Meet The Pros – Roberto Donati

Meet The Pros – Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati is new to pickleball, coming from POP Tennis fame. He seems to fit right in with the pickleball pro crowd and he has a great sense of humor. There is no doubt that, with his quick rise to pickleball fame, he is one serious competitor. Enjoy!

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

2017 Southern California Classic, Gold – Senior Men’s Doubles with Scott Burr
2017 ISF Palm Desert Senior Games, Gold – Mixed Doubles with Lisa Naumu
Silver – Men’s Doubles 50+ with Blake Wilcox

2017 PPF Rocky Mountain Championships, Silver – Senior Men’s Singles
2017 US Open, Silver – Men’s Doubles 45+ with Mike Stahl
2017 PPF Desert Championships Bronze – Senior Men’s Singles
2016 USAPA Nationals Bronze – Senior Open Men’s Singles

What paddle do you play with and why?

My paddle is a custom-made paddle, similar to the Phoenix Pro polymer honeycomb core. My paddle weighs 8.8 oz. The polymer honeycomb provides plenty of feel and the weight gives me plenty of power and a larger sweet-spot than I’d get in a lighter paddle.

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

I originally come from a sport called POP Tennis, which shares a lot of characteristics found in pickleball – consistency, touch, strategy and quick hands. I’d heard about pickleball for a number of years and finally in 2016 decided to give it a shot. When I visited my local courts in Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach, CA, my Pop Tennis friends Don Schwake and Steve Hosohama encouraged me to continue playing. After visiting the Tustin, CA courts and doing fairly well with the local pros, I was invited to compete by pickleball legends Christine McGrath and Ron Chang. After winning Golds in the 4.5 Mixed and Men’s Doubles, and Silver in the Senior Open Men’s Doubles at the Andalusia tourney, I qualified for the 2016 US Open. Never having played a singles match in my life, I got the Bronze after losing my first round and working my way through the Back Draw. It’s been a pickleball blast ever since.

Round Robin Spanish Open Roberto Donati

Round Robin PPF Elite Division, Spanish Open with Roberto Donati and Steve Wong, Ernesto Cardenas, Zelindo DiGiulio

What’s your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors. I like the sun.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like the teamwork that’s involved in doubles and I’m pretty easy going, so I tend to have fun win or lose. But my results have been better in singles.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

I just got back from two weeks of pickleball in Europe. The excitement and eagerness of the players in Europe was a real surprise and treat.

Roberto Donati with Christine McGrath Spanish Open

Tyler Wren/Hilary Hilton Marold, Christine McGrath/Roberto Donati, Jennifer Lucore Suzee Millar Anderson at Spanish Open Bainbridge cup

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

My number one tip to all players is… the NET IS YOUR ENEMY! I notice so many players lose too many points because they miss too many balls in the net. Better to hit out than in the net any day of the week. When I give clinics I always ask players to try a drill where they play a game and if you hit the net you lose 2 points. Amazing to see their games drastically improve.

What’s your day job?

Anything and everything that makes life interesting.

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

Yikes, I don’t play enough. But don’t tell my partners…

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No CNN before a big match.

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

I feel I’ve reached so many goals already that I didn’t think were achievable, like great wins over some excellent players. I think being able to introduce the greatness of pickleball around the world and share what I know would be a fantastic and achievable goal.

in Madrid, the Italian Team including Roberto Rospo, Mattia Astori and Roberto Donati

in Madrid, the Italian Team including Roberto Rospo, Mattia Astori and Roberto Donati

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

Ha! Well, thank you for saying that, but I have a lot to learn. I’d like to say thank you to the pickleball community for opening my eyes and expanding my horizons.

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!!

 

Pickleball Hall of Fame

Hall Of Fame Mockup small

PickleballCentral is honored to be working with the USA Pickleball Association and the IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) to create the Pickleball Hall of Fame.  The Pickleball Hall of Fame will capture pickleball history while pickleball is still a young sport with a big future.  The following is an announcement from the president of the USAPA and IPTPA regarding the Pickleball Hall of Fame:

Dear Pickleball Community,

The USA Pickleball Association and the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association are proud to announce the creation of the Pickleball Hall of Fame. The Pickleball Hall of Fame will recognize individuals who have achieved exceptional results in pickleball play over the course of their career, as well as those who have made exceptional contributions to the growth, development, and leadership of the game. All candidates should have also demonstrated a high level of character, integrity, sportsmanship and consideration for others and thus earned the respect and admiration of their peers. PickleballCentral will serve as the initial home of The Pickleball Hall of Fame at their headquarters in Kent, Washington next to The Pickleball Museum.

