Why Wear a Pickleball Shoe?

Written by Kevin S., our in-house footwear expert and buyer

As pickleball continues to be one of the fastest growing sports we also see players evolve in their preference of gear. Just as many of us started playing with a wooden paddle until we saw the light and realized how much more control we got out of a composite paddle, we owe it to our feet to show them a similar jump in quality by switching out of a running shoe and putting on footwear specific to our sport. While there are no promises on an immediate improvement to your third shot drop with a pair of pickleball shoes on vs your typical running shoe, court shoes do provide improvements to stability, durability, and most importantly a reduced injury risk.

Let us start with the name: Is there a difference between a pickleball shoe, a tennis shoe, or a court shoe?

Easy answer here: No! You may have heard a few different terms used to describe the shoes you should wear while playing pickleball. The differences between them exist in name alone. As you may be aware, most people play pickleball on the same surface as a tennis court; with a big overlap in the range of motion needed from our footwear for each sport. Any tennis shoe is going to equip you perfectly for pickleball. For those who play on an indoor gym surface, a gum rubber shoe or a standard pickleball shoe are both suitable. Sometimes the term tennis shoe will refer to a general athletic shoe, so in place of this court shoe may be used to describe the footwear used for the sport. There is no reason so switch out of a tennis shoe and into a pickleball shoe, but many reasons to switch out of a trainer or running shoe and into a pickleball/tennis/court shoe.

Breaking down the benefits

Every running shoe and most trainers are designed for a limited range of motion: to go forwards and backwards. In pickleball almost every point is played with a great deal of lateral movement. Being able to pivot is very critical, and pickleball shoes are designed for just that. Putting your weight into the ball of your foot and trying to pivot left or right in a running shoe is fighting against the design of the shoe’s midsole, toe box, tread, and outsole. Losing this fight occurs when you twist your foot and instead of allowing this motion while keeping your foot stable, the shoe tips over and caves, easily leading to an ankle injury. You will often hear the term “stability” used with pickleball shoes and the idea is they allow for a range of motion, twisting, and pivoting while keeping your foot level and stable, avoiding risk of turning an ankle. A few design details help accomplish this goal.

  • Tread

The tread on the bottom of a pickleball shoe is most frequently a herringbone design, a term used to describe the squiggly pattern that lines the bottom of the shoe under the forefoot and heel. The tread of the shoe needs to allow you to start and stop quickly, pivot, lunge, backpedal, and exert your weight over many parts of the shoe. This is different from a running shoe that is designed for your weight to transfer only from your heel or midfoot to your toes in a natural running stride.

  • Stability Shank

To aid in keeping your foot stable, pickleball shoes feature a plastic shank that runs between the cushioning of your heel and the outsole. This shank runs from the back of the shoe up to about the forefoot and is visible from each side of the shoes and underneath. Some shoes also feature an additional plastic heel counter that restricts movement even further from your heel and ankle, a key component for anyone with prior ankle injuries looking for the most secure pickleball shoe they can get.

  • Drop

Running shoes often feature a slant called a heel toe drop, where the heel of the shoe is higher than the toe box. Most pickleball shoes feature close to a zero millimeter heel toe drop to allow you to pivot on your heels or forefoot without your weight being entirely distributed in one area or the other. This flat, low to the ground effect makes it hard to find a pickleball shoe with much arch support. A completely flat shoe is easier to pivot in than one with a heightened arch. Knowing many people require additional arch support to compensate for pronation, supination, or plantar fasciitis issues, all the insoles in pickleball shoes are removable, and able to be swapped with your own support insoles. We sell two insoles from Zelus, the Olympus Pro and Olympus Lite that offer a great combination of heightened arch support and cushioning. For someone needing a shoe with high arch support it is much safer to wear a pickleball shoe and put in a support insole rather than wearing a running shoe featuring a high arch.

  • Outsole

Another component of a pickleball shoe is the rubber used for the outsole that ensures durability over frequent use. This rubber is harder than the rubber in most athletic shoes and should stand the test of time against play and wear down at a much slower rate than a non-pickleball shoe.

Between a plastic shank and the hard rubber used to ensure durability pickleball shoes might not be as plush or soft as a running shoe but the benefits in stability, injury prevention, durability, and increased range of motion far outweigh the softer materials of a running shoe.

