Chicken N Pickle: Food, Fun and Pickleball All Under the Same Roof

Many players speak in awe of Chicken N Pickle, the “do-it-all” restaurant/entertainment complex hybrid that’s taking the pickleball world by storm. For those who haven’t heard of it yet, it’s time to remedy that so you can start booking a trip down to Kansas City, Missouri!

Chicken N Pickle Complex

The fantastic Chicken N Pickle complex

Chicken-N-Pickle consists of an incredible 8 courts (4 indoor and 4 outdoor), a beer garden with a shack serving 25+ canned beers, full bar and sandwiches.

There’s also a 5,600 sq. ft. restaurant featuring wood fire rotisserie chicken with all-natural healthy ingredients, 30+ TVs, a rooftop bar, courtyard with a jumbo TV and yard games that opened last November.

Maybe if we ask nicely we can live there?

Thanks to Kellen Mumm, the VP of Operations, for kindly taking the time to share new details about this wonderland and how it got started! [Note: This interview was conducted last year and so all mentions of specific dates were for 2016.]

How was Chicken N Pickle conceived? Or: What came first, the Chicken or the Pickle? 

Chicken N Pickle was born over a couple of beers. David Johnson, the owner, was the first to bring up the idea. [Want to know something really weird? David Johnson is the owner of PickleballCentral, but he’s a different David… weird coincidence!]

He saw pickleball and was amazed by the social aspect of the sport. It was incredible to see 30+ people all hanging around these courts talking and having fun. He played with some friends for the first time in AZ and (just like everybody else) played one game and was hooked.

Inside the Chicken N Pickle restaurant

Inside the Chicken N Pickle restaurant

He knew we needed this in Kansas City and his first thought was to add a restaurant. One of his favorite restaurants in the Grand Cayman Islands is called Chicken! Chicken! So he thought, “Why not a rotisserie chicken place?” Bill Crooks was brought on as a consultant because of his experience opening over 30 restaurants nationwide, and he’s helped us find some incredible talent such as Bill Koning as General Manager and Alex Staab as Chef.

Since that initial meeting, our idea has grown into the giant complex you see today.

Do you play pickleball personally? Where did you first discover the game and what are your favorite parts of it?

I first played pickleball in high school, but I didn’t know it was called pickleball at the time because my PE teacher decided to name it after himself! I rediscovered it (this time under the right title) when CnP was born and have been playing ever since. Since we opened I play 5-6 times per week and I like to think I’m getting pretty good.

Chicken N Pickle Indoor Courts

Chicken N Pickle indoor courts

I love how easy it is to get started, and it’s the only sport that you can play with anyone regardless of age, gender and athletic ability. It’s a great family sport and a great date night sport. Since I’m very competitive by nature it’s fun to compete at, and it’s humbling when someone twice my age runs me around the court and doesn’t let me score a point…

Your group seems to use a lot of Selkirk-branded paddles – is there are partnership between you two? And if so, how did that come about?

I was introduced to Andy Gensch, who is one of the few 5.0 players in the Kansas City area. He then introduced me to Selkirk and they’ve just been amazing to work with. We use the Selkirk 20P-XL as our rental paddles so our customers get to play with top-of-the-line equipment. We want everything at CnP to be tournament-grade pickleball and Selkirk helps us achieve that. I personally play with the 300A-XL and love it.

Andy Gensch

Andy Gensch

What are your eventual goals with Chicken N Pickle? Would you like to expand to more locations or are you concentrating on building your first location for the time being?

We would love to bring Chicken N Pickle to other cities across the country as we feel pickleball is growing faster than it can handle and we want to help that cause. We are focusing on making this first one work; there have been and will be more lessons from this prototype that will help us bring our concept to many locations.

What has the local response been like? Do you find yourself getting customers who are already picklers, or more newcomers to the sport who get hooked after visiting?

