Meet the Pickleball Pros – Jessica LeMire

Our second featured pickleball player proves that pickleball is a sport for all ages. Jessica LeMire is a college student who is finding success with the sport before she even finishes school! 

Jessica (green hat) at 2013 USAPA Nationals with Yvonne Hackenberg, Marsha Koch and Hilary Marold.

PBC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

JL: 2013 USAPA Nationals- Gold in Women’s 19+ & Bronze in the Open Division
2014 SoCal Summer Classic- Gold in Women’s 19+ & Silver in the Open Division

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?
JL: I play with the Legacy Paddle because of its pop and turbo power.

Jessica LeMire's favorite paddle is the Legacy Pickleball Paddle.

Jessica LeMire’s favorite paddle is the Legacy Pickleball Paddle.

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

JL: My dad and I player racquetball together at the Meijer State Games of Michigan in 2011. During the opening ceremonies for the event, all the participating sports processed into the stadium in alphabetical order. Naturally, pickleball and racquetball participants walked next to each other. Of course, my dad and I were curious as to what pickleball was. When we spoke to the super nice picklers, they told us about it and invited us to their courts to check it out. We took them up on their offer, and we were hooked!

PBC: What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
JL: I prefer playing outdoors. In Michigan, we don’t have the luxury of playing outside all year round so I enjoy playing under the sun when I can.

PBC: Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
JL: I prefer playing doubles because I love the partner aspect of the sport. Doubles is the art of two people working as one- I think that’s pretty awesome.

PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
JL: If I’m having a blast with the folks I’m playing with, I could be playing on the worst court in the country and it would be my favorite place to play. For me, it’s about who I’m playing with rather than where I’m playing.

PBC: What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
JL: I think the “secret sauce” in pickleball is partner chemistry. The teamwork and synching that occurs- competing together, moving together, strategizing together, and supporting one another- is such a special part of the game. Not only is it essential to be on the same page, but it’s also crucial to find someone with whom you are comfortable and can have a great time.

PBC: What’s your day job?
JL: I’m currently a graduate student at Central Michigan University studying communication.

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
JL: During the summer, I play an average of seven to nine hours or so a week, but when I’m at school, I strive to play every other weekend. I make time for pickleball because of the physical and mental benefits- it’s my favorite way to exercise, connect with friends, and relieve stress.

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
JL: No lucky rituals for me, but I do say a prayer before I play.

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
JL: It’s inspirational to watch athletes in their seventies and eighties play pickleball. My goal is to be like those rock stars and be able to compete when I’m their age.

Thanks Jessica!

Pickleball, a Great Cardio Workout

It’s important at any age to keep your health in tip-top shape. Along with eating right, getting enough sleep and keeping your stress low, another important element of wellbeing is physical exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of intense activity per week (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html)

Recommendations for adult weekly exercise

 

 

A great way to keep your body healthy is to play everyone’s favorite sport- pickleball!

 

Pickleball is the perfect combination of cardio and hand-eye coordination training. It’s flexible to anyone’s fitness abilities and can be as leisurely or fast-paced as you desire.

 

Want an intensified cardio workout? Play a singles match! Although a pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, you’ll still get a challenging workout as you run sideline to sideline. If you’re looking for a more mild form of exercise, grab three friends and play doubles. With a partner, you only have to cover half the court!

 

You can also choose the pace of the game by adapting the delivery of the ball. Instead of playing with the goal to beat your partner, try to see how many hits you can get in a row. This changes the focus of the game to a cooperative challenge.

 

Pickleball doesn’t only tone your muscles- it also sharpens your mind!

 

Thanks to the design of the ball, a plastic whiffle ball, it’s difficult to predict where the ball will go. Watching the ball  requires focused attention to the game, which in turn keeps the mind alert and stimulated. The Institute for the Study of Aging reports that, “Remaining socially engaged, continuing life-long learning, and engaging in activities… stimulate the brain, build cognitive reserve, and promote cognitive vitality” (ISOA, 2005, p. 12).