A group of pickleball leaders has formed The Pickleball Hall of Fame Foundation. The Foundation will incorporate the Pickleball Hall of Fame as a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation, establish the structure and procedures for the Hall of Fame and build an associated website. The initial inductees in the Pickleball Hall of Fame will be announced at the 2017 USAPA National Championships in November.

Seeking Nominating and Selection Committee Members
The Foundation is looking for 16 people with an extensive background in pickleball to serve on the Nominating and Selection Committees. The Nominating Committee will screen all people nominated for the Pickleball Hall of Fame and select a maximum of ten finalists for consideration by the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will review the ten finalists and select the honorees for induction into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.

If you are interested in serving on the Nominating or Selection Committee, please send an email to Seymour Rifkind at HallofFame@IPTPA.com or David Jordan at Hall_Fame@USAPA.org and answer the following questions: What is your background in pickleball? How are you uniquely qualified to screen nominees for the Pickleball Hall of Fame? Applications are due by August 15, 2017.

Please direct any questions about the Pickleball Hall of Fame to Seymour Rifkind, President of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (HallofFame@IPTPA.com), or David Jordan, President of the USA Pickleball Association (Hall_Fame@USAPA.org).

Sincerely,

David Jordan – USAPA, President, and
Seymour Rifkind – International Pickleball Teaching Professionals Association, President

 

Throwing Our Hat Over the Wall – PickleballCentral is Moving!

“Three people were on a journey. They had walked thousands of miles across the country when they came to their biggest obstacle – a solid brick wall. Instantly one man threw his hat over the wall, so he had no choice but to climb it.”   – Old Irish Adage

new-warehouse

The new home of PickleballCentral is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

We signed the lease yesterday – our figurative, “hat over the wall.” PickleballCentral is moving to a warehouse/office space that is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

The new space will have four indoor pickleball courts. The courts will be open to the public every day of the week from early morning to late at night. The new space will host pickleball clubs, pickleball tournaments, pickleball lessons, pickleball pro-tours and pickleball parties!

The new space will also have a big retail store that will provide customers an opportunity to touch, feel and demo paddles on the courts and try-on pickleball clothing!

Finally, we are extremely proud to announce that the new space will be home to The Pickleball Museum! Pickleball is an American Original. It was invented a short ferry ride from Seattle on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The sport of pickleball likely would not have left Bainbridge Island if it weren’t for one man, Barney McCallum.  Barney and his friends the Pritchards and Bells invented the game by accident in the summer of 1965.  Their kids were bored and they didn’t have equipment to play badminton, so they used what they had on-hand to play “badminton”, a whiffle ball and table tennis paddles.  They lowered the net and voilà pickleball was born!

Barney started making wood pickleball paddles by hand for friends. In 1972, to keep track of the accounting and taxes, Barney started a small business in Seattle called Pickle-ball Inc. Barney already was a very successful businessman with his own big company, McCallum Envelope. He didn’t need to start another business, but thank goodness, he did! Pickle-ball, Inc made paddles, balls and net systems and the sport grew. Other pickleball equipment manufacturers emerged in the Seattle area – ProLite Sports and S-Type Sport, now called Onix Sports. Today, thanks to Barney McCallum, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world!

With our acquisition of  Pickle-ball Inc. last fall, we are excited and honored to create The Pickleball Museum as a place where people can learn about the history of pickleball and learn about Barney’s extraordinary contribution to the sport.

barney

Barney McCallum is one of the inventors of Pickleball and founder of Pickle-ball Inc.

For years my husband, David, has collected pickleball artifacts. We have some of the first paddles made, an old pickleball hole drilling machine and other items. If you have a pickleball item that you think belongs in The Pickleball Museum, please contact David Johnson, David@PickleballCentral.com.

sunny-new-space

New home of PickleballCentral, Pickleball Inc. and The Pickleball Museum.

We move in early April 2017. Come check us out when you are in town! Our new address is 22330 68th Ave. S., Kent, WA 98032.

 – Anna Copley, founding partner, PickleballCentral.com

Meet The Pros – Tyler Sheffield

Meet The Pros: Tyler Sheffield

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

2015 Senior Men’s Doubles Silver Tournament of Champions 2015
2015 Senior Men’s Doubles Nationals Silver
2014 USAPA Nationals, Senior Men’s Doubles – Gold
2014 Tournament of Champions, Senior Men’s Doubles – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

Onix Evoke

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

We were building a basketball court in the back yard and looked on line to see if there wasn’t a court game we could play.  I saw pickleball and made the basketball court a little bigger and we started playing as a family with a starter set of net and four paddles and some orange balls.  This sport has brought our family closer and created many opportunities for travel and togetherness.  Although, all buy my oldest son think I am a little too involved with a sport that uses a whiffle ball and involves dinking.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

Outdoor

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I wear a brace on my knee now, so I prefer doubles.  

