An Exciting Recap of the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship – An Event to Cherish
Please enjoy this report on the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship presented by Manish Rao:

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championships

Many of us dream of playing pickleball at the highest level among the best competitors. This is exactly what we Indian players got to experience on October 28-29 at the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship held at the Jamnabai Narsee International School in Juhu, Mumbai.

This event, hosted by the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA) and organized by event managers, Sports Wizards, saw many firsts in Indian pickleball. It was the first time Indians had a chance to witness international players at a tournament in their home country. Both groups had an amazing time interacting with each other and sharing their love of pickleball.

The biggest attraction was the squad from Bangkok, Thailand, captained by the group’s passionate mentor, Steve Cable. There were also participants from the USA and UK. We had the pleasure of hosting one of the kindest pickleball souls in the world during the tournament: the one and only Elaine Shallcross from the UK. She’s such an inspiring lady that even at the age of 64, she gave every player a run for their money!

Teaming up with the iconic Atul Edward of India, Elaine bagged the coveted gold in the Mixed Doubles category. She not only showed us her pickleball skills, but her people skills! Elaine’s positive attitude brightened every player’s day. Even for those who didn’t medal, interacting with Elaine felt like being showered in gold dust.

I have to throw out a mention to Emmett Williams from Alaska as well, a gentleman on a business trip to India who stayed back to play at the Open. In spite of the extreme heat and humidity, Emmett was amazing. He freely shared his enjoyment of the game with his Indian partner, and that’s what pickleball is all about! It’s not just the win or the loss, it’s playing to inspire others.

Footage from the Men’s Doubles semifinal featuring Nikhil Singh / Prashant Kalani (Rajasthan) vs Mayur Patil / Ajay Choudhari (Maharashtra)

It’s not easy to conduct back-to-back matches in the extreme heat of Mumbai. We made sure every match had a referee, scorer and linemen for all matches, including the league match. We required many dedicated and skilled volunteers to give their best throughout the event regardless of the tough conditions. The fact that everyone held out is a demonstration of the power of pickleball and the passion surrounding the sport in India.

The event was supported by many sponsors, including PickleballCentral. The national TV channel, Doordarshan, recorded all the finals and were aired a week later. The venue itself was an icon! We appreciate the Jamnabai Narsee Trust for providing us with a world-class facility where setting up 3 courts was possible. It took the event to the next level. Thanks to Mr Sujay Jairaj, the Indian Open saw some amazing competition and great friendships formed.

Every match was on schedule due to the great team effort from Tournament Director Rahul Wani and company. Each event had 16 teams with 4 groups each, meaning a total of 96 players took part in this inaugural event.

The highlights include –

Men’s Doubles:

This was a fight between the traditional rival states of Rajasthan & Maharashtra. Nikhil Rajput / Prashant Kalani beat Manish Rao / Bhushan Potnis 11-7, 5-11,11-5 in a cliffhanger which went to 3 sets. The young and energetic Rajasthan duo kept their nerve and got the better of the “Old Fox” duo from Mumbai. Pickleball itself was a winner too; the match was carried out in a cordial manner off the court while all cylinders were firing on court.

2017 India Open Championship Men's Doubles

2017 India Open Championship Men’s Doubles: With Manish Rao, Mk Pickleball, Bhushan Potnis, Nikhil Singh Rajput and Ajay Chaudhari.

Mixed Doubles:

Atul Edward (India)/Elaine ShallCross (UK) beat Steve Cable/Suprarat (Thailand) 9-11, 11-0, 6-11. After winning the first set, Atul and Elaine let their guard down to be rolled over by Steve / Suprarat 11-0 in the second set. The 3rd set was an amazing contest of skill and mental toughness. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and that’s what Atul / Elaine did by utilizing clever tactics and closing on the kill. What a match, with a standing ovation to Elaine for her grit!

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

Women’s Doubles:

Suprarat & ThitiWorada (Thailand) beat Karishma & Rutuja (India) 11-9, 11-8. The “Smiling Assassins” and “Thailand Duo” showed the importance of teamwork and made the win look easy. The Indian women were overawed by the occasion but still put up a great fight.

The Indian Open was not just about winning or losing. Every participant and organization involved in the planning of this event was a winner. Pickleball has been in India for the last 10 years and this tournament has shown the world that we have arrived in style.

To pull off an event of such magnitude shows that Indian pickleball is in right hands. Our passion and persistence is paying off and we hope to host many more international events!