 

Pickleball may have a funny name, but its’ health benefits are nothing to laugh at. With the possibility of improving both your body and your mind, pickleball is a game that anyone can play for a lifetime of fun and health.

health benefits child and adult playing pickleball

 

 

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Marsha Koch

Welcome to “Meet The Pickleball Pros,” a series of blog posts where we feature some of the world’s best pickleball players.  We have our list of questions for the pros, but what questions do you have? Let us know!  We know the National Pickleball Tournament results will take on a whole new meaning for you if you’re familiar with the some of the competitors and their stories.

First up- Marsha Koch!

Marsha Koch at the 2013 National Pickleball Tournament in Surprize, AZ

Marsha Koch at the 2013 National Pickleball Tournament in Buckeye, AZ

PBC:  Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

MK:    2013 National Women’s 19+ – Gold

2013 National Women’s Open – Bronze

2014 So Cal Melba Bishop Classic Women’s 19+- Gold 

2014 So Cal Melba Bishop Classic Women’s Open – Silver

 

PBC: What pickleball paddle do you play with and why?

MK: I am currently playing with two paddles, the Onix Sports Zen and the Pickleball Inc. Aluminum Champion. I like them both for the control and power they offer.

Zen Pickleball Paddle

Zen Pickleball Paddle

 

Champion Aluminum Core Pickleball Paddle

Champion Aluminum Core Pickleball Paddle

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

MK: In March of 2010 I was visiting a friend in Mesa, AZ and broke my hand in two places while playing tennis. That evening I was riding my bike around the community, heard this funny sound and followed it to the Pickleball courts. I had never heard of or seen this sport being played.  I thought I would give it a try with my left hand since the paddle was short and the ball was so light.  It was l love at first hit and I knew I would really enjoy it when I was able to play with my right hand. I flew back to Toledo and googled it to find where I might play locally. Thanks to JoAnne and Mike Tressler we had a small group of dedicated players that were making it happen in Toledo. We now have over 140 active players on the Toledo Pickleball Club roster and 6 beautiful dedicated courts.

 

PBC: What’s your preference — playing indoor or outdoor?

MK: Outdoor, I like the elements and the outdoor ball. However, with the weather in Ohio I am grateful for the indoor options we have! :)

 

PBC: Do you like singles or double better? Why?

MK: I have never really played singles.  I love the doubles game because of the strategy and team work it takes to try to beat the great teams.

 

PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

MK: I love playing at my home courts in Toledo OH. I am fortunate to have a great group of guys that I get to sharpen my skills against. 

 

PBC: What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

MK: I am not sure I have a secret sauce.  The doubles game to me is such a partner sport so I would say pick a great partner and then think strategically as a team rather that individually.  Drill to sharpen your skill and know your opponent.

 

PBC: What’s your day job?

MK: I spent 12 years in the gift industry and 12 years in medical pharmaceutical and software sales.  A year ago all of that changed and I started my own business in window treatments. I also work part-time at my church. 

 

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

MK: I try to play every day that ends in a “y”. Realistically, I play 2-3 times a week in pick up games with a group of guys.  I also participate in open play opportunities with our club to help grow the sport. (Marsha plays with the Toledo Pickleball Club)

 

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

MK: Not a big “luck” person. I say a prayer before the game to remind me that there is more to this life than Pickleball.

 

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

MK: My main goal each time out on the court is to give the opposing team and my partner the best game I have.  It has been fun the last year traveling and playing against the top women’s teams at the 2013 Nationals and So Cal tourney.  I am really looking forward to our upcoming Great Lakes Regional in Ft. Wayne IN, Tournament of Champions in Ogden this Sept and 2014 Nationals in November.  

 

PBC: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

MK: It is hard for me to think of myself as one of the best pickleball players in the world!  To me that wouldn’t be an accurate statement.  There are so many great players that never make it to the big tournaments because of family commitments/personal reasons.  I am blessed to be able to travel and compete in these tournaments. I also feel super blessed to have a great women’s doubles partner (Jessica LeMire) that I can team with. A great partner and great competition bring out the best in me. 