We’ve taught pickleball to more people than I can count. It’s been amazing! The local picklers and newcomers stop by because there’s no place like it and CnP has this atmosphere of fun. We have a lot of leagues going now and I would say 50% are people that have started playing at CnP in the past 2 months.

The Chicken N Pickle outdoor courts duting construction

The Chicken N Pickle outdoor courts duting construction

Andy Gensch seems to help out with teaching at Chicken N Pickle, and you have classes coming up with other pros as well. Are you looking to do outreach to develop other events like this?

Andy has been amazing and I have the testimonials from his lessons to prove it! He has been a big part of bringing people like Enrique Ruiz and Dee Davidson in for clinics, which were huge successes. We also have Dave Wienbach coming for a clinic and he’ll play in our October tournament.

Andy loves pickleball and has been instrumental in growing the game. We both love the fact there are so many new faces. The clinics and lessons he provides are going to make the sport that much more competitive. We do beginner clinics and advanced clinics as much as we can to help give our players more resources.

You host food trucks in addition to your rotisserie offerings. How did that idea develop and do you find it adds another layer of fun for visitors? It seems like you use a lot of nearby stores to give people a locally-flavored experience.

We are huge on everything local. Local produce when we can, local beers (we plan to have 28 taps with all local flavors). People in Kansas City love  supporting their neighbors and we’re no different.

David Johnson of Chicken N Pickle

Bill Crooks, primary Chicken N Pickle consultant

Is there anything in particular you’d like to say to our PickleballCentral readers?

I would invite anyone passing through Kansas City to stop by and play a game and give me feedback! We want to grow pickleball as much as possible. We also have events every month, such as: Oktoberfest on September 1st, Halloween on October 2nd and our first ever pickleball tournament Oct 20 – 24. Sign-ups have been going fast.


You can find out more about Chicken N Pickle on their site and find out what events they have coming up at their blog. Everyone visit if you can, and send them some love to let CnP know you want to see MORE of their facilities in the near future!

 

Pickleball Helps Keep Youth Active in Yavapai County Detention Center

We all know pickleball is great for stress relief, and who better to benefit than cooped up kids? Last year the Prescott Pickleball Association and its associates took the game to those who’d appreciate it at the Yavapai County Detention Center. The youth had a great time learning the game and getting to release some steam.

Listening for Opportunities

The idea was planted when former racquetball champion Jerry Northwood formed the Prescott Pickleball Association with members of his club, the Willow Hills PBC, and other interested players. The group was looking to construct eight outdoor courts at Prescott’s Pioneer Park and needed city council approval to move forward.

Before Jerry got a chance to speak with the council, a woman named Gay Staling from the Yavapai County Detention Center gave a presentation.

Yavapai County Detention Center Demo

From left to right: Ben Sialega, Jerry Northwood and J.T. Schulze demonstrates pickleball during a visit to the center

Jerry had never considered putting a program together for detainees, but was inspired by the thought and introduced himself to Gay afterwards. To his surprise, he didn’t have to overcome any logistical or security nightmares. In fact, the YCDC already had a gym on site!

With the help of fellow pickler Ben Sialega, Jerry visited the center and determined what would be needed to arrange a 2-hour clinic for 11 boys and 11 girls (one hour for each group). Members from the Willow Hills PBC donated both equipment and time as volunteer coaches after going through a background check.

Sharing the Fundamentals

The clinics involved an introduction and history of pickleball followed by a demonstration using advanced players.

“We made sure to use both male and female players so that everyone could see it’s possible to be competitive regardless of gender. For those in the group who had experience with similar sports like racquetball, tennis or table tennis, we showed them how quickly they could pick up the game and start having fun.”

The schedule included a daily 1-hour visit over the course of a week to teach the kids all the basic rules, safety tips and warm-up exercises. After a positive response from the youth (ages 12-18) and the detention officers, they continued the program 1 day a week for 2 hours. The youth, staff and volunteer coaches all appreciate the new activity.

