City has proven that shuffleboard is not just for “old people.”
Palmer’s grandson, Alec Helm, 16, of Ocean City, won the Junior National Singles Championship for shuffleboard in July – for the second consecutive year.
“I started playing on a little court in South Carolina, and we found local (courts) in town,” Helm said.
His grandfather added that it was on that vacation, about four years ago, when the duo first played together on a court at a resort in Hilton Head.
“I really enjoyed it. It was fun, and (Alec) enjoyed it,” Palmer said. “We came back here, and there was a very nice group of people that were playing, and we decided to join the club and be active in it.”
The club is the Ocean City Shuffleboard Club, which practices at the Carey Stadium Courts in Ocean City.
“I’m the youngest person on the courts by at least 40 years, and it’s great that they take the time to help me improve,” Helm said.
The championship was in Lakeside, Ohio. Palmer said that although shuffleboard is not popular among youths in New Jersey, the sport is big elsewhere, such as Ohio.
“A lot of people don’t realize that shuffleboard is actually pretty big in different parts of the country,” Palmer said. “Well, it’s basically an old person’s sport, but Alec gets along really well with people.”
Helm said that when he started the sport, he was no prodigy by any means, although his grandfather has a different opinion.
“I definitely didn’t really have any natural talent, and I definitely lost a lot when I first started out – and I lose quite a bit now – but I think I have a decent mindset for it,” Helm said.
“It’s a lot of strategy involved,” Palmer said. “There’s some guys at the club who have taught him an awful lot about strategy. I have been shuffling for about four years, and I don’t understand all the strategy involved.”
Helm turned 16 two days after the championship and is no longer eligible to participate in the juniors tournament. He is considering moving up to the men’s singles competition in 2014.
Helm said he will start looking at colleges soon, but when he does, he realizes that shuffleboard might not be offered.
“I probably would do it in college,” he said. “I don’t know if there are any colleges that have it, but I would lean more toward a school that would have clubs near it.”