Quad Cities Pickleball Club – For the Love of the Game!

The Quad Cities Pickleball Club (QCPC) has recently launched a youth program and a youth clinic in the Quad Cities.  Here is their story, provided by QCPC member Ruth Senneff. Enjoy! 

Introducing the Quad Cities Pickleball Club

The cities of Bettendorf and Davenport are Mississippi River towns on the Iowa side of the river, and the cities of Rock Island, Moline and East Moline are on the Illinois side. These are the major cities in the Quad Cities, and there are about 20+ other communities in the local area. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club draws most of its members from 4 counties and 25 different towns/cities. The club has close to 450 members, and we think 2-3 times more people play the game locally. Pickleball is a hit in the Quad Cities!

How Pickleball Got Started in the Quad Cities

In 2007, a couple of friends from the area spent some time in The Villages over the winter months. Back in town, they would talk about this fun game of pickleball being played down there and wished they could get it going in the Quad Cities. When some players approached both Bettendorf and Davenport Park Boards about the sport, Davenport stepped up to the plate first and marked 3 courts at Northwest Park. Since NW Park is adjacent to the Duck Creek Bike Trail, people would stop their bikes and ask about the game. In June of 2008, a clinic was held at the courts to teach this new sport and to gauge interest from the QC community. A local newspaper, the Quad City Times, covered the clinic and printed an article about it.

The local pickleball craze was on its way. Lines were soon put down on a tennis court in nearby Bettendorf. Dean Easterlund was the first area USAPA Ambassador. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club was organized in 2013 as a nonprofit with a board of directors and about 80 members. Dean served as president of the club the first two years, established our website, and worked with city leaders in getting our first six dedicated courts in Bettendorf in the fall of 2013. Just a few miles to the north, the City of Eldridge, Iowa, put in six lighted dedicated courts the following year, followed by six more on the Illinois side at Mel McKay Park in Rock Island. In 2015, the City of Davenport put in 8 dedicated courts on the original spot where play began.

Bettendorf School District and the City built six dedicated courts on the Middle School campus in 2016, and we celebrated those new courts with school administration, city staff and some youth in June.

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Silvis, Illinois now has 2 dedicated courts — making a total of 34 dedicated courts in the Quad City area. With our indoor venues, we have close to 90 courts available, and pickleball is easily accessible year-round, without the need for a membership in a retirement community or athletic club — although a membership option is available at the Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club.

Growing Pickleball In the Quad Cities

The area has 5 USAPA Ambassadors living in Bettendorf, Davenport, and DeWitt, Iowa; and Coal Valley and Geneseo, Illinois. Although from different towns and across state lines, these ambassadors work very well together, supporting pickleball initiatives all across the QC. Three of the ambassadors are tournament directors. Our Paddlewheel Tournament and the area’s American Cancer Society Charity Tournament are growing in participation each year. Last year the QCPC managed the pickleball games for the regional Iowa Winter Sr. Olympics held in Rock Island. The QCPC also manages the pickleball games for the local Sr Olympics each June as well, where the pickleball event continues to be the largest event in the Olympics.

Currently, we are looking at the possibility of hosting a regional pickleball tournament in the future, and what that would require in preparation. The Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club is a venue capable of handling such a tournament, as well as BettPlex, a regional sports complex currently under construction in Bettendorf. Our cities lie right along I-80 and 1-74, and a local airport serves both United and Delta, making the area easily accessible for our tournamets or pickleball visitors.

Our current president, Larry Miller, has a big vision for pickleball in the area.  Larry is a IPTPA-certified trainer, and has set up a training program for all levels, using local trainers as well as bringing in national pros. Last year Coach Russell conducted a clinic. In June we hosted Dave Weinbach and Stephanie & LeEllen Lane for a clinic. Many of our players are becoming confident and successful tournament players, playing in tournaments around the country.

Community outreach is another area of focus, and our large volunteer base is dedicated to promoting pickleball as well as giving back to our local communities. We offer free beginner lessons on both sides of the river, have held charity tournaments, have had two blood drives, food drives, participated in community health fairs, offered pickleball lessons to our Plus 60 club, and offered youth camps and clinics.

Okay, now to our involvement with youth!

