Texas Open Sees 28 Junior Participants, Wyatt Stone Helps Youth Find Pickleball

The 2nd annual Texas Open was held September 12-15, where stalwart players braved the heat to test their skills at the Open Wagon Wheel Tennis Center in Coppell. Of the 747 participants that took part, 28 were juniors ranging from 7-18 years old.

These young players are a growing demographic which has only recently gained legislation needed within USAPA-recognized events to fully take part. While many picklers have expressed enthusiasm for the newer generation getting involved in the sport, the reality is that the journey toward full integration hasn’t been as cut and dry as grabbing a paddle and showing up.

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

We recently spoke with Ashley Stone, mother to the winner of the Lone Star Award (Wyatt Stone). She was willing to illuminate some of the challenges the juniors have faced and overcome in addition to describing their experience at the Open:

“My son Wyatt has played in 12 tournaments and taken 18 medals since January 2019. When he first started playing, we had to ask tournament directors to lower the minimum age to allow him to play. He even pre-qualified for the American State Games, but they wouldn’t let him join due to their minimum age restriction last January.

“I have been adding junior events to the USAPA Junior Facebook page and website for a few months. In a short period of time (Jan-Sept, 9 months) we have seen the minimum age lower to include junior players in about 90% of all tournaments nationwide, excluding the senior tournaments. Pickleballtournaments.com just added a “junior” search feature to their toolbar this month as well. This is a huge milestone for the junior movement!

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

“In the first few tournaments, Wyatt would often be one of two or three juniors playing in the 19+ skill events. With each tournament we have seen more kids at each event. The Mansfield Summer Slam which was on September 7th had 6 junior players playing up in age 19+ by skill. The Texas Open is the only tournament in the mid-south to have enough kids to make junior brackets work.

“At the Texas Open, events were grouped by players 7-13 and 14-18 years old, a handful of which also played in 19+ age/skill events. The kids came from Texas and Oklahoma areas. Skill ranged from novice play to a 4.0 skill level. All of the kids have a family member who introduced them to the sport and are very passionate about it. They had a really good time and thought it was cool the mixed open events were happening on the same day as the junior events. The kids’ games were right next to pro players.

“One thing that was really great was the pro players (Joey Farrias, Lucy Kovalova & Matt Wright, Michella & Daniel DeLaRosa, to note a few) would stop to watch the kids and do a quick meet and greet. Some of the pro players even refereed junior games. Two I can think of were Gigi LeMasters and Anna Leigh Waters.

“There were also 2 junior pro players, Anna Leigh Waters & William Sobek, who competed at the pro open level.  All the juniors lined up to watch at least one of their games.”

Junior girls' doubles winners

Junior girls’ doubles winners (Gold: Sophia Irwin & Madi Warden, silver: Michaela McElroy & Caitlyn Chia, bronze: Natasha Cole & Katelyn Click)

Ashley mentioned something many junior players would like to see moving forward is divisions separated by skill rather than age.

“The Texas Open (and all other USAPA-sanctioned tournaments) divide juniors by age. We have not yet attended a junior tournament in the US that has enough kids to divide by age and then further divide by skill. What I have seen is that ability doesn’t discriminate by age. In an event with kids ages 7-13 or 13-18 in the Texas Open, we had novices competing with advanced players. All the kids and their families unanimously agreed they would have healthier competition if they played in events by skill.”

It’s also exciting to note that a junior was chosen as the recipient of the Lone Star Award at the Texas Open, a recognition given to someone who has used pickleball to help build up their community and improve people’s health. The winner this year was Wyatt Stone, Ashley’s son.

“Wyatt completed the IPTPA level II certification in less than a month with the desire to teach as many kids pickleball as he could reach. He went to Oklahoma twice to volunteer with youth camps, ran the Andy Roddick Pickleball Camp in Austin, hosted monthly kids’ camps over the summer and set up (with the parks department) a free weekly pickleball clinic for kids that he will teach.

Junior boys' doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson Silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio Bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior Boys Doubles 13-18 Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister Silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren Bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister

Junior boys’ doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson, silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio, bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior boys’ doubles 13-18 (Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister, silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren, bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister)

“The September classes have been booked up since last month. Wyatt volunteers working with his mentor May Laz at clinics, camps, challenges and tournaments on a weekly basis. He is also the USAPA Junior Pickleball Facebook editor and has more than organically tripled the followers since he took it over. He runs the Pickleball Facebook Junior forum and San Antonio IH35 to Austin Pickleball meetup where he organizes free competitive play.

“Wyatt is 14-years-old and had only been playing a a couple of weeks when he asked to go to the Texas Open as a spectator. After spending the weekend at the Texas Open, Wyatt wanted to learn how to play like the pros. Wyatt played in his first tournament in January, the Oklahoma State Games, and took 3 gold medals.

