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!

How to Set Up a Local Pickleball Club

Pickleball is a social sport by nature, and since many players’ favorite type of game is doubles, more people equals more fun. But what can you do if there aren’t many picklers in your area, or if pickleball itself is relatively unknown?

We recommend starting your own pickleball club. This can seem daunting at first, but the truth is it can be as simple as contacting a nearby rec center or finding an old tennis court. You’ll end up with more people to play with, and a whole new group of pickleball fanatics will be born. It’s win-win!

Pickleball is highly addictive, and if you can get even a few people on the courts, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get return visitors bringing their friends. Let’s walk through how you can go about setting up your own pickleball paradise.

Find a Place to Play Pickleball

The first step is finding a suitable place to play. Choosing a centralized location in your city is always a plus, as it will make your club more accessible to visitors. If you know of a nearby rec center, park or other public facility where there are already tennis courts then that’s a plus, as you can fit 4 pickleball courts within 1 tennis court. There are detailed instructions on how to utilize a tennis court for pickleball here. Doubles badminton courts are the same size as those used in pickleball as well.

Warehouse Pickleball Court

Our court is in the warehouse, but the net gets moved around depending on how many boxes are present…

If you can find a location with pre-established courts, you’ll need to ask the owner or coordinator of the facility if it would be possible to allow a time for pickleball drop-ins to play, and if it’s okay to use court tape or temporary markers on the ground to establish boundary lines. Another useful tool is a net adjuster so you can lower tennis or badminton nets to the appropriate height of 34”.

Of course, the most accessible place to play is the court you build yourself! If you have the space, you can always install your own court using our Wilson posts or set things up on the go using a portable net system. We also know about plenty of communities that have lobbied to get public pickleball courts installed with great success.

Choose the Right Equipment

Once you have a court, the next step is to ensure your members have equipment. It’s great if people can bring their own paddles and balls, however if you’re starting from scratch, there’s a possibility most of your members will be newbies. It doesn’t hurt to have extras on hand for anyone curious about the game either, since most people end up investing in better paddles down the line.

The most affordable type of paddles are wood, so it’s possible to buy several without breaking the bank. However, if you want potential members to get a real sense of what a “good” pickleball paddle plays like, buying a couple low cost composite paddles (which will be cheaper if they’re gently used) will be your best bet.

Find Members for Your Pickleball Club

So how do you go about finding members? A good place to start is to look at nearby USAPA members and other clubs in your area by going to USAPA.org. Not only will they be able to offer advice on getting up your club set up, but some members might find it convenient to visit your location.

You can also build interest by advertising at recreation centers, senior communities, talking with friends and otherwise sharing it along the grapevine. Word tends to spread naturally once you find a few people to start, as members get their friends and family involved. Offering free lessons is the best way to get newcomers to the courts, otherwise they may feel out of their depth. You don’t have to be a professional to share your love and general knowledge of the game.

Pickleball teacher

A pickleball coach sharing the game from Pickleball Canada

The USAPA provides a lot of materials that you can use to supply players with information. At PickleballCentral we include Coach Mo’s Strategy Guide in most of the packages we send out, so that’s another good tool to have in your arsenal. These sort of “take home” packages are a plus, but we find that simply getting people onto the court is the quickest way to rack up interest.

Another tried-and-true way to get attention and make sure everyone in your area knows about pickleball is to contact the local media. Even if only a few members are in attendance, news outlets are eager to feature new initiatives, and the increase in exposure can really help your club thrive.

Keep People in the Loop

A simple way to maintain ongoing engagement is to create a website so people can view your schedule. This makes it easier to get information to members and beginners alike. Setting up a website is quite simple these days. You can sign up for free at WordPress to get access to the same user-friendly platform we use to share our blog. You should also get yourself listed on the USAPA’s Communities and Clubs list and their Places to Play section—it’s free!

Enjoy the Best Savings

Lastly, be sure to sign up with our Club Rewards program. There’s no fee to get started, and you and your club members will receive a special code to get 5% off every order at PickleballCentral. Another 5% of your order total will go into a savings account which will accrue funds based on all your members’ purchases throughout the year. At the start of the New Year, we’ll send you a gift certificate code for the money you saved to be spent on new supplies and gear.

US Open Courts

A look at the extensive U.S. Open courts

The USAPA says that in 2015 an average of nearly 20 new locations to play pickleball are being established weekly: That’s over 1,040 courts a year! With the sport experiencing such massive growth you can bet that starting your own club will allow you to get the most out of the pickleball movement.

USAPA Ambassador Tom Widden Introduces Pickleball on the Moody Blues Cruise

A bunch of pickleball players traveled together with USAPA Ambassador Tom Widden, Lake Oswego, Oregon, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Pearl to the Caribbean”, which featured the Moody Blues Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventure to Key West and Beyond.

