Does Pickleball Have a Shot at Olympic Gold?

tokyo
With the 2016 Olympics in Rio now firmly in the rear-view mirror, we thought we’d take a look ahead at what it might take to get pickleball into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. As we said in 
this article about it back in 2014, getting a sport into the Olympics is a long and winding road. But four things make us hopeful that pickleball has a better shot (heh heh) than most sports at getting a coveted spot under the Olympic rings.  

1. Viewership for the Rio Olympics was abysmal. Down by 17% overall and 25% among millennials from the London games, future games need ratings H-E-L-P. Being the fastest growing sport in the United States, with almost 3 million players nationwide and players on 6 out of 7 continents, pickleball would be a natural fit for injecting fresh blood and interest into the games.

More entertaining than many current Olympic sports (dressage, we’re looking at you), there’s no way pickleball wouldn’t bring a massive ratings boost. Best of all? That boost would be multi-generational, as the sport is played by players 7 to 100.  

In addition, the sport’s small court size coupled with the finesse and skill of top pros would make for a slowmo replay heaven that would fit perfectly with the TV-dependent nature of the games. Plus, we’re pretty sure viewers would be captivated by the image of an octogenarian holding their own against a 30-something. Ratings would soar!  

Olympic medals

Credit: yosoynuts

2. Six new sports – baseball, softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing – have recently been added to the 2020 lineup of Olympic sports. As one of these is bound to fail (our money’s on sports climbing or softball), room may open up for a sport that never fails (pickleball) in 2024!

3. With almost 3 million players on six continents and more joining every day, the sport is getting closer to meeting the basic minimum requirements it needs to be considered to be an Olympic sport. If it keeps growing the way it’s growing, every grandparent on the planet could unwittingly be training the first pickleball Olympian. What a thought! Want to make sure you’re training a pro? Check out the 200P Mini Paddle for little hands.

4. This past year we saw the success of the first US Open Pickleball Championship. Thousands flocked to the tournament and tens of thousands more talked about it all across the internet. Who can look at that event – the hype, the interest, the level of play – and not see the future of the sport?  

For all these reasons we believe pickleball players will make it to the Olympic podium. It’s just a matter of when.

Ontario Pickleball Club Creates Free, Year-Long Program for Kids

Pickleball has a reputation as an old timers’ sport, and that’s fine by us—more time on the courts! But sometimes you just have to wonder: Won’t someone think of the children?

Today an Ontario club is sharing how they not only started an adult pickleball league, but created an entirely new pickleball program for kids.

This past August, Dan Pronovost of the K-W Badminton Club was awarded a $13,331 provincial grant to start a free pickleball program for the community’s youth. It’s an exciting development that will help show how the game’s versatile appeal while giving kids a positive outlet for their energy.

KWBC Building

Setting the Scene

“I’ve been a member of the K-W Badminton Club (KWBC) for many years,” Dan explains. “About 5 years ago, it became clear we’d need to purchase our building to continue growing our club and add additional sports. I joined the board to help manage this process and oversee renovating our 45,000 sq. ft. building.

“I’m happy to say since the purchase of our building in 2013, we’ve renovated about 25,000 sq. ft. of space for sport use. About 75% of the building is in use by our sports tenants and users. This includes axe throwing, roller derby, bike polo, professional wrestling and pickleball, along with our badminton club of course.”

Dan says that his group first reached out to KWPA, the Kitchener Waterloo Pickleball Association, in 2014 to bring the sport onto their six court badminton facility. Thanks to this cooperation, they now have daily pickleball programs for all skill levels.

“Hundreds of players visit the facility for pickleball every week, from beginners to advanced players who visit despite being hours away. Pickleball has been an excellent way to add additional weekday daytime programming in a facility that would otherwise be empty.”

KW Pickleball Interior

Wish Granted

Clearly, the club’s leadership went a long way toward getting pickleball established in the first place. But considering grants are something many pickleball groups would love to obtain, how did Dan make his case? Turns out it was a combination of past experience and finding an underserved demographic.

Dan Pronovost

Dan Pronovost

“We became aware of the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund (OSRCF) through our successful Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grants in past years. In talks with KWPA, we decided that pickleball for youth is a very underdeveloped demographic, since the sport is primarily aimed at seniors.

“But pickleball is of course equally exciting and fun for kids! The partnership opportunity with KWPA made perfect sense: KWBC is a mature and fiscally strong non-profit organization with grant experience and a world class sporting venue. KWPA has excellent talent for developing and leading a professionally-coached youth pickleball lessons program.”

