Dick Johnson Is the 2nd Pickler to Win “Personal Best” from the NSGA

Dick Johnson has received the “Personal Best” Award from the National Senior Games Association, the largest multi-sport event in the world for athletes 50 years and older. This recognition is only presented to a handful of athletes out of over 100,000 entrants across 20 sports. In the Games’ 31 years of history, this is only the second time a pickler has received the award, and the first for an Idahoan.

Looking at Dick’s incredible accomplishments and character, the award is well deserved.

The indomitable athlete has medaled twice in all seven national and world pickleball championships, and won close to 200 medals (mostly gold) in tournaments. More impressive yet, he’s done it within only five years of starting the sport.

Dick Johnson

Credit: National Senior Games Assoc.

Dick had played tennis since the 8th grade and won state championships. After a back fusion surgery in 1978 he continued to mentor his three daughters, all of whom became high school tennis champs.

Unfortunately, the surgery only partly suppressed Dick’s back pain, forcing him to permanently quit tennis about 20 years ago. Like many coming from a racquet sport background, he wanted to find a sport that would still challenge him and help him stay healthy without exacerbating his discomfort.

Pickleball was the answer, and the 78-year-old has given back by helping to construct a new facility at Hobble Creek in Boise, as well as becoming a founder of the Super Seniors International Pickleball Association.

Dick’s wife, Lawana, is proud of his dedication, skill and passion, saying that she is happy his work inspires others. He continues to serve through his devotion to “God, family and community.”

An article by the National Senior Games Association interviews Dick and shares more of his experiences and impressive accomplishments. Dick explains how pickleball helped him overcome his back pain and type 2 diabetes, how he got through multiple operations, his biggest inspirations and how he stays motivated.

Give it a read to find out more about this wonderful pickler! Our congratulations go out to Dick and his family.

Do You Care That Pickleball Sounds “Silly”?

Upon hearing the name “pickleball” for the first time, most people laugh in a mixture of amusement and confusion.

Why is it called that when the game has nothing to do with pickles? Don’t people care if it’s taken seriously? Shouldn’t we all have more dignity?

We’ve discussed the name here, and founder Barney McCallum is clearly in favor of keeping it despite some protest. We all know the majority of people who actually try the game after their initial shock fall in love with it, odd name or no. And indeed, we find a certain amount of joy in the fact that our favorite sport has a name that’s both playful and memorable.

Pickles playing pickleball

Having a name like pickleball is a good reminder that players shouldn’t take things too seriously. Certainly there are high level players who approach the sport with a certain amount of reverence, especially if they make their living through it or play at pro tournaments.

But just because pickleball may be some people’s livelihoods doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a bit of fun with it. This is true with anything in life—if we stop taking the opportunity to smile or laugh about something, even in serious times, then finding a spark of joy in other areas becomes that much harder.

This is all ten times truer when it comes to games. Sports are not only intended to promote fitness and friendly competition, but fun! “Pickleball” lets us know we should never lose sight of that.

We also think that pickleball might be unfairly picked on now and then due to its rising star. There are many sports with funny names that are still treated with respect and even represented in the Olympics.

Take, for example, luge. Particularly doubles luge. This is admittedly one of the most difficult and dangerous sports in the world. People go hurtling over ice at speeds of over 90 mph. The name comes from a word in a French dialect meaning “small coasting sled.”

Doubles luge

That’s all well and good, but let’s face it… in the U.S. at least, the pronunciation sounds a bit like the much less flattering “loogie.” Add that to the fact that when lugers get in position, it’s somewhat reminiscent of an uncomfortable, double-stacked human hamburger patty.

Did people poke fun at luge, a sport many had never even heard of until the Winter Olympics? Sure! Yet no one was denying the athleticism and skill required to steer sleds at such intense speeds. Indeed, the seeming absurdity of luge became a bit of a “thing” as viewers tuned in first out of curiosity, then became honest fans as they admired the daring feats these athletes accomplished.

Why shouldn’t pickleball embrace its inherent silliness in the same way? If the sport’s name is just one other way to capture newcomers’ attention and get them wondering about the game, then we couldn’t care less how unusual it comes across at first blush.

We’re not hesitant to indulge in the sport’s goofy side, and at our original PickleballCentral location, we even had one of our Yodeling Pickles out front to greet customers.

Do you enjoy the sillier aspects of pickleball? What was your first reaction when you heard the infamous name? Any particular memories surrounding it that stand out? Let us know in the comments!

Food, Fun and Pickleball at Smash Park in Des Moines, IA

Chicken N Pickle may have been the first entertainment, restaurant and pickleball venue, but we can now add Smash Park to that list!

The location in Des Moines, IA features a casual restaurant that offers burgers, chicken, cocktails and salads. Pickleball isn’t the only sport they have available either, with bocce ball, pingpong, shuffleboard and board games ready for action.

Smash Park

The Des Moines Register article announcing the opening notes that “a majority of Smash Park’s 47,000 square feet is dedicated to pickleball.” Open play is $7/day on unreserved courts, or $10 – 20 depending per half hour depending on the day and time. There are 6 indoor and 2 outdoor courts.

The facility will be hosting leagues starting in October and plans to provide training clinics and regional tournaments down the road.

We’re always excited to hear about more entertainment and court locations opening up around the U.S.! The Smash Park site shares that they hope to “[recreate] those same backyard summer vibes of ’65, when pickleball was new and friends and family gathered to play, laugh and have fun together.” Sounds like our kind of place.

You can even rent out the Smash Park deck as an event space for parties or fun events when you want to have a posh pickleball gathering.

If you’re in the Des Moines area, be sure to check it out and share in the fun.

