Win Tricky Points on Your Serve with the Nasty Nelson

To piggyback on our post about the lesser-known Erne Shot from earlier this month, today we have another technique that’s not seen often and is far more controversial: the Nasty Nelson.

Although this shot is legal, some see it as unsportsmanlike and it may leave a sour taste in players’ mouths. If you decide to use it, make sure you’re either playing among good-natured friends or in a high level competition where opponents should be ready for anything!

Timothy Nelson

Timothy Nelson

The Nasty Nelson was given its name by Scott Lipitz after watching Timothy Nelson make use of it.

The goal is to cause the receiving team to commit a fault. This technique is a serve aimed at the receiver’s partner instead of the usual crosscourt box. If the opponent’s partner hits the ball before it reaches the court—either with their paddle or body—then the point goes to the serving team.

The reason this works is due to pickleball’s service rules which state:

4.C.2. Interference. If the serve clears the net and the receiver or the receiver’s partner interferes with the flight of the ball on the serve, it is a point for the serving team.

Just like a ball is still in play if someone chooses to hit an “out” ball before it actually drops outside the court’s boundaries, if the partner blocks the ball from landing on the wrong side of the court (usually due to not moving fast enough or raising a paddle to protect their body), you get the point.

Although this shot may sound harsh, it’s a viable part of the game and can even be a wise strategy. The “cleanest” way to use the Nasty Nelson is if you notice the receiver’s partner positioning themselves aggressively near the center line.

Since the partner is already close to the legal side of the court, it’s easier to tweak your serve and pop them before they realize they need to get out of the way. It’s (literally) their fault for not realizing they’re blocking the serve’s flight path!

The Nasty Nelson can still be attempted when the partner is at the center or outer edge of their court, but it’s more difficult to achieve under those conditions and may not win many friends.

You can see the shot executed below. In this instance the receiving partner isn’t particularly close to the center line, but the Nasty Nelson is unexpected and he notices the ball heading toward him too late. Despite this surprise attack, all the players take it in good stride!

If you want to see Timothy himself use this shot on an opponent far from the center line, check out this video at 7:04. Just be warned that the rest of the highlights contain strong language.

Do you think the Nasty Nelson’s reward is worth the risk? Even if you don’t want to use this shot yourself, it’s a good one to know so you don’t get caught off guard.

The Ten Best Paddles You May Not Know About

With so many paddles on the market it can be tough keeping up with it all. Fortunately, we have people to do that for you. We’ve asked our staff to come up with paddles that may not be grabbing all the headlines but still provide top quality benefits.

Here are the ten best paddles you may not know about (in no particular order):

Paddletek Tangent Pro

1. Paddletek Tangent Pro

The brand you know; the paddle you may not. The Tangent Pro evokes feelings of the original Element with its style. It’s a great all court paddle, having a traditional face size with slightly rounded corners and a 9/16″ core. The shape and thicker core widens the sweet spot and provides more mass for power. From baseline to kitchen play, the Tangent offers top shelf Paddletek quality.

What our customers say:

I love this paddle
I had been playing with the same paddle since I started years ago, it was a lightweight Prolite. The first time I used this paddle I could feel a big difference, it really took my play to the next level. The only con is that the handle is short, so the best fit is for players who have fairly small hands.

Stan in Alabaster, AL

Kinetic Ovation Speed

2. ProKennex Kinetic Ovation Speed

The Ovation from ProKennex is one of the newest paddles on the market and stands out with its unique oval shape. It’s a streamlined design that makes the paddle swing with less resistance, adding credence to the “Speed” in the paddle name. As an edgeless paddle, players experience fewer miss-hits. The Tungsten Bead technology in the paddle helps it absorb energy and prevent vibration from moving up your arm. You’ll be amazed by the feel and the power you get from the Ovation.

What our customers say:

Great Paddle and Amazing Customer Service
Changed my game and worth every penny. The paddle has better control with a larger sweet spot. It has really improved my touch at the net without sacrificing power from the baseline. PickleballCentral’s service is always geared towards the customer first and with excellent shipping its a no-brainer.