Yavapai County Detention Center Explanation

Jerry Northwood explains pickleball to youth in the juvenile detention center

“When a student is released from the facility I give them my card and encourage them to call me so I can set them up with a club in their area. Hopefully the desire to keep on playing will be a healthy distraction from other things they could get involved in,” Jerry says.

Rallying toward a Happier Future

In addition to the detention center, the Prescott Pickleball Association provides duplicate programs for the Boys/Girls Club of Prescott. They have one indoor court with approximately twenty youth, ages 12-15. They call the program “modified” pickleball as the ceiling is only 8’ high.

“Believe it or not, this actually works and the staff and youth love it! They are currently in the process of constructing three outdoor pickleball courts as part of a sport court. We are two months into this program.

Willow Hills Pickleball Club also has a program for youth ages 10-15. They have 3 indoor courts and run the clinic for 1-1/2 to 2 hours each week.”

The youth of the YCDC tapping paddles in the "good game" gesture

The youth of the YCDC tapping paddles in the “good game” gesture

“We have a ball machine we named Samson to help teach. Our primary objective is to have kids learn the sport so they can be competitive with adults. We did have complaints about balls ending up all over the place beforehand… for some reason, the adult players didn’t appreciate that! Now we have 11-year-old youths playing in adult tournaments.

Finally, we have a program for veterans and first responders to learn racquetball and pickleball. The vets live at the VA and in a VA program for PTSD, brain injury trauma and alcohol/drug abuse. This program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and has been going for over three years now.

It’s extremely rewarding to see lives changed.”

A great big “thank you” to Jerry and his associates for letting us share their story and for putting forth the effort to support people of all ages from all walks of life with the power of pickleball.

Pickleball in the Czech Republic: A Lesson in Fun

When a teacher and a sports trainer join forces, you know things will get done! Pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic thanks to a determined duo made up of US Open silver medalist Lenka Mišičková and teacher/counselor Jodi Oppenhuizen. These two players have plenty of expertise between them and use a friendly yet consistent process for integrating the game into local communities.

Lenka and Jodi

Jodi Oppenhuizen (left) and Lenka Mišičková (right)

Joining Forces

The first time pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic was in 2014 after Jodi was introduced to the game by her parents and learned to play in Michigan. She brought donated paddles and balls to the Christian International School in Prague where she works and started a pickleball club. Wanting more partners to play with, she also taught her friends about the game and created the Pickleball Czech Facebook page to share information.

A year later and worlds apart at the time, Lenka visited with a friend in Meadville, PA. There she was introduced to senior pickleball champion John Vicek. After sharing pictures from his matches, John and his wife invited Lenka to their home in Windsor, Canada to learn the game. Lenka quickly took to it, having been a ping pong champion in her teen years and an athlete her whole life.

Pickleball in Prague

Pickleball in Prague

It was only last year (2015) that Lenka and Jodi crossed paths. Lenka contacted Jodi after finding out about her efforts through a mutual contact in Amsterdam. After falling in love with pickleball, she wanted to help spread the word about the addictive game.

Gearing Up

Jodi lent equipment to Lenka so she could teach pickleball to kids at FIT Sports Club just south of Opava in Hradec nad Moravici, where she also trains them in ping pong, tennis, roller blading and floor ball (known in the U.S. as “floor hockey”).

Lenka’s first attempt was during the children’s summer camp, where they quickly became interested in the sport. As a follow-up, she continued to teach them pickleball during the 2015 – 2016 school year in the Czech Republic’s Moravian-Silesian region.

In spring 2016, Lenka purchased the domain for the Pickleball Czech website to better network with newcomers. Her and Jodi’s initiative was also strengthened by the head of the Ukraine Pickleball Association, David Conover.

A star of donated pickleball gear!

A star of donated pickleball gear!

