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?

History of the Kitchen in Pickleball

Everyone who plays pickleball knows that the sport is played on a court that’s identical to a badminton court…except for one key difference. While badminton’s short service line, or “No Volley Zone” line, is at 6’6″ from the net, pickleball’s NVZ line is at 7′. Why is pickleball’s kitchen a full 6 inches longer than badminton’s? There’s a really simple, kind of unexpected answer: it just feels right. 

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The answer comes from Dennis Dacey, USAPA Rules Chair, who explains that “over the first two years of the development of the sport, the NVZ was conceived and the line was tried in various 6” increments. It was at this time that those involved agreed that the 7’ line worked best. It had nothing to do with the badminton line then or now.” Dacey goes on to explain that “one would not think so, but 6” makes a big difference when playing the game with more advanced players. Having the additional 6” makes it easier to make good drop shots and to make for a more equal playing field with both tall and short players.” Pickleball may have borrowed badminton’s court size, but pickleball is faster-paced and played with a ball that bounces and moves quite differently than a shuttlecock. It makes sense that a NVZ that works perfectly well in badminton may not be the ideal fit for pickleball.

Interested in learning more about the history of pickleball? Check out an interview with Barney McCallum, one of the sport’s inventors, here. It’s near the bottom of the page, and is the video titled “Pickleball Barney McCallum Interview.”

 

 

Up Your Game with Yoga Poses for Pickleball

Yoga Poses for Pickleball

Pretty much everyone knows the benefits of yoga – increased strength, flexibility, endurance, agility, and balance – but not everyone knows that yoga can specifically benefit athletes like pickleballers.

Pickleball may be relatively low impact, but as a sport with repetitive movements, it still puts strain on the body that can lead to injuries. Unlike a lot of sports, pickleball demands more from a player’s dominant side – their paddle hand side – resulting in repetitive misalignment that can put uneven wear and tear on that side of the body. Here are some pickleball specific yoga poses that can help strengthen arms, backs, and shoulders, even out hips, and lengthen both sides of the body evenly helping to avoid injury, recover from the strain of court time more quickly, and make your game more powerful.

1 – Downward Facing Dog
Benefits: This pose strengthens and opens the shoulders, upper back, arms, and wrists strained by repetitive paddle movement, while stretching the hamstrings and calves after hours spent bending your legs on the court.

How to: Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders. Press down on both hands and spread your fingers evenly for balance. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees away from the ground, keeping them slightly bent. Lift your buttocks toward the ceiling. Lengthen your legs, placing your heels on the ground if you’re able, and firm your shoulders, broadening them away from each other. If one side of your body feels longer than the other, press your weight into the shorter side. Hold your head steady between your shoulders – don’t let it hang to the floor. Hold for as long as comfortable.

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2 – Cow Face Pose
Benefits: This pose loosens tight rotator cuff muscles caused by repetitive service and forehand motions, and also opens muscles around the hip joints that may be shortened by running around the pickleball court.

How to: Sit on the ground with knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Let your knees fall toward the ground. Place a strap over your left shoulder so it hangs midway down your back. Bend your right arm behind you with the forearm falling into the hollow of your lower back. Grasp the strap with your right hand, making sure the other end of it stays on your shoulder. Stretch your left arm up to the sky, palm forward. Bend the left elbow and grasp the strap that’s on your shoulder. Inch the hands toward each other along the strap as far as you can. If you are able to clasp hands without straining, drop the strap. Draw your navel toward your spine and try not to round the lower back. Hold for as long as comfortable then switch sides.

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3 – Eagle
Benefits: This pose helps improve balance and stability for quickness on the court, strengthens ankles and calves worn out from fancy footwork, and opens up the shoulders, upper back, thighs, and hips allowing for more ease of movement while lunging for pickleballs.

To do: Stand with your feet hip-width apart then hug your right knee into your chest. Bend your left knee and cross your right leg around your left leg, hooking your right foot on either side of your left leg. Wrap your right arm under your left arm. Sit down as much as you can and lift up through the arms to stay balanced. Hold for as long as comfortable, then unwind and repeat on the other side.

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4 – Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Benefits: Promotes spinal flexibility, power, and strength by opening the upper body, which allows players to hit the ball harder. Twisting moves also correct the imbalance between the right and left sides of the body, relieving stress placed on a player’s dominant paddle side.

To do: Sit with both legs extended in front of you and avoid rounding your lower back. Bend your right knee and put your foot on the ground. Step the right foot over the left thigh, placing it on the ground outside the left quadriceps. Lift the spine and reach your left arm up to the ceiling. Exhale and twist to the right, rotating your navel toward your inner right thigh. Place your right hand on the floor behind your buttocks. Wrap your left elbow around the outside of your right knee. Keep the majority of your body weight on your tailbone, not your stabilizing hand. Look over your right shoulder. Press the elbow into the knee to activate the muscles that power your forehand. Hold for as long as comfortable and switch sides.

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5 – Triangle Pose
Benefits: Stretches the hips, groin, chest, and shoulders to increase ease of movement and range of motion on the court. It also strengthens knees, thighs, and ankles to increase speed of foot work on the court.

