Lake Effect Traveling Team Builds Pickleball Community and Competition

You may have heard of traveling pickleball pros, but what about traveling teams made up of passionate 3.5+ players?

This is exactly what the Lake Effect team in Saugatuck has achieved. The group hosts and challenges clubs up and down Michigan’s lakeshore, allowing players to explore different partners and compete against others without affecting tournament ratings. It’s served as an effective way to expose players to fresh talent while engaging in the competitive side of the sport.

The team plays men’s, women’s and mixed doubles at events, being composed of twelve women and twelve men.

Sara Cullen is the original founder of Lake Effect and serves as co-captain beside Sherrie Velthouse. Sara shares her experience thus far:

“We are a new enterprise and just got off the ground late last summer. We had two matches before the end of our outdoor season. Both times we played Grand Haven, the Lakeshore Pickleball Club. They traveled about 40 minutes to our courts, and then we traveled to their courts in late fall.

This year we have already played one match outdoors in April. We have an upcoming match against Grand Rapids on May 18th, traveling over to their courts about 45 minutes away. In early June we’ll be playing against The Alley Cats from Kalamazoo.”

Lake Effect

The Lake Effect team

Lake Effect is looking to play Hudsonville in mid-July if they can organize a date. Sara explains that scheduling gets more difficult in the summer months due to the number of important USAPA-sanctioned tournaments that fill up the calendar. In addition, they face snow and cold weather in fall and winter, losing team members to warmer destinations. Travel team matches are placed on hold when it gets too chilly for the locals.

Despite the time-sensitive nature of the enterprise, Sara says, “The exciting part of the travel team is that it’s working! Our team members are having a great time, building friendships, finding new partners for tournaments and everyone is enjoying an easy and fun way to test their court skills without entering tournaments or having to spend money.

They can use the travel team matches to prepare for USAPA tournaments without being concerned about their ranking being effected by a loss. So it makes it fun and worry free. It’s also nice to see that even when players don’t win their flight, they still cheer for your teammates.”

Jodie Kyes, one of the members who helps manage the team, states that she feels fortunate to have many strong clubs in close proximity, including Grand Rapids, South Haven, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Niles, Muskegon and Holland.

Lakeshore Pickleball

A shot from the Lakeshore Pickleball Club’s courts

She explains that the concept of a travel team was based on the formation of a varsity high school sport. Team captains set up challenge matches with other clubs and determine the lineup of partners and positions. In women’s and men’s doubles there are five teams for each, and in mixed doubles there are ten teams. The captains determine who plays at the top of the lineup in order of skill and ability.

Once the captains have organized a match, the hosting team provides the courts, wristbands, tournament schedule and refreshments such as Gatorade and energy bars.

Lake Effect has even went the extra mile by creating uniforms, practicing drills together and enjoying social gatherings to promote team spirit. Their dedication to their club is truly admirable!

Jodie summarizes by sharing her team’s goals:

“As we head into our second year of travel team challenges, we’re hoping the idea catches on across our state and eventually nationally. Travel team matches promote pickleball and the satisfaction of competing not just as an individual, but more importantly as a team. It builds friendships and team spirit, which has been a wonderful bonus for our players.

The Lake Effect travel team has developed a code of conduct that outlines what we are looking for in team players. Good sportsmanship is at the forefront but also the importance of cheering on other team players during their matches and accepting the lineup without question. Most importantly, every team player should welcome the opportunity to play with whomever the captains assign. All in all, even though it is a new concept for pickleball, we’re very pleased with the enthusiasm it’s received and look forward to many years of competitive and fun play.”

Lake Effect would also like to recognize Selkirk, Wilson, PickleballCentral and Franklin Sports for their donations to the team. We thank them for sharing their story in return!

Are you intrigued by the idea of a traveling pickleball team? Let us know about your experiences if you’ve developed a similar setup in your community!

Has Pickleball Gone Mainstream Yet?

It seems every day we see more news articles announcing, “Unknown sport experiences astonishing growth!” or, “Game nobody’s heard of makes headlines!” These pieces are referring to pickleball, but with the proliferation of such titles, is it really fair to continue treating the game like it’s so little-known?

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., a fact which was announced back in 2015. Perhaps it’s time people should stop being so shocked by pickleball’s existence, and instead players should be surprised when someone doesn’t recognize the sport.