Marsh Koch taking silver at the 2014 Melba Bishop Classic  with doubles partner Jessica LeMire.

Marsh Koch taking silver at the 2014 Melba Bishop Classic with doubles partner Jessica LeMire.

Thanks Marsha!

Pickleball Growing Overseas: An Interview With Pickleball Spain Founder Mike Hess

We’re always so excited to hear about pickleball clubs overseas, so when we came across Pickleball Spain we had to reach out and hear the story of how they came to start a pickleball organization in Spain. So we sent them a list of questions and Mike Hess, President and founder, was kind enough to indulge our curiosity. Without further ado, Mike Hess from Pickleball Spain:
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Pickleball Central (PC): How did you first encounter pickleball?
Mike Hess (MH):
I was introduced to pickleball at the 2009 National Senior Games in Palo Alto, California where I was working as the National Director of Basketball. Pickleball wasn’t in the Summer Games that year, but several athletes there were telling me about the incredible growth of this great “new” sport. When I got home to Southern California after the Games I went and met Pat Carroll in Carlsbad, California. Pat is a great coach and can get anyone motivated about pickleball, and she’s been a mentor of mine ever since.

PC: When was “Pickleball Spain” founded and who was the brain child behind it?
MH: I’ve been living in Spain for the past 16 years and I founded the Spanish Pickleball Association in 2012. I was so amazed with the growth of the sport in the US and one of my missions in life is to get people actively participating in sport (I’m on the Board of Directors for the National Senior Games Association). There’s not a better sport for all ages and abilities than pickleball, so I decided to help spread the sport to Europe by setting up the association. My founding partners are Spanish friends who I’ve introduced to the sport. We call the association “Pickleball Spain” to emphasize the American roots of the sport. And of course a key benefit is that now I get to play year-round.

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PC:
What were people’s reactions to you when you told them what you wanted to do (start a pickleball association)?
MH:
No one here had ever heard of pickleball back in 2012 so most people didn’t know what to say. Fortunately the Spanish are passionate about sports so they’re very open to trying a new paddle sport.

PC: What is it about the sport that you thought would translate well into the European culture/consciousness?
MH: Europeans love tennis. Ping pong and badminton are also quite popular in certain regions. And in Spain, platform tennis (known here as Padel) is extremely popular. Therefore, the tennis clubs are already called racquet clubs and almost all of them have padel in addition to tennis. As a result, they’re pretty open to the idea of adding a new paddle sport. In a way padel has done the hard work of convincing tennis clubs and players that there’s more than one way for athletes to enjoy hitting a ball over a net with a paddle.


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You’re from the U.S.? Can you comment on any differences between play in Spain and play in the U.S.?
MH: Spain is one of the dominant tennis countries in the world, at least for men’s. And padel (platform tennis) is played throughout the country, both indoors and outdoors. Padel uses a paddle similar to the pickleball paddle. As a result the Spanish tend adapt to pickleball immediately – and they’re quite good. Once they learn the strategic aspects of the sport they’re extremely competitive because they’ve already mastered the technique playing the other racquet sports.

PC: Any rough estimate of how many players there are in Spain?
MH: Hard to say exactly. Several hundred are playing regularly between the schools, universities, sport centers and private clubs where we’ve introduced the sport, and participants cover all age groups. Spain has a huge public sports infrastructure, but it’s been a slow process to penetrate these clubs and to get the politicians onboard. Fortunately our persistence is paying off and now local governments are really supporting us. And the private clubs are also recognizing the great qualities and potential of pickleball, so we’re really encouraged about the evolution we’re having in 2014.

PC: Is Spain a pickleball destination?
MH: Spain is definitely becoming a pickleball destination. Spain is considered the “Florida of Europe”, so the European snowbirds all come down here for the winter to enjoy the nice weather. Lots of sun, coastline, and islands where people can enjoy being outdoors and playing pickleball.