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

In 2014, another player and I met with the Phys Ed staff at Bettendorf Middle School (from which I had recently retired as a math teacher). Pickleball has been taught at this school since the mid 1980’s as part of a racquet unit, and we thought we could do some volunteer time with the pickleball portion. As it turned out, 17 volunteers from all over the Quad Cities area helped teach pickleball in over 1000 middle schools over the course of 18 days that winter.

In the summer of 2015, we held our first Youth Clinic at our Kiwanis Park dedicated courts in Bettendorf. 40 youth signed up! We had to chalk lines on the nearby tennis courts to make enough courts available. We had enough volunteers to put two on each court, which is great to have on a court of 4 kids.

In 2016, in cooperation with Rock Island Park Department, we offered a four-day pickleball camp at the dedicated courts in Rock Island, IL. We had 11 youth participate in the camp and compete in a round-robin tournament on the last day. This camp was completely staffed by QCPC volunteers.

Our second annual youth clinic, in 2016, saw 32 youth attend with another large group of volunteers. Like the 2015 clinic, it lasted 2 hours, with a break in the middle, and lots of fun drawing prizes at the end.

2016 Summer Youth Clinic - Youth and Volunteers

2016 Summer Youth Clinic – Youth and Volunteers

This year, we had our 3rd annual clinic at the new Bettendorf Middle School courts, with 43 coming to that one! This time we didn’t have the extra space, so we had 7-8 youth on a court with 2-4 volunteers per court.

2017 Youth Clinic

2017 Youth Clinic with students watching a lesson

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School with Quad City club members and youth

It worked really well, thanks to our volunteer trainers who were quite comfortable with the numbers and creative in keeping the kids engaged in learning skills. For our drawing at the end we had 20 Pickleball Central drawstring backpacks, along with some PC decals, carabiners, etc. donated by Pickleball Central. (Thank you! I think you have that picture already.) We also had 4 Ranger paddles donated to our program by Paddletek, and some small items from Onix. We acquired some local items as well, and each child went home with a prize.

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

With Larry’s passion for training along with parent requests for continued play after the clinic, Larry set up a class for pickleball skill lessons as a follow-up to our clinic. Sixteen players came to the first class last week. We found that many of the kids preferred to play the game rather than have a formal skill lesson, so trainers gave occasional pointers while letting them play. Another class will be held this coming week, and then with school starting, perhaps one later a Saturday depending on interest.

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

What is exciting and different about this summer’s clinic from previous two years are two things: 1) the sponsor support from Pickleball Central, Paddletek, and Onix; and 2), the follow-up opportunities for kid-play. With Larry’s initiative and organizational help, we extended our youth pickleball program by adding afternoon youth lessons/play times. The original thought was to offer skill lessons, but the youth that have come are showing us that, at this point anyway, they like to get together with their peers and just play pickleball!!

 

Meet The Pros – Justin Rodgers

Justin Rodgers

Justin Rodgers

Meet The Pros – Justin Rodgers

Justin is a Tennis Pro turned Pickleball Pro, and he’s the real deal, as nice as he is professional. He’s also a member of the “120 Degree Club,” where you have to play in 120 degrees for an hour to be a member. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
I’m most proud of the 2015 USAPA Nationals 2015 Grand Canyon State Games. I went undefeated with Dave Weinbach in both events. My favorite win was when I played with Adina Jones age division in the 2013 Grand Canyon State Games. She was a good player and she got my confidence up. 

Gold Medals
2017 US Open, Men’s Doubles (MD) 50+ with Scott Clayson
2016 SPA 1, MD, 5.0 with Kyle Theime
2016 Pebble Creek Club, MD 5.0 with Bill Pardue
2015 USAPA Nationals, MD 35+ with Dave Weinbach

2015 USAPA Nationals, Men's Doubles 35+ Jason Munro, Rafi Bazerkanian, Justin Rodgers, Dave Weinbach, Brian Staub, Phil Bagley

2015 USAPA Nationals, Men’s Doubles 35+ Jason Munro, Rafi Bazerkanian, Justin Rodgers, Dave Weinbach, Brian Staub, Phil Bagley

