Lunch with Pickleball Founder Barney McCallum

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Glen Petersen and Barney McCallum, 2016

The other day I had lunch with Barney and David McCallum at the Seattle Yacht Club. Time seemed to slip backwards as I sat with Barney and his son in the mahogany-lined dining room overlooking Union Bay, listening to their nostalgic stories of how pickleball came to be.

Mostly they remember the people. Energetic, creative people. Some famous, some nearly infamous. Barney was among the three who invented the game of pickleball in 1965. In 1972 he launched the first pickleball company, Pickle-ball Inc., and started manufacturing the first commercial paddles. Barney made the early paddles by hand.

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One of the first pickleball paddles. Made by Barney McCallum by hand.

In April 1966, within the first year of pickleball’s birth, Barney and David were tinkering with the kitchen line placement in their Magnolia neighborhood cul-de-sac. They moved it from six and half feet (badminton distance) back to seven feet to prevent one particularly tall player from dominating the sport with volleys at the kitchen line. We agreed that they got it right.

Barney was an enormously successful inventor and businessman in the envelope industry. Pickleball was never more than a hobby to him, although he’s better known for inventing this quirky sport than his innovative envelope machine patents. Barney was the first player to experiment with the third shot dink as a means to advance to the kitchen line.

He would announce to his partner that “the X is on” before hitting a 3rd shot dink so they would move forward together. Barney and his partner, Jim Weller, routinely won the early pickleball tournaments sponsored by Nalley Pickles back in the 80s.

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Barney playing pickleball in the 1970s

I asked whether the game was named after the dog, Pickles, or whether the story was true the name originated from a rowing crew term. Barney and Dave roll their eyes. “Everyone involved knows the name came from the dog.” They have pictures of Pickles back when the name was adopted.

Evidently there were efforts to rename the sport. “Don’t change it,” Barney exhorted. We agreed that all efforts must be made to ensure the name of PICKLEBALL sticks, and that agreement is binding, as far as I am concerned.

Barney still spends much of his summer on Bainbridge Island, the birthplace of this wonderful game of pickleball. I was only four years old in Seattle at the time, but for those few hours in the Seattle Yacht Club, I felt like I was right there with him and his pickleball partners in the summer of 1965.


Glen Petersen

The Birth of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association

Pop! Pop! Pop!

The familiar sound of pickleballs ricocheting off paddles filled the pickleball courts at Palm Creek in Casa Grande, Arizona. The noise was a soundtrack to the hard-fought tournament in progress at the 2016 USAPA Nationals. The rapid back-and-forth of two teams competing their hearts out served as music to the ears of international gymnastic gold medalist-turned-pickleball aficionado, Seymour Rifkind.

“What a fantastic event,” exclaimed the author of 21st Century Samurai: The Secret Path to Success and Fulfillment. “The organization was outstanding, and the media coverage was instantaneous.”

With over 10,000 views and counting on YouTube, this year’s 2016 USAPA Nationals has been shared time and again. “The competition just keeps getting better… and younger,” Seymour says in a reflective tone.

USAPA Nationals

Image credit: Tom Gottfried

During the 2015 National Tournament, pickleball coaches and players including Rifkind discussed whether the time was right to organize a formal teacher certification program. All sports have training camps and clinics which are used to cultivate talent. Standards needed to be set and adhered to, and teachers needed to maintain high standards.

This led to the birth of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). According to Rifkind the organization created “a curriculum of agreed-upon basic pickleball fundamentals [such as] identifying the correct strategies, shot selections and strokes for beginner through intermediate players.”

Five months later, on the heels of the US Open Pickleball Championships, the IPTPA was born. “We launched our website and formally started certifying IPTPA teaching professionals,” says Rifkind. Since its inception, the IPTPA has had over 200 people in various stages of the certification process, of which approximately 100 are IPTPA certified.

This isn’t simply a “sign up and get on the list” scenario. The IPTPA takes their certifications seriously to ensure the future of the sport is in good hands. No stranger to success, Rifkind and company challenge the applicants to be their best. “We have a failure rate of 7.5% identified as individuals who did not pass one or more of the three tests required and have been asked to retake the exam at a later date after completing more study, practice and/or teaching experience.”

It’s clear that Rifkind was feeling that passion that made him an Olympic-level gymnast. “One of the most important traits of a good coach is the recognition from the start that this is a selfless profession. It is not about me; it is about my students. You need to feel genuine satisfaction in helping your students achieve their goals.”

“All your planning, study and self-improvement should be directed to helping your students: How can I organize my lessons and clinics more effectively? What additional drills or suggestions can I learn to aid my students in learning the third shot drop? What are the most effective training tools other IPTPA members use while teaching? What can I do to motivate, recognize problem areas and, most importantly, correct the problems I identify with each of my students with each of my students?”