In the following summer, Jodi participated in the Michigan State Games where she was recognized for her efforts to start pickleball in the Czech Republic. While there, she established a sister club relationship with the Grand Rapids Pickleball Club.

She also received support from Paddletek, Selkirk Sports and PickleballCentral when it came to acquiring more equipment, which is currently finding use on both sides of the country (Prague and Hradec nad Moravici)!

Despite having a decent amount of paddles and balls, one area where the Czech Republic lacks “equipment” is when it comes to the courts themselves. In fact, there are currently no pickleball-specific courts in the country. But Jodi and Lenka don’t let this slow them down!

“Although there are no courts that have been made exclusively for pickleball,” Jodi says, “there are many badminton courts. [Since] a doubles badminton court is the same size as a pickleball court, you can typically find a place to play indoors.”

Lenka adds, “[When] I train outside my house we just find level ground and use chalk for lines!”

Pop-Up Pickleball

When Lenka visited Jodi for the first time, they found another way to adapt to their surroundings. Jodi suggested they play pickleball on the Charles Bridge, one of the most famous tourist locations in the country.

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

“And we did!” She confirms. “We played many other unusual places in the city and were able to talk to people from various countries about pickleball. I appreciate Lenka’s humor and positivity.”

How’s that for pickleball guerilla marketing? No more excuses for not playing if you lack a “proper” court! Jodi shares another benefit of teaming up with Lenka aside from her open-minded attitude:

“She’s won several medals in tournaments, so it’s great to have an excellent Czech player in the country paving the way for future players.”

A Fighter’s Endurance

Indeed, it was Lenka who won the silver medal for women’s singles in the US Open. Amazingly, it was her very first pickleball tournament and she had to fight through an injury the whole way.

“The US Open was the first [pickleball] tournament in my life. I didn’t know what my level of play was, but because I have lots of experience in ping pong I felt I could adapt quickly. I had very good partners with me. In the women’s doubles we won 4th place and in mixed doubles we got 5th.”

“At the beginning of the second day my leg muscles started to hurt. I couldn’t take a step without intense pain. But because I’m great fighter I wanted to make it through to the end! I honestly have no idea how I won silver in those conditions. After every match I visited the tournament doctor who iced and bandaged my leg.”

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam Tournament

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament

“Afterwards I went to a hospital back in the Czech Republic and they determined it was inflammation of the muscles and tendons. I wasn’t allowed to play for nearly a month. After waiting things out I competed in the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament and had the same issue return… but I won another silver medal! Miracle.”

Lenka may attribute her wins to luck and divine intervention, but we give her credit for tons of grit, determination and skill. (Though we hope her legs have gotten some much-needed rest and fully recovered!)

In addition to teaching pickleball during the school year and during summer camp for kids in Opava and Ostrava, Lenka is sharing her talent by joining with the Osatrava Municipal Hall to organize exhibitions in primary schools.

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Incredibly enough, coaching pickleball and numerous other sports isn’t even this champion’s day job. Lenka primarily teaches law and economics to people transitioning in the work force. In her remaining time, she has also published 3 books on sports. (Stop making us look bad, Lenka!)

Her endless supply of resiliency is perhaps no surprise when you hear Lenka has spent her life tracking down extended family after contact was lost between relatives in the U.S. in 1948 and 1968 due to the Czech Republic’s communist regime. Thankfully she has been able to find several aunts and uncles at this point, and shows no signs of slowing down.

We’re glad this determination has spread into other areas of her life and that picklers get to benefit!

Setting the Scene

The big push for Lenka and Jodi to establish pickleball in the Czech Republic will come when they’re able to host their own competition. Although there haven’t been any tournaments in the Czech Republic yet, several countries nearby have seen them, such as Amsterdam and Ukraine.

Lenka with Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament

Lenka with doubles partner Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament (with their gold medals!)

Europe in general has been making great progress, considering there was a pickleball tournament in Spain this past September and in the UK in October. As the number of players in the Czech Republic continues to grow, Pickleball Czech looks to the future with hope and plenty of spirit.


