Meet the Pickleball Pros – Carolyn Ebbinghaus

We’re featuring Carolyn Ebbinghaus today as we continue on in our “Meet the Pros” series. Carolyn eats, sleeps, and breathes pickleball and has found success at making her life revolve around our favorite sport!

Pickleball Pro Carolyn Ebbinhaus of Traverse City, Michigan with a yellow pickleball paddle in her hand

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

* Won the Gold in Women’s singles at the Nationals 2012, in my age group 50+

* Won silver, in Women’s doubles, age 50+, Nationals 2012.

* Won two bronze medals, Nationals 2013, one in singles- age, and one in mixed doubles- age 50+

* Won 5.0 mixed doubles open, 2014, at the Meijer State games

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?

CE: I use the “Legacy” (the Legacy paddle by Pickleball Inc.). It gives me the extra power I need for put away shots.

Legacy composite pickleball paddle yellow paddle with blue accent color and edge guard

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

CE: I began playing pickleball at our local YMCA in Traverse City about 7 years ago. Only about 5 or 6 men played, and it looked very tough. I began playing every chance I could, and loved everything about the game.

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

CE: I love outdoor play. Here in Michigan, we get about a three month window of good weather, so I get outside and play every chance I get.

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

CE: I like doubles, singles wears you out faster.

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

CE: I like playing locally, at the new courts we just had put in at the old YMCA!

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

CE: Out dink your opponent, let them make the mistake.

Carolyn Ebbinghaus on the metals platform at National Pickleball Tournament

PBC: What’s your day job?

CE: I teach Pickleball lessons and sell paddles and supplies at Pickleball Outfitters, where I am President.

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

CE: I play out three hours a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I do most of my business work in the morning, and then work around lessons and playing. I have a great job!

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

CE: I wear two different color socks. Always white, but the top band colors do not match, and I do that for luck.

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

CE: My goal is to try to win another gold medal at the Nationals. The competition is tough, so any medal, is a goal.

PBC: Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?

CE: I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I have a terrific 22 year old daughter. Both of them enjoy the game. I have a great, supportive family.

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

CE: I have met wonderful friends in pickleball, all of which would give me a really hard time if I truly believed this last question. They do know,

however, that I have gone out and given it my best try, and hope to keep playing to the best of my ability, to be one of the best in my age group.

Thanks again, Carolyn!

by Miranda

Baby Boomers Return to College for Pickleball! The Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

When you think of a “typical college kid”, what do you picture? An 18-year old walking around with an oversized backpack and a pile of books? Perhaps a young adult with a look of pure excitement on her face, walking across the stage on her graduation day?

Would you picture a 68-year old married woman, with two kids and 7 grandchildren, with a degree she received over 40 years ago?

This is just an example of a typical student you’d meet at the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, or WILL. According to their website, “WILL offers a lifetime adventure for continued intellectual discovery in a supportive, expansive, and informal learning environment – for eager learners of any age”. The idea for this sort of program stemmed directly from the local townspeople, who had seen similar ideas in other communities.

WILL snag logo



Offering 70 courses this fall, ranging from a one day hike to a semester long program, WILL is a unique opportunity for students who may not fall into the “traditional” age group. For only $75 per semester, students can take as many classes or activities as they want. Held at Western New Mexico University, inside the city limits of Silver City, the program is a convenient way to have both an active mind and an active body.

June Decker, the facilitator of the pickleball course, is thrilled that pickleball has caught on in her community. In 1979, Decker was teaching at a university in Vegas, where a coworker introduced her to pickleball. For years, they joked that they were the only two in New Mexico who knew how to play! After moving to Silver City from Vegas, Decker was determined to start pickleball as a part of the New Mexico Senior Olympics. Once they started playing at the state level, the cities wanted to join in on the fun as well. Decker had the skillset and the drive – all she needed was a facility. That’s when the WILL program came along. The Western New Mexico University already had good pickleball paddles and indoor pickleball balls, giving her a great opportunity to share pickleball.