John in Rancho Mirage, CA

ProLite Surface NRG

3. ProLite Surface NRG

ProLite has built a loyal following with the Titan, SuperNova and Cypher. These are paddles known for their ability to grab the ball and impart spin, but they’re not known as power paddles. With the Surface NRG, that changes. This paddle maintains the spin and shot shaping ability of the other ProLite performance paddles while providing a little more pop. It’s another innovative offering from one of the original paddle companies.

What our customers say:

Light & Well-Balanced with Plenty of Pop & Spin
I was using a Selkirk Amped S2, which I liked, but was looking for a little more spin, control and pop on my serves. The Prolite Surface NRG matched the Selkirk in terms of power and pop but I did find I got a little more spin, control and touch/feel when using the NRG. The NRG has a slightly longer handle which allows more wrist action on serves and spins. My drop shots are better and more consistent with the NRG – one of the benefits of good feel & touch. Lastly, I really like the weight distribution on the Prolite Surface NRG. I highly recommend this paddle… unless you’re on the other side of the net from me. Then, choose another paddle please!

David in Marietta, GA

Gamma Legend

4. Gamma Legend

Here’s another new paddle on the market. Gamma is now offering their top performance paddles (Needle, Mirage and RZR) with a thicker core (Compass, Legend and Shard). What we like about the Legend is that it’s a composite paddle that plays like graphite. The NeuCore Poly Core is 9/16” thick. The energy of the shot is spread throughout the paddle giving it the control characteristics of a graphite paddle while maintaining the pop of fiberglass. It’s a fun paddle to use.

What our customers say:

Legend paddle is awesome
I’ve only played a couple of days with this Legend and it feels better than my other paddles already. It does soften the sound a tiny bit and seems to help with blocking shots. I’m still a beginner at this game, but I really like this paddle.

Rob in CO

HEAD Radical XL Graphite

5. HEAD Radical XL

Head paddles are known for their playability characteristics that mirror the tennis industry, making them very comfortable for people switching from tennis to pickleball. The Radical XL has all that and then some. The grip feels very comfortable and familiar while the sweet spot sits higher on the paddle. The extra bonus the XL offers with the blade shape is additional power. Its combination of a higher sweet spot and a longer shape increases the torque, hence the exit speed of the ball. It’s radical how science affects pickleball!

What our customers say:

Blue Radical 7.5oz
Received my paddle and got to play about 5 games today. Great feel playing. I love it. Great touch and power. I can drop shot or drive one home.

Jim in Shickshinny, PA

Rally Graphite Power 5.0

PBC Rally Graphite Power 5.0

This is another entry into the category of thicker core paddles, and it comes at a great price point. The Rally Graphite Power has gone through several iterations, all of which have been quite popular. This paddle should be the most popular yet. The 5.0 plays softer than its predecessors. Even though it gives up some of the trademark power associated with the name, the increase in feel and control make this a legitimate full court paddle.

What our customers say (as the 5.0 is so new, this is a review of the previous 2.0):

I was using a lighter paddle and had to bang the ball pretty had to get some velocity on it. Now, using this paddle that weighs approx. 7.9 ounces, my power game has improved. At the net just hold it up at the right angle and with minimal effort you can place the ball where you want with a simple wrist shot. Learning to hit top spin shots has taken a bit more time… overall my game is improving. Great paddle for arthritic hands – at least my hands anyway!

Bernard

Engage Trident

7. Engage Trident

Here’s another paddle from a big-name brand that is flying under the radar. The Trident focuses on control, feel and spin. However, coming from Engage you know there will be some pop. The Trident plays very soft and with the GripTek face you get a little extra spin on your cuts and top spin shots. We also think the Trident is one of the best-looking paddles from Engage. Looking good and playing good is a nice combo.

What our customers say:

Trident
Well, I took a chance on a brand new paddle with no reviews except PickleballCentral’s own pro… kind of like the dealer telling you how great your new car will be. I’m a 3.5 player and initially I didn’t see any real difference between the Trident and my old generic paddle. It took a couple of games to recognize that I was consistently hitting much better dinks! The surface is supposedly as rough as the rules allow (which isn’t very) but I have noticed a little more spin on the ball. The pro review said the paddle was “soft” and it wasn’t a term I understood until I hit with it. Love my new Trident and highly recommend it.