How to: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width. Turn your right foot 90 degrees so your toes point toward the top of the mat. Align the center of your right kneecap with the center of your right ankle. Pivot your left foot inwards slightly so your toes are at a 45-degree angle. Raise your arms shoulder height to your sides, parallel to the floor. Breathe in, and as you exhale reach through your right hand in the same direction your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back and fold over at your right hip. Keep your left leg engaged and press the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rest your right hand on your outer shin or ankle and stretch your left arm toward the ceiling.

Keeping your head in a neutral position, hold for as long as comfortable. To disengage from the pose, inhale and press firmly through your left heel while lifting your torso. Lower your arms, turn to the left, reverse the position of your feet, and repeat on the opposite side.

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6 – Chair Pose
Benefits: Stretches shoulders and chest, strengthens calves, ankles, and thighs, and reduces flat feet – something you definitely don’t want on the court.

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms straight out from your shoulders, keeping shoulders back and down. Exhale and lower into the pose by pushing your hips back and bending your knees as though you are sitting in a chair. Draw abs in tight. Hold your position for as long as is comfortable.

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Now get back on the courts feeling fresh, relaxed, stretched, and more powerful. Happy pickleballing!

 

Have Paddle, Will Travel

How fun would it be to take a pickleball road trip and sample some neighboring courts? Brent Russell, who works with the City of Winston-Salem’s Recreation and Parks Department, took a mini one around Raleigh, NC and he was generous enough to share his adventures with us. Here’s his story of a mini pickleball journey:

Day 1: Hello all who love pickleball… I was fortunate to get away last week for a few days to take a partial pickleball road trip. The first place I played was at the Optimist Park Community Center in Raleigh, NC on the very cold morning of the 13th.

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The Optimist Park is a 3-court indoor set up. Lots of nice people there on Thursday maxing out at around 25-30 coming and going between 12:30pm-2:30pm including Diane, Judy, Moody, Randy, Barbara, Dave, Jay, Gary, Rodney, Fred, Danley, and Bob Bazemore. The wait time between games wasn’t bad at all. There were mainly intermediate players and it was lots of fun!

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Day 2: My 2nd venue was also in Raleigh at The Finely YMCA.

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They have a one court set up, so there is some waiting if a lot of people participate. I arrived later in the afternoon and was concerned that the Y’s 3pm cut off time might affect how much pickleball I would get to play. I lucked out though, in that their 3pm cut off only applies if there are people waiting to play basketball. There was only one guy named Andrew waiting to play B-ball, and since he agreed to delay his basketball time in favor of pickleball we got to extend the play until almost 4pm. The players there were very nice (just like at the Optimist Club) and included Andrew, Ivette, David, Kenneth, Harrison, and myself. Most of these guys were intermediate players and were the last to play after many had already come and gone throughout the day. The downside at the Y was the court was a little dark as some lights had gone out. The staff said they were waiting on a few more lights to go out before changing the them, because apparently changing out the bulbs is a major production. Since they only have the one court they play rally scoring, but with all games played to 21. This is intended to keep games shorter, but I really don’t think this goal was achieved. The games I played actually seemed longer. Still, it was a good and positive experience.

Day 3: For the last day of my mini pickleball adventure I headed to the Lake Lynn Community Center.

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Unfortunately, I was almost all the way to Lake Lynn before I realized I had left my best pickleball shoes at the hotel, darn it all!!!

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The Lake Lynn Community Center has a man named Cameron at the reception desk who asks new players to fill out a registration form, just like at the Optimist Club, but at least there is no fee. Then you can go downstairs to the Gym. They have a 6-court set up, so there is great opportunity for lots of play!!!  There is a tremendous vinyl divider in the gym pictured below that’s similar to the gateway at the YWCA in Winstom-Salem. The 6 courts are divided into 3 “regular play courts” and 3 “challenge courts”. Pictured below is the regular play court where I started my warm ups during the late morning period of the 11am-3pm session. I noticed that these players included both beginner and intermediate players including Carson, Kimberly, and Carol.

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Bob Bazemore is a regular at this venue and is shown with his back to us in the white T-shirt pictured above and then with me in the picture below. He suggested that he and I go to the other side of the divider and try teaming up against some players on the “challenge courts”. The “challenge courts” are basically the same set up as the regular courts, but if your team wins you immediately play a 2nd game right in a row versus the next challenger team. Some players on that side were also at the Optimist Club and YMCA the days before including Jin, Bruce, Carol, Francis, Alex, Kenneth, Rodney, Fred, Danley, Dave, David, and Bob Bazemore. Playing with Bob as a partner was a positive experience. Our team effort gave us a 3 win/2 loss record on the “challenge court,” and after 4 straight hours of pickleball I earned a total 6 win/3 loss record for the day. By 4pm I was pretty well spent and can only hope and pray that I keep my big toenails after playing in ill-fitting shoes all day. Glad to return to my hotel for a hot shower and a late lunch…

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Thanks and God bless,

Brent E. Russell
City of Winston-Salem
Recreation & Parks Department

All I Need to Know About Life I learned from Pickleball…

There’s a reason pickleball is sweeping the nation. It’s fun, friendly, and great exercise… and there are a ton of lessons you can take from it for use in life. Image

Aim Carefully – you hit what you aim for so be careful where you point your paddle… and your life.