How to pick a pickleball shoe?

Every pickleball shoe will offer heightened stability, durability, and comfort compared to a normal athletic shoe. Pickleball shoe brands will often offer a very supportive and stable option as well as a lighter weight more comfort-oriented shoe. There are pros and cons to each and picking the one that fits your style of play is important. Using a lighter weight and softer rubber typically brings down the durability of a shoe. Adding a plastic heel counter for added support usually makes the shoe heavier overall. At the bottom of our Men’s and Women’s shoe pages is a shoe guide that lists information about each shoe that will help guide you in this decision.

Here you will see:

  • A classification of each shoe: Lightweight, Comfort, Durability, and Stability being the options
  • The weight of the shoe
  • The toe box width
  • Whether the shoe features a 6-month durability guarantee

As important as style is, we should consider these additional aspects of each shoe to pick the best pair for our pickleball needs.

To summarize

It takes little time to realize the benefits of upgrading from your first paddle; we should be aware of a similar improvement we can bring to our game by upgrading our footwear. You do not want to switch to a proper shoe only after you have experienced a predictable injury playing pickleball in a running shoe. It is not a piece of equipment reserved for the pro players while the rest of us are not good enough to feel the differences. Hopefully after reading along you understand the technology and differences in material used to construct a pickleball shoe and what benefits each component brings. Each brand makes pickleball shoes with different components all including a similar foundation. HEAD makes shoes with exceptional ventilation with their Sprint Pro, Revolt Pro, and Revolt EVO models. Wilson makes a shoe that sits as one of the most comfortable we carry while also being the lightest out of our lineup with their Kaos Swift. Babolat offers a wider fitting shoe with a very durable outsole with their SFX 3. K-Swiss has been a best-seller due to its elevated comfort, weight, and durability in their Express Light model. If you are curious at all of the differences between the shoes we offer or are looking for advice on how to select the shoe that will fit your game best, our customer service team is well trained to handle any and all inquiries to help make your buying experience easier. Stay tuned for more shoe content to come!

Get The Skinny On Slender Singles

If you’ve been playing pickleball for a while you’re probably already familiar with Skinny Singles. But have you heard of Slender Singles?

We’re not talking about a new dating site, cheese or type of currency! We’re sticking to pickleball 100% here with some creative ideas for different ways to play the game we all love, get a great workout and improve your pickleball skills.

Slender Singles

Skinny Singles?

In Skinny Singles, you only use half the court: either using diagonal courts and changing the diagonal side with each serve, or using half the court directly across from your opponent. There tends to be more dinking and doubles-like strategy in Skinny Singles, but with only one player on each side of the net. It’s a great way to help your doubles game and work on your skills since you really have to focus on ball placement.

What about “regular” singles? For many pickleball players, especially those coming from tennis, a singles match is a super fun way to enjoy competing against another player while getting an excellent workout, pounding out groundstrokes and making passing shots.

Singles is great for working on shot depth and control, aiming for the sidelines to keep your opponent moving. But for many people (especially those of us getting on in years who might have a few injuries or not be at our peak fitness levels), covering a full 20-foot wide court without a partner is a big ask. Sure, it’s much smaller than a tennis court, but it’s still a lot of ground to cover!

Try Out Slender Singles

Here’s where the new game of Slender Singles comes in! Using an 18-foot net (instead of the 22-foot regulation size pickleball net), players who would like to play full court singles but could use a break from all that extra running have a perfect solution.

By taking four feet off the court width and making it 16 feet instead of 20 feet wide (with the typical 1 foot of net extending beyond each court sideline), players can enjoy a regular singles match and last much longer since they have 20% less court to cover. Slender singles opens up the fun of singles to a much larger population of players who might otherwise feel that singles is just too darn hard.

Slender Singles Dimensions

The MultiNet System

It’s easy to see how the many benefits of playing singles stack up. You have to hit each ball and cover more area, so the cardio benefits result in a great workout. In addition, your consistency and accuracy will improve, which will in turn help your doubles game as well. The MultiNet 18’ Practice Net System is the perfect solution for Slender Singles.