Randy in Kansas City, MO

TOPP Reacher Graphite

8. TOPP Reacher Graphite

The second blade on our list is the Reacher Graphite from TOPP. It combines the additional power you get with the blade shape with a graphite face to increase control. Graphite spreads the energy out over the entire paddle face and give you a more predictable shot time and time again. The additional reach (pun intended) that you get with this paddle doesn’t hurt either. This paddle was designed by Steve Wong, proving that the original paddle makers still have game.

What our customers say:

This paddle is excellent because it has great control and reach as well as a quieter sound when it hits the ball.

Rodney in Bellefontaine, OH

Onix Outbreak

9. Onix Outbreak

When it comes to softness, the Outbreak from Onix may provide the softest feel of any paddle out there. The thick core and the TeXtreme Technology combine for a paddle that plays like butter – in the very best way. From short hops to dinks and blocks, the ball just feels good coming off this paddle. When a performance ball and an Outbreak meet the result is pure magic. The paddle comes in at 7.8 to 8.2 oz which gives it the mass needed to provide some pop to go with the gentle feel.

What our customers say:

Outbreak paddle
I didn’t play a whole lot of tennis growing up but ping pong was my game, very fast paced. This paddle offers so much control and deep play at the kitchen line. My returns are more consistently low over the net and in play. Large sweet spot with no dead spots. Great paddle

JDubs in FL

Wilson Energy Pro

10. Wilson Energy Pro

Oftentimes people equate an entry level price point with a lower performing paddle. That is not the case with the Energy Pro. The Energy Pro sits in the sweet spot for weight at 7.5 – 7.8 oz. With a polymer core and fiberglass face you will feel comfortable hitting shots from anywhere on the court. It’s nice to know you don’t have to break the bank to get a paddle that will help you improve your game. Wilson is showing they’re determined to make their mark in the pickleball scene.

What our customers say:

New Paddle
Nice paddle, service was great, order came fast and in good condition. I would purchase other products from PickleballCentral. You have a great selection of items to choose from, so many that it was hard for me to make a decision, but your information on each item was a great help. I am 80 years old and having a great time playing pickleball. Hard for my old bones sometimes but it keeps me moving. Have some good games every so often even against the younger people. Your Youtube videos are great and have a lot of information.

Mike in Mount Pleasant, SC

Legally Volley at the Net with the Erne Shot

“Stay out of the kitchen!”

This phrase is bandied about the courts so often we even made a shirt out of it. The non-volley zone or “kitchen” is the 7-foot segment in front of the net every player is introduced to and then subsequently told to avoid. You’re not allowed to return a ball in the kitchen without letting it bounce… unless you’re willing to give your point away.

So is it impossible to ever enjoy a slam right at the net? Not necessarily.

If you’re an advanced player and have the ability to read opponents, set up your positioning and wait for the right opening, there is a way to sneak in a smash at close range: the Erne.

Instructor Jeff Shank saw Erne Perry use the shot at the 2010 Nationals and gave the move a title in honor of its creator.

The Erne involves stepping immediately to the left or right side of the NVZ, outside of the court boundaries, to volley the ball at its apex. Since it’s normally impossible to perform a put away shot so close to the net, opponents are often surprised that their “unattackable” ball has suddenly whizzed past them.

You can see the Erne demonstrated by several players including Brian Ashworth in this video by Third Shot Sports (warning for headphone users: loud noise at 1:20):

To legally perform the Erne you must make sure your feet aren’t in the NVZ when you make contact with the ball and continue to stay outside of it afterwards. If you fall back in the kitchen, even if the ball has cleared the net, it will be considered a fault.

The next video will show you how you can practice drilling the Erne with a partner and provides details on how to set this shot up. Since you’re hitting from the sidelines you want the ball to be near the edge of the court, so the goal is to get your opponent to hit down the line.