The money for the grant has been allocated for, in order of usage:

– Coaching/instructor costs for the lessons (although 50% of the coaching is volunteer/non-paid)

– Additional administrative staffing and facility upkeep

– 20 new pickleball paddles and sufficient balls for one year

– Development of the coaching program/youth lessons sets

– Coaches certification and training

There are an incredible 192 kids that will get to enjoy this new program, where before there were no local opportunities for kids to play pickleball. The KWBC has also run paid youth badminton lessons for over 10 years which have been successful, so they feel confident there will be similar interest in pickleball.

KW Pickleball Games

Dan says the OSRCF grant will let them to make the pickleball lessons available for free to all participants for the 2016/17 school year, even with paddles and balls being included. With professional coaching, a great venue and free lessons, it’s not hard to see why spots fill up fast.

Their aim is to use the OSRCF grant to “seed”‘ the pickleball youth program in 2016/17, then continue with a nominally paid program beyond that to break even.

It’s a smart and beneficial model for all parties involved. While securing the grant was relatively straightforward, there are other concerns Dan has about supporting a thriving sports community.

Effort and Expansion

“The challenge is maintaining an 80+ year old building for sport use. Since the purchase of our building in 2013, we’ve invested over $500,000 in renovations and thousands of volunteer hours. While we are very happy to have received generous grants from sources like OTF and OSRCF, we can always use more help to further improve the quality of our venue.

“We are hoping to further renovate our 10,000 sq. ft. concrete rink pad space, which is used for pickleball and roller derby, by replacing part of the roof, adding heating for better winter usage, insulation, and high-quality floor painting and lines. Adding air conditioning for summer-time use is one of our more frequent member and user requests!

KWPA Players

“The demand for sport space in the core of Kitchener is growing, but there are no municipal plans to add venues. Every time we open an area of our building for tenants and renters, the space is taken almost immediately, especially for lesser-known sports struggling to compete for space.”

Dan says that he believes forward thinking, financially secure non-profit organizations such KWBC are key to helping address shortages of sport space for everyone in the community.

He also welcomes and encourages all pickleball players to visit their club, so if you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop by! KWBC hosts a popular regional pickleball tournament in spring, which is a draw for players from abroad to come out and compete.

“Many other sporting organizations are starting to see the value of adding pickleball to their venues. Indoor and outdoor tennis clubs are a good candidate for adding pickleball to help support their facilities and courts. Any club with a suitably-sized gym should be thinking about adding it to fill unused court times.”


We agree! To our readers looking to expand pickleball offerings in their area, we hope you’ll keep this advice in mind and push local community centers and other facilities to bring our favorite sport to the masses.

Thanks to Dan for his time and hard work ensuring pickleball is available to players of all ages!

Meet The Pros – Gigi LeMaster

Meet The Pros – Gigi LeMaster

Gigi in action
Gigi LeMaster is known as the “Queen of Dink”!  She loves the game, she loves the people and she’s tons of fun as a doubles partner.  Gigi is also a USAPA ambassador. She has designed and implemented a skill drill program and she gives lessons. Enjoy! 

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

2016 Canadian Champion Women’s Doubles Open with Sarah Ansboury – Gold
2016 Canadian Nationals Senior Mixed Open with Steve Dawson – Gold
2016 Int. Champion Women’s Doubles Open with Jennifer Lucore – Gold
2016 US OPEN 45+ Mixed Doubles with Dave Weinbach – Gold
2016 US Open  30+ Women’s Doubles with Irina Tereschenko – Gold
2016 US Open Mixed Doubles Pro Division with Dave Weinbach – Silver

Gigi at USOpen
2015 Nationals  19+ Women’s Doubles with Sarah Ansboury – Gold
2015 Nationals Open Women’s Double with Sarah Ansboury – Gold
2015 Nationals  19+ Mixed Doubles with Rafael Siebenschein – Silver
2015 Fall Brawl Medal Women’s Doubles with Sarah Ansboury – Gold
2014 Nationals  Mixed Doubles Open with Enrique Ruiz – Gold
2014 TOC Medal Mixed Doubles Open with Enrique Ruiz – Silver
2014 TOC Medal Women’s Doubles Open with Adina Jones – Silver
2013 TOC Gold Medal Mixed Doubles Open ( Highest $$ winner) with Enrique Ruiz – Gold
2013 TOC Gold Medal Women’s Doubles Open with Adina Jones – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Pro-Lite Blaster Graphite and Titan because of the feel they provide for my soft game. 

What’s your pickleball story?

It’s the story of The Little Engine That Could. I think I can…

A lot of hard work and positive attitude, never giving up. I was arguably the most unorthodox player when I started playing, with bad technique and even stranger shots but that did not deter me from reaching my goals.