Mixed Doubles semifinal with Atul Edward (Mumbai, India) / Elain Shallcross (UK) vs Ashwani Kumar Wadhawa & Geetam Sharma (Jaipur, India)

The bar has been set extremely high for the next Indian Open tournaments. We are well on our way to becoming the top pickleball event in Asia. We’d love to welcome even more competitors the next time around!

Pickler Gives Back by Putting Recyclables to Work

 

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Mona Wheeler, a charter member of the Lincoln Hills Pickleball Club, raises money for local causes by recycling bottles and cans left on the courts.

It’s difficult to pick our favorite thing about pickleball, but if we had to choose it’d be hard not to say it’s the caliber of people the sport attracts. Case in point? Mona Wheeler of Lincoln, California. A tireless retiree, Wheeler spends her free time raising money to benefit others—and the environment.

It started a few years ago when Wheeler, a member of the Lincoln Hills Pickleball Club, got a pretty great idea: gather all the cans and bottles left around the courts and start trading them in for cash. “I just saw all these used drinking containers going into the trash can and I thought, “That’s a lot of money we’re throwing away and a lot of waste going into landfills,’” said Wheeler. “There had to be something better we could be doing with all that waste.”

So she set up a blue collection bin for recyclables next to the courts and started encouraging people to throw their bottles and cans in it instead of the trash. Whenever the bin filled up she took it down to the state collection center in exchange for $.05 per can or bottle.

The idea caught on and within a year Wheeler had raised $500. She turned the money over to the board of the Lincoln Hills Pickleball Club with instructions to donate it locally, and the board decided to distribute it to foster kids who had aged out of the system and were attending a nearby college.

Word spread and Wheeler’s second year of gathering recyclables was even more successful, with her efforts bringing in $1200 that was distributed between Placer County Food Bank, Lincoln Hills Foundation, Lincoln’s Discovery Center, and pickleball coaching at a local elementary school.

This past year, Wheeler’s efforts resulted in three scholarships of $500 apiece for seniors graduating from Lincoln High School. The recipients were Alejandra Ceja, Penelope Garcia (class valedictorian), and Aaron Jackson.

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Three seniors from Lincoln High School were recipients of $500 scholarships each from the Lincoln Hills Pickleball Club: (from left to right) Alejandra Ceja, Aaron Jackson, and Penelope Garcia.

“These days I collect an average of about $150 a month,” Wheeler said. “So we’ll see what we bring in for next year’s donation.”

Wheeler’s hope is that the money will eventually be able to be used to help grow the sport in the city of Lincoln. “We’re working on getting public courts here and when we do, I’m hoping to use the money to help introduce new players to the sport by providing free paddles and pickleball clinics and other things like that for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.”

The pickleball community has rallied around the idea, and now many people bring recycling from their homes down to Wheeler’s courtside collection bin. “I even have a few neighbors just drop off bags of recycling on my porch,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler has been playing since 2007 and is a charter member of the Lincoln Hills Pickleball Club, which plays on courts within the retirement community of Sun City Lincoln Hills. “We started with 30 members playing on basketball courts with portable nets,” she said. “Now we have 500 members sharing six courts. You can see why we’re eager to help the city of Lincoln embrace the sport and catch up with demand.”

According to Wheeler, court construction talks are underway and the hope is that she and her fellow residents will be able to enjoy new public courts in Lincoln within two years. Until then, she’ll keep collecting recyclables from her pickleball cohorts and using the money to donate to the community in the name of pickleball.

Provo City Fire and Rescue Are Great Pickleballers

Provo City Fire and Rescue Are Great Pickleballers

A while back we posted a video by Scott Anderson on our PickleballCentral Facebook page. It featured the Provo City Fire and Rescue team playing pickleball in full firefighter gear.  

We decided to ask Scott for more of the story on how they got into pickleball. Enjoy!

Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson

Tell us about playing pickleball in the firehouse. How did you get started?

The Provo City Fire and Rescue Station was introduced to pickleball at the Provo City rec center, which has 3 indoor courts and 8 outdoor courts. If we don’t get calls during our PT time in the mornings we often play after working out. We have a blast playing pickleball at the firehouse. We don’t play in full gear often, so that day we did we made sure to record it. 😁

Does everyone play? Why do you play?

Not all the firefighters play, I’d say maybe half of our department. Those of us that do love the competition and how fun it is. Some just play for fun on the days they work, a few like me participate in tournaments when we can. 

Have you ever been playing pickleball and have the fire alarm go off?