You can attempt to get your opponent to do this by hitting a down the line shot yourself or by hitting an angled shot so that they’re forced to reach for the ball, making it more difficult to return anything but a more predictable, straight dink.

The Erne is often a devastating, point-winning shot although it takes precision, speed and excellent predictive skills to pull off. Have you ever attempted or successfully performed it yourself? Share your tips and knowledge in the comments if you’re willing!

The Best Pickleball Gear for Summer 2019

Summer can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to playing pickleball. Most people prefer playing outdoors, and so you now have the perfect excuse to hit the courts and soak up the sun.

On the other side of things, those same rays can also make it easy to overheat or lose grip of your paddle, and no one likes playing in sticky, sopping clothes.

At PickleballCentral we have an array of great gear to help you minimize stresses the weather can bring so you can fully enjoy the warm weather and competition.

GAMMA Tacky Towel

GAMMA Tacky TowelYour hands get slick from sweat and your paddle is constantly on the verge of flying across court, but you can’t bear to wear a glove in the heat of the day. What’s a pickler to do?

With just a few passes of the GAMMA Tacky Towel your hands will feel stable again thanks to a sheen of its main moisture-repelling ingredient: bee’s wax! The Tacky Towel will last through multiple uses so you can continue to play consistently no matter how sticky the situation.

Chilly Pad Cooling Towel

Chilly PadWhile a standard towel would get soggy and heavy after enough passes over a perspiring player’s skin, the Chilly Pad Cooling Towel absorbs liquid and then allows it to evaporate. You can use this towel again and again without fearing that you’ll just be re-applying sweat!

The extra benefit of this product is that it can also be used as a cooling device. If you dunk it in some water and set it against your neck you’ll feel a pleasant cooling sensation radiate from the material. It retains its temperature for some time but can easily be re-wetted when you want another refreshing experience.

Wilson ProGrip Lotion

ProGrip LotionThis is another great option for players who want to keep a firm grasp on their paddles no matter how humid things get. The Wilson ProGrip Lotion applies to a smooth finish and doesn’t feel sticky, yet you’ll feel far more comfortable keeping your hand in contact with your grip. The gel is quickly transferred to the skin and dries to white finish so you an ensure it’s good to go.

The ProGrip Lotion lasts for around 2 hours and has a non-toxic formula with a pleasant citrus scent.

Overgrips

Absorbant GripsIf you don’t want to fuss with products you need to apply to your hands, you can always stick an overgrip on top of your existing handle. We have plenty of options that offer an array of different finishes so that you can find one with just the right amount of tack and absorbance.

For those who want some guidance on the best overgrips for reducing moisture, we recommend the HEAD HydroSorb Pro and Tourna Moisture Absorbency Grip. The HydroSorb has more of a traditional tacky texture with a thin construction that allows players to still feel a solid connection to their paddle. The Tourna Grip has more of a dry feel that will actively wick moisture away from the hands.

Hats & Visors

Summer Hats It should go without saying, but a simple hat can go a long way to keeping the sun out of your eyes when you’re trying to position your shots just so. You don’t want to trap heat next to your noggin’ though, so we recommend choosing something that maintains good airflow and visibility.

Our Heritage Shade Cap has ventilated mesh siding and a protection flap that will keep the back of your neck from burning during extended games. The Margaritaville Visors are a colorful way to celebrate the season while feeling the breeze. If you want to go for accessories that are as minimal as possible, the HEAD Headband and Wristband will prevent sweat from reaching your hands and eyes.

Shoes

Head Shoes Shoes can make or break your game, and all players want to avoid injuries! Beyond their stabilizing and cushioning nature, a good shoe should allow your feet to breathe so you aren’t sliding around or dealing with smelly digits after your fun.

In addition to great multi-court traction, arch support and a light weight, the HEAD shoes we carry feature a special vent with air holes at the bottom of the soles which allow for plenty of cooling air to enter.

Gloves

HEAD Airflow TourWe’ve offered several alternatives to gloves for when the summer heat may make them feel smothering, but there is one option you may still want to consider. The HEAD Airflow Tour Glove uses a perforated leather that lets air in while also pulling moisture away from the hand.