 

PickleballCentral offers a big round of applause for Lenka’s wins and both women’s dedicated efforts to continue growing the sport around the world. Thank you both for taking the time to share your work with us!

Let’s Help Spread the Pickleball Love to Japan!

Exciting news today as USAPA Nationals medalist Daniel Moore begins a crowdfunding campaign to bring pickleball to Japan. If you’re looking to share the gift of pickleball with international fans this season, this is a great place to start!

Pickleball players of all ages in Japan

What some people don’t know is that Daniel lived in Japan for 16 years growing up and currently serves as a tour guide for visitors through the organization Walk Japan. Japan has an aging population with many indoor gyms equipped with badminton courts that could be utilized for pickleball.

According to Daniel’s campaign, there are currently 2 locations that regularly play pickleball in Japan with a third arriving in January. He explains:

“The locations have around 15-20 players each… An additional three locations have played pickleball before but we haven’t had the time or the funding to continue supporting them so they don’t have any balls or paddles. Most importantly, they don’t have someone there to explain the rules, coach and teach… which is what will get people playing.”

Senior picklers in Japan

The funds will primarily go to the Japan Pickleball Association headed by Moore so that the group can travel around the country to provide clinics and demos. They are also planning to register the JPA as an official non-profit organization and put together local/national tournaments to coincide with Daniel’s annual pickleball Japan trip.

The campaign only needs $10,000 to be successfully funded, and if you make a donation above $25 you’ll receive a Japan Pickleball t-shirt!

Daniel and Japanese pickleball players

Please consider donating if you like the sound of a pickleball-crazy Japan and would enjoy visiting in the future, or if you just want to share the joy of pickleball around the globe. Click here to donate today.

Indian Pickleball Continues to Grow at the 4th National Tournament in Jaipur

AIPA’s (All India Pickleball Association) hard work and effort has clearly gotten the pickleball rolling as more Indian players take up the competitive mantle. On November 11 – 13th at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium in Jaipur, the 4th National Pickleball Tournament was a rousing success.

Kavita and Ashwin of Rajasthan

Kavita and Ashwin of Rajasthan (Runners-Up in Mixed Doubles)

Of the 29 states in India, 12 teams were present from 10 states to show off their pickleball talent, with observers from two additional states in the wings. The participating states included:

Bihar
Haryana
Jharkhand
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Pondicherry
Rajasthan
Sikkim
Uttarakhand

The West Bengal and Tamil Nadu visitors expressed interest in throwing their hats in the ring for next year’s tournament in Uttarakhand.

AIPA Nationals 2016

Maharashtra Sets the Standard

The winners this year were actually repeat champions from 2015, with Team Maharashtra once again claiming victory! Rajasthan still made an impressive showing on their home ground, often coming in silver just behind the winners. At least the other states know who they have to knock off the podium when the next opportunity arrives!

In Men and Women’s Singles players from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh actually overcame the Maharashtra pros, but Doubles was a sweep. The Maharashtra pairs didn’t offer any quarter as they defeated opponent after opponent and claimed gold in all three categories.

Team Maharashtra 2016

Team Maharashtra 2016

Manish Rao and Bhushan Potnis of Maharashtra won the Men’s Doubles title by defeating Dr. Bharat Ram and Prashant Kalaniair from Rajasthan. Somewhat ironically,  in the 3rd national tournament held at Panipat last year, it was Ram/Kalaniair who defeated Rao and Potnis. Can you say “sweet revenge”? The final scores were 11-5 and  11-7.

Manish Rao and Bhushan of Maharashtra

Rao/Bhushan vs Bharat/Prashant in the Men’s Doubles

Similarly, Atul Edward and Natasha Beig from Maharashtra won the mixed title by defeating Kavita and Ashwini Wadhwa of Rajasthan. It wasn’t as easy of a battle, however, as the Wadhwas managed to hold the game until the 3rd set when Edward/Beig won the final. The scores: 11-1 , 5-11 and 11-6.

