Pickleball Youth Leagues on the Rise, Bring New Talent to the Game

Pickleball is a fantastic hobby for young players for the same reasons it’s great for adults—the nature of the game is a strong equalizer which lowers the barrier to entry, both financially (for their parents) and from a skill-based perspective.

Many players have come to pickleball not only from other racquet sports but from non-sporting backgrounds entirely, which makes it ideal for kids who don’t consider themselves particularly athletic. Bring the game to a school gym or community center, and time and again, we’ve seen young players take to the sport like it’s second nature.

As noted by Beverly Youngren of the Carlsbad Pickleball group, “While older competitors are often former tennis players looking for a sport that’s easier on the knees, young players often go the other way. They become confident at pickleball and move on to tennis.

“You can see the glimmer in their eyes, and they say, ‘I can do this.’ ”

Carlsbad Pickleball hosted their first tournament for youth in December 2016.

“We had other youths that wanted to play, but I had to cut it off because there [aren’t] enough courts.”

At PickleballCentral we’ve seen this trend continue to grow as clubs open up enrollment to kids and start classes or leagues specifically for them. Even manufacturers have started to take note, with some businesses like Paddletek creating paddles specifically for younger players (see the Ranger).

We’re always happy to see players of any age take up pickleball, but it’s especially exciting to know the next generation will be bringing some fresh talent to the courts.

Jack Munro

Jack Munro won US Open gold

Younger players have already been engaging in more competitive events as well. One particularly fun example is that of 12-year-old Jack Munro, who won gold with 69-year-old JoAnne Russell in the 2017 US Open Mixed Doubles.

They were respectively the youngest and oldest competitors in the 19-49 group!

The USAPA launched a Juniors Division in 2016 which was kicked off at the USAPA Nationals VIII Tournament where the kids got a chance to play with pros. You can find additional resources and information on the USAPA site specifically for junior players or those interested in promoting the game to a younger demographic.

Check out some of the amazing play from these up-and-comers at the Nationals VIII Tournament:

From both official tournaments to local initiatives, we know pickleball can only benefit from more youth involvement.

If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out our articles on the Yavapai Detention Center and Ontario Pickleball Club. Both of these groups are great examples of local pickleball associations that have taken the initiative to provide healthy outlets to kids in their community.

We’re glad that existing pickleball communities are welcoming young players with open arms. Do you know of any youth programs or leagues started up in your community? If so, let us know in the comments!

 

Pickleball Hall of Fame – And the Nominees Are…

It is time to recognize the people who have made huge contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball. The new Pickleball Hall of Fame has been created to recognize the “best of the best,” the best competitors, the best volunteers, the best creative minds in the international sport of pickleball. The Pickleball Hall of Fame has invited the pickleball community to nominate exceptional individuals who deserve recognition. You are invited to attend the Hall of Fame Dinner in Casa Grande, Arizona on Friday, November 10th at 8:00 pm, following the USAPA National Championships.  

The Pickleball Hall of Fame Nominating Committee has chosen ten individuals as finalists. The 2017 Nominees in alphabetical order are:

Bill Bell

Bill Bell

Bill Bell

Bill Bell was a successful businessman. He obtained the nickel concession for International Nickel and spent a lot of time traveling in Indonesia. Bill and his family were regular guests of Joel Pritchard. During one of his two-week stays at the cottage in 1965, that’s when the game of pickleball was invented. It was Bill and Joel who tried out different plastic balls that first day. He and Joel invented the game of pickleball, but right away they invited Barney McCallum to be a partner in Pickle-Ball, Inc.

Joel, Barney and Bill wrote the first set of official rules for the game that first two weeks. During his international travels, he would ask Barney McCallum to send a complimentary set to someone Bell met in his travels, helping the game of pickleball to grow internationally.

 

Mark “Yoda” Friedenburg

Mark Friedenberg

Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg

Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg has been competing for 40 years and is a USAPA National Gold Medal Champion. He was involved in the USAPA early on as a board member and became the first president of the new USAPA in 2005. He has continued to serve on the USAPA Ratings and Rankings Committee.  He owned and operated the  Pro-Lite Sports company continuing the legacy begun by Arlen Paranto of producing quality composite pickleball paddles.

Mark has been a mainstay in pickleball as a pickleball pro, a stellar tournament organizer, a premier pickleball instructor and author of “The Official Pickleball Handbook”.  On the court he has always conducted himself with class and a great sense of humor.  He has showed great prowess as competitor in tournaments and has often medaled against some of the best competition in the nation. He has earned the name “Yoda” for his skill in the game and in his work as an instructor. Our sport would not be what it is today without the impact of competitor Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg.