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PC: Are North Americans going over to Spain to play?
MH: Actually, I get a few calls or emails every month from North Americans visiting Spain who ask me where they can play. It’s a lot of fun inviting them out to join us and they really enjoy playing with the Spaniards. In fact, so many North American pickleball players have asked me to organize some type of tour for them to come over and play that I finally put one together (www.vivapickleballtours.com). The first tours are scheduled for September of 2014 and people area already signing up. I’ve got a great coach joining us on each tour (Chris Thomas our and Timothy Nelson) and am looking forward to hosting pickleball players in this welcoming country.

PC: What is your goal for Pickleball Spain and Europe? Where do you see the org in 10 years?
MH: My goal is to replicate the growth in the US and Canada. The demographics in Europe are almost identical to those of North America so I’m optimistic the sport will continue to grow here. I’ve been helping other European countries get started as well and enjoy seeing the sport spread throughout the continent. I hope we can set up a World Tournament soon and produce some players that are able to compete with the top North Americans.

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PC: Will pickleball ever be an Olympic sport?
MH: Yes, without a doubt. I predict pickleball will be one of the highest participation sports in the world within the next decade. We all know the unique ingredients of the sport – fun, fast, easy to learn (but difficult to master), competitive, social, healthy exercise, economical and addictive. For the International Olympic Committee to consider adopting pickleball, participating in the sport needs to expand geographically, and with the number of quality Ambassadors increasing around the world it’s only a matter of time.

PC: What’s your go-to shot?
MH: I love playing at the non-volley line. There’s nothing like a fast volley exchange at the net. We’ve all experienced this and it’s part of what keeps us coming back for more. I don’t think I have a single go-to shot but do have pretty quick hands so enjoy the challenge of trying to return whatever comes at me when at the non-volley line.

PC:
Do you enjoy teaching people to play pickleball in Spain?
MH: I really love coaching. I’ve coached all my life, usually basketball and baseball which are the sports I grew up with. But it’s an amazing experience to teach Europeans a sport they’ve never heard of before, and after five minutes of rallying with them for the first time, to have them look over at me and say “Wow, this is a great sport! I’ve never heard of it before but I really like it and hope we can keep playing.” It’s something I experience every week and it only motivates me to spend more time out on the court introducing more people to pickleball. I consider myself a Global Pickleball Ambassador and look forward to continuing to help grow the sport throughout Spain and Europe and any other countries I’m fortunate enough to visit. I don’t go anywhere these days without four paddles and a few balls in my suitcase.

Confessions of a Newbie Pickleballer

I’m Rachel, and I played pickleball for the very first time today. I never even played in gym class growing up. Nope – today was my first foray into the sport ever. Here’s my story about how it went.

Two pickleball courts were installed at Maple Leaf Park just blocks from my house back in October. I’ve driven by them several times, and they’re nearly always full. I’ve been hearing about pickleball for months now, so when the weather was beautiful here in Seattle today, I thought I’d give it a try.

When my pickleball buddy and I showed up, as always, the courts were full. A couple in their 30s occupied one court, and a pair of 20-something guys were playing on the other. As neither my partner nor I had ever played the game, we didn’t feel comfortable interrupting the other players’ games by asking to play doubles. So we waited about half an hour for one of the duos to exit the court. In waiting, we decided to walk the perimeter of the park. As the 30-something couple was leaving, we almost lost our chance for their court – another pair walked up just as we did and almost claimed the newly vacated spot. Popular sport!

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We warmed up with some simple rallies, just getting the feel for the ball. I played tennis when I was in high school, so I thought I had this in the bag. Au contraire. It’s been a loooooong time since high school, and the pickleball ball moves and bounces much differently than your standard fuzzy green tennis ball. As it was a fairly windy day, several serves ended up going the opposite of their intended direction, and I ended up running the opposite direction from where a lot of my opponent’s shots landed!

The two hardest things for me to get used to were the no-volley zone and the double bounce rule. Even though it’s only two bounces, it was still hard to keep track of in the moment. And, it was so very tempting to want to slam one down on my opponent from right over the net. Scoring took a bit of getting used to too, but I think we got the knack pretty easily. It was similar enough to ping pong scoring (which my opponent, apparently, is some sort of aficionado of) that we were able to keep track.