How were you introduced to pickleball?

Once upon a time… while walking I heard this funny sound coming from the neighborhood basketball court. When I turned the corner I saw a group of players with these funny paddles hitting a yellow ball on temporary courts. It looked like a lot of fun and I asked if I could join them. The rest is history. I have been hooked ever since.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I love playing outdoors, but I like the indoor game as well because of how true the ball plays.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Doubles definitely! Singles to me is mini tennis; I feel pickleball was invented to be played as doubles.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Without a doubt, the city of Surprise’s public courts. I feel enormous pride whenever I pull up to the Surprise courts to play for having been a big part in getting them built. It’s a place where players of all ages and skill levels can come together, mix it up and work on their game. It’s where Wayne Muggli taught me how to dink, where Steve Wong and I spent countless hours drilling and playing, it’s where I became the player I am today. Great memories, good friends and fun games!

What’s your secret sauce?

It’s a combination of mental strength, strategy and patience.

Any tips for players?

Believe in your game and dinking is not a bad word, even if my spell checker tells me otherwise.🙂

What’s your day job?

Living life to the fullest! I am retired.

How many hours a week do you play?

I play on average 3 – 4 times a week.

How do you make time to play?

My husband and I are retired which gives me plenty of time to play.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?Gigi smile

None. It’s a day like any other. Even during the tournament I am a social butterfly, I love to talk, walk around and watch pickleball, so most of the time I find myself running to the court, grabbing my paddle and water bottle on the way after I hear my name announced. No rituals except for maybe a few stretches.

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

I’m very blessed to have reached all of my goals regarding tournaments I wanted to win and I am thankful to all of my partners for sharing and helping me attain those goals so now I have this short list with names of players I would love to play with.

Kyle Yates, I’m not getting any younger.😉 Hint!

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

It sounds pretty corny but for me it’s the people that make it all worthwhile. It’s seeing your buddies at tournaments, the camaraderie, it’s a smile on a student’s face when he/she hits a nice shot, teaching high school kids, the volunteers running tournaments, it’s about paying it forward. 

It’s also about pushing yourself to be better, keep challenging yourself. And of course it’s about being part of the pickleball revolution, knowing that you are a tiny part of pickleball history. How very fortunate we are!

3 Real Ways Pickleball Can Build Character

Many of us grew up hearing, “Sports build character.” However, studies have concluded the opposite is true. Winning satisfies like a good steak. Character satisfies like Don Paschal’s kale salad. Like my dear friend Vegen says: “Sport doesn’t build character; it reveals character.”

I learn more about a person in one hour on the court than in enjoying a dozen meals together. I also learn about myself.

Victory sign

Winning’s not everything, but… it sure is fun! (Credit: Petr and Bara Ruzicka)

Why does winning still matter to me at 55-years-old? What longing is fulfilled through another medal or through winning a game at any level? Does 5.0 status make me a better person?  I certainly hope not. Some days I wish I was back at 4.5 level competing for golds with my good friend Ken Crocker.

I am still discovering that a good reputation is more valuable than a drawer full of medals. Don Paschal’s kale salad does satisfy. Consider three tips for gaining pickleball perspective on court.

Great pickleball shots

Concentrate on making good shots and a good game will follow (Credit: Chad Ryan)

1. Compete by making great shots. After all, that is all I control. Be satisfied by playing well and losing.  Congratulate opponents when they make better shots. Losing implies I had the opportunity to be on the court with better players.

2. Be the most complementary of partners. Pickleball is a social activity which begs for laughter and smiles. Fun banter and big smiles compensate for many poor shots.

Pickleball victory

We can all stand to be gracious in both victory and defeat (Credit: Chad Ryan)

3. I love to be around people who can pursue a goal with great intensity and discipline but are content regardless of the outcome. Perhaps there are moments where I can be that person on a pickleball court.

In life as in sports, I have benefited more from my losses than my wins. I think I will make a kale salad for lunch.

Kale salad

Delicious kale salad (Credit: Brandom Dimcheff)

What tips might you have on how to gain pickleball perspective?

– Glen Peterson

Meet The Pros – Roxanne Pierce

Meet The Pros – Roxanne Pierce

Huntsman Senior Games Gold Mixed Doubles with Mike Stahl

Huntsman Senior Games Gold Mixed Doubles with Mike Stahl

Roxanne has been an athlete all of her life.  She easily admits her early addiction to pickleball. Enjoy!