2015 Brigham City Memorial, 5.0 Team event (Cookie Drake, Sarah Ansboury, Darin Hurdman)
2015 Grand Canyon State Games, MD 5.0 and MD 35+with Dave Weinbach
2014 SPA 1, MD 5.0 with Scott Stone
2014 Scheels Capital City(Springfield), MD 5.0 with Dave Weinbach; Mixed Doubles (MXD) 5.0 with Stephanie Lane
2014 SPA Spring Fling, MD 5.0 with Scott Stone
2014 Grand Canyon State Games, MD 35+ with Scott Stone
2013 Mesa Regal, MXD 5.0 with Gigi LeMaster
2013 SPA 1, MXD 5.0 with Gigi LeMaster
2013 Palm Desert, MXD 5.0 with Gigi LeMaster
2013 Bend Oregon, MD 5.0 with Enrique Ruiz
2013 SOUP (St. George) MXD with 5.0 Adina Jones
2013 Grand Canyon State Games, MXD 19+ with Adina Jones
2012 San Diego Senior Olympics, MXD 40-49 with Stephanie Lane
2012 Wrightwood CA, MD 4.5 with Ryan O’Toole

2015 Grand Canyon State Games with Brian Ashworth, Justin Rodgers, Dave Weinbach, Aspen Kern, Steve Wong

2015 Grand Canyon State Games with Brian Ashworth, Justin Rodgers, Dave Weinbach, Aspen Kern, Steve Wong

What paddle do you play with and why?
I’ve played with the Pickleball, Inc. Champion Aluminum and Legacy, the Engage Encore, the Onix Evoke Composite. I currently play with the Paddletek Tempest Wave in both singles and in doubles. The Tempest Wave paddle is a good combination of power and touch. Also, I play wristy, with a strong backhand, so a lighter weight paddle like the Tempest Wave is the best paddle for my style of play.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I’ve played tennis most of my life. I lettered in high school all 4 years. I got bored with tennis singles, so I went to doubles. One day I was treating a patient who had a knee replacement and all he talked about was wanting to get back to playing pickleball. He inspired me. I had free time so I decided to check out pickleball and try something new. I’ve been playing pickleball for 6 years now and have competed in tournaments for the last 5 years. I love to play pickleball for exercise, fun and recreation. I recently had wrist surgery for tendinitis, so I’ve had to take 6 months off from playing.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I like singles for the exercise. It’s hard to find anyone that will play singles. I prefer doubles as a tournament game.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
When I first tried the Pebble Creek Courts in Casa Grande, Arizona, I loved it. It’s nearby. I also like playing on the courts in Surprise, Arizona. I like the group that plays there. Surprise just broke ground on 8 new courts and the city is footing the bill.

Friends who play together

Justin and friends – Friends who play together…. stay together!

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
Eat like a rabbit; that means small meals between games. Make sure to balance carbs and protein. Eat often. Don’t just play to win. Play at least half of your balls to the best player to get challenged. This helps your singles game. I’m a bit ambidextrous, and mostly play lefty, but have been playing right-handed since the US Open. I prefer to hit forehand whenever possible.

What’s your day job?
I have done in-home physical therapy for 20 years.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
Before my surgery, I played 2 times a week for 2-3 hours. When I was more fanatical, I did 15-20 hours a week. My advice to avoid injury is not play hard for too long, too often. If you play hard and long, take a break. Take a day off.

 

Adina Jones and Justin Rodgers, center, Gold Medal

Adina Jones and Justin Rodgers, center, Gold Medal

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
Just common-sense stuff:
     For 24 hours before, no sodas, caffeine
     Make sure to carb load the night before
     Eat well.
     Sleep well.
     Don’t play the day before so your legs can stay strong.
     Hydrate.

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
My main goals are: Get healthy, have fun, enjoy the sport. After my recovery from surgery, I may enter singles events again in the senior bracket.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
When I compete, I hope to win but expect to have fun. So, have fun and make friends. Friends are what count. Friends don’t ever forget you.  

Pickleball Ken Shows How to Build a Community around Pickleball

“Pickleball has totally changed my life.”

Those are the words of Ken Marquardt, or Pickleball Ken, as he is affectionately known to friends and fellow players alike.

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Pickleball Ken has taken his life-changing passion and turned it into fodder to transform the pickleball scene of the metro Denver area.

When we last left off with Pickleball Ken it was December of 2015. As the holiday season rolled along, we presented Ken with our Pickleball Central “All Heart” Award alongside the APEX Parks and Recreation District for organizing a Pickleball for Heroes event.