Yes, we’ve been playing and had the alarm go off! We carry our radios with us so we can just drop our paddles and be ready to go! It’s weird playing pickleball one minute and the next minute you could be in your fire gear going on a call.

What kind of paddles and balls do you use?

We have mostly Paddletek paddles and Onix Pure 2 Balls.

Do you ever compete in tournaments?

I’m one of the few who play in tournaments. I remember my first tournament was with my friend and captain. We entered our first tournament a few years ago not having any clue what level we were. We had only played a few times and tried the 4.0 level and found out quickly we shouldn’t be in that division. We did win one match though! I’m a 4.5 level player now.

Do you ever compete with other firehouses?

I’m wondering if there are any full time firefighters out there that are 5.0’s? 😬 We haven’t competed with other firehouses yet. I can see that happening soon though.  Yes, we play away from the firehouse when we’re off duty too.

Do you play pickleball away from the firehouse, when you’re off duty?

I introduced my wife to pickleball and she played with me for a while, then passed me up and reached the 5.0 level. So I’m trying to catch up to her now! We love it and look forward to playing it every chance we get.

provo-city-rec-center

Provo City Recreation Center

Thank you Scott, for sharing more of the Provo City Fire and Rescue pickleball story with us. Here’s hoping you find other fire stations nearby that will join you in some friendly competition.

 

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!

 

3 Real Ways Pickleball Can Build Character

Many of us grew up hearing, “Sports build character.” However, studies have concluded the opposite is true. Winning satisfies like a good steak. Character satisfies like Don Paschal’s kale salad. Like my dear friend Vegen says: “Sport doesn’t build character; it reveals character.”

I learn more about a person in one hour on the court than in enjoying a dozen meals together. I also learn about myself.

Victory sign

Winning’s not everything, but… it sure is fun! (Credit: Petr and Bara Ruzicka)

Why does winning still matter to me at 55-years-old? What longing is fulfilled through another medal or through winning a game at any level? Does 5.0 status make me a better person?  I certainly hope not. Some days I wish I was back at 4.5 level competing for golds with my good friend Ken Crocker.

I am still discovering that a good reputation is more valuable than a drawer full of medals. Don Paschal’s kale salad does satisfy. Consider three tips for gaining pickleball perspective on court.

Great pickleball shots

Concentrate on making good shots and a good game will follow (Credit: Chad Ryan)

1. Compete by making great shots. After all, that is all I control. Be satisfied by playing well and losing.  Congratulate opponents when they make better shots. Losing implies I had the opportunity to be on the court with better players.

2. Be the most complementary of partners. Pickleball is a social activity which begs for laughter and smiles. Fun banter and big smiles compensate for many poor shots.

Pickleball victory

We can all stand to be gracious in both victory and defeat (Credit: Chad Ryan)

3. I love to be around people who can pursue a goal with great intensity and discipline but are content regardless of the outcome. Perhaps there are moments where I can be that person on a pickleball court.

In life as in sports, I have benefited more from my losses than my wins. I think I will make a kale salad for lunch.

Kale salad

Delicious kale salad (Credit: Brandom Dimcheff)

What tips might you have on how to gain pickleball perspective?

– Glen Peterson

David Pike, the Huck Finn of Pickleball, on Traveling 6,000 Miles in a Dinghy

At 67-years-old, Dave Pike heard The Great Loop calling to him. The route winds along several waterways in the eastern U.S., meandering through Dave’s starting point on Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, Gulf Coast, Chesapeake Bay and beyond, until it reaches home again. His goal was to have the adventure of a lifetime while stopping in every state he crossed to play pickleball—because who could go a year without pickleball!?

Most travelers navigate the waters on yachts, trawlers or sailboats. Dave is traversing them in a 17′ dinghy.

But never fear—Dave is far from a beginner boater, and he even has his own Wilson along for the ride. We wanted to get all the details on this amazing trip, so we followed up with the navigator to learn about his reasons, inspirations and hopes for the future.

Dave with Wilson (created by his Arizona pickleball family) and a copy of Huck Finn

Dave with Wilson (created by his Arizona pickleball family) and a copy of Huck Finn

Our Trip Down the River

You don’t hear a story like Dave’s every day, and many people are curious as to why someone would tackle such a long trip on their own. To better understand Dave’s decision, it’s helpful to get a sense of what led up to The Loop.

As many good things do, it started with a friend.

When he was younger, Dave enjoyed canoeing and lived in a community that included a man named Verlen Kruger. Their relationship would stoke a lasting wanderlust and determination that Dave holds in his heart to this day.

