How to Set Up a Local Pickleball Club

Pickleball is a social sport by nature, and since many players’ favorite type of game is doubles, more people equals more fun. But what can you do if there aren’t many picklers in your area, or if pickleball itself is relatively unknown?

We recommend starting your own pickleball club. This can seem daunting at first, but the truth is it can be as simple as contacting a nearby rec center or finding an old tennis court. You’ll end up with more people to play with, and a whole new group of pickleball fanatics will be born. It’s win-win!

Pickleball is highly addictive, and if you can get even a few people on the courts, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get return visitors bringing their friends. Let’s walk through how you can go about setting up your own pickleball paradise.

Find a Place to Play Pickleball

The first step is finding a suitable place to play. Choosing a centralized location in your city is always a plus, as it will make your club more accessible to visitors. If you know of a nearby rec center, park or other public facility where there are already tennis courts then that’s a plus, as you can fit 4 pickleball courts within 1 tennis court. There are detailed instructions on how to utilize a tennis court for pickleball here. Doubles badminton courts are the same size as those used in pickleball as well.

Warehouse Pickleball Court

Our court is in the warehouse, but the net gets moved around depending on how many boxes are present…

If you can find a location with pre-established courts, you’ll need to ask the owner or coordinator of the facility if it would be possible to allow a time for pickleball drop-ins to play, and if it’s okay to use court tape or temporary markers on the ground to establish boundary lines. Another useful tool is a net adjuster so you can lower tennis or badminton nets to the appropriate height of 34”.

Of course, the most accessible place to play is the court you build yourself! If you have the space, you can always install your own court using our Wilson posts or set things up on the go using a portable net system. We also know about plenty of communities that have lobbied to get public pickleball courts installed with great success.

Choose the Right Equipment

Once you have a court, the next step is to ensure your members have equipment. It’s great if people can bring their own paddles and balls, however if you’re starting from scratch, there’s a possibility most of your members will be newbies. It doesn’t hurt to have extras on hand for anyone curious about the game either, since most people end up investing in better paddles down the line.

The most affordable type of paddles are wood, so it’s possible to buy several without breaking the bank. However, if you want potential members to get a real sense of what a “good” pickleball paddle plays like, buying a couple low cost composite paddles (which will be cheaper if they’re gently used) will be your best bet.

Find Members for Your Pickleball Club

So how do you go about finding members? A good place to start is to look at nearby USAPA members and other clubs in your area by going to USAPA.org. Not only will they be able to offer advice on getting up your club set up, but some members might find it convenient to visit your location.

You can also build interest by advertising at recreation centers, senior communities, talking with friends and otherwise sharing it along the grapevine. Word tends to spread naturally once you find a few people to start, as members get their friends and family involved. Offering free lessons is the best way to get newcomers to the courts, otherwise they may feel out of their depth. You don’t have to be a professional to share your love and general knowledge of the game.

Pickleball teacher

A pickleball coach sharing the game from Pickleball Canada

The USAPA provides a lot of materials that you can use to supply players with information. At PickleballCentral we include Coach Mo’s Strategy Guide in most of the packages we send out, so that’s another good tool to have in your arsenal. These sort of “take home” packages are a plus, but we find that simply getting people onto the court is the quickest way to rack up interest.

Another tried-and-true way to get attention and make sure everyone in your area knows about pickleball is to contact the local media. Even if only a few members are in attendance, news outlets are eager to feature new initiatives, and the increase in exposure can really help your club thrive.

Keep People in the Loop

A simple way to maintain ongoing engagement is to create a website so people can view your schedule. This makes it easier to get information to members and beginners alike. Setting up a website is quite simple these days. You can sign up for free at WordPress to get access to the same user-friendly platform we use to share our blog. You should also get yourself listed on the USAPA’s Communities and Clubs list and their Places to Play section—it’s free!

Enjoy the Best Savings

Lastly, be sure to sign up with our Club Rewards program. There’s no fee to get started, and you and your club members will receive a special code to get 5% off every order at PickleballCentral. Another 5% of your order total will go into a savings account which will accrue funds based on all your members’ purchases throughout the year. At the start of the New Year, we’ll send you a gift certificate code for the money you saved to be spent on new supplies and gear.

US Open Courts

A look at the extensive U.S. Open courts

The USAPA says that in 2015 an average of nearly 20 new locations to play pickleball are being established weekly: That’s over 1,040 courts a year! With the sport experiencing such massive growth you can bet that starting your own club will allow you to get the most out of the pickleball movement.

What’s in a Paddle Warranty?

You’ve played with your new paddle for several months. It has great touch, your shots are going where you want them—then suddenly, the handle breaks.