Seymour Rifkind

Seymour Rifkind

Prior to his involvement in pickleball, Seymour Rifkind traveled the world putting on peak performance workshops for major university athletic teams. He explained to coaches that peak performance was more than breaking down film. It was about reinforcing the basics, training harder and longer, and surrounding yourself with other coaching experts. At the highest level of competition, the mental aspects that each individual must train to develop is the critical factor to success and winning titles. Focus, commitment, and one’s belief system become paramount mental factors to success.”

In order to maintain member status as a certified teaching professional, it is required that each IPTPA member continue his or her education by earning 2 continuing education units (CEU) per year. This process will be emphasized and enforced in year two. IPTPA will offer extensive full-day workshops such as the one being offered on April 21 in Naples, Florida (which will fulfill the 2-CEU requirement) as well as monthly webinars and on-line video tutorials.

 

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Members may also write articles, create videos and tip sheets for submission to IPTPA. If they are deemed worthy and published, members will earn CEU credit. In this way, a two-way level of communication is encouraged so that members and management are working together to fulfill their mission:

IPTPA will be the world’s leading organization of Certified Pickleball Teaching Professionals, viewed and highly respected as an organization of knowledgeable experts and industry innovators. IPTPA will deliver an ongoing program of workshops, seminars and other learning experiences to continually raise the quality of each of our members. Our intent is to raise the standards of pickleball excellence on a worldwide basis and to work in conjunction with the USAPA to help grow the sport of pickleball.

As Seymour Rifkind reminisces about all the progress made, he can’t help but look ahead to what the 2017 US Open Championships hold. He is excited to see which star athletes will become the next champions, breaking out of their molds to become superstars.

“In April 2017, we will be celebrating our first full year in operation. We will kick off our second year by introducing the first of many content-driven programs for our membership. The first IPTPA World Congress is scheduled as an all-day workshop to be held April 21, 2017, in Naples, Florida, in conjunction with the 2017 US Open Pickleball Championships.”

IPTPA members should visit their website and sign up for their inaugural IPTPA World Congress.

Prospective members may also be interested in checking the website as well, to learn more about the IPTPA such as requirements necessary for certification. Follow the IPTPA Facebook page for additional content and breaking updates.

Let’s Help Spread the Pickleball Love to Japan!

Exciting news today as USAPA Nationals medalist Daniel Moore begins a crowdfunding campaign to bring pickleball to Japan. If you’re looking to share the gift of pickleball with international fans this season, this is a great place to start!

Pickleball players of all ages in Japan

What some people don’t know is that Daniel lived in Japan for 16 years growing up and currently serves as a tour guide for visitors through the organization Walk Japan. Japan has an aging population with many indoor gyms equipped with badminton courts that could be utilized for pickleball.

According to Daniel’s campaign, there are currently 2 locations that regularly play pickleball in Japan with a third arriving in January. He explains:

“The locations have around 15-20 players each… An additional three locations have played pickleball before but we haven’t had the time or the funding to continue supporting them so they don’t have any balls or paddles. Most importantly, they don’t have someone there to explain the rules, coach and teach… which is what will get people playing.”

Senior picklers in Japan

The funds will primarily go to the Japan Pickleball Association headed by Moore so that the group can travel around the country to provide clinics and demos. They are also planning to register the JPA as an official non-profit organization and put together local/national tournaments to coincide with Daniel’s annual pickleball Japan trip.

The campaign only needs $10,000 to be successfully funded, and if you make a donation above $25 you’ll receive a Japan Pickleball t-shirt!

Daniel and Japanese pickleball players

Please consider donating if you like the sound of a pickleball-crazy Japan and would enjoy visiting in the future, or if you just want to share the joy of pickleball around the globe. Click here to donate today.

Introducing Pickleball as a Competitive Sport: Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas

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Activity Center at Trinity Episcopal School, Galveston

I heard it by the grapevine that some great things were happening in one school PE program in Galveston, Texas.  Here is some of their story, shared by Anne Hyatt, Program Director at Trinity Episcopal School. ENJOY!

We are in our 4th year of playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal School, and I jokingly say that I have a group of little addicts. They are always asking me if they can play during PE, get more court time, when our next tournament is, etc. They are nuts about pickleball! I’m our school’s Program Director, and coincidentally also in my 4th year here. I was charged with creating after-school and extra-curricular activities in our new athletic facility, and in my first year I stumbled upon pickleball in an equipment catalog and thought we should give it a shot. We practice once a week, on Fridays, from 3:00pm-5:30pm. When I started, we played on Fridays for the spring semester. We are now up to every Friday from September – March, and I know they’re going to ask me for extra practices in April. 

 

The first year wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped. We only had about 18 students in 2nd – 8th grade, and a lot of them didn’t stick with it. The second year I had more students (20) in the same age range, but I tried to change our dynamic: we had holiday parties, a separate practice for the older kids and hosted our first “tournament.”