Pickleball Station Featured on King 5 News

Last month our training and court rental/drop-in business, Pickleball Station, was featured on KING 5 News. The article and corresponding video discuss pickleball’s growth from its beginnings here on Bainbridge Island.

Edward on K5 News

 

You’ll learn more about the expansion of pickleball and a discussion on the various high-level players taking the game to the next level.

It also features interviews with our local friend, collaborative partner and top player Glen Peterson, along with pro Tyson McGuffin who grew up in Chelan, WA.

Check out the video to catch glimpses of our instructors Peter Hudachko and Brian Ashworth on the courts, in addition to our CEO Ed Hechter!

 

 

Military Tries Their Hand at Pickleball, Warrior Games May Add to Lineup

Our veterans have accomplished some amazing things, and now they’re adding pickleball to their lists!

We got word that Steve and Ramona Boone, Great Plains Region Directors of the USAPA, directed the first Warrior Games pickleball demo on June 3 and 4 this year.

Warrior Games 2018

The Department of Defense Warrior Games is a multi-sport competition whose participants are entirely made up of active-duty members and veterans who have sustained injuries or illness during their service. They were organized in 2010 as “a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and expose them to adaptive sports.”

Thanks to Steve and Ramona, pickleball is now being considered as an addition to the sports currently represented at the Warrior Games. For now, a variety of veterans from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Special Ops Command have had their first taste of the game, and many will be taking it back to their homes in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia.

Warrior Games 2018 Demo

The pair shares:

“Most of them had never played before, although a few had heard of pickleball. But they learned fast and had a ton of fun. Of course, having the Denver Bronco cheerleaders and mascot come out and play didn’t hurt!”

Each Warrior was given a paddle and ball (packaged in a PickleballCentral bag) and taken on the court with a team of instructors. Everyone had a great time and many said they would give it another go later on.

Warrior Games Playing Pickleball

This demo marks the initial step toward sharing pickleball with even more veterans in the future, and hopefully we’ll be seeing it represented in the Warrior Games soon!

Pickleball Joins the AAU and Brings Players of All Ages into the Fold

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is a multi-sport event organization that promotes programs across the U.S. It was recently announced that pickleball will be added to the group’s roster and more opportunities to play will spring up in the AAU’s 55 U.S. districts.

The AAU has around 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers, and formerly served to establish global standards in amateur sports. It also helped prepare athletes for the Olympic games. In the 70’s, they changed their focus to promoting sports programs for both adult and youth participants “beginning at the grass roots level.”

AAU Logo

This is an incredibly exciting development for pickleball—not only will the AAU provide yet another burst of visibility to the game, but the USAPA will work in conjunction to co-brand a series of recreational pickleball leagues and tournaments.

Those who are already part of the USAPA will be able to enjoy a special membership through AAU website (in conjunction with a full AAU membership) in order to enjoy these new programs.

Partnerships like this will form the foundation of credibility that pickleball needs to be recognized as a viable sport on a global stage. The more support the USAPA gets from longstanding organizations such as the AAU, the more easy it will be for pickleball to find its way into schools, rec centers, and hopefully one day, the Olympics!

AAU Junior Games

AAU Junior Games Medalists

If you’re interested in taking part of these competitions, keep an eye on the AAU Pickleball site to see upcoming events.

The Junior Olympics took place on July 30, but the Indoor Nationals will happen August 13-19 while the Outdoor Nationals in Nov. 28 – Dec 2. Both will be taking place in Florida, where the AAU’s headquarters are located.

Engage Adds More Power to “Blade” Design with Control Pro Black Core in the Poach Extreme

In January we announced that Engage was releasing the Poach Advantage, a paddle that introduced several pioneering features such as its 6-layered face and black polymer core (dubbed “Control Pro Black”), which helped the paddle react to pickleballs differently depending on the speed of play.

Engage is now bringing its newest creation to the world of pickleball: the Poach Extreme. This paddle has the same qualities as the Poach Advantage but uses them in conjunction with the long 17″ design of the Blade. The result is a piece of equipment that allows players to drive balls past their opponents with minimal effort, all without losing the versatility that the lengthier face provides.

Its unidirectional texture meets USAPA guidelines yet makes it simple to send balls down unexpected paths, especially when paired with its versatile reach. And the Poach Extreme looks better than ever thanks to an updated design that features clean color blocks and a sleek targeting reticle.

The standout option in this line is the Marcin Rozpedski Signature look, showing the US Open champion’s name in the center. Engage shares that “Marcin, one of the best known Blade users, switched to the Poach Extreme and never looked back!”

As many players have noted, longer-faced paddles have become something of a trend, but it’s far more than a passing fad. Pro players across the board have found that the amount of court coverage and power they can get from these designs is incomparable, and now that they’ve been combined with Engage’s high-end technology, they’re more noticeable than ever.

The interview below is worth a listen for any players who have been reluctant to get on board with extended reach paddles (or those who want to know how to get the most out of their equipment). In it, the owner of the Pickleball Paddle Reviews channel on Youtube, Jack Bandel, interviews pro player Matthew Blom.

It’s an interesting talk that has Matthew explaining how he became one of, if not “the” first player to popularize Blade-style paddles. Back then, the first widely available extended reach paddles were produced by Brian Jensen of POP Paddles, but now many manufacturers have caught on and players are eager to find the style which allows them the most aggressive behavior without losing control.

Find out why Matthew had his first POP paddle taken away from him by a tournament director and why he now enjoys the Poach Advantage even more than the Blade! If you think you may not be prepared for a longer paddle, he also has some helpful words regarding the pickleball skills you need to master to use these types of paddles.

 

 

Interested in feeling the difference the Poach Extreme can make to your game? Try it out via PickleballCentral to enjoy our 30-day return policy!