Since then, Pickleball Ken has kept himself pretty busy. Around the same time Pickleball for Heroes was coming to fruition, Pickleball Ken had another iron in the fire. He was going to find a way to get the Denver area outside and playing pickleball!

Fueled by his passion, Pickleball Ken jumped head first into a project that saw the creation of 8 pickleball courts turn into 16 before finally turning into 24! Follow along as we uncover how one person’s dedication can influence a whole community.

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“I have overcome so many challenges in my life.”

As a cancer survivor who also endured two shoulder replacements and two knee replacements, Ken Marquardt has had his share of setbacks. Always an athlete, Ken was crushed to learn that he would no longer to play the sports he loved, such as tennis.

Ken spoke about how he could no longer play tennis to a classmate who travels around in her RV. She informed Ken that they don’t stop at any RV park that doesn’t have pickleball. When Ken informed her that he had never heard of the sport before, his classmate urged that he give it a try.

With his interest piqued, Ken Googled local pickleball courts and came up with one in the Denver area. Ken made the trek and played his first game.

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It was on that day that Ken Marquardt became Pickleball Ken.

“When I started playing, it changed my life. And then I saw other people with sadness in their lives, how they just forgot about that (sadness) when playing pickleball. It’s good for them mentally and physically. I want to share that with everyone. “

Traveling from the north-end of Denver to the sole pickleball court in the area, Ken and a few other local pickleball players agreed that they needed a court closer to where they lived. That’s when Pickleball Ken turned a dream into a community project.

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“The director of APEX  (Park and Recreation District) Mike Mills and I, talked about our community needs outdoor courts. Mike had 10 acres off of 82 and Sims that were free.”

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Mike Mills of APEX

With a place in mind, the project now needed funding. Ken and Mike Mills took their plans to Jefferson County Open Space.  Funds received from Jefferson County Open Space are derived from lottery money, making it tax free dollars.

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The first time Jefferson County Open Space was approached was back in November of 2013. Following a presentation by Pickleball Ken and company, the project was allotted $255,000. This was enough money for the first eight courts to be created.

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From there, the vision grew and funding was approved for eight more courts that were completed in the following year. Now, the project is in its final stages. To the tune of 1.7 million dollars, this 24 court park is going to be completed, and fully operational for all to enjoy.

Looking back at Ken’s initial charitable endeavor with Pickleball for Heroes, this new 24-court facility also pays homage to those who have sacrificed for their community. Ken stated,

“We want to honor all veterans. Whether, firefighters or policemen, and especially the military. And that is why the park is named Community Heroes Park. ”

 

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Not just in name alone, the park also pays homage through a symbolic eagle.

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Although its beauty is undeniable, Ken didn’t feel that displaying an eagle was enough to give thanks to our servicemen and women. That is why he organized the aforementioned Pickeball for Heroes event where proceeds went to veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Using pickleball for charitable efforts didn’t end there. As the park has grown, so has its community outreach. Pickleball Ken and the Denver pickleball community started putting on clinics for autistic and disabled children. As Ken fondly recalled,

“I had a mother come up to me and their son was 17 years old and never stood up in his life. And she had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘Thank you, Ken.’ And it just totally changes my life and other people’s lives. And so, I wanted to share that with everybody.”

With his passion and dedication, Pickleball Ken has blown the door open for pickleball in the Denver area. Seeing firsthand how pickleball transformed his life, he is now sharing that gift in a park made by the community, for the community. Who knows what Pickleball Ken will be up to the next time we check in with him?

 

 

 

Meet the Pros – McKenna and Kendall Hastings

Junior Champions – McKenna Hastings and Kendall Hastings

McKenna and Kendall at USAPA Nationals

McKenna and Kendall Hastings at the 2016 USAPA Nationals

 Sisters McKenna and Kendall Hastings are junior pickleball players making a name for themselves in pickleball. McKenna (age 14) and Kendall (age 12) are the youngest members of an active pickleball family residing in Sequim, Washington. They started competing in pickleball tournaments three years ago, and often partner together in doubles and compete against each other in singles. Occasionally McKenna and Kendall also partner with one of their parents or grandparents when they play in tournaments.