Do you know how to avoid paying for new gear in this situation? Some people believe that damaged paddles are just a risk of the sport, and that’s true—but paddles should last longer than a couple of months with proper care.

Broken handle

Crunched handles happen to the best of us

Do You Know Your Paddle’s Warranty?

At PickleballCentral we offer a 60-day guarantee against defects, but beyond that you’re still covered by whatever warranty your paddle’s manufacturer offers.

If you weren’t aware of this until now, it’s worth checking out who your paddle was made by and familiarizing yourself with their guarantee.

Some companies have long-lasting warranties that stand behind the quality of their products. Others are more wary of mishandling and don’t provide customers as much leeway.

When you’re first selecting a paddle, the warranty is one of several “hidden factors” that can indicate how long your gear will perform. This makes it something you should carefully consider when making a purchase. If your paddle’s edge guard comes off, the handle breaks or the core goes dead, the warranty is the only thing that will prevent you from having to buy a replacement.

Note that warranties only stay in effect when damage is caused by an actual defect, not normal wear and tear, abuse, negligence or tampering. This means you should always avoid throwing your paddle, using it to hit anything other than a ball, storing it in poor conditions such as very hot, cold or humid conditions, or trying to fix an issue by yourself.

It’s also wise to avoid marking your paddle with anything permanent. If you want to put your name or some other identifier on it, use a sticker rather than permanent marker.

Delving a bit further into “normal” wear and tear—this includes faded graphics, small dents or scratches (which don’t affect play) and markings/residue left by pickleballs on the face. These things are all to be expected over time, but won’t prevent your paddle from playing well.

The Best of the Best

The companies that have the longest warranties are Selkirk, Paddletek and Engage. They all have limited lifetime warranties against defects, and both Paddletek and Engage have a 5-year no dead spot guarantee on top of that. If you’re concerned about buying a paddle that will last, these companies provide a high level of reassurance that you’ll get bang for your buck.

Brands with the best warranties

The brands with the longest warranties

Soon we’ll share a comprehensive guide we’ve put together on manufacturer warranties, but until then feel free to look up your manufacturer’s website to see how long your paddle is covered.

Pickleball “All Heart” Award: Dick Howell and the Heart O’ The Hills Camp for Girls

i-love-pickleball1

This is a pickleball love story.  Enjoy what Dick Howell has to say about the history and development of pickleball at a girls camp in Hunt, Texas.

In 1976, Heart O’ The Hills Camp for Girls in Hunt, Texas, constructed a dedicated Pickleball Court with equipment brought to the Heart O’ The Hills Camp by a man from Atlanta.  Most of the equipment was lost in an ensuing flood and no one knew how to replace it.

Heart O Hills 1

Heart O Hills Pickleball Court

It became a badminton court. Then it was used as a volleyball, dodgeball and basketball court, as well as a staging area for many tribal activities. But, it has always been called the pickleball court. I confessed to many a parent that I had no idea what the game of pickleball was, only that it was a court game.

 Then, one day I played pickleball.  

 Two years ago I started up pickleball again at the Heart O’ The Hills Girls Camp as an elective activity. All of the girls that try it, love it. This year I am expecting 25 girls for a four-week session. It has been a great experience,  a learning experience for me. Success in anything boosts confidence and self-esteem, and I do not know of another sports where success comes so suddenly.

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First Class of Pickleball 6-8 year old girls at Camp Heart O’ The Hills

Thank you so much, Dick Howell, for sharing this story of pickleball lost and pickleball found at the Heart O’ The Hills Girls Camp.   You definitely have earned the PickleballCentral “All Heart” Award.  Congratulations!

Lewisville All-Ages Pickleball Tournament

Lewisville Tournament PBC bags

Lewisville Open Tournament Women’s Brackets

Lewisville, Texas has a consistently warm climate and is close to Lewisville Lake, so it has become the recreational hub of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The community of Lewisville, Texas has a strong following of senior-aged Pickleball players in the community, but is also gaining more interest from the younger generations.  In order to meet this growing demand for pickleball competition, the City has created an all-age pickleball league and tournament. The City of Lewisville hosted its 3rd annual all-age pickleball tournament on March 24th this year.

The tournament took place at the Frederick P. Herring Recreation Center.  Anyone was eligible to compete.  There were no mixed doubles.  There were 2 brackets in which to participate: Men’s or Women’s Intermediate, and Men’s Or Women’s Competitive. Lunch was provided to all participants in the tournament and medals were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in Men’s and Women’s categories. Brackets were determined by registration. The registration fee was $15 per person or $30 per team.