Atul and Natasha vs Kavita and Ashwin

Edward/Beig vs the Wadhwas in the Mixed Doubles

The Women Doubles gold medal went to Maharashtra’s Karishma and Rujuta who beat Rajashthan’s Madhulika and Garima. It was something of a rout with the final match scores coming in at 11-2 and 11-3.

Karishma and Rujuta vs Madhulika and Garima

Karishma and Rujuta vs Madhulika and Garima in the Women’s Doubles

Hard-Won Singles Matches

Moving on to the singles: the Men’s title was won by Nikhil Singh Rajput of Rajasthnan, who was presented with a tough fight from Aniket Durgawali,  a younger player from Maharashtra. The thrilling match lasted 3 sets and continued for an impressive 50 minutes!

Nikhil Singh Rajput from Rajashtan

Men’s Singles Winner Nikhil Singh Rajput from Rajashtan

Could you stand the heat? Nikhil managed to overcome the stress by putting his 5 years of pickleball expertise to work. The scores: 11-5, 8-11 and 11-2.

As expected, the Women’s Singles title was won by the defending champion from Madhya Pradesh, Shubhi Vyas. She handily won her gold by beating her rival from Rajasthan, Rekha Chowdhary, with scores of 11-5 and 11-3.

Shubhi Vyas

The Women’s Singles champion for the 3rd year in a row: Shubhi Vyas!

Pickleball in India Gaining Fans

This is the 4th consecutive year where AIPA has organized a national-level open tournament. Pickleball continues to gain wider acceptance in India, with players from across the country gathering to witness this event.

Playing the tournament at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium was something of a dream in itself for many players, with the location being one of the most prestigious sports arenas in the country. The Rajasthan State Pickleball Association made special efforts to book the world-class facility, with top quality housing and food arrangements as well.

There were 4 courts in the spacious indoor hall where nearly 130 matches were conducted in 2 days.

India National Tournament 2016

The Hidden Champions

Special thanks go to Mr. Karan Singh and Ms. Neetu Sharma, who took great pains to make the tournament a grand success. Mr. Raghu Raj, the President of Rajasthan State Pickleball Association, was also a major force in establishing a high-quality event.

The Chief Guest for the closing ceremony was the Commissioner of Police from Jaipur City, who was very impressed by the game of pickleball. He believes that pickleball will be an added attraction for tourists who visit Jaipur and suggested that a public court should be designed in the heart of the city.

Maharashtra at Jaipur National Tournament

Will Team Maharashtra be unseated next year? Who knows… for now, they celebrate!

Image credit goes to the Rajasthan State Pickleball Association and AIPA.

Six of the Most Exciting Women’s Open Doubles Teams at the 2016 Nationals

Twenty-two of the best women’s doubles pairs in the nation are registered to compete on Friday, November 11th in Casa Grande AZ at Nationals. Anticipate long rallies and brilliant tactics.

Women’s pickleball is fascinating to watch. For veterans in the sport, this is quintessential pickleball. If you attend Nationals or are live streaming, consider watching these six teams for extraordinary pickleball.

Simone Jardim and Corrine Carr

Simone Jardim and Corrine Carr

  1. Simone Jardim / Corrine Carr
  2. Sarah Ansboury / Christine McGrath
  3. Irina Tereschenko / Lucy Kovalova
  4. Christine Barksdale / Joy Leising
  5. Tonja Major / Catherine Parenteau
  6. Heidi Hancock / Stephanie Lane

The first three teams listed won gold, silver and bronze at the Tournament of Champions in Brigham City in September. Any one of these teams could win gold at Nationals.

Simone is arguably the finest player in pickleball right now. Her amazing two handed backhand is changing this fledgling sport. Combined with Corrine’s steady play and ability to drive balls consistently within an inch of the net, this pair is wonderful to watch. See if Corrine ever stops smiling, even when she loses a point!