Originally designed as a “Red Ball” tennis net for junior tennis, this net allows pickleball players with limited space to set up a slightly narrower court for singles or doubles drilling and match play. The net height can be adjusted from 30” all the way up to 68” tall, providing a versatile multi-sport solution that works for badminton, beach volleyball and other games, and an interesting training aid for working on pickleball lobs.

Slender Singles Match

If playing Slender Singles sizzles your senses, you might also want to consider an oversize or elongated paddle to help you reach those passing shots your opponent will surely be serving up. You’ll find over 20 of the most popular oversize paddles listed on our website here.

Paddle Sales from Big Manufacturers You Won’t Want to Miss Out On

In a time when many of us are keeping ourselves and others safe by staying isolated, portable nets and other products you can use at home are an enticing prospect. A paddle upgrade may not be at the top of your mind, however many paddle manufacturers have recently rolled out generous sales to entice buyers.

If you’ve ever been curious about trying out one of the bigger brand names but didn’t want to pay full price, or if you’re looking for more paddles to supply family members at home, now is a great time to take advantage of these deals.

Pickleball group

It’s a great time to find a paddle for everyone! (Credit: Senior Center at Northwood)

Remember that at PickleballCentral we have a 30-day test drive policy where you can purchase any paddle and use it for 30 days free of obligation. If you don’t decide you love the paddle within that time, just send it back and we’ll give you a full refund. Normal signs of usage are completely acceptable so long as there’s no extensive damage such as breaks or dents from improper play.

The following is a list of manufacturers currently running sales. Some of these will only be available while supplies last, and other have uncertain end dates, so be sure to jump on these offers while they’re here!

Engage: Many paddles 30% off. All Engage paddles have a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects and workmanship.

Gamma: Needle, RZR Graphite, Mirage Composite and Dart (Standard and Pink Ribbon Edition) all 20% off.  Paddles have a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects.

Paddletek: Free paddle cover ($16.99) with purchase of paddles. All paddles have a limited lifetime warranty against defects.

Pickle-ball Inc: $10-25 off most models. Up to $62 savings on 2-paddle bundles. 1-year warranty.

ProLite: Covert, Chrome N-R-G, Surface NRG, Cypher Pro and Rebel PowerSpin range from $14-30 off. Paddles have a 1-year warranty covering workmanship.

Selkirk: Entire AMPED line 20% off and Neo Composite Bundle on sale at 16% off. AMPED line has a lifetime warranty and Neo paddles have a 1-year warranty.

TOPP: All paddles $20 off. Lifetime warranty against defects.

Wilson: Profile Graphite, Surge Lite, Surge Pro, Tour, Tour Pro and Energy Pro all 35% off. 6-month warranty.

PPA Tour Kicks Off with Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier: Features $500k Overall Payout, Top Destinations

This year players of all skill levels will get to enjoy new avenues for intense competition and fun in the form of tours. The first series leading the way is the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) with their Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier at the Mesa Tennis Center in Arizona.

Starting today, the tournament will run through Sunday the 16th and host events for doubles and singles across gender, age and skill brackets.

 

The PPA is not USAPA-sanctioned, which will allow players to get a fresh start by accruing “PPA Points” to determine their ranking within the association’s system. The points will accumulate throughout the year based on players’ performances within each tournament and allow them to gain priority registration to the higher-paying grand slams. To see a breakdown of how these points are earned, click here.

The PPA Tour is taking its events seriously and drawing plenty of pro participation, as its name implies. Top players who will be competing include Ben Johns, Simone Jardim, Kyle Yates and Leigh Waters, among many others. Alongside the amateur brackets will be pro-only events that are sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Another unique draw for the pros and those watching them is the Pro Player’s Cup, where hand-selected teams consisting of 2 men, 2 women and a senior of each gender will engage in a double elimination tournament. These events will be played on the Friday of each grand slam tournament (Masters, Showcase and PPA Championship) to add even more excitement to the competition!

PPA Logo

The PPA has made the effort to showcase itself as a family-friendly environment where picklers will not only be playing hard but making the most of their downtime with top court venues, entertainment, dining options and opportunities for interaction with the pros.

The impressive prize purses have been drawing deserved attention as well, with each qualifier offering $55k pools and the grand slams ranging from $100-150k. Players can also take part in raffles, games and other smaller (but no less enjoyable) ways to win. PickleballCentral is currently providing a pop-up store at the Mesa Qualifier as one of PPA’s sponsors, so if you’re taking part be sure to drop by and give us a wave!