Know the Rules and Obey - no matter what the game, no one likes a cheat. Ignore the rules and you’ll run out of partners to play with.

Assume the best - in line calls and life, be generous of spirit and give others the benefit of the doubt. 

Help others – remember where you came from. When you see a less experienced player, offer to play them. We all start at the same level and get better with the help of those around us.

Be a good sport – it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Shake hands, say good game, and hope for better luck next time.

Practice, practice, practice. Repeat. It’s the only way you get better at anything.

Play the hand you’re given – if you’re paired with someone with less skill, take it as an opportunity to teach, practice, and learn. If you’re paired with someone who can clobber you, take the lesson in humility. The only way you won’t learn something is if you don’t play cuz’ you don’t like the cards.

Slow and steady wins the race – until you’re proficient enough to have a 90% success rate with trick shots or spin stick to basics, keep it simple, keep it consistent. Basics are hard enough to master, and 75% of points are won through other players’ errors.

Announce the score loud and clear – in pickleball, and life, it’s always good to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Poach at your own risk – unless you have a good reason and your partner’s permission, it’s easier on everyone (including you) if you just worry about yourself.

Be ready – always assume the ball (or insert life event here) is going to come to you next.

Communicate – as in relationships, doubles players can’t win without communication.

Give 100% effort 100% of the time – if you’re trying your best, you don’t need to apologize.

Smile and laugh often – humor makes life, and pickleball, a lot more fun.

Make friends.

Arrive on time.

Remember to breathe. 

Stretch.

How to Make Your Own Pickleball Paddle

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Recently we posted a letter from a man who traveled to Moldova to volunteer at a camp for disadvantaged teens. He was a pickleball fan and knew that during his time there he would want to teach the kids how to play. He also knew that there was no money in the budget for paddles so he made his own. You can read about him here:

Inspired by his DIY (Do It Yourself) spirit, we thought we’d let others know how to fashion your own paddles should the mood – or need – strike.

Step 1: Start with a template. We’ve included one here (adapted from www.zerothousand.net)

Change the height and width to fit the specs you want and print it off on paper that’s large enough to fit the whole picture with some breathing room (11×17 should fit the bill).

Note: according to the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) Tournament Rule Book, “the most common paddle measurement is approximately 8” wide by 15 ¾” long. The combined length and width including any edge guard and butt cap shall not exceed 24”.

Step 2: Choose your paddle material and thickness. There is no restriction on thickness, but 3/8” is a common measurement. Every DYI paddle we’ve seen has been made from wood. Most are made from 5 or 7 layer plywood, while some are made from solid wood. High-tech materials like sheets of nomex or aluminum honeycomb with a graphite or fiberglass face are difficult to work with and can delaminate without a strong edge guard. Finding these high-tech materials is very challenging and expensive. We recommend sticking with wood for homemade paddles.

Note: according to the IFP “Paddle Material Specifications,” paddles “shall be made of relatively rigid, non-compressible material… That is the traditional concept of a paddle and that is why the game is not played with a stringed racquet. Paddles that produce a trampoline effect or an effect similar to a stringed racquet are specifically disallowed.”

Step 3: Cut out the template and affix it to your chosen paddle material using spray adhesive or similar glue product.

Step 4: Cut along the template guidelines using a cutting tool of your choice that is both accurate and strong enough given your chosen material.

Step 5: Remove the template from the paddle. Depending on what adhesive you used, removal may involve sanding, soaking, peeling, rubbing, or begging.

Step 6: Sand as needed to make all surfaces smooth and even. This could include the face and edges or anywhere your cutting tool went haywire.

Step 7: Customize your paddle face with paint, stickers, graphics, a picture of your ex, etc.

Note: back to the IFP rule book, “The paddle hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, features that are reflective, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart additional or increased spin on the ball.”

Step 8: Build up the handle by gluing small pieces of wood or foam on either side of the handle. Wrap the handle with the tennis grip of your choice. Our most popular grip is the Gamma Ultra Cushion Contour Grip. Use electric tape at the top and bottom of the grip to create a polished look.  Almost all paddle grip sizes are between 4 to 4 ½“ in circumference. Smaller grips allow for more wrist action, which aids in putting spin on the ball and enhances control. A larger grip will provide more stability and be easier on your arm. You can also wrap the edges of the paddle with tape if desired. Common tapes to use are electrical, duct, and athletic.

Step 9: Send us a photo of your new, custom paddle! Send to anna@pickleballcentral.com or upload it to our Facebook page.

Step 10: Share this blog with all your DIY’er friends.

Step 11: Go rule the courts!  ….but don’t play in a tournament. Effective January 1, 2014 homemade paddles are not permitted in USA Pickleball Association sanctioned tournaments. Rule 2.E.5.

Don’t want to go through all these steps? You can pick up a great wood pickleball paddle for less than $15!