“Because of Verlen, I did a lot of backcountry canoeing. He started canoeing in his early forties and holds many Guinness records, paddling over 100,000 miles before his death in 2004.

Deer River

(Image credit: Johndan Johnson-Eilola)

“Verlen used to give slideshows of his many trips. He was very soft spoken, and I admired someone that could do what he did (at some personal cost). I read all of his books and [was amazed by his] ability to start something so late in life and become one of the most respected paddlers to ever live.

“It was during one of his shows that I started asking for advice on canoes, and he invited me to his home to see where he built them. He lived very simply. He always offered me advice and encouragement. Before I started this trip, I stopped by his memorial to pay my respects and thanks.”

It would be some time before Dave embarked on his current adventure after his time with Verlen. During that interim period he would have another meaningful boating trip that would strengthen his abilities and hone his desire to make a longer journey.

Going On a Spirit Quest

“In 2000, still working and living in Michigan, [my wife] Ann and I (and four others from MI) chartered a 65 foot trawler and spent a week in the Juneau/Sitka area. It was the ultimate cruise for us and very personalized as there were only 6 passengers and 3 crew members. During that trip we said to ourselves, ‘We can do this!’

“Ann loves the ocean and I love the mountains. So when we retired in 2003 and sold our MI home, we purchased a trawler, named it SpiritQuest and moved to WA. We took power squadron classes and learned how to manage a big boat. Then 2007 came and we did it. We spent a summer in Alaska with just the two us that we will never, ever forget.”

Krogen Trawler

An example of a 42′ Krogen Trawler like Dave owned

In 2002 Dave got news that would throw a wrench in his happy lifestyle. During a routine checkup with his doctor, he was told he had colon cancer. His colon was resectioned at a local hospital, and due to an early retirement program that his employer offered, he was able to refocus his life at 55.

“After cancer, you realize that you are mortal and if you want to do something, you better do it. Don’t wait. So, with Ann’s blessing and support, I started to plan this big trip about two years ago. Last summer, I purchased the boat and that made it more than just a romantic idea. I was really going to try this.

“On a real personal note, I hope that my children and grandchildren will have a diary of sorts with a window into who I am/was when I am no longer around. That’s my secret; it’s about them, not me.”

Looper or Loopy?

“Fine!” You might think. “Go on your big adventure and live your dreams. But of all the boats in the world, why a dinghy?”

This, along with the revelation of his companion’s name, has been answered in Dave’s blog:

Journey is now officially the name of my boat and partner in crime. She represents the essence of this collaboration. After all, this will really be the ‘journey’ of a lifetime for me. There will be plenty of mistakes, surprises, and ‘would of, could of, should of’ comments along the way.

Journey

Meet Journey, outfitted with custom canvas!

“Having a big boat is not without stressors… I thought for this trip I would simplify things as much as possible. The smaller the better. The fewer things to go wrong! I wanted a boat that would allow me to spend the night on it (only when and if needed). I wanted something very economical to run at a reasonable speed…

“To me, the best fit was a Walker Bay RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat). Ask me in a year if this was the right decision. I’m sure I will have a much better understanding of my choice and whether or not it was a good one.”

Picking Up Pickleball

With Dave’s travel plans solidified, when does pickleball come into the picture? The answer: as much as possible.

Dave and Ann sold their trawler after the Alaska trip and bought a motor coach to search for a winter home. While they loved the locale here in WA, the winters had started to get to them. With a far-reaching family, Ann’s son was in Colorado and her daughter in CA. While “shopping around” they looked at California, Utah and finally Arizona where they decided to stay at Palm Creek in Casa Grande.

“That was my first exposure to pickleball. Then we started playing in Port Ludlow and teaching others to play. It exploded there and they had 4 new dedicated courts by the time we left. We did decide AZ was the best fit for us, and we settled at Festival Ranch (home of the past nationals), and more importantly, home of Dee Davidson.

Dave Pike Pickleball Day Proclamation

Dave Pike Pickleball Day Proclamation!

“At the same time, we also moved back to MI to be close to my two children, one of whom has now moved to Florida. My favorite thing about the sport is the social side and lack of formality (compared to a very structured tennis program). I love to play skill levels both below and above me: Helping others learn basic strategies and then learning from those with far greater skill sets.

“(Note to realtors: Ann and I purchased two homes in as many years and one of the basic requirements was an active pickleball program nearby!)”