If you weren’t able to make it to AZ but are still interested in getting in on all the fun, the next few PPA events are still accepting registrations. They are as follows:

Georgia Open at Life Time, March 26-29

Dallas Grand Slam Qualifier, April 2-5

The Masters Grand Slam (Phoenix), May 13-17

For a full list of upcoming events on the PPA Tour, visit their site here. Follow the latest happenings at the Mesa Qualifier at PPA’s Facebook page and check out some of the amazing pro matches while you’re at it.

Will you be making a stop at any of the PPA Tour’s locations? If so, we hope to see you there! Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments.

OneShot Brings Together Value and Quality in Expanding Paddle Line

OneShot Pickleball is owned by two pickleball-obsessed families and has all the positive hallmarks of a smaller business: great customer care, passion for the sport and attention to quality. But they combine these attributes with a strong system for QA and a focus on making products accessible to players of all strokes.

OneShot Pickleball

Coming from tennis backgrounds and dedicated to welcoming a broad spectrum of players to pickleball, OneShot is an impressive, growing company that’s just released their line’s first graphite paddle (the ProShot) and offers the only youth-centered paddle using high quality materials (the JuniorShot).

Owners Oscar and John were able to take some time with us to provide more background on their company and we’re excited to share:

Why did you decide to enter the pickleball industry?

Our families met playing pickleball at Greenlake in Seattle almost 2 years ago. Oscar and John hit it off immediately with their style of play resembling tennis players. The families met soon after and it’s been non-stop fun playing and growing a business together with something all of us were passionate about. We thought it shouldn’t take a small fortune to buy multiple paddles for the game we loved. So we decided to create a paddle that was affordable for all styles of play and for all skill levels from beginners to pro players.

JuniorShot

JuniorShot

How did you come up with your paddles’ designs? 

We were all interested in finding a paddle that resembled a tennis racquet due to our backgrounds and the familiar shape and feel. There were one or two we thought came close, but we also wondered, “Why not create one ourselves?” So we developed a paddle that could benefit both tennis and pickleball players. We engineered a paddle with a slightly longer handle and elongated face to resemble what we thought a tennis racquet would look like in a pickleball paddle form.

What makes your paddles unique?

We use fiberglass faces and polymer core materials that are similar to our competitors, but we believed these should also be affordable for our customers. Performance-wise, we would say it’s the same or better than other paddles. We use a slightly heavier core but made it balanced through the middle, so while playing it feels light but also has enough weight to really power through a solid drive, volley or punishing groundstroke.

UltimateShot

UltimateShot

What should players expect when it comes to the feel of your products?

Overall, our paddles are known for having a solid “pop” and large sweet spots. We have various models that combine power and control to find the right balance for each player’s game. Our face roughness is also a huge factor that we developed to make sure we had the maximum roughness allowed by the USAPA. Our solid grip will provide each player better blocks, turning those into winning volleys and finesse shots dink after dink
.

ProShot

ProShot

Are there currently any pro players using your paddles?

We have who we believe are two young, up-and-coming pros in Michelle Lui and Lukas Crippen. Given more time to play at a higher level we believe these two will excel. Michelle likes the Powershot because she can rip her 2-handed backhand and Lukas likes the Ultimateshot for the soft feel of the finesse game, but if you give him an overhead, watch out!

Anything else you’d like to add to share?

We believe that the growth of the sport comes from our youth. Therefore, we designed the first playable paddles for kids in the market: the Juniorshot. We offer 2 options for this paddle 1) The U8; suggested for ages 2-7 years old and 2) The U12 (USAPA Approved); suggested for ages 7-11.

Last but not least, we are launching our first graphite paddle, the “Proshot.” We believe from the response we have received from our team that this is the paddle of choice for a lot of players. It is so well balanced and powered that in the right hands we believe will bring your game to the next level.

2019 Pickleball Holiday Gift Guide

When it comes to gifting, sometimes you have the perfect present in mind and others you’re left scratching your head. For those who need a little more help picking something that will be fun, useful and appreciated by the pickler(s) in their life, we have a handy solution: our PickleballCentral gift guides!