1972 Olympic gymnastics team - Roxanne is the tall one in the middle

1972 Olympic gymnastics team – Roxanne is the tall one in the middle

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

My 1st tournament after starting pickleball outside of New Mexico was the 2011 USAPA Nationals – I took the silver in age singles.

Other wins include:
2015 USAPA Nationals – Women’s Doubles  with Cookie Drake – Silver, Mixed Doubles with Scott Lennan – Silver and Women’s Singles – Silver
2014 USAPA Nationals – Mixed Doubles with Scott Lennan – Gold, Women’s Singles – Bronze and Women’s Doubles with Pat Nissan – Silver
2013 USAPA Nationals – Mixed Doubles with Scott Lennan – Gold and Women’s Singles  – Silver
2012 USAPA Nationals – Women’s Singles – Gold,  Open Women’s Doubles with Gigi LeMaster – Bronze, Women’s Doubles – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

evoke-graphite

Evoke Graphite Paddle

Right now, I play with the Evoke Graphite by Onix Sports. I like the touch, power and weight.  Looking forward to Onix coming out with a long paddle.

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

I lived in Albuquerque when I was first introduced to pickleball. There was an article in the local paper, the Albuquerque Journal, which introduced the game. At that time, the USAPA Pickleball Ambassador for Albuquerque was Bill Marshall.  He included his phone number in the article so I gave him a call.  I was on the indoor courts at a community center the very next day.  I liked it, but it wasn’t until a month later, when the game went outdoors, that my pickleball addiction began.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I absolutely prefer to play outdoors.  I will only play indoors if there is no possibility of playing outdoors for at least a month.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

If I’m in shape, I prefer singles.  I like the pickleball workout and if I screw up there are no apologies to be made.  Everybody wins when we play together!

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

I don’t have a favorite place – it’s always where the best pickleball people are that make pickleball such a great sport.

roxanne-pierce-and-friends

2105 Grand Canyon State Games – Laura Schwarz-Mike Schwarz, Gold, Rachael Kroog-Andy Gensch, Silver and Roxanne Pierce-Doug Koch, Bronze

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Not sure what you mean.  I definitely play the best when I’ve had a good night’s sleep and eat and hydrate well.

What’s your day job?

I have been retired from the Albuquerque Fire Department (firefighter, paramedic, dispatcher) since 2003.

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

I average about 12 hours a week.  No trouble making time for pickleball- it’s one of my first priorities.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Can’t say that I do.  I’m not a superstitious person.  Again, if I can sleep, eat, hydrate and stretch well, I feel ready.

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

To stay in contact with all the awesome pickleballers I’ve met and play the game into old age.

Huntsman 2015 - Roxanne Pierce, Gold, Sydney Hayes Silver and Marsha Freso, Bronze

Huntsman 2015 – Roxanne Pierce, Gold, Sydney Hayes Silver and Marsha Freso, Bronze

Roxanne is a true inspiration for anyone who is looking for a pickleball role model.  Thank you Roxanne for sharing some of your story with our readers!

5 Tweaks That Would Make Pickleball a Better Sport

As pickleball emerges from adolescence among lawn games into legitimate sporthood, a few changes would make the sport more practical. Some of you might disagree with my five suggestions, but that’s the beauty of blogging!

1. We need a scoring approach that doesn’t confuse or penalize mental lapses. Rally scoring would generate more predictable match time allowances (think volleyball). I hate rally scoring, but this sport needs it.

2. Rules defining a legitimate serve, though clear, are nearly impossible to apply by even the keenest refs. Was the entire paddle below the wrist when the ball was hit? Was that ball below the navel? Must we demand exposed midriffs?

Pickleball serve

Is this serve going to be below the wrist? (Credit: You Belong in Longmont)

3. Third, double hits and intentional carries are frequently overlooked. Should they be? Carries are only disallowed if intentional, but how can a ref assess a player’s “intentions”? Does any other sports measure intentions?

4. Line calls are almost impossible, partly because different balls compress differently depending on the angle and speed at impact. The popular notion of point contact is invalid. Even Dura balls compress on contact. Close calls are a fuzzy mess and players have different criteria for making calls.

I recognize that the technology involved to address this is expensive, but it will come. There is no simple solution here, but some education on ball compression might help.

Line call

Who knows if that ball will be in or out without Hawk-Eye technology? (Credit: Chad Ryan)

5. Bracket tournaments often dissatisfy all but the very top players. Players come to participate, not spectate. Traveling to tournaments takes time and money. Losing two matches and spending the rest of the day in a chair discourages many. In some cases, great players are not adequately vetted because matches are too short and it takes time to adjust to the competitive pressure.