If you appreciate the added security of a glove but want to ensure you’re not sweating up a storm, the Airflow Tour Glove is your best option.

Apparel

UV PerformanceOne of the easiest ways to stay cool in the heat is to make sure you’re wearing clothes that have a wicking feature and won’t get bogged down with sweat. This usually means utilizing a polyester or poly-blend fabric.

We have several options that are great for this purpose, and will not only prevent you from leaving a trail on the courts, but will protect you from burns as well. Our Sun Shield Tee provides UVA/UVB protection in addition to some of our long-sleeved tops like the UV Performance Top. Choose from our many designs to customize them to your heart’s content!

Eyewear

HEAD RaptorYou can defend your eye’s from glare and wayward balls and paddles all in one go if you select some great protective eyewear. Check out our HEAD Raptor Eyewear which feature anti-scratch and anti-fog construction.

They have interchangeable lenses and wearers can use their “smoke” colored lens for when they’re dealing with bright outdoor rays.

The Best Pickleball Vacation Options For Summer 2019

Pickleball has spread to more locations than ever before, so when you’re on the move and looking for games you can often find a few local courts via sites like the USAPA’s Places 2 Play.

That being said, if you’re looking for a more pickleball-specific getaway this summer, there are events that will offer far beyond a few casual games. From tournaments to clinics and globe-trotting excursions, read on to start planning your ultimate pickleball getaway! Click on the event names for more information and details on how to sign up.

Pickle Palooza – Encinitas, CA – Aug 2 – 4

Pickle Palooza is a 3-day event open to pickleball fanatics of all skill levels. Pros Steve Dawson and Dave Fleming are hosting Palooza, and they’re bringing a bevvy of other top picklers with them, including Kyle Yates, Matt Wright, Lucy Kovalova and many more. Attendees will enjoy exhibition matches, pro interviews and instruction, paddle demos and open play. Training and entertainment is being hosted at the Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle Club in beautiful Southern California.

Sign up by June 30th for a $25 early bird discount!

Palooza Pros

Palooza Pros

Tournament of Champions – Brigham City, UT – Aug 21 – 24

This tournament has an attractive prize pool and many exciting opportunities surrounding it, including the soothing Crystal Hot Springs, ATV and air boat rides, and beautiful national parks. Sign up for our BOOST Training Camp to get an extra dose of pickleball several days before the tournament. The camp runs from Aug 17 – 19th with coaching from Steve Dawson, Peter Hudachko, Jennifer Dawson, Brian Ashworth and Del Kauss.

Registration deadline: June 22nd

Gamma PB Classic Tournament – Pittsburgh, PA – July 26 – 28

This tournament is located in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center boasting 150,000 square feet of space and 36 courts. Top players will be in attendance and there’s over $13,000 of prize money to be won. Enjoy open play on the courts before the competition begins. Be sure to take advantage of the location and set out for the beautiful Phipps Conservatory, museums and zoo nearby!

Registration deadline: July 1st

French Open PB Championships – Fayence, France – Aug 29 – Sept 1

An exciting international tournament we’ve featured before, complete with pre-tournament clinics from Kyle Yates and Irina Tereschenko. Fayence is a gorgeous medieval village and close to many popular sightseeing locales. If you want to continue your stay in Europe and find more pickling opportunities, the Spanish Open won’t be happening much later, running from Sept 6 – 8th.

Registration deadline: July 31st

Fayence

Fayence

Vulcan US National Indoor PB Championships – Hot Springs, AR – July 18 – 21

Skill challenges, pickleball clinics, entertainment and beautiful scenery all surround this indoor tournament that comes complete with 26 air-conditioned courts. Hot Springs Village is only 20 min from the venue and has a wide variety of amenities to explore such as boating, golf, nature trails, fishing and other outdoor activities. Receive a free Vulcan backpack at check-in!