Browse below to see some of our most popular and functional products for everyone on your list. Click the links for even more options than those listed here. If you really want to narrow down some suggestions, you can always give us a ring at 888-854-0163 to chat with our knowledgeable reps. Enjoy!

Pickleball Luxury Gifts

Luxury Gifts

A. Douglas Premier PPS-22SQ Portable Pickleball Net System – A super heavy duty option that has all the benefits of a permanent net but with the convenience of wheels.

B. Pickleball Tutor Plus – A light ball machine that has top and backspin capacity, random oscillation and a 2-line feature for side-to-side shots or practicing with friends.

C. Quick Cart Plus – Holds up to 150 pickleballs with an additional storage area underneath. Convenient wheels and sturdy construction keep your equipment safe.

D. Selkirk TOUR Backpack – Four major compartments, including one with insulation and a vented section on the bottom for storing shoes.

E. Lobster Pickle Ball Machine – Speeds of up to 60 mph with random oscillation and multiple charging options so you don’t have to stop drilling.

Women’s Pickleball Gifts

Women's Gifts

A. Margaritaville Tote Bag – Bright and breezy design that includes a zippered interior compartment and a separate shoe bag with multiple ways to carry it.

B. GAMMA Shard Graphite Paddle – The small grip is ideal for easy maneuvering and the lighter weight keeps it quick at the net. Highly reactive face with power despite its speed.

C. Sterling Silver Pickleball Hoop Dangle Earrings – Classy, high quality earrings with an extra punch of pickleball style. Measure about 1″ in diameter.

D. History of Pickleball: More Than 50 Years of Fun! – A unique look into pickleball’s rise in popularity, written by pro player Jennifer Lucore and featuring interviews with major figures in the sport’s history.

E. Pickleball Holiday Shirt – Featuring a cute tree made out of pickleballs, this shirt helps spread holiday love and cheer among other players.

Men’s Pickleball Gifts

Men's Gifts

A. Viking Shirt – A fun and cheeky design that shows a powerful viking slicing open a pickleball and telling his opponents to “Dink Again.”

B. Pickleball Bottle Opener – For the player who’s into good games and good drinks (maybe not at the same time), this bottle opener is a handy accessory to have available.

C. Tour Team Pickleball Supercombi Bag – A large and versatile bag with plenty of space and an eye-catching look. Various ways to carry it comfortably.

D. Large Titan Edition Black Diamond Series Paddle – A broad surface area and hefty weight give this paddle a head-weighted feel similar to a tennis racquet.

E. Kollectaball K-Max Ball Collector – The ultimate item for convenient clean-up on the courts. Roll over wayward pickleballs to gather them without a sore back.

Pickleball Stocking Stuffers

Stocking Stuffers

A. Pickle Hard Candy – Go the untraditional route this holiday season and ditch the mints for these candies flavored like sweet pickles.

B. Pickle Mints – Keep your breath fresh with a twist using these surprising pickle mints that are perfect for sharing with friends.

C. Pickleball Keychain – Can also be used as a zipper pull on bags or other gear. A great way to add some pickleball bling to other items.

D. GAMMA Supreme Pickleball Overgrip – Deck out a paddle for the holidays! Just wrap overgrips on top of a handle for more cushioning, tack and style.

E. Santa Pickle Ornament – Santa gets a pickleball-themed makeover with this silly yet endearing ornament that will find a home on any pickler’s tree.

Local Pickleball Guide – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque has some of the largest dedicated pickleball court facilities across the country, and best of all, they’re mostly free! This desert jewel hosted the National Senior Games at the Manzano Mesa courts in June 2019, and now you can enjoy playing in the same location at your leisure. The largest club in Albuquerque (ABQ Pickleball) has over 850 members, so friendly fun and competition are in abundant supply.

Abq Pickleball Club Courts

Albuquerque Pickleball Club (Credit)

Places to Play in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The city of Albuquerque has a map of numerous court locations on their website. A partial selection of the courts are listed here.

Manzano Mesa – Eighteen outdoor courts (six lighted). Free to use and open daily from 6am – 10pm. Scheduled events at Abqpickleball.com.
Villela Park – Six outdoor courts. Free drop in play, open 6am – 10pm.
Los Altos Park – Six lit tennis courts with pickleball lines (12 courts if all used for pickleball). Bring your own portable net. Free to use.
Cesar Chavez Community Center – Four indoor courts. Weekdays except Thurs open play 8:30 -11:30am, Thurs 5:30 – 7:30pm.
Thomas Bell Community Center – Three indoor courts. Pickleball open play on Thursdays from 9:30am – 12pm.