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Aside from getting the rules down, I have to admit, that boy is this sport hard work! Everything I’ve read about the game boasts how simple it is to play for all skill levels and how it’s the sport of choice among seniors because there’s less running than tennis. I ran my patootie off! I had to take several breaks in between serves to catch my breath, and I can already tell that I am going to be S-O-R-E tomorrow. I went expecting low impact and left feeling like I’d definitely gotten a workout. I was exhausted by the end! See below for proof. :)

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I also have to say that the game is engrossing – and fun! We ended up playing for about 2 1/2 hours, which isn’t too shabby for a first timer. In the time we were there, the court next to us swapped out players three times. When we left, a mom and her two daughters who looked to be about four and two were playing. It truly is fun for the whole family!

All in all I had an awesome time playing, and I have to say I can’t wait to try it again! I might never win a tournament, but I’ve definitely found a new favorite sport.

Pickleball Gets Even More Social in Maryland Sport and Social Club

Pickleball players all know that part of the fun of pickleball is how social the sport is in nature. Well, a club in Maryland has taken the social aspect to a whole new level by creating a sport and social pickleball league. For those who don’t know, sport and social clubs are clubs that bring people together for a short amount of time – typically an 8-week “season” – to introduce people to a sport through a casual, social atmosphere. Players of all skill-level are usually welcome, as is beer. Sport and social clubs are popular around the nation and range in sports from skeeball to soccer. For the first time, as far as we could find, pickleball has become a sport and social club through an organization called Play Pickleball in Baltimore: www.facebook.com/playpickleball. We were curious how things were going (beer on a pickleball court seems like it adds quite a few obstacles to those dink shots) so we caught up with Autumn, one of the co-founders of Play Pickleball, and asked her a few questions. Here’s how the conversation went:

PickleballCentral (PC): Can you tell me a little about your organization? Do you run a multitude of social leagues, or just pickleball? 

Play Pickleball (PP): This is Play Pickleball’s 3rd season. John and I started the league May 2013, ran a Fall league in September 2013, and are currently running our 3rd league in April 2014. Yes, Pickleball is the only social league we personally run.

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PC: What is your personal experience with pickleball? 

PP: John and I learned to play Pickleball while vacationing in Florida.

PC: Where did the idea for a social league come from? 

PP: After our experience in Florida, we searched for a Social Pickleball league in Baltimore and found nothing. We thought it would be a fun game among our peers, so we created Play Pickleball.

PC: What has the response been to starting the league? Are you getting a lot of interest/people signing up? Or are people saying “what’s pickleball”? 

PP: The name “Pickleball” is actually what has helped the most in spreading the world about Pickleball. Since the majority of the population has never heard of the sport, when asked the question it allows us to explain the sport and how it is played. To assist in spreading the word, we have added videos and the basic rules of Pickleball to our website www.playpickleball.org. The response to starting our league has been great! Play Pickleball’s 1st season was the hardest to recruit, but once the league started more people became interested.

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PC: What’s the structure of the league? That is, what kind of scoring will you use, what kind of bracket system, and how will it differ from typical tournaments?

PP: Play Pickleball is set up for each team to play 3 games per session for 7 weeks. Each game is played first to 13 points (win by 2) or to 20 minutes. The last session of the season is a single elimination End of Season Tournament to declare the season Champions.

PC: Who is your target audience/demo?

PP: Play Pickleball was designed to bring exposure to the sport in a social atmosphere to all interested in playing.

PC: What was your main goal in starting this league?

PP: Spread Pickleball in a fun and competitive environment.

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PC: The league is social in nature and welcomes beer – will more accomplished players want to participate, or is this more for the casual player looking for an introduction to the sport? Both?

PP: Play Pickleball is designed to welcome all who are interested, whether an accomplished player or a rookie. Play Pickleball has attracted a large mixture of both competitive players and those interested in learning the sport in a social atmosphere. The more accomplished players are attracted to our league because there is currently no other opportunity for them to play and socialize in the Baltimore area. At the same time, we are attracting many who are interested in learning more about the sport and adding it to their social league “resume”. As Play Pickleball grows, we have plans to offer different levels of competition, such as Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Social.