Registration deadline: June 27th

Scott Moore Pickleball Trips: Rhine Wine & Dine – Rhine Region of Germany – July 9 – 18

Essen, Germany was named the 2010 European capital of Culture and will be hosting the 3rd Bainbridge Cup which pits Team North America vs Team Europe. This is immediately followed by the German Open from July 13 – 14th. Get the most out of your time in the area by traveling with pickleball pros Jon and Daniel Moore. They will be taking their group on a historical, cultural and gastronomical tour of the stunning Rhine region.

The Real Lowdown on Pickleball Skill Levels

The USAPA provides a handy definition of their rating system online, but we all know those skill levels translate a bit differently in reality compared to a perfectly curated list.

Thankfully, David Mark Lopez of Pelican Landing (Bonita Springs, FL) took to Facebook to provide a bit more substance and flavor to these descriptions. Enjoy a big laugh before the weekend with these Revised Pickleball Skill Level Definitions!

For more of David’s witty writing and cheeky humor, visit www.davidmarklopez.com. He’s created a charming series of historical fiction books for kids titled Maddie’s Magic Markers.

David Lopez

David Mark Lopez of Pelican Landing

1.0 Skill Level: Beginner

Calls the paddle a racket, poops in pants, serves overhand, thinks pickleball is a stupid sport for old people, wears huarache sandals to play, is bored and wants to start drinking early.

2.0 Skill Level

Thinks the sport was named after a dog born 20 years later, walks slowly through your match, does not close gate, drinks the last beer, hits on your spouse who hates you for poaching, played last 6 months ago indoors at a Michigan Y with his cousin from Ypsilanti, smokes between matches, falls often, serves the ball into the next court.

3.0 Skill Level

Forgets score frequently, talks during rallies, explains every freakin’ point (well the ball went this way, but I meant it to go there…uh, I know I was right here watching), hits their partner with ball or racket (still) at least once a game, trips partner regularly, thinks the third shot drop has something to do with an incurable disease, has a fit-bit.

3.5 Skill Level

Frequently misinterprets NVZ rule, hits every single shot with maximin velocity, puts the ball in play roughly 50% of the time, argues line calls, laughs loudly, has new smart matching outfit, lays it up across the middle, only dinks accidentally, frowns at you when you say UP UP UP, calls the score for both teams, leaves phone on during match because daughter is expecting.

4.0 Skill Level

Sighs loudly frequently, wants you to stay for one more game, coaches you up on every single point, swears like a sailor, practices dinking in garage, pretends to be interested in your personal life, talks crap about ATPs and ERNEs, shows you new paddle (it’s not a racket, newbie), acts like a baby after losing, smashes the living hell out of your weak-ass lobs, plays at 3.5 in tourneys, openly argues with spouse during matches when supposed to be just having fun.

4.5 Skill Level

Brings 5 paddles, mysteriously disappears after playing once with mixed group of 2.0 2.5 and 3.0s, encourages you to poach so they can poach with reckless abandon, takes every shot across the middle, knows the rules but tells you to look them up so you can learn them, wears two gloves, hits you very hard with the ball at the NVZ (it’s part of the game) because your paddle was not up, subtly blames partner after loss, recommends videos, has stopped playing tennis, almost went pro, was club ping pong champion in 1987, had 3 ATPs and 2 ERNEs yesterday.

5.0 Skill Level

Knows Kyle Yates, has many many medals, post incessantly on PICKLEBALL FORUM about balls, rules, paddles and tournaments, wants pickleball channel on ESPN (cornhole wtf?), strategically hits to your backhand every shot, apologizes for hitting you very hard with ball at the NVZ because your paddle was not up, will gladly give you a lesson for $50, has 7 supercool pickleball outfits, drinks mysterious electrolyte concoction, is way younger than you, patronizes your terrible backhand, would love to play one more with you but has a dentist appointment and will see you at the clinic Saturday.

6.0 Skill Level

Shows up on the FORUM in foreign places playing pickleball, has savage tan and incredibly white teeth, can beat you in doubles as a singles player, has a cool nickname, returns your ATP like it wasn’t nuthin’ bruh, dropped out of high school to go pro, walks on water, heals the pickleball lame, has a weighted paddle, stacks with partner in fast food line, has met you several times but still has zero idea of who you are, posts videos of 73 hit rallies, wears white unitard, dink…dink…dink then backhand rocket drive that hits you in the head and ricochets off your partner’s teeth. You’re in love, fanboy.