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Students playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal

I think there were only 6 students registered, but at that point they finally had a grasp of the rules and it was awesome to see this competitive spirit come out of them during tournament play. I also added pickleball into my PE curriculum. I think it was a combined effort of students getting better and me getting better too. I was more confident in the rules and how to play the game and it helped the kids be more confident as well.

Last year the program took off; I had 30 students registered for after-school pickleball, with an even split of 15 2nd-5th graders and 15 6th-8th graders. We extended our season and played from October – March, and 20 of the 30 students participated in our 2nd annual “Spring Swing Tournament.”  

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Trinity Episcopal medal winners at Mid-South Regionals

I took 10 students to the USAPA Mid-South Regional in May of 2016 to compete, and everyone medaled in either doubles or singles (or both). We were the only Juniors registered, but we don’t mention that. 😉 Last year’s group was so large that I had to enlist the help of a couple parent volunteers, and we also hosted a family night where parents could play with or compete against their students.

This year the program is at an all-time high. I have 37 students playing after school, 18 2nd-5th graders and 19 6th-8th graders, and they are insane about the sport. Every week my younger kids learn some part of the court, the game or the rules of play and we practice basic techniques like forehand shots, volleys and serving. We end almost every practice with a game called “Defender” – sort of like King of the Court – and they all groan when I say time is up. My 6th-8th graders work on skills and strategy. They play as many games as they can during the hour and half practice. I’ve literally had to blink the lights on them to get them to quit and go home.

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2016 Spring Swing Tournament Participants

We really are a pickleball school, as silly as it sounds. When my players traveled to Louisiana in May to compete, it was the farthest any of our athletic teams had ever traveled to compete. I have kindergarten parents stop me and tell me that they can’t wait for TWO years from now, when their child can start playing pickleball. One of our biggest challenges is that they don’t have the opportunity to compete against other students, or they aren’t really welcomed to enter in the 19+ division of tournaments. They are crazy about pickleball, and it’s so cool to see their development and growth in the sport. I love what the sport has done for our students and for our campus as a whole.

Thank you Anne for sharing how a program like yours can grow pickleball athletes!

The UK’s 1st International Tournament: To Pickle or Not to Pickle, That is the Question

Stratford-Upon-Avon in England is generally famous for one thing: Shakespeare. This is his birthplace, a town that can claim one of the greatest playwrights of our time as one of its own.

Now it has another equally important claim to fame: It was the host of the first ever international pickleball tournament in the United Kingdom on October 21-23rd. The tournament was organized by the UKPA and represents the first in a series to be hosted by the association.

UKPA International Tournament 2016

Pickleball on the International Stage

Any doubts about how big the sport has become in Europe and just how big it’s going to get were laid to rest by this truly international affair. 144 players from England, Wales, Canada, the U.S.A, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Germany and Ukraine all came together for this three-day event.

The result was a melting pot of styles, tactics and a crash course in how to swear in several European languages!

Over 400 games were played over the course of the three days with day one kicking off with the first-ever competitive singles tournament to be held in Europe. It was father against son, sibling versus sibling, doubles partner against doubles partner, it was an all-out war to win the first ever singles gold medal.

A Pickleball Master Class

The quality of play across the board was up there with Shakespeare’s greatest works, but the men’s under 40’s doubles final was undoubtedly one of the matches of the tournament. It was an admirable showing of power, skill and tactics between traditionally old rivals: the French and the Spanish.

After an intense three matches, the Spanish pairing eventually emerged victorious. Sacré bleu!

Due to the sheer number of games and players, the men’s final took place at 9pm on Saturday night. The number of competitors who stuck around to watch the final underlined the fantastic attitude and commitment players across the global have towards the sport.

UKPA International Tournament 2016

Passion and Enthusiasm

This commitment was echoed by every international player at the event. All had made the journey specifically for the tournament.

Few amateur sports invoke the same passion from players, the kind that sees people getting on planes or planning a holiday solely to get a few games of pickleball. Pickleball may not be as big in Europe as it is in the U.S, but it’s getting there, and what the Europeans lack in numbers, they certainly make up for in dedication and skill.

Who knows, in the near future we may be seeing the very first pickleball world championship or perhaps a pickleball Ryder Cup with the best in Europe against the best of the Americas.

Many congratulations to all the players and as one continental player said loudly and often, “Viva le Pickleball!”

Here are some more pictures of the dinking and drop shots from the weekend:

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Images courtesy of the UKPA and the competitors of the tournament.

If you’re heading over to the United Kingdom and are looking for your fix of pickleball, visit the UKPA’s website to arrange a game at a local club.

Meet The Pros – Tyler Sheffield

Meet The Pros: Tyler Sheffield

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

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

What paddle do you play with and why?

Onix Evoke

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

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

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

Outdoor

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

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

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

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

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

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

What’s your day job?

I am  retired as chief financial officer.

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

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

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No rituals.

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

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

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

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

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!