Jillian Michaels playing pickleball

Jillian Michaels playing pickleball

Aside from the millions of players located in the U.S. alone, the game is becoming more commonly taught in schools, rec centers and even prisons. Celebrities such as Jillian Michaels, Kid Rock, the Kardashians and Tobey Macguire all enjoy playing. Even former tennis pros Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick have given pickleball a swing.

Gear can be found in several big-box stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart. CBS is broadcasting the US Open on TV. Many communities are (successfully) rallying for their local governments to create courts from scratch or turn unused tennis courts into pickleball parks.

With USAPA ambassadors and even casual players continuing to spread the word and bring the game to locations far and wide, maybe we’re getting closer to the day when people can say they play pickleball and the general population won’t have to wonder if they’re talking about a sport or a strange food.

Kid Rock with pickleball paddle

Kid Rock with custom pickleball paddle on a Norwegian Cruise

After all, people recognize sports like archery, hockey, rugby, polo and billiards, but largely due to their storied histories rather than a proliferation of play. Many of those listed aren’t usually found in communities due to expensive equipment, large space requirements and high physical demands. Surely pickleball, with its approachable play and affordable gear, will only continue to rise in visibility.

Have you found that many people know about pickleball in your city? Do you feel like you get fewer confused responses these days when mentioning the sport? Let us know about your experiences, whether strangers were affirming or bewildered!

Randy Wince Adds Extra Fun to Pickleball with Unique Events

Randy Wince gives his local group of picklers plenty to look forward to thanks to the fun activities he plans every month at the Life Fitness Center in Bettendorf, IA.

Randy had always loved organizing parties and celebrations during his previous employment at Northwestern Bell. Now retired, he applies his knack for event planning to devise unique pickleball events.

Judy Petersen and Paul Willoughby

Judy Petersen and Paul Willoughby (Credit: QC Times)

The seven courts he frequents normally host around 50 players during standard times of play, but his festivities have brought in an extra influx of participants. This month Randy set up a St. Patrick’s-themed gathering and 75 people wanted in on the action! A bagpipe player was even brought in to set the mood.

Another idea Randy expanded on came from joking about players needing to compete for WWE-style belts. A short time later, he actually brought in belts that picklers in A and B divisions now wear. The belts are used by each individual for a week and are then passed to other winners. Randy has also provided smaller trophies to be given as permanent awards.

Myrna Seline

Myrna Seline (Credit: QC Times)

In March last year, Randy underwent back surgery and has shared how pickleball helped him to physically and mentally recover from the operation. By setting up these events, he’s been able to pass on the support and “good vibes” the community provided him when he needed it the most.

We love when picklers get creative with their ideas and find ways to add even more excitement to the sport. Have you ever set up a special event for your pickleball club or group? Are there any concepts you haven’t seen yet but would like to make a reality?

Marlene Corray

Marlene Corray (Credit: QC Times)

Three Fans Pitch Pickleball and Win Support for Local Courts

Here’s a unique and interesting way several individuals have gained support for pickleball: The art of the pitch!

In this case we don’t mean a “pitch” as in baseball but through public speaking. In an event called the Vesuvius Coworking Pitch Night Competition, Robin Able, Cheryl McKinney and Jessica Jones won over $4,000 which will be used to bring pickleball to Madison County.

Vesuvius Coworking was started two years ago by Shane Bivens as a program to “encourage and financially support the work of Central Indiana inventors, creatives and idealists.”

Vesuvius

This year the applicants were asked to focus on community engagement and ideas that would create positive impact among many people with only a few thousand dollars.

Bivens stated that, “We started this as part our programming to allow entrepreneurs a stage for the community to see we have a lot of amazing things going on here that no one knows about.”

Six finalists were asked to present their ideas out of 20 original applicants last Friday, all selected by a group of entrepreneurs and business experts.

It’s no surprise to us that the panel found pickleball to be a wise investment for the community’s happiness and sense of unity. Congratulations to these brave pickleball advocates!

“We want a large enough facility that we can offer clinics and have space for lots of courts, and then outdoors, weather providing. We’ve been playing for a year, for free already, and we want to pass that opportunity on not just for learning the sport and the health benefits, but for the community it has provided for us,” says Able.