Alice “Jo” Hancock

Jo Hancock

Jo Hancock at the 2016 USAPA Nationals

The heart of every pickleball event is found in the dedicated volunteers. Jo Hancock has taught pickleball at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise Arizona for many years. When Earl Hill started a USAPA membership drive, she was the first to sign up. She has consistently demonstrated great sportsmanship, and always had room for one more at her house. Jo is “creme de la creme” in the world of pickleball tournaments!  When members of Arizona Traditions pickleball club decided it was time to organize the first Senior Olympics, Jo was there helping organized volunteers and finding homes for players to stay during the tournament. These kinds of big events couldn’t happen without volunteer referees. Jo made herself available to referee or serve as linesman in every tournament she entered. Jo has been a terrific competitor as well. She won 149 medals in the 15 years of competing in pickleball tournaments. Some of her best wins were at The Huntsman National Senior Games and The USAPA Nationals.  Everybody knows Jo Hancock.

Billy Jacobsen

Billy Jacobsen

Billy Jacobsen, 2009 USAPA Nationals

Billy Jacobsen’s name is synonymous with “Pickleball Pro”. Everybody knows Billy. He has played in at least one pickleball tournament a year for 35 years in a row. That is quite a rare distinction! This is what nominator Wes Gabrielsen has to say about Billy Jacobsen:  “Despite some physical challenges, including hearing loss and chronic Type 1 diabetes, Billy Jacobsen dominated in pickleball tournaments for many years. Billy was a successful high school and college tennis player, eventually playing for the University of Washington Tennis team. His stellar tennis skills transferred easily to pickleball and he began to find tremendous success on the court. Due to his impressive performances, medal finishes, the grit he shows by playing through some tough physical limitations exemplify why he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The history of pickleball cannot be written without including Billy’s name and accomplishments with it.

Robert (Bob) Lanius

Bob Lanius

Bob Lanius, photo credit: Pickleball Channel

Robert “Bob” Lanius, owner and developer of the Pickleball Tournaments website started working on medical research systems development while still in college. He graduated with in the first Computer Science BA class from the University of Texas in Austin. Bob continued working in developing medical research and hospital information systems through the ’80s.  He worked for Microsoft as a consultant in the ’90s from the Dallas office and relocated to Redmond, Washington as a project manager for international clients. After Microsoft, Bob started his own consulting business.

Bob and  his wife Jettye were introduced to pickleball in 2000. Their RV travels took them all over the country, organizing events and spreading the word of pickleball.  They eventually settled in the Happy Trails community in Surprise, Arizona. Bob designed the Happy Trails Pickleball Club website in 2004, where he reported complete tournament results and events around the country.  He has served as commissioner for the Arizona Senior Olympics and Grand Canyon State Games. Bob’s  PickleballTournaments system has been used to manage hundreds of pickleball tournaments in the USA and worldwide.

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum graduated from the University of Washington in 1950. He had $10, half a tank of gas and one job offer – selling envelopes. He was a top-notch salesman at the Griffin Envelope Company. He eventually ventured out on his own firm named McCallum Envelope Company & Printing Co. Barney’s past accomplishments include several patents. He had a knack for determining a need and filling a niche. On Bainbridge Island, when Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell decided to go into business together to produce pickleball equipment, they knew they needed help and both agreed they needed Barney, so they walked right over to his house and enlisted him in their new project, Pickle-Ball Inc.

Barney was the driver of equipment development – figuring out how to cut paddles, what wood to use, where to buy everything. He experimented with all kinds of materials for paddles. He worked diligently in helping to create the rules and was the major force, with Jim Weller, behind creating the double bounce and non-volley zone rules. Barney personally composed a one-page set of rules included in each $29.50 retail set that started the explosive growth of this new game of pickleball. He set up a business relationship with Cosom for the pickleballs and hired NW Center of Handicap in Seattle to make the wood paddles. He and his wife Carol attended trade shows to promote the game.

Barney said the great thing about pickleball is the good balance between offense and defense. Barney proudly shared, “…the biggest pleasure for me about the game, besides meeting a lot of wonderful people, is seeing people not involved in any athletics at all taking up the game.  I have people tell me how pickleball changed their lives, how they never did a thing with sports before but they can play pickleball. That’s quite a reward.”

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto is a retired Boeing engineer. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota where he learned early the importance of being able to fix everything himself. Arlen went to work for Boeing in the early 50’s. He worked his way up through the machine shops to supervising engineer without a college education. He was Supervisor of the Year in 1986. Arlen was always coming up with ways to fix things and make them better, which led to his being made head of  the Cost Savings Division at Boeing. Arlen got involved with pickleball in the early 80’s. This was the time when Sid Williams was forming the United States “Amateur” Pickleball Association.