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Our neighborhood owns a park and we put in a perfect dimensioned court.  Lots of space and fenced in.  The commute is great.  Love it when great players and friends choose to join me on this court.  

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

I don’t think there are any secrets.  Too many good players.  I like to mix it up going soft and hard.

What’s your day job?

I am  retired as chief financial officer.

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

I probably play on average six hours a week – that’s usually two days a week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No rituals.

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

As I approach 60 years old I’d like to remain competitive in the senior brackets.

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

Best in the world?  Yikes.  Not sure that is the case.

Meet the Pros: Pickleball Prodigy William Sobek

The U. S. Open provided plenty of opportunity to meet and greet some of the best.  Here is our interview of William Sobek who was the youngest player at the U. S. Open this last April. Enjoy!

Interview Transcript:

William: My name is William Sobeck.

Interviewer: And where are you from William?

William: I am from Key West, Florida.

Interviewer: And how old are you, William?

William: I am 11 years old.

Interviewer: And (what) school do you go to?

William: I go to HOB. Yeah, it’s right next to Bayfield Park.

Interviewer: What grade are you in?

William: Sixth.

Interviewer: So we are here at the US Open Pickleball championship in Maples, Florida and you just competed here. Can you tell us what the level of play was like?

William: Well, it was very difficult, because you got to make that forehand, like that spin and it keeps on jumping and I am like little, little, so I really can’t get it that well.

Interviewer: Are you the youngest player here?

William: Yes.

Interviewer: Yeah, I saw you in the crowd… what type of paddles do you like?

William: I play with Pro-Lite.

Interviewer: What is it about that you like about the Pro-Lite?

William: Umm… well, I am sponsored by Pro-Lite.

Interviewer: How did you get into Pickleball?

William: Well, umm… when I was 4, well I was 4 and a half. My parents made me play tennis and our friend Colleen, she brought pickleball to the beach and she told us to play, so we play and well that is how I started playing pickleball.

Interviewer: And how much do you play pickleball?

William: Well… we were preparing for this tournament, so it was before school on Mon., Wed., and Thurs. and we also played on Saturdays.

Interviewer: And who do you play with?

William: Well I play with adults, mostly, because there are no other kids. Like I am the only kid.

Interviewer: Do you like playing pickleball?

William: YEAH. It’s very fun!

Interviewer: Is this your first big competition?

William: No. This is my third competition, outside of Key West. My first one was Canadian Nationals and I got 1st place. Second place I got two silvers and one bronze and this my third.

Interviewer: Congratulations!

Interviewer: So you are William’s parents? How did you guys get involved?

William’s Parent’s: Exactly how William said. We started to play and have been playing, playing, playing.

Interviewer: Thank you guys, I wish you the best of luck. I am so proud of you, it’s like a new generation of pickleball and such a bright future for you in pickleball.

William: Thanks!

2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament

Johnny Cash wrote “Folsom Prison Blues”, but they weren’t singing the blues at the 2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament.  Here’s some of their story.  Enjoy!

Folsom Pickleball

The only Public Indoor Facility in Sacramento County with 7 Pickleball Courts.

Derik Perez is a USAPA Pickleball Ambassador for the Sacramento Region.  He shares here about the Folsom Breakout tournament held last December:

“Since Folsom is known for “Folsom Prison” I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into the name of my first Pickleball Tournament I was going to host.  So I came up with “Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament”.  Our marketing staff created the logo with a pickleball and chain.  Just like the old ball and chain notorious for prisoners.  I wanted to provide a fun and friendly format for the tournament so I elected to go with Round Robin.  I wanted to give our customers and players more bang for their buck

“We completed our 2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament last December.  It was a huge success!  The 1st Breakout Tournament had 16 teams and 32 players for a 1-day tournament.  This year we had 70 teams and 140 players over the course of 3 days: Women’s Doubles were on Thursday, Mixed Doubles happened on Friday and Men’s Doubles on Saturday.  It was a round-robin format and everyone seemed to enjoy that!

“The cost was $25 per person and $15 for an additional event.  T-shirts and swag bags were provided.  We provided breakfast and lunch to all participants.  We partnered with the Folsom Tourism Bureau and they provided a goodie bag for the players staying at the hotel.

“We had teams participating from all over Northern California, and we anticipate that this tournament will only get bigger.  We now have 7 indoor courts!  And we’ve grown our email distribution list for the Folsom Sports Complex from 5 to 350 in just one year.”

Congratulations to Derik and all the Folsom Breakout participants! It goes to show how powerful pickleball’s allure is.