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PC: How does the introduction of beer into a precision sport like pickleball affect the outcome of matches?

PP: Play Pickleball welcomes beer to create a social atmosphere. It allows people to socialize in between matches over a drink and use the beer as an excuse when they don’t preform well. :)

Thanks for sharing Autumn, and best of luck in growing the league! Great idea!

What Will it Take to Get Pickleball to the Olympics?

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As we all know, pickleball is sweeping the nation. According to the USAPA, the number of places to play in North America rose from 800 to 2,000 in just three years—2010 to 2013. In the same time period, the number of courts rose from 2,000 to 6,000, and the number of players rose from 60,000 to 105,000. Now that it’s 2014, there are an estimated 150,000 players across the continent, and the sport is catching on in Europe and Asia.

With the explosion in growth, some online forums have started chatting about the idea of pickleball as an Olympic sport contender. So we started to wonder—how exactly does a sport transition from well-loved pastime to inclusion on the Olympic roster?

The short answer: it’s not an easy road. Though the Olympics have experienced phenomenal growth and a lot of changes since their re-inception in 1896 (over 100 events have been added since 1980 alone!) it isn’t all that easy to gain a place under the banner of the Olympic rings.

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To make the journey, pickleball would first have to be recognized as a sport by the IOC (International Olympic Committee.) To do this, pickleball would have to gain administrative oversight by an international, non-governmental organization. This oversight by an international governing body allows a sport to gain International Sport Federation (IF) status.

Once a sport gains IF status, its governing body can apply for admittance to the IOC. The IOC judges each application in accordance with multiple rules and regulations.

First of all, the sport’s IF must have held a world championship competition prior to application for inclusion. Ready for a world pickleball tournament anyone? Fun!

Secondly, a sport must be widely practiced. And widely practiced, unfortunately, means a wee bit more than 150,000 players across North America. According to the Olympic charter, the sport must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries on 4 continents and by women in at least 40 countries across 3 continents. Image

If a sport meets these standards while also “increasing the value and appeal” of the Olympic Games and “reflecting its modern traditions,” the IOC still won’t introduce it as a new Olympic sport right away. The sport can be initially included as a “demonstration” sport while the sport’s IF applies for inclusion. Unfortunately, there’s a holding period–the application process must begin a minimum of 6 years before the scheduled Olympic Games in which the sport hopes to debut!

The IOC also tries to limit the scope of the Olympics by only allowing the admission of new sports as other sports are discontinued. Sports are not often discontinued—to lose status as an Olympic sport they must suffer extreme lack of public interest, corruption, lack of appropriate venues for play, or too-high cost.

There is good news. In 2007, the IOC did adopt more flexible rules for adding new sports to the Olympics. The new system, which will go into effect in 2020, allows for 25 core sports with 3 “floating” sports. The floating sports will allow sports that have been waiting for inclusion to be tested out for popularity in front of an international audience. This new rule will also, however, mean that every sport, including core sports, would be up for review after each Olympic Games. This new rule will allow sports to be included or dropped by a simple majority vote (contrary to the current system of a 2/3 majority vote).

The next racquet sport vying for a spot at the Games is squash. It’s been on the waiting list for awhile, failing to make it in 2012, and is in contention for 2016. Squash currently has 13 million players in over 150 countries. Racquetball would be the next racquet sport most likely to follow squash to the Olympics.

To give you an idea how difficult it is to gain status as an Olympic sport, tennis was part of the Summer Games beginning in 1896 but was dropped in 1924. For re-inclusion, tennis had to appear as a demonstration sport in 1968 and then again in 1984 before returning again as a full-fledged medal sport in the Summer Games of 1988.

The process may sound dishearteningly difficult, but we pickleballers have nothing but heart! While pickleball may not appear at the Olympics in 2020, if we keep picking up numbers at the current rate, could we look forward to 2024?