USAPA Ambassadors: Albuquerque

Larry Lite — larrybudlite@usapa.org, 505-331-2014
Joyce Paulsen — healthyjoyce@gmail.com
Gary Rutherford — ruthergary@aol.com, 505-292-5114 or 505-507-3663

Albuquerque Court Construction Companies

DML, Inc.
General Acrylics
Elite Sports Builders

Albuquerque, NM Pickleball Clubs

ABQ Pickleball

ABQ Pickleball

Ruidoso Pickleball
Ruidoso Pickleball Club (~2-1/2 hrs S of Albuquerque)

Angel Fire Pickleball

Angel Fire Pickleball Club (~3 hrs N of Albuquerque)

Pickleball Tournaments in Albuquerque, New Mexico

ABQ Labor Day Classic
New Mexico Games
Ruidoso Pickleball Championships (Ruidoso)
Beat the Heat Tournament (Angel Fire)

Albuquerque Pickleball Related News and Videos

Destination Pickleball Southwest
Pickleball Is Latest Racket in Town
A Match of Pickleball, Anyone?
Hunsberger Strikes Gold in Albuquerque
Ruidoso Pickleball Club Active Year-Round and Growing Fast

How to Escape “Error Snowballs” and Improve Your Pickleball Technique

You’ll often hear that the most important piece of advice in pickleball is avoiding “unforced errors.” There are many training techniques that center around this concept such as “percentage pickleball,” where one uses shots and tactics which are statistically more reliable rather than attempting risky maneuvers that could just as easily go in the other team’s favor. The idea is to keep the ball in play and let your opponents make the mistakes.

This is a simple concept to grasp, but when you try to break it down, it can be harder to determine where, exactly, your original mistake was made. Learning how and why you made a mistake can go a long way towards improving your game and making it more consistent in the future. Some will point to the final moments of play as the main area for analysis, but in fact, you may need to look even earlier to find out what went wrong.

This idea is elegantly shown in video from Tony of In2Pickle. In it, one of the players seemingly loses a point because her paddle wasn’t in a high, ready position. But Tony expresses that the team made several mistakes much earlier than that, which ended up making the final exchange more difficult to defend and placed them in a disadvantageous position.

Watch this concise and helpful video for a full breakdown. To sum up: The main problem starts with Kathie (in the back left side of the court) making a short return serve. This is due to her standing too close to the baseline and having to move back to make the return, resulting in less power in the ball.

This then snowballs into a series of advantages for the opposing team. The offense steps closer to the kitchen and gains more court coverage, while Kathie is still stuck in no man’s land for her next volley. She is forced to hit the ball in an upward arc, which allows her opponent to poach it and further reduce the amount of time Kathie has to get in position.

If you can work out small technical errors in your game like this, then there are much fewer opportunities for the other team to seize an opening. That’s why learning and utilizing basic good practices is so important, including something as simple as knowing where to stand during a serve to maximize your return.

Have you ever taken the opportunity to analyze your games and discover what simple good practices you might be overlooking? Try it, and have a more seasoned player help out if possible! You might be surprised by what you find and how little changes can make big improvements in your game.

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.”

Middletown – Pickleball Capital of Ohio

Middletown – Pickleball Capitol of Ohio

Middletown loves pickleball, and based on the claim they made in the local newspaper, their town has the most pickleball courts in the entire state: 16 total with 2 more on the way. (This is one more than Mentor, OH.)

With plenty of volunteer and community support for the game, the Middletown Community Fund gave the association a $1,500 grant last year to aid in expanding the courts, said Traci Barnett, executive director.

The association hosted the 12th annual Middletown Senior Pickleball Tournament on August 1-3. Open-aged singles played first followed by senior players (50 and older) playing doubles and mixed doubles.

The tournament had a record 268 registered players from eight states. Five years ago, the tournament drew 112 players.

Are there more “Pickleball Capitals” out there? Let’s start a “Bragging Rights” post.

Is your town the pickleball capital of your state? Tell us why.