Daily play over excellent Deluxe PickleNet Portable Rolling Nets had no problems with the wind. The rolling nets stored easily when not in use. We played exclusively with the fabulous new Onix Pure Ball while cruising at a speed of 20 knots.

The game was not really affected by the wind.

moody blues cruise 1

Tom brought along variety of pickleball paddles from PickleballCentral to share with fellow “Moodies”, including John Lodge, founder of Moody Blues, seen here with yours truly, District Ambassador Tom Widden plus the concert promoter.  All new players caught on to the game of pickleball in just a few minutes..

Moody blues cruise 2

Everyone raved about the Onix Pure balls being more durable and easy to play with.  Not one broke during the cruise.

Moody blues cruise 3

After a morning of pickleball we settled into great concerts til late at night. We are taking in electric light orchestra here..

Moody blues cruise 4

Moody Blues perform on the cruise ship concert stage in the evenings.

Moody blues cruise 6

This historic voyage demonstrated that cruise ship sport courts are ideal for the pickleball player demographic and should be promoted as a natural combination to attract seniors who love cruises and love playing pickleball! More cruises featuring pickleball are being planned soon.

Moody blues cruise 5

USAPA District Ambassador Tom Widden on the Moody Blues Cruise

Betty Catron L-O-V-E-S PICKLEBALL!!!!!

Betty Catron has the only private pickleball courts, emphasis on more than one, in Knoxville, Tennessee, that she knows of!

Betty Catron

 

She has converted her home tennis court into two, count them, 2 pickleball courts.

Catron Pickleball Complex Knoxville Tennessee

She has a bunch of friends, all former tennis players, who just love the game of pickleball, all 15 or 16 of them!

Catron Court Buddies

 

Some of her friends have given up tennis completely and only play pickleball. They don’t let the weather get in the way of playing pickleball.

Cantron Pickleball Buddies in the Tennessee Winter

Don’t you just wish you had a bunch of fun ladies like these gals to play pickleball with every day!

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Thanks Betty for taking the time to share some of your favorite photos of the only private pickleball courts in Knoxville, that you know of!

PickleballCentral “All Heart” Award: Ken Marquardt and the Apex Parks and Recreation of Arvada, Colorado

i-love-pickleball1

 

Women's Doubles at Apex Center in Arvada Colorado Photo Credit: CBSDENVER

Women’s Doubles at Apex Center in Arvada Colorado Photo Credit: CBSDENVER

It takes a village to raise funds for a worthy cause, right?  In Arvada, Colorado, you start with Ken Marquardt, USAPA Pickleball Ambassador, a man who usually doesn’t take “no” for an answer.  Then add 250 pickleball fans and a few folks at Apex Parks and Rec. who all have a heart for our wounded veterans, and what do you get?  A successful tournament that raises funds for the Traumatic Brain Injury Freedom program!  What a great story!

Eagle donated by Sharon and Ken Marquardt at the Outdoor Courts at Apex Center

Eagle donated by Sharon and Ken Marquardt at the Outdoor Courts at Apex Center

Ken got together with Mike Miles, Executive Director of the Apex Center in Arvada, Colorado to toss around the idea of having a tournament fundraiser to support wounded veterans.  They looked around for an organization to support and decided on the Rocky Mountain Human Services Operation TBI Freedom, because 100% of the funds go to support veterans.  Other organizations take 30-60% for administrative costs.  Once the recipient was selected, a number of meetings took place with some local tournament experts, and voila, there was a tournament planned and 250 participants signed up.

Pickleball for heroes cropped

They spread the word about the tournament: “Our community stands behind all the veterans for their service and sacrifice. They put their lives on the line every day for our nation, and to honor and recognize that dedication, there’s a unique opportunity coming up for you to personally help a Colorado vet.  One hundred percent of the proceeds go to Operation TBI Freedom, a privately funded program of Rocky Mountain Human Services, assisting veterans and active duty military personnel with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occurred on or after September 11, 2001.”

The Pickleball for Heroes tournament began with a 30-minute opening ceremony, open to the public.  A bagpiper entered the pavilion playing “Amazing Grace”.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  The Marine Corps Honor Guard presented the flag, and Debi Blair, who sang with Bob Hope years ago, sang the national anthem.

Marine Honor Guard at the Pickleball for Heroes Tournament

Marine Honor Guard at the Pickleball for Heroes Tournament

The games began and everyone had a great time!  They had a range of players from 3.0-5.0. This “village”raised $43,861.00 for Operation Traumatic Brain Injury Freedom, a tremendous cause.

TBI Check Presentation

TBI Check Presentation

Congratulations, Ken Marquardt and the Arvada Pickleballers!  You definitely have a “Heart” for your community!