“He has been competing ever since, playing in 9 tournaments with 16 medals. He took a gold medal at the MT Regionals, earning a spot at Nationals which he will attend in November. He became IPTPA certified in June and added teaching to his rigorous training schedule.

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

“Wyatt did not have racket or paddle experience prior to playing pickleball and has come up through the ranks by working hard and earning his place training with local 5.0 players. He publishes a blog on his website with articles relevant to junior players and their families: WyattStonePickleballJunior.com

“Wyatt joined the Pickleball Rocks Team this past summer and accepted the nomination to lead the USAPA junior program as the USAPA National Junior Coordinator.

“He is thankful every day that he steps on the court and loves to see other kids getting involved in recreational and competitive pickleball.”

What Paddles Did the Pros Use at the 2019 US Open?

The paddle may not make player, and changing your gear won’t turn into a pro overnight… but using high quality equipment can improve your game in short order.

If you’re curious what the top athletes at this year’s US Open used to win their medals, read on! Click the paddle names to read more about them and see their technical specs on PickleballCentral.com.

The prices listed are the standard retail prices as of publishing and may be different in our store.

Yates Tereschenko Bantam EX-L

Paddletek Bantam EX-L – $97.99

Pros:
Kyle Yates – Mixed & Men’s Doubles
Irina Tereschenko – Women’s Doubles
Description: 
A long-time favorite among polymer core paddles, the Bantam EX-L has a high amount of power that’s balanced by its ability to accurately place shots.

 

Dawson Ovation

ProKennex Ovation – $159.99

Pro:
Jennifer Dawson – Women’s Sr. Singles
Description:
The unique oval shape and edge-less design widens the sweet spot while Kinetic Energy core technology reduces vibration.

Jardim Reponse Pro

Prince Response Pro – $127.99

Pro:
Simone Jardim – Women’s Singles & Mixed Doubles
Description: 
A circular shape allows for great touch regardless of where pickleballs hit this paddle. The longer handle is suitable for 2-handed backhands

Weinbach Waddell Tempest Wave

Paddletek Tempest Wave – $127.99

Pros:
Dave Weinbach & Barry Waddell – Men’s Doubles
Description: 
This premier Paddletek paddle has a quick-acting graphite face which contributes to maximum touch and response.

Moore Sabre Pro

Paddletek Sabre Pro – $137.99

Pro:
Scott Moore – Men’s Sr. Singles
Description:
Designed in conjunction with Scott, this paddle has the longest handle on the market (6-1/4″) for supreme reach and backhands.

Moore Tempest Pro US OPEN

Paddletek Tempest Pro US OPEN – $167.99

Pro:
Scott Moore – Mixed Sr. Doubles
Description:
Paddletek’s popular Tempest but with a thicker core. This one comes with a beautiful, limited edition design made specifically for the 2019 US OPEN.

Kovalova Premier

Onix Evoke Premier

Pro:
Lucy Kovalova – Women’s Doubles
Description: 
Not yet available. Onix’s new signature paddle was designed for pros Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright. Coming this summer.

Anderson Summit

Onix Summit C1 – $89.99

Pro:
Kris Anderson – Mixed Sr. Doubles
Description:
An elongated shape offers great reach and control. The composite surface adds exceptional spin to place your shots.

McGuffin Invikta

Selkirk AMPED Invikta – $149.99

Pro:
Tyson McGuffin – Men’s Singles
Description:
Designed with Tyson to allow impressive for reach and leverage thanks to both the handle and face. A great choice for high power play.

MacGregor S2

Selkirk AMPED S2 – $149.99

Pro:
Cammy MacGregor – Women’s Sr. Doubles
Description:
Broad face provides a large sweet spot and blocking power. Multiple grip and weight options allow players to choose the best option for their needs.

Johns Franklin

Franklin Signature Paddle

Pro:
Ben Johns – Men’s Pro Doubles
Description:
Designed with Ben, Franklin’s new pro signature model paddle will be available soon!

Mike Welter Is Unstoppable; Named Florida Senior Games’ Athlete of the Year

Mike Welter is an incredible athlete and has rightfully been named the 2017 Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year. Sadly, Mike suffered a stroke on September 30th this year which will prevent him from playing in the 2018 Senior Games, but he currently plans to take about a year off then leap right back into the fray.

This former Marine Corps colonel shows no signs of slowing down despite the health scare. The stroke initially paralyzed Mike’s left arm and leg and he lost his sight, but he’s since regained the use of his limbs and is beginning to see more clearly. Mike explains:

“I’m walking a mile or more each day and my sight is improving. The doctors are taking good care of me and I’m trying to get better. I’m going to take a year off from pickleball, but I’m going to be Comeback Player of the Year when I return.”