While there is definitely a place for bracket tournaments, we need creative organizers developing new approaches for similar level players to gather and celebrate pickleball. Pickleball jamborees might appeal. Laughter during play satisfies me more than winning.


 

Doubtless, many of you have other suggestions. Let’s hear them!

– Glen Peterson

Meet The Pros – Diane Bock

Meet The Pros – Diane Bock

Diane Bock 1

Diane is well known in the national pickleball pro circles.  She has a great all-around style, and she loves the game so much, she moved from Iowa to The Villages, Florida so that she could play everyday. Enjoy!

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

2016 US OPEN, 60-64 Women’s Doubles with Bobbie Little – Gold
2015 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles 60+, Bronze with Sue Buerkens
2015 USAPA Nationals, Mixed Doubles 60+with Mark Friedenberg, Bronze

2015 Huntsman World Senior Games, Women’s Doubles with Dee Ahern – Bronze
2015 Sr Nationals Minneapolis Women’s Doubles 60-64 with Bobbie Little – Silver
2014 USAPA Nationals, Mixed Doubles 60+ with Yoda Friedenberg – Gold
2014 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles 55-59 with Deb Arnold – Silver

2012 USAPA Nationals, Mixed Doubles, with husband Marc Bock – Gold
2012 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles with Deb Harrison – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Paddletek TS-5. I like the control and the power I get with this paddle.

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

I grew up across the street from tennis courts, so, of course, I played tennis.  I went to the Iowa State Competition in high school tennis.  Later, we bought a farm and put in a tennis court.  We also played other sports on the court, like volleyball.  A friend of ours discovered The Villages, Florida where they were introduced to pickleball.  They invited us to come for a visit, and of course, we fell in love with the sport.  We went back to Iowa and tried to get it started in the community.  We were allowed to use outdoor courts and the indoor rec. center, if it was a scheduled event, but it never really generated much interest.  This was 2005.  Two years later, we moved to The Villages.  The rest is history. We never played tennis after that.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I prefer to play outdoors.  But when I have to play indoors, I get used to it.  I have indoor shoes, and it’s not too hard to adjust to the indoor game.

Gold Medalists, Diane Bock and Brenda Littlefield on the Pickleball court

Gold Medalists, Diane Bock and Brenda Littlefield on the Pickleball court

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like to play all three:  Singles, Mixed Doubles and Women’s Doubles.  It’s sometimes difficult to prepare for a singles tournament.  Usually there’s not been much opportunity to practice for the singles game.  So, she started teaching weekly clinics on the singles game.  She has about 15 ladies sign up and they work on drills and strategy for the singles game.  She also started a “Battle of the Sexes” singles tournament with the ladies and a group of guys too.  They have a trophy that travels between the 2 groups.  There is a rec center that has 18 courts, so there are plenty of courts available for our tournament.  When folks sign in, they get to draw the name of their opponent from “a hat”.  After the tournament we always have a potluck.  We are always trying to encourage people to try singles play.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

The Villages.  I enjoy playing in tournaments.  I have friends all across the country.  But I enjoy everyday play with friends the most.  It’s more fun.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My best advice is to have a consistent strategy.  Make sure your serve is deep, and make the ball go deep when returning a serve.  Always have in mind where you want to be on the court when you hit the ball. I always think about where I am putting the ball instead of hitting randomly. I try to keep the opponent back. Sometimes I do the 3rd shot hard & 5th shot soft.  These basics always serve me well.  I’m always open to learning new ways to play.  I take Deb Harrison’s classes regularly.

What’s your day job?

I retired from my nursing career in 2012.  Now I teach pickleball clinics.Diane bock 2

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

I play every day, up to 20 hours a week.  I also cross train in track, softball and golf.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Before the tournament, I think a lot about who my opponent will be.  If I’ll be competing in doubles, I talk about strategies with my partner.  I carb load the night before, like a pasta dinner.  I get enough sleep.  I stay hydrated.  Healthy stuff!

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

I hope to qualify for The Senior Nationals next year.  Every other year is the qualifying year.  I also plan to compete in this year’s USAPA Nationals and the Florida State Senior Games.  We’ll miss Nationals next year because we are traveling to Africa to do service work.  It’s our way of giving back.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players today?

Pickleball is such a terrific game.  It’s fun, it’s great exercise and a great way to meet terrific, friendly people.  We do all need to keep it in healthy perspective when we compete.   At the U.S. Open, the media seemed to focus on the more youthful players.  The funny thing is, I received some feedback that people loved watching the 60+ games because it’s like a chess match.  Those of us in the 60+ category could be recognized more for playing a really smart game.