Dave has already enjoyed several stops for pickleball during his travels, one of the more recent being Cape Girardeau, MO where he was whisked away to a number of sports facilities while the mayor proclaimed it to be Dave Pike Pickleball Day!

It seems like there’s plenty more fun in store for him, so be sure to follow Dave’s travels on his blog: Six Thousand Miles Alone in a Dingy.

Home Is Where the Wind Blows

To close out our brief summary of Dave’s adventure, we wanted to ask one more question a little closer to home: What about Ann? She sounds like just as much of a wanderer as Dave, so why didn’t she join him on the trip? Was she planning any of her own solo journeys while he was away?

“Ann is a wonderful independent woman who does not need a man to be fulfilled. Last year, she went on a week-long archaeological dig in Crow Canyon, CO. This year, she’s going on a week-long expedition on the river going through the Grand Canyon. We stay in touch multiple times a day.

Journey near the Mississippi

Journey moored near the Mississippi

“Her first reaction [to the Loop] was, frankly—Great idea, let’s go! Then I told her that I wanted to do it in a very small boat. She said, ‘Have a good time!’

“We refer to my trip as a scouting trip for a future excursion together. (Just kidding!)”

As it happens, today is Ann and Dave’s 26th anniversary and they’re getting together at the Grand Rivers Lighthouse Landing to celebrate for several days. Ann’s birthday is coming up on the 29th as well.


What an exciting expedition and kind person. Thank you, Dave, for finding the time amid your travels to satisfy our curiosity! We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about your journey on Journey.

For our readers looking to learn more about Dave and follow along as he updates us on his progress, please check out his blog Six Thousand Miles Alone in a Dingy and leave a comment wishing him well.

Pickleball: A Contact Sport?

Knocked down pickler

You’re not likely to get knocked down by a pickleball, but it doesn’t feel good to get hit! (Image credit: Chad Ryan)

Pickleball: A Contact Sport?

By: Glen Peterson

David McCallum from Pickleball Inc. and I were having lunch at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle the other day when he mentioned that, shortly after Pickleball was invented, the kitchen line was moved back six inches to prevent Dick Brown, an outstanding football player who was 6′ 4″ tall, from being able to volley nearly every ball from the kitchen line. With his long arms, Dick could nearly touch the net with his paddle!

court diagramThat seemingly arbitrary decision to depart from badminton court lines and move opposing players another foot apart (from 13 to 14 feet) implies to me that the early framers of this sport understood the subtleties of how pickleball play would evolve.

Some of us prefer sports that don’t favor taller athletes. I am convinced this is one reason baseball has remained so popular. Smaller hitters have smaller strike zones.

My friend Scott Lennan once commented that very tall players who can volley every ball from the kitchen line will someday dominate pickleball. Unfortunately, I agree. But with one caveat: because they are also larger targets, they had better be cat-like quick!

More and more, pickleball is becoming a contact sport. Hitting an opponent is a winning shot … and often brings a psychological advantage. Taller, larger opponents make bigger targets. In 5.0 tournament play, the notion that hitting an opponent with a ball is unprofessional is gone.

While most of us still apologize for hitting an opponent with a hard shot toward at the body, this happens often. I would never aim for a person’s head, but I confess that in highly competitive tournament play I would place a shot directly at a the body. Are you offended or angry? Please understand that I am referring to 5.0 tournament play. Tim Nelson popped me with a hard shot in the neck a few days ago; it stung a bit; it was a great shot.

Ken Crocker and I experimented by playing a half court game one-on-one at the kitchen line and rewarding two points every time one of us hit the other player. We discovered it was too easy to hit the opponent. Of course I don’t dodge so well now as when I was in my teens!

Pickleball may become more and more like fencing or dodge ball where hitting opponents with the ball is far more common and a vital tactic in high level play. In many high level games today, several points are won or lost either because a person was hit or because they had to hit an otherwise out ball that would have hit them. Personally I love it. It favors smaller players. And it adds an element of fun just like hitting around the post.

How to avoid being hit? First, at most levels of play, you can simply ask aggressive players not to target your body. Second, bend your knees at the kitchen line to become a smaller target and be prepared to duck. And third, when you see your opponent wind up, play dodge ball!

Don’t be afraid of getting hit. It may sting for a moment. Congratulate your opponent on a well placed shot. And then get them back!  Incidentally, this is an example of where the softer Onix Pure I Outdoor ball will be preferred because it hurts less.

This is a sensitive topic for some who feel hitting an opponent is unsportsmanlike. If you strongly disagree – or agree – please comment!