McKenna and Kendall Hastings at Pickleball Station with their winning medals

McKenna and Kendall Hastings at Pickleball Station in Kent, Washington, with their winning medals

McKenna and Kendall have already accumulated an impressive collection of medals. Both girls have played twice in Nationals. Kendall played in her first tournament when she was just nine years old. At age ten she was the youngest participant at Nationals. Kendall and McKenna visited PickleballCentral last week so we had an opportunity to talk about their pickleball story.

How were you introduced to pickleball?

 McKenna: We first started playing tennis with our parents a few years ago when I was 11 and Kendall was 9, but that wasn’t very competitive so we switched to pickleball. It was our dad that first introduced us to pickleball.
Kendall: At first when we tried pickleball we didn’t like it because we were so used to the feel of tennis. But we started playing more and getting the feel for it. Our family moved to a new house where we built a pickleball court, which we’ve had for four years. Also I have small hands and used a two-handed backhand in tennis which worked well for me in pickleball.

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

Kendall and McKenna at Centralia

Kendall Hastings, McKenna Hastings, Wendy Sofiak, Sharon Carter, Lorraine Subtelny and Eileen Dowell – Women’s Doubles 4.0 winners at the Int’l Indoor Tournament

McKenna: At USAPA Nationals we won gold in Junior Doubles for 14-under. Our most meaningful recent medal won was at the Indoor International Tournament in Centralia, WA this past May. We won Silver in Women’s 4.0 Doubles. We came all the way up through the loser’s bracket after having lost to the Gold winners in our first match then playing against them again in the finals and winning silver.
Kendall: Another meaningful tournament medal for me was the 2016 USAPA Nationals, Junior Singles. I beat Rachel Elliott (then age 14) then Rachel worked her way back up and we played against each other again in the finals; Rachel won Gold and I won Silver. We went to three games, 12-10. It was a real nail biter! I love playing against Rachel.

Kendall Hastings, Rachel Elliott and McKenna Hasting

Kendall Hastings, Rachel Elliott and McKenna Hastings at 2016 USAPA Nationals

How many tournaments do you play in per year? Do you have a favorite?

We can’t play in very many since we are in school during the school year. We play in about six per year. Our favorites are the USAPA Nationals and the USAPA Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament in Bend, Oregon.

What paddle do you play with and why?

Kendall: We both play with the Selkirk Power Core Pro S1G. This paddle works well for my two-handed backhand. McKenna sometimes does a one-handed backhand and sometimes two-handed and she likes it too. It’s a good paddle for power and touch.

 What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

McKenna and Kendall: Outdoors!

Do you prefer playing singles or doubles?

McKenna:  Doubles.
Kendall: Singles, because you have no one else to blame. All the shots go to you.

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

McKenna: Watch your opponents during the warm-up. Try to figure out their strengths and weaknesses, who is the stronger or weaker player. Look at their mobility to see if lobs might work well.
Kendall: Have a good inside-out shot to keep people on their toes. Isolate and play to your opponent’s weaknesses.

Kendall Hastings at the USAPA Nationals

Kendall Hastings at the USAPA Nationals

How many hours a week do you play?

McKenna and Kendall: As much as we can with all of our other sports. We play with family and friends and do drills with our dad.

 Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

 McKenna: No, but we should start one!

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

 McKenna: I want to become a 4.5 by the end of this year.
Kendall: I would like to become a 4.5 by the end of this year. I also want to work on my sportsmanship and being more positive while I play.

Anything else you’d like to share about your pickleball experience?

Kendall: Pickleball is so great because it’s a way that I can bond with my family. It means the world to me that my grandparents can still play with me. Two years ago I played with my grandpa against my sister in a bronze medal match. It’s such a good family sport.

International Indoor Pickleball Tournament Kendall and McKenna

International Indoor Pickleball Tournament: Wendy Sofiak – Sharon Carter Kendall Hastings – McKenna Hastings Lorraine Subtelny – Eileen Dowell

Well said Kendall! We have no doubt that your grandparents and parents agree.

Planning a Pickleball Tournament Just Got Easier: PickleballTournaments.com and PickleballCentral.com Become Affiliate Partners

Are you planning on holding a pickleball tournament? Do you have your committee and volunteers in place? Do you have your venue and dates picked out? What about the hundreds of other details?

The number of pickleball tournaments in the United States, and around the world, is increasing and helping to grow the sport of pickleball. At PickleballCentral we are thrilled that it is getting easier for a player to find a local pickleball tournament, but we also understand that the planning and directing of a pickleball tournament is a very complicated and time-consuming endeavor. That is why we are excited to announce that PickleballCentral.com will now be making it easier than ever for tournament directors to get everything needed for a fun, affordable and stress-free event.