Lewisville Tournament PBC bags 2

Lewisville Open Tournament, Men’s Brackets

They had 64 participants with 17 Men’s doubles teams and 15 Women’s doubles teams. The Final Medal Results Men’s and Women’s Doubles were:

Men

1st- Andy Burnett & Chris Swafford

2nd- David Henson & Vic Palma

3rd- Donnie Gibson & Derek Robb

Women

1st- Charlotte Rivera & Angela Luhman

2nd- Rebekah Maddalena & Susan Henderson

3rd- Leslie McCarthy & Barbara Sherman

A good time was had by all.  Congratulations, Lewisville, on keeping a good tournament going 3 years in a row!

USAPA Ambassador Tom Widden Introduces Pickleball on the Moody Blues Cruise

A bunch of pickleball players traveled together with USAPA Ambassador Tom Widden, Lake Oswego, Oregon, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Pearl to the Caribbean”, which featured the Moody Blues Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventure to Key West and Beyond.

Daily play over excellent Deluxe PickleNet Portable Rolling Nets had no problems with the wind. The rolling nets stored easily when not in use. We played exclusively with the fabulous new Onix Pure Ball while cruising at a speed of 20 knots.

The game was not really affected by the wind.

moody blues cruise 1

Tom brought along variety of pickleball paddles from PickleballCentral to share with fellow “Moodies”, including John Lodge, founder of Moody Blues, seen here with yours truly, District Ambassador Tom Widden plus the concert promoter.  All new players caught on to the game of pickleball in just a few minutes..

Moody blues cruise 2

Everyone raved about the Onix Pure balls being more durable and easy to play with.  Not one broke during the cruise.

Moody blues cruise 3

After a morning of pickleball we settled into great concerts til late at night. We are taking in electric light orchestra here..

Moody blues cruise 4

Moody Blues perform on the cruise ship concert stage in the evenings.

Moody blues cruise 6

This historic voyage demonstrated that cruise ship sport courts are ideal for the pickleball player demographic and should be promoted as a natural combination to attract seniors who love cruises and love playing pickleball! More cruises featuring pickleball are being planned soon.

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USAPA District Ambassador Tom Widden on the Moody Blues Cruise

The Great Pickleball Debate

A Controversy is Brewing:  Is Pickleball A Sport for Participants or Spectators?

Original-Pickleball-Court

It started fifty years ago with several bored kids, plywood paddles and a wiffle ball on a miniature tennis court. Some quirky rules and a silly name with uncertain origins was applied. Double hits were overlooked. A kitchen emerged. Nothing more than an improvised backyard kids game. Now we are two weeks away from the inaugural US OPEN Pickleball Championships attracting over 800 players pursuing $25,000 in prize money in front of record crowds in Naples, Florida. And while game strategies and paddles have evolved greatly, the game still revolves around a wiffle ball and smooth paddles on a little tennis court.

But pickleball has a problem. To non-players, it is BORING. Sixty stroke rallies snore on. Complex shots appear simple. A sport in which a 54 year old can compete with a 22 year old in the highest match in the land! Seriously? Some people think “I’ll watch Federer and Djokovic, thank you very much.” Or any sport where real athletes with herculean physiques and personalities perform gigantic feats.

And without spectators there will be scant money, no big prizes, no lucrative endorsements, no huge personalities and, alas, no Olympics.  But when yawning spectators pick up a paddle and try for themselves, a different thought process begins to churn. This ain’t shuffleboard.

Traditionalists care little about spectators. Pickleball is for participants. We love long rallies dictated by a kitchen, hard surface paddles, and smooth, low bouncing balls. We prefer to keep the sport accessible to all. No other racket or paddle sport is easier to learn. Tennis, ping pong, badminton and racquetball all involve hard to master strokes and spins. Not pickleball. Bang away. Pickleball is social, addictive, easy to learn and indifferent to age, gender and even mobility at many levels. And while Pickleball can be fiercely competitive, scrappy, and even a bit intimidating, it is friendly, accessible and evokes smiles. And we love the fact that a 62 year old with a 38 inch waist line can compete with a 25 year old with a 32 inch waist.

Enter the controversy:  All this may be about to change.

Many newcomers to the industry want to accelerate the game for better tennis-like viewing. According to Joe Dinoffer, OncourtOffcourt (Pickleball Tutor), top tennis players average 3.5 strokes per point while pickleball points average 9 strokes. Nearly half of pickleball strokes are soft dink shots while almost no tennis strokes are soft. The game is accelerated with rougher paddle surfaces (e.g. Encore’s Engage) and softer ball surfaces so players can ‘grab’ balls and impart topspin like tennis rackets. Making balls that bounce higher also allows more aggressive play (Onix’s Pure Outdoor Ball).  Here is an example of a fast paced rally from the LeMaster-Davison Classic championship match this past weekend in Arizona:

 

 

Now watch this slower, albeit exciting, 40 stroke rally from the same match.