Mike Welter with Nancy Robertson

Mike Welter with Nancy Robertson (Credit: Cape Coral Daily Breeze)

We admire Mike’s determination and look forward to his return! At the Games last year he played in three medal events and placed in each for his 5th consecutive year. Mike partnered with Bobbi Little to win mixed doubles for the 3rd consecutive year, and also snagged gold in men’s doubles and silver in singles.

His win streak doesn’t stop there. Mike has won many medals in competitions across the world, even traveling with his wife to Mexico to participate in tournaments. He notes, “The game, when it’s played in big matches, can involve a lot of strategy, like a chess match. You have to put the ball in the right place.”

Here’s another interesting fact about Mike—did you know that he’s Kyle Yates’ uncle? That’s right; we not only have Mike to thank for his impressive personal records, but for getting one of the world’s best picklers into the game!

When Kyle was only a tender 15-years-old, he was convinced by his uncle to give the game a try. Mike noted (like many!) that Kyle initially thought that pickleball sounded stupid, but then “he picked it up in about one minute. He was very, very good, but I beat his butt (the first time). A week later he beat my butt, and he hasn’t looked back.”

Mike has been a big supporter of his local hospital’s wellness center in Cape Coral, having helped outfit the center with pickleball equipment so established fans and newcomers could play. He’s also been excitedly waiting for a new pickleball complex to be built by Lake Kennedy, which he’s certain will help spread the sport even further.

With this recognition from the Florida Senior Games, he’s become the first ever pickler to win the honor and the fourth from Lee County. 

We appreciate all of Mike’s efforts to assist pickleball in reaching more participants and can’t wait to have him back!

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

Mickey Mouse Loves Pickleball

It’s no surprise that Disney is often associated with gifts. The gift of childhood, the gift of magical animation, the gift of… pickleball? While you might not think Mickey and friends have anything to do with the game, in truth, they’ve funded a new pickleball court at Tweila Reid Park in Anaheim, home of Disneyland!

Image courtesy of Pickleballmax, sharing pickleball with Disney power couple

Image courtesy of Pickleballmax, sharing pickleball with Disney power couple

According to the OC Register, the court was just recently completed with the good news announced on Oct 1st. During the talk, it was also revealed that five local parks would be getting new playgrounds as well. Never let it be said that The Mouse leaves out his biggest little fans.

The pickleball court was created thanks to a $200,000 donation that also supplied residents with a new soccer field and upgraded softball field.

Councilman Jordan Brandman added, “This pickleball court and field renovations came about as a result of input from the residents. They said they wanted more sports intensive activities at the park.”

You heard it here first: If you want more pickleball, all you have to do is ask. We recommend asking city officials or wealthy mice over Santa, since he tends not to have as much sway these days. (Santa, if you want to prove us wrong, our paddles are ready!)

We think Buzz's jetpacks would give him a slight advantage during a game... (Credit: Pickleballmax)

We think Buzz’s jet pack would give him a slight advantage during games… (Credit: Pickleballmax)

Remember that Disneyland’s big cousin, Disney World, is located in FL aka Pickleball Paradise. Why haven’t we seen more toon-supported pickleball action there? It was noted that many pickleball courts could fit in Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was re-branded in 2010.

Is there any progress being made down there, Floridians? If not, get on it!

Steve Paranto Interview – Remembering the World’s First Pickleball Tournament

It is always wonderful to hear the stories of how pickleball got started and how it has grown over the years.  Anna Copley was able to catch Steve Paranto at the USAPA Nationals last November, for a brief conversation about the World’s First Pickleball Championship in Seattle, Washington.  Listen for Steve’s confession in this video.  Enjoy!

Video Transcript:

Anna: Here we have Steve Paranto and he was at the first pickleball tournament.
Steve: It was billed as “The World’s First Pickleball Championship” in a suburb of Seattle, at the Southcenter Athletic Club. It was either ’75 or ’76. It was the spring. And Joel Pritchard, one of the main inventors stood up on a chair and kicked the tournament off and told us the rules. Back then the matches were three out of five to eleven not two out of three. So it was a long match when you played singles and the surface was carpet and so the rallies were very good because carpet slows, kind of like clay court version of pickleball, so it was different because of that, it was and we had a blast. About 50-60, either they were tennis players that learned at their community college or high school or they were guys who worked at Weyerhaeuser, the company, because they had a private indoor court and they played every day at lunch time. And that was pretty much all the participants in that “World’s First Tournament”.

Anna: How many people do you think..?
Steve: There were about 60 to 70 players. My partner, Dave Lester won that, and I took second and we lost the doubles. So, I am the “World’s First Loser” of pickleball.  And I just talked to Matthew Blom, who is one of the great players of today. He was taught how to play by Dave Lester, my partner, who is the world’s first ever champion of pickleball. Dave Lester,… and he is teaching at a college, Concordia College in Minnesota, and that’s where Matthew Blom spent his time learning the game from my first partner.

Anna: Thank you Steve.
Steve: You’re welcome.