Lake Effect Traveling Team Builds Pickleball Community and Competition

You may have heard of traveling pickleball pros, but what about traveling teams made up of passionate 3.5+ players?

This is exactly what the Lake Effect team in Saugatuck has achieved. The group hosts and challenges clubs up and down Michigan’s lakeshore, allowing players to explore different partners and compete against others without affecting tournament ratings. It’s served as an effective way to expose players to fresh talent while engaging in the competitive side of the sport.

The team plays men’s, women’s and mixed doubles at events, being composed of twelve women and twelve men.

Sara Cullen is the original founder of Lake Effect and serves as co-captain beside Sherrie Velthouse. Sara shares her experience thus far:

“We are a new enterprise and just got off the ground late last summer. We had two matches before the end of our outdoor season. Both times we played Grand Haven, the Lakeshore Pickleball Club. They traveled about 40 minutes to our courts, and then we traveled to their courts in late fall.

This year we have already played one match outdoors in April. We have an upcoming match against Grand Rapids on May 18th, traveling over to their courts about 45 minutes away. In early June we’ll be playing against The Alley Cats from Kalamazoo.”

Lake Effect

The Lake Effect team

Lake Effect is looking to play Hudsonville in mid-July if they can organize a date. Sara explains that scheduling gets more difficult in the summer months due to the number of important USAPA-sanctioned tournaments that fill up the calendar. In addition, they face snow and cold weather in fall and winter, losing team members to warmer destinations. Travel team matches are placed on hold when it gets too chilly for the locals.

Despite the time-sensitive nature of the enterprise, Sara says, “The exciting part of the travel team is that it’s working! Our team members are having a great time, building friendships, finding new partners for tournaments and everyone is enjoying an easy and fun way to test their court skills without entering tournaments or having to spend money.

They can use the travel team matches to prepare for USAPA tournaments without being concerned about their ranking being effected by a loss. So it makes it fun and worry free. It’s also nice to see that even when players don’t win their flight, they still cheer for your teammates.”

Jodie Kyes, one of the members who helps manage the team, states that she feels fortunate to have many strong clubs in close proximity, including Grand Rapids, South Haven, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Niles, Muskegon and Holland.

Lakeshore Pickleball

A shot from the Lakeshore Pickleball Club’s courts

She explains that the concept of a travel team was based on the formation of a varsity high school sport. Team captains set up challenge matches with other clubs and determine the lineup of partners and positions. In women’s and men’s doubles there are five teams for each, and in mixed doubles there are ten teams. The captains determine who plays at the top of the lineup in order of skill and ability.

Once the captains have organized a match, the hosting team provides the courts, wristbands, tournament schedule and refreshments such as Gatorade and energy bars.

Lake Effect has even went the extra mile by creating uniforms, practicing drills together and enjoying social gatherings to promote team spirit. Their dedication to their club is truly admirable!

Jodie summarizes by sharing her team’s goals:

“As we head into our second year of travel team challenges, we’re hoping the idea catches on across our state and eventually nationally. Travel team matches promote pickleball and the satisfaction of competing not just as an individual, but more importantly as a team. It builds friendships and team spirit, which has been a wonderful bonus for our players.

The Lake Effect travel team has developed a code of conduct that outlines what we are looking for in team players. Good sportsmanship is at the forefront but also the importance of cheering on other team players during their matches and accepting the lineup without question. Most importantly, every team player should welcome the opportunity to play with whomever the captains assign. All in all, even though it is a new concept for pickleball, we’re very pleased with the enthusiasm it’s received and look forward to many years of competitive and fun play.”

Lake Effect would also like to recognize Selkirk, Wilson, PickleballCentral and Franklin Sports for their donations to the team. We thank them for sharing their story in return!

Are you intrigued by the idea of a traveling pickleball team? Let us know about your experiences if you’ve developed a similar setup in your community!