PickleballCentral and PickleballTournaments Logo

On September 7, 2017 PickleballCentral and PickleballTournaments.com will begin an affiliate partnership to provide the needed services and products for pickleball tournaments. PickleballTournaments.com is the worldwide industry leader in pickleball tournament software, management and services, while PickleballCentral.com is the world’s leading online store for pickleball equipment. Working from the same set of core values, these two companies are determined to see participation in pickleball continue to grow, and the best way to accomplish that is to increase the number of available tournaments.

Tournament Planning Becomes Less Complicated

Now tournament directors will be able to quickly and easily access the #1 resource for pickleball equipment and the #1 resource for pickleball tournament registration and management during the tournament planning process. Instead of spending additional time searching a variety of sources for custom gear, apparel, medals and other tournament merchandise, now support and supplies will be just a few clicks away.

“We will offer custom pickleball t-shirts, pickleball medals, referee gear, custom pickleballs and custom pickleball paddle covers,” states Anna Copley, co-owner of PickleballCentral. “We have lots of product ideas that are unique and affordable for pickleball tournaments.”

The number of pickleball tournaments has grown at an incredible rate over the past few years, and PickleballTournaments.com has been growing as well, providing services to tournament organizers that ease their workload and make for streamlined events. Their web-based tournament management system is used by the thousands of tournament directors who register, organize and manage tournaments of all sizes, and is the one website all tournament players visit for tournament information, registration and to follow themselves or friends and family through live tournament brackets and player results.

PickleballTournaments.com

Developed by Bob Lanius, a Microsoft developer who needed a more timely and efficient tool for directing large events, this proprietary software handles everything from registration and payments to event marketing, scheduling and real-time activity tracking during the tournament. Many credit their easy-to-use management software as having a large impact on the rise in tournaments.

“No other software in the world can manage hundreds of matches across multiple brackets in the automated fashion that PickleballTournaments.com does,” states Melissa McCurley, CEO of PickleballTournaments.com. “If it weren’t for Bob developing this site, there would not be the explosion in the growth of tournaments like we see today. It just wouldn’t be possible. We all owe Bob a lot of gratitude.”

Partnering for Pickleball Growth

Having sponsored a number of tournaments, PickleballCentral had been looking for a way to become more directly involved in the planning process. The opportunity to work directly with PickleballTournaments.com came at the perfect time.

“We saw a need for pickleball specific tournament supplies, so we were thrilled when Melissa approached us last spring to discuss an affiliate partnership,” added Anna. “Partnering with PickleballTournaments.com connects us with the epicenter of pickleball tournaments. We are honored to be the Official Supplier of pickleball tournament supplies for PickleballTournaments.com and are excited about our new line of pickleball tournament products.”

Take a look at the pickleball tournament items we’re offering in conjunction with this wonderful partnership!

HEAD Paddles Bring Tried-and-True Performance to the Industry

Today we’re excited to introduce a new line of paddles from a manufacturer just entering the world of pickleball but experienced in creating equipment for many other racquet sports: HEAD.

Certain companies might make the assumption that what works in one industry can be applied to another, but HEAD took a more humble approach to development and began their pickleball journey without any preconceptions.

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Instead, they spent three years researching what makes a paddle great and developing a strong new lineup with input from pickleball pro Sarah Ansboury, 2015 USAPA Nationals gold medalist.

This has resulted in two paddle series called the Xtremes and Radicals. There are four product offerings within each, and players are sure to find a fit that will match their skill level and play style.

As the official launch partner for HEAD Pickleball, we spent some time talking to Sarah and Ben Simons, Senior Business Manager at HEAD. A few defining features of these paddles are laid out below.