WILL pb1

Once pickleball was introduced, the community caught the pickleball craze! Decker jokes that she “never would have believed I would create a community of addicts”.

Pickleball is one of the most popular classes at WILL. When pickleball was first offered as a course in the fall of 2013, registration for the 18-person class was full within minutes of opening. There were so many people on the waiting list that the decision was made to create a second class section. This year, in addition to the beginner’s class, there is also an ‘Intermediate’ class offered for those who took the class the previous year. Each class lasts for about an hour, and there are thirteen sessions per semester (once per week).

Thanks to the large number of pickleball fans, Western New Mexico State now offers community play two days per week. There’s always enough space, thanks to the 6 outdoor courts and the 4 indoor courts in the university gym. Decker said, “I am very glad we have a pickleball community here so I have people to play with, and I’m glad that people enjoy this great sport.”

WILL pb2

Decker keeps her advice for new players simple: “See the ball, hit the ball. If you think too much, you tend to over-teach, and then the [new student’s] heads are spinning!”

As the conversation ended, Decker started laughing while she joked, “We’re keeping senior citizens off the streets!”

Thanks for sharing your story with us, June!

Photos courtesy of

by Miranda

Pickleball Referee Shortage? Huntsman Forgoes USAPA Sanctioning

The Huntsman World Senior Games is considered one of the leading pickleball tournaments, second only to the USA Pickleball Association’s National Tournament. This year the Huntsman Directors made a choice not to be a USA Pickleball Association sanctioned tournament.  It’s pretty shocking news for one of the largest pickleball tournaments in the country to forgo sanctioning by the sport’s governing body. But, the change hasn’t impact registration numbers. Registration is full and has been closed for several months; many of the world’s top senior players will be competing.
Why did the Huntsman Directors choose to forgo USAPA sanctioning this year?   Here’s the response I received from tournament director, Ken Schoonover:
I can confirm that the 2014 HWSG is not going to be a USAPA sanctioned event this year. There are several reasons, and it’s related primarily to the referee requirement but it would be an oversimplification to say “not enough referees”. 
- The requirement that every match have a referee for such a large tournament (we’ll have well over 1,300 matches) is generally doable but taxes the volunteer staff that is already responsible for executing the many, many other functions that are necessary to successfully execute a well-run, week-long event.
- Refereeing that many matches necessitates reliance on players to volunteer to referee. In our experience, players are becoming less and less interested and willing to step up and referee matches. So yes, at times it throughout the week, there can be a shortage of available referees. The worst case scenario is having to delay playing matches until someone steps up to referee. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it significantly disrupts the flow of the tournament. The more regular effect is that it overburdens those few individuals who go way over and above expectations and referee many more matches than one should have to.
- Many players would prefer not having a referee. The volunteer ref system means that the quality of refereeing skills varies greatly … from excellent to frankly very poor. An inexperienced referee can hamper the natural flow of a match compared to what players are accustomed to. Many players have been heard to admit that having no referee is preferable to having a bad referee. 
Having said all that, it is important to note the following, which I hope you will emphasize in your piece:
1. We will run the tournament in all other respects as though it were a sanctioned tournament.
2. We will plan on providing a referee for every match. Choosing not to sanction will give us the flexibility to a) go ahead and play a match without delaying the tournament, should we have a temporary shortage of refs, and b) allow a match to be played without a ref if all players in the match request no referee. As an alternative, we can provide a non-volley zone judge whose only duty will be to watch for kitchen line foot faults.
3. We fully expect to provide a quality, enjoyable tournament experience that will meet players expectations.
4. The HWSG will evaluate the results of 2014 tournament in deciding the future direction of the tournament going forward.
Thanks Ken for such a well reasoned response.
We wonder, will no USAPA sanctioning have an impact? Will other big tournament follow the Huntsman’s lead? It will be interesting to see.
The 2014 Huntsman World Senior Games Pickleball Event  is scheduled for October 13 – 17, 2014 in St. George, Utah.

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 (

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:

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.

What were people’s reactions to you when you told them what you wanted to do (start a pickleball association)?
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.

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.

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 ( 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.

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.

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.