To counter this trend, back in November 2015, the USAPA imposed a new rule limiting the bounce to 34 inches (from 37 inches). This new rule takes effect October 1, 2016. The two most popular indoor balls, Jugs and Pickleball Now, bounce 37 inches. The Jugs ball has been around for nearly a decade and is used in over eighty percent of indoor play. Players love it!  And now it is being disqualified. Part of the problem is that bounce height is measured on a granite surface which performs similar to outdoor asphalt surfaces. Wood floors absorb the ball’s energy generating less bounce than asphalt. Additionally, the USAPA imposed a roughness limit on paddles to reduce players’ ability to impart topspin for harder drives.

So why did the USAPA limit the bounce height? Recently introduced balls like the Onix Pure Outdoor ball bounce 37 inches encouraging more aggressive play. When reformulated to bounce 34 inches or less, this ball will help maintain the longer rallies and more patient style of play preferred by the USAPA and other traditionalists in this sport.

In summary, many players prefer to limit the ball bounce and paddle friction to encourage longer rallies requiring patience and tactics. Others find the long rallies boring and would prefer balls and paddles that allow an explosive exchange of topspin drives. Spectators might agree.

What do you think?

 

The Never-Ending Pickleball Noise Issue

It seems like every time pickleball catches fire somewhere (woo-hoo!), there’s an immediate reaction from the community about the same thing: the noise. We’ve done a couple posts about noise reduction and suppression in the past (here and here), but we thought we’d shed a little bit of new light on the subject as well as update some outdated information.

Acoustical Fencing

Acoustical fencing that has been mentioned in both previous posts, and it’s a great choice for communities who have that ability.

Acoustical Fencing is one solution to the pickleball noise issue

Acoustical Fencing

However, it can be expensive, easily pushed around by wind, unattractive and unfeasible. If you want to look into the possibility of installing this around your pickleball courts to keep in the noise, this post does a great job of highlighting an example of courts in San Tan Valley, Arizona.

There’s a couple things that individual players can do to keep the noise down that they produce.

Quieter Balls

First, try using a foam practice ball rather than the standard hard plastic ball. These foam balls are typically a bit less bouncy and play differently than the average sanctioned pickleball, but they still get the job done at a much quieter decibel level!

We currently sell two different types of foam balls at PickleballCentral:

  1. The Gamma Foam Quiet Ball

Gamma Foam Quiet Ball

This ball is a tenth of an inch smaller in diameter than a traditional pickleball, and considerably lighter (0.71 ounces versus an average of 0.88 ounces). This makes the ball more susceptible to succumb to wind or other weather conditions. While it might be lighter, it still has a similar bounce height to a typical outdoor pickleball (31″ inches). Of course, it’s not USAPA-Approved but can be used for practice or recreational play!

2.  The Gamma Quick Kids Practice Ball

Gamma Quick Kids Practice Ball

This ball is fairly similar to its sister ball above, except it has a rough surface instead of smooth. This ball was designed for teaching tennis to kids, so it is a little heavier than the previous ball as well (just under 1 ounce). It also is slightly bigger, measuring 3-1/4″ in diameter. This ball has a shorter bounce than the Gamma Foam Quiet Ball, so it might be better used for drills. Again, this ball is not USAPA-Approved.

Quieter Paddles

If the sound of a foam ball doesn’t exactly tickle your fancy, you can try to purchase a quieter paddle. Poly-core paddles are typically a little bit quieter than their Nomex or alumimum-cored counterparts (aluminum is quieter than Nomex). Composite paddles (with a fiberglass face) are also a tad bit less noisy than graphite.

That being said, there are always exceptions to that rule of thumb. Here at PickleballCentral, we unfortunately do not have any means to measure the decibel ratings for all of the paddles we sell. Lucky for us (and you!) the Sun City Grand Pickleball Association in Sun City Grand, Arizona has measured the loudness of nearly every paddle. It is then ranked as being either in the “Green Zone”or in the “Red Zone”. You can see the list of paddles by clicking here.

Choosing a paddle in the Green Zone will keep your “pickleball pinging” to a minimum, which may ease the concerns of neighbors or other unhappy people.

(If you’re interested in the science behind the study, here’s the PDF of the Noise Study, conducted by Acoustics Group Inc.)

At the end of the day…

It does come down to the fact that pickleball is just a bit of a noisier sport. The paddles are solid and the balls are hard! The classic “pop” that paddles make is a beloved sound by players of the sport, and while we can take steps to minimize that sound, it will always be there.

Do you have any other tips or tricks that worked for reducing the amount of noise pickleball makes in your community?