High Quality Design

Ben explains that the following features can be expected in all of their paddles:

    • Quality: You can’t take shortcuts to improve your game, and HEAD didn’t take shortcuts to put out their product. Ben explains, “We spent a lot of time in development and continue to ensure we’re making high quality paddles players can rely on. You should be able to walk onto the court knowing your equipment will play the same every time. This includes a well-defined weight, balance, grip size, feel and shape for each individual paddle.”
    • Extreme Control Shape: HEAD’s unique paddle shape contributes to fantastic reach, flexibility and control. The two variations within the Xtreme and Radical lines slightly alter the paddles’ balance to accommodate different play styles.
    • Stylish Graphics: “We wanted to make sure our paddles were attractive to a wide variety of players and demographics, not only in terms of play, but when it comes to appearance. Because of that, our cosmetics are bright and engaging. Fun is central to pickleball, after all!”
    • OTC Honeycomb Core: OTC stands for optimized tubular construction. “While polymer cores are used in many paddles, the truth is that there are countless variations when it comes to things like weight, cell size, shape, wall thickness and tube height. Based on our testing, we found the type we settled on resulted in optimized performance and quality.”

Sarah with Xtreme Tour Paddle

Sarah with the Xtreme Tour Paddle

Weight Ranges

All HEAD paddles weigh in at 7.6 – 8.1 ounces. HEAD explains that, through play testing, they discovered this range was the preferred average for most players.

Ben explains, “We learned that many players do not have the swing to play with an ultra-light paddle. They might think that’s what they need, but when they hit with a well balanced paddle that has a little more weight to help them drive through the shot, they find they play much better.”

After checking out the paddles ourselves, PickleballCentral has been impressed with HEAD’s ability to produce paddles at consistent weights.

Double the Options

Each Xtreme paddle has a Radical equivalent and vice versa, but the two lines have several key differences that make them best suited to certain types of players. We spoke with Sarah to determine the primary qualities of each:

Xtreme Paddles

The HEAD Xtreme Paddles

Xtreme –

  • Slightly thinner shape with corners shaved down. “This adds more speed and maneuverability to your game, particularly at the net. For racquetball players or those who tend the drag their paddles across the ground as they hit, this also prevents damage to the paddle.”
  • Lighter weight that creates an even balance.
  • Includes the Xtreme Tour, Xtreme Pro, Xtreme Pro L and Xtreme Elite
Radical Paddles

The HEAD Radical Paddles

Radical –

  • More powerful, head-heavy shape. A bit thicker design with more forgiveness when it comes to ball placement.
  • “Players will still enjoy great control, but these paddles possess more immediate ‘pop’ due to their weight.” Despite the additional heft, players often pick these up and think they’re lighter than they really are. In truth, the Radicals just have a better balance, so players get the benefits of extra weight without feeling it.
  • Includes the Radical Tour, Radical Pro, Radical Pro L and Radical Elite

Pro Performance

Sarah’s personal preference is for the Xtreme Tour Paddle.

“I told them I wanted a paddle with some power that also had good control. I love the way the paddle grabs the ball making it great when I need to block or add spin. The interesting shape feels much more maneuverable for me which helps me at the net when I need to be fast.


To see featured videos for each of the paddles, go to the HEAD product pages and click the “Videos” tab.

“One of my favorite parts of the paddle is actually the handle. They use a mold and spray foam to surround the handle, making it a solid piece which connects to the paddle as a whole. This creates a more solid feel and durable neck.”

The Xtreme Tour (and Radical Tour) are recommended for players coming from prior racquet sports due to their touch and texture, which more closely mimics the grip you can get from something like tennis strings. The graphite surface on both models provides excellent responsiveness as well.

For newer players, Sarah believes that the Xtreme Elite or Radical Elite paddle would be a good fit.

Sarah with HEAD Paddles

Sarah with HEAD Paddles

“The two Elites have the lowest price point in both lines. They actually have the same high quality core and surface materials as the other options, but they have harder grips and a smooth face. Either would make a great starter paddle that will also hold up to advanced play, but since the Pro and Pro L options are just a bit more expensive, if players wanted a more cushioned grip they could go that route as well.

“For power players, the Radical series gets the edge due to the extra weight and fiberglass surface. There’s a lot of responsiveness that gives added pop for put-aways.”

HEAD’s Dedication to the Industry

Sarah concludes that, as an instructor, she wanted to feel confident recommending paddles to her students dependent on their individual strengths.

“Being able to choose a quality paddle that’s affordable but still uses the newest technology is important in the long haul. HEAD did a lot of play testing before putting out their final products, and not just with me. The engineer would have me answer about 20 questions, and almost as soon as I had sent a paddle back, I’d get another 20 questions! I loved that they really wanted to understand the sport.