Sarah Ansboury

Sarah Ansboury

Sarah is right with Simone in competing for the no. 1 ranking. She may be the steadiest player in the sport. And Christine, like Corrine, can drive beautiful winners from the kitchen line with another flawless two-handed backhand.

Irina and Lucy are the challengers with more talent and tennis instincts than any other team in the tournament. They are the Marcin and Morgan of the women’s bracket, and would likely beat them given the chance! Don’t expect a lot of long rallies from this pair. If you want to see aggressive pickleball at its finest, watch Lucy drive balls and Irina clean up at the net.

Christine Barksdale

Christine Barksdale

Any of the next three teams could break into the medal round. Christine and Joy are thrilling to watch and have played more doubles together than any other team in this bracket. Tonja and Catherine may be pairing up for the first time here. I have not seen Catherine play, but I’ve been the victim of Tonja’s smashes too often.

Finally, when Heidi and Stephanie get rolling, they can be formidable.Watch Heidi Hancock and Tonja Major to see how players with little or no tennis background have excelled at this funky sport.

I await your challenges to my picks! – Glen Peterson

Our Top Men’s Open Doubles Picks for Nationals in Casa Grande

Whether in Casa Grande or watching a live stream, here are eight pairs to keep an eye on among the 39 teams competing on November 11th this year.

If the Tournament of Champions played last month with the Onix Pure II ball is any indicator, Wes Gabrielsen and Kyle Yates will be the top seed and favorite to win the USAPA VIII Nationals. Their patient, defensive strategy in the gold medal match against the Dawson brothers was nearly flawless.

Wes Gabrielsen and Kyle Yates

Wes Gabrielsen and Kyle Yates

Both Kyle and Wes were in the gold medal match at the US Open back in April, but on opposite sides of the net. Don’t expect fireworks from these two until provoked. Are they playing pickleball or performing some sort of synchronized dance? They will mesmerize and outlast any opponent. But watch closely—with two lightning quick forehands in the middle and a seemingly impenetrable defense, when the heat comes, sparks will fly.

And no team brings more heat than Marcin Rozpedski and Morgan Evans. With Morgan artistically striking Dura Fast 40 Balls from the baseline with his sword-like paddle and Marcin unceremoniously clubbing volleys from the eye formation, points rack up quickly. No dancing here, just raw athleticism. With sufficient consistency and just the right amount of patience, this team at their peak is unbeatable. Will they play an entire match without dropping points for receiving or serving in the wrong position?

Daniel Moore trophy

Daniel Moore (Credit: Daniel’s Blog)

Daniel Moore won Nationals in 2015 with Matthew Blom and took 2nd at the US Open with Wes Gabrielsen. He and Matt Staub swept the Tournament of Champions in 2015. If these two get into their rhythm early and maintain their patient, chess-like strategy all day long, enjoy watching them progress through the bracket. In their zone, these two never miss. Keep smiling, boys.

These are my top three picks. Other exciting teams to watch include Dave Weinbach and Enrique Ruiz; they each have tons of gold medals and perform well with the Dura Fast 40 Ball. Oliver Strecker and Matt Wright are relative newcomers but bring extraordinary talent as well. Can Oliver hit three soft kitchen shots in a row without striking? If he is on, watch out!

Brian Ashworth with Titan

Brian Ashworth (Credit: Dink Sports)

Also watch Brian Ashworth and Glenn Griffin. They’re two of the most humble players in pickleball, but oh can they move. Finally, check out the pairs of Chris Miller/Dalton Vavra or Kurtis Campbell/Matt Goebel if you would like to see great action combined with attitude.

These players are sure to keep things exciting. But with 39 teams and 78 players, anticipate surprises. Hey, this is PICKLEBALL!

Stay tuned for my picks in the other categories.

– Glen Peterson