Check out the Arvada Press Article: Pickleball Goal is to Help Veterans

Super-Hero Pickleball Tournament

We love when we get stories from our readers about community events, pickleball get-togethers and especially themed tournaments! Rick Varley, a reader out of Dowell, Maryland recently sent us this message and it was too good not to share. Enjoy!

Oyster Bay Halloween Tournament

Oyster Bay Super Hero Tournament

Batman & Superman defeated by Captain America & Super Shopper

We have a private community in Dowell, Maryland called Oyster Bay.  We converted 3 unused tennis courts into 4 pickleball courts. We have 3 holiday tournaments throughout the year to give our members some tournament experience. Our last event around Halloween was given the theme ‘Super Hero’ and everyone was to dress in their favorite tee-shirt or attire. Prizes were donated and they are always humorous. The winners of this tournament were presented with ‘Pickle Bandages‘ and a can of ‘Pickle Mints‘.  Many times it is just a jar of pickles! It was a fun day and a great format that took about a hour and 30 minutes to complete.

Pickleball Superman and Batman Oyster Bay Pickleball Club TournamentHow the tournament works:

  • On pieces of paper, write four “1”s, four “2”s, four “3”s and four “4”s. Each number corresponds to a court (Court 1, Court 2, Court 3 and Court 4).
  • Each player blindly draws a number and goes to that court.
  • Everyone plays one game to 11 with each person at that court (for a total of three matches at that court). You do not win by 2; whoever reaches 11 points first, wins.
  • At the end of each game, you tell the scorekeeper how many points you scored individually, as well as whether it was a win or a loss. A win is 1 point, a loss is 0 points.
    • For example, Anna is playing at Court 3. She wins every game, resulting in 11 points every game for a total of 33 points. The also receives 3 “Win” points for a total of 36 points.
    • POINT BREAKDOWN:
    • 11 points x 3 games = 33 points.
    • 1 Win Point x 3 Wins = 3 points.
    • 33 points + 3 points = 36 points total.
  • Once everyone is done playing at their court, tally up the points and determine the top 4 players.
  • These players play in the Championship Match to 15 points.

Captain America Pickleball Oyster Bay Tournament

Looks like a fun group of people and a great way to get everyone excited about the game!

PickleballCentral All Heart Award: The Pickleball North Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

I love pickleball!

Ross Community Center pickleball


Andy McLaren, 66, of Brighton Heights plays pickleball against Barb Adams, 72, of Ross, at the Ross Community Center

Every time we hear about a group that loves to play with a purpose, like raising money for a local food bank, we try to find out the back story.  So when Pam Block emailed PickleballCentral for some support for their tournament last month, we contacted her and got the Pickleball North story.  Enjoy reading about our newest All Heart Pickleball Award Winner!

The Pickleball North Pickleball Club in Pittsburgh, PA, has 140 people on their email list. They started with about 5 players in February, 2012. The group started playing in a local church and were given lessons by a teaching tennis pro. The oldest member, Ralph Young played all the time, even the week before he died.  He was 86 years old.  Pam Block is a former tennis player.  She was invited to play the first time in April of that same year.   Most members are retired, except her son, who plays when he visits from Washington, DC.  Pam’s motto is:  “When it stops being fun, I’m done!”

Pam is a pickleball scheduler for the club.  She emails a weekly play schedule out to the membership.  They play at a community center and 2 – 3 churches.   They are growing pickleball and helping the community.  That’s what sets their club apart.  They are a welcoming and caring group.  The fourth bi-annual tournament was held this year on October 28th.  It was a fun day with lots of fun competition.  This last tournament was sponsored by PickleballCentral and Gamma Sports.  Thrivent Financial also gave them a grant of $250 that was used to buy lunch for participants and for the purchase of the tournament balls.  Pam once received a jar of pickles as a grand prize, so that has become a Pickleball North tradition.  They could have bought better prizes, but people preferred the money go to the Food Bank.  

Pickleball North

Pickleball North Pickleball Club

The Pickleball North Pickleball Club usually has two tournaments a year and the proceeds go to the North Hills Food Bank.  They started in Spring of 2014.  They have had 4 tournaments so far, and have collected $2,500 for the North Hills Food Bank.  The North Hills Food Bank serves over 200 people a month and has been doing it for over 25 years.  Most of the clients of the Food Bank live in Ross Township or in the town of Westview. Fees collected at the tournament go to the food bank.   They play at the Ross Township Community Center.  It is the biggest location and they are gracious and accommodating.  They asked to use the facility for their tournament and the community center waived the use fee, so everything collected during the tournament goes to the food bank.

The Pickleball North Pickleball Club grows by word of mouth, by invitation and through advertising.  The Pittsburg Tribune Review has run a couple of articles about pickleball in Pittsburgh:

http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoodsmore/8993977-74/pickleball-tennis-sport#ixzz3p4L3KUKp

Keep up the good “heart” work, Pickleball North!  We look forward to hearing more good news about your community service next year!