“I believe HEAD got into pickleball to truly help the growth of this sport. In the near future we’ll continue to build the HEAD player team and ambassadors while trying to bring new players into the game. I hope everyone will enjoy the diversity their paddles are bringing to the industry.”


At PickleballCentral we carry over 100 models of paddles and often get approached by new companies attempting to break into the industry. We’re glad to be the official launch partner for HEAD paddles and hope our customers and readers will love the new products!

Co-Founder Anna Copley shared her perspective on the launch by saying: “We started collaborating with HEAD last spring at the 2017 US OPEN Pickleball Championships, and we put the new paddles through our lab and player testing all summer. We’ve found them to be exceptionally durable with fantastic performance. Visitors at our Pro-Shop and staff have enjoyed them, and HEAD has developed a great set of products that we are proud to share.”

Check out the HEAD paddles directly on our site, PickleballCentral.com!

Meet The Pros – Del Kauss

Meet The Pros – Del Kauss

Del Kauss

Del Kauss

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

I am a 4-time USAPA Nationals Medalist and a 5-time US OPEN Medalist. My wins include:
2017 Grand Canyon Games Champion with Larry Moon (60+) – Gold
2017 US Open 55+ Men’s Doubles with Glen Peterson – Gold
2017 US Open Senior Pro Champions with Glen Peterson – Silver
2016 US Open, Senior Pro Champions with Glen Peterson – Gold
2016 USAPA Nationals, Senior Open Bronze Medal with Rob Schmidt
2015 USAPA Nationals, Mixed Doubles 55+ with Linda Kauss -Bronze

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently play with the Pro-Lite Titan. I really like the balance of the paddle and it is the best combination of touch and power that I have found. This is a great paddle.

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

My wife introduced me to pickleball. She was introduced by some friends and I played a few times, but did not think it was too challenging as I was an avid tennis player. It took me tearing my patella tendon to come back to pickleball. I was unable to play tennis during rehab but was able to hobble on the pickleball court. As I got better, so did the pickleball competition and I was enjoying it more and more and haven’t played any tennis since.

Del and Linda Kauss

Del and Linda Kauss

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I definitely prefer outdoors. I live in Minnesota and we cherish our outdoor time. I love being outdoors for all my activities.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer doubles. I love the chess match of good dinking rallies and the longer points. I like what I read recently that pickleball is an easy game to learn and a hard game to master. I think doubles is the reason for this quote. What keeps me coming back is the ability to see improvement in my game and shot selection. I’m 60, so singles in a lot tougher on the body, but I’m playing singles in a couple major events in the next couple months.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

The US Open in Naples, Florida, under their new canopy. It was such a great experience to play some key matches there this yearwith the crowd cheering and the music blasting between points and timeouts. There’s no other pickleball venue like it! I’m looking forward to playing in Utah at two events this year as I hear their courts are very scenic.

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

Consistency!!! This game is so much about not making errors. Choose placement over power and become consistent by drilling. My wife and I were drilling at our local pickleball club and one of the members said: “That looks boring.”  I said: “Yeah maybe, but it wins tournaments!”

What’s your day job?

I just retired from 3M in April. I was in product Development and Corporate Communications. I am loving retirement; more time for pickleball and fly fishing.

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

I probably average 5 times a week for 2 to 3 hours a day, so a total of 10 – 15 hours. We have a lot of good competition and many outdoor courts here in Minnesota, so I’m really blessed.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Eat and hydrate well. Get some tough practice games in before the tournament starts, so I am sweaty and ready! Otherwise, I am usually a slow starter. Most importantly, pray for a good positive attitude during the day.

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

My goal is to be able to keep playing at a high level for many years and to learn to have more fun playing. I love playing with Brian Ashworth and Dave Weinbach, because both of them really have fun during recreational games; lots of laughs! What’s great about Brian is he is just the same in tournaments: all about the fun. I’m a little too serious, I need to lighten up a bit.

Ian Astbury, Stephanie Shouse Lane, Dell and Linda Kauss

Ian Astbury, Stephanie Shouse Lane, Del and Linda Kauss at Minneapolis 4th of July tournament

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

It’s great to be a part of this sport, as I’m able to compete with some of the best players in the world! I hope I can pass on the torch to many more people entering competitive pickleball, the sport of a lifetime!