You can view the contestants’ winning presentation below starting at 44:43.

 

Previous winners have used their winnings to open a restaurant offering whole foods and a Fit2Fly center that uses bungee cords for low-impact exercise routines.

Have you ever had to give a presentation to support pickleball, such as at a city council meeting or contest like this? Let us know about ways you’ve found unique support for the sport!

Mumbai’s JMD Youth Club Funds 2 Courts to Expand the Game in India

Our friends at AIPA (All India Pickleball Association) got in touch to share some exciting news about the construction of two new outdoor courts within Mumbai, which has helped to drive newcomers to the game in addition to supporting pre-existing high level players.

Congratulations to the JMDYC and the Indian pickleball community on the continued growth! Chetan Sanil of AIPA’s media cell has written up a summary of the celebration that took place to commemorate the courts:

JMD Courts Front

The new JMD courts

It was a dream come true for members of Jal Mangal Deep Youth Club (JMDYC) when a glittering function was held on Valentine’s Day to celebrate the opening of two dedicated pickleball courts at the residential complex of Jal Mangal Deep Housing Society (JMDHS).

JMD Housing Society is located in the western suburbs of Mumbai at Bangur Nagar, Goregaon West. Bangur Nagar is a huge locality consisting of more than 40 residential housing societies, shops, schools, temples, church, parks and more, with a population of around 30 – 40k people. JMD holds around 500 residents itself.

They are a close-knit group of people who celebrate each festival with fun and vigor be it the Ganesh Festival, Diwali, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s or Holi. They also organize an annual sports event called “JMD Khel Mahatsov” for their members which is spread over 45 days culminating in a prize distribution ceremony held on the Republic Day (January 26th).

JMD Courts

JMD Courts

Pickleball was introduced to members of JMDYC by Manish Rao, India’s goodwill ambassador for the game, on April 15, 2017. They started playing the game on a makeshift cemented area between two buildings with a badminton net tied at ground level. Many enjoyed the game and took to it like ducks to water. Most of the players were office goers who would play the game after work from 8 – 10 pm on a daily basis.

Seeing them play, others joined the group and slowly became addicted to the game. They started participating in tournaments in Mumbai and other locations in India. They even won several medals in those tournaments.

The pickleball community in India started to take notice of the talented players from JMDYC. At that point, the JMDYC felt they could really use a proper court to practice and play in properly. It was decided to construct two courts on the small ground in the complex. The members approached the managing committee and obtained a grant of Rs 1 lakh from them.

JMD Ribbon Cutting

The ribbon cutting

Construction of the court began, but the expenses ended up costing much more than the sanctioned amount. This did not affect the resolve of JMDYC’s members to build the court. They chipped in with their own money to generously fund the project. After much struggle, the twin courts were finally ready.

The group decided to celebrate this huge achievement by organizing an opening ceremony. They invited AIPA office bearers and members of other pickleball clubs in and around Mumbai. They chose February 14th as the day for the celebration since Valentine’s Day would help  showcase the love and passion JMDYC has for this lovely game called pickleball.

The program started with a dance seeking blessings from Lord Ganesh performed by the female members of JMDYC. The traditional lamp was lit by members of the managing committee from the housing society and one of the chief guests, Mr. M.G. Suvarna, an ex-FIFA referee. The ribbon was cut by Ashok Mohanani, President of AIPA, and Sunil Valavalkar, Founder Secretary of AIPA.

Ashok Mohanani

Ashok Mohanani

They were later congratulated by JMDYC along with the members of various pickleball clubs of Mumbai. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Mohanani congratulated JMDYC for creating the twin courts. He said he was sure that they would influence more people from the neighborhood to take up the game.

Mr. Valavalkar also congratulated JMDYC for their resolve and determination in completing the court despite the various hurdles that arose. He was very happy to see bonding within the community partly as a result of pickleball. He requested all the members to start playing the game to help them in stay fit. The new JMDYC logo was also unveiled.

The program continued with songs and dances performance by the youngsters of JMDYC and ended with a sumptuous dinner organised for the occasion.

JMDYC new logo

JMDYC’s new logo

The newly laid pickleball courts are a testimony of the vision and effort of JMDYC. Going forward, they are planning to take the game to the next level in their community and ensure more and more people are introduced to pickleball.

The Importance of Coordinating Colors for Indoor Pickleball

Playing pickleball indoors provides several benefits: You get to stay out of harsh weather, never have to worry about wind interference and enjoy bouncier pickleballs that provide extra time to respond.

Despite all these perks, there are few potential downsides that might dampen your fun when moving games indoors. Aside from making sure low ceilings won’t affect your play. the primary topic that throw picklers for a loop is color—or more specifically, its affect on visibility.

Where it’s typically easy to see balls and court markings outdoors, certain lighting can make it more difficult to see the action when you’re inside, in addition to any reflective flooring causing additional glare.

Dealing with these setbacks is a little like dealing with direct sunlight in your eyes, but instead of wearing a hat, we recommend tinted glasses to help negate these problems.

Tourna Specs

Tourna Specs in yellow

Tourna Specs come in both blue and yellow tints which can help to reduce shine and make it easier to see pickleballs in motion.

If you’re not a fan of eyewear but are still having trouble following the action, then you may want to try altering your ball color outside of the typical yellow, orange or white options. We carry several more unusual choices in our Midnight Indoor Pickleballs, including indigo, pink, black and red.

Many players tell us the red is easiest to see when playing indoors, so give them a try if the standard colors have given you trouble. They have the same gentle feel and high bounce as the popular Jugs Indoor Pickleballs, so you won’t be missing out on quality.

When dealing with court markings, many players resort to using tape when they can’t paint permanent lines, and you’ll find both yellow and orange colors on our site. But sometimes a light, bright option is the only thing that truly stands out. For that, we recommend Liquid Lines.

This unique product is a temporary paint which you can quickly lay down and then remove just as easily. The white lines simply wipe away with water after you’re finished playing.

Do you have a favorite product or color which seems to stand out against your indoor courts? Everyone’s location is different, and sometimes it can take a bit of experimentation to find the products which perfectly complement your environment.

GAMMA’s Dart Hits the Mark with Its Low Cost and Precision Placement

GAMMA’s Dart Paddle has reached our shelves and with its price efficient yet high quality features it’s already winning admirers. The clean black and yellow design stands out with its sleek looks, but what does it have to offer when it comes to play?

We connected with GAMMA to better understand the Dart’s best qualities and share what makes it a great buy.

Tennis-Style Grip

GAMMA knows that many pickleball players are entering the game from other racquet sports like tennis. To try and recreate a familiar feel in their equipment, GAMMA gave the Dart’s handle angular edges and used a gel-textured grip to create traction without feeling overly sticky. It provides just enough cushioning and draws sweat away from your skin.

The result is a firm hand-paddle connection that won’t slip or waver during play. It also looks just as polished as it feels thanks to the matching bee-like colors that mirror the face.

Adaptable Weight and Texture

The GAMMA Dart is a trim 7.4 oz which lends itself to easy maneuverability and control, but it’s not so light that you can’t add power when needed. The composite face is the same used in the GAMMA Mirage and Pin paddles, which offers a light texture for added spin.

Davon Martin with the Dart

Davon Martin with the Dart

GAMMA-represented player Davon Martin (4.5) shares that, “The texture… is perfect. It allows you to achieve really good under spin when slicing and awesome top spin when rolling the ball corner to corner or down the baselines.” The company adds, “The Dart’s composite face allows for the extra punch needed for groundstrokes and smashes.”

Touch-Centric Feel

The Dart uses a polyester core which is suitable for a broad spectrum of players. GAMMA mentions that many of their pros took to the paddle quickly at Nationals and appreciated its speed and pop. The face shape isn’t especially rounded so that picklers can use that extra bit of surface space along the edges to return difficult shots when required.

Davon adds, “The paddle hits exceptionally well… the Dart allows you to generate more power with less effort. Ground strokes came naturally with the DART, and I could really lay into my back hand from the base line when I need to. The DART offers lots of touch, which helps to keep balls low, to redirect shots, and with blocking and handling dinks.”

Davon Martin and the Dart

Davon Martin and the Dart

At only $69.99, the Dart offers a lot of value at a reasonable price point. If you’re looking for a paddle that’s versatile enough to support both slams and dinks, with a quick speed and gentle touch, it might be the right choice for you.

Take a look at the GAMMA Dart for yourself and see if it hits the bullseye for your pickleball needs!