Arlen loved the sport so much, and knew he could make the sport even more fun.  Soon, he was making prototype paddles using space age material that Boeing used as floor paneling in their jet aircraft. The honeycomb core made the paddles lighter than wood and gave them a bigger sweet spot. The first composite pickleball paddle made it easier for all skill levels to enjoy the sport at a all levels. This prototype paddle became the Pro-lite paddle company.  Arlen made the first composite paddles in his garage in Eatonville, Washington. He was also on the first committee to come up with the rule book for tournament play and helped design portable net systems. With his new composite paddle, he competed in the Washington State Senior games, and continued to play into his early 80’s. He still enjoys keeping up with the sport and is truly amazed with the growth of the sport and the level of today’s play.

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard was a delegate to the Republic National Convention in 1956 that nominated Dwight Eisenhower for President. That began his political career. He was a six-term U.S. Representative from Seattle from 1959-1967 and a two-term Washington Lt. Governor 1989-1997. Despite all his political accomplishments, the game with a funny name, pickleball, may carry his widest-reaching legacy.

Along with a few of his friends, Joel Pritchard invented the game of pickleball at his house in 1965. After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together (USAPA History of the Game).

Joel Pritchard and several friends filed articles of incorporation for Pickle-Ball, Inc. in 1968. Joel introduced pickleball to his fellow legislators, and organized social events like softball and pickleball for House members. He attended many of the tournaments in Seattle/Tacoma area when his scheduled allowed. According to Sid Williams,” Joel was always gracious and presented the awards to the players.” Sid presented him with a plaque, “The Father of Pickleball,” to honor all his work promoting pickleball.

Martha Wassermann

Martha Wasserman

Martha Wasserman

Martha was introduced to pickleball in 2002 and became a community pickleball organizer for seven years. She is known for both her competitive spirit and exemplary sportsmanship. She started playing in tournaments in 2003, and has proven to be a formidable opponent. Martha was one of the first two female players in Arizona that moved up to the 5.0 level of tournament play. She won Gold in USAPA National tournaments from 2006-2009. Martha volunteered to help the USAPA with entry of Tournament Results and has served on the USAPA Rating Committee.  She is currently working to grow pickleball where she lives in Michigan by hosting a clinic and pursuing the re-purposing of some High School tennis courts.

Martha has coordinated fund raisers to purchase pickleballs for her local club. She was instrumental in developing a schedule for ladder, round robin and drop-in play. Martha’s organizational skills helped her club design and build their first dedicated courts. Membership exploded with the dedicated courts and over time 10 more courts were added.   Martha traveled to South Africa where she introduced the game of pickleball to children at the Open Arms Orphanage.

Sid Williams

Sid Williams

Sid Williams

In 1980, Sid Williams was employed as a civilian at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. When Sid was introduced to pickleball, he thought it was a “wimpy” sport. “I found out differently, once I got out on the court,” Williams said. “I was sore for two days. It’s a good workout, a good aerobic exercise…”  (source The Seattle Times, 8/24/1990) Anyone who played pickleball in the Seattle/Tacoma area, especially in the early years, would have known Sid Williams and his passion for pickleball. Many feel Sid is one of the key people that brought the game of pickleball out from the family backyard and into national recognition.

In 1982 he started organizing tournaments and teaching pickleball. He had extensive experience doing the same in racquetball and remarked: “Teaching racquetball and teaching pickleball is not that much different – just demonstrate what the sport is about.” His goal was to make pickleball a recognizable household word worldwide. He was the first Executive Director and President of US Amateur Pickleball Association and served from 1984 to 1998. The name was changed to the US America Pickleball Association (USAPA), which was organized to promote the growth and development of pickleball. During his tenure, the USAPA developed a ranking system, expanded the official rules, offered free instructional clinics and seminars, promoted pickleball at inter-collegiate and intramural levels of competition, published a quarterly newsletter and began establishing representatives to cover the sport at the national level. He continued his involvement in pickleball until 1995.

Many thanks to the pickleball community members who presented these candidates for consideration. We honor  and greatly appreciate all of these ten nominees for their contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball. 

The Pickleball Magazine Provides the Latest and Greatest in Pickleball Trends

Pickleball Magazine continues to offer excellent articles about pickleball trends, best places to play and tournament features. In the latest issue, Wayne Dollard, publisher of Pickleball Magazine, shares his personal experience in “Building Your Dream Court.” Wayne shares the main reasons he considered building a home court, which include having a place for parties and social gatherings.

He also shares the list of things to consider before building a court, like space and cost. Excellent photos are included showing the stages of building the court, as well as a check list with a price breakdown. This article is definitely one of the best for explaining everything that goes into building a home court. The USAPA has also published a book, “Pickleball Courts: A Construction & Maintenance Manual,” that is helpful on this topic.

The Oct/Nov 2017 issue also contains two USAPA announcements: A Major Region Restructure for 2018 and the new USAPA Sanctioned League Play. It also has a great Q & A page “The Rules Guru” that answers some complex questions about the interpretation of the IFP Official Tournament Rulebook.

We enjoy hearing feedback from Pickleball Magazine subscribers. Here are some of our most recent customer reviews:

“This is a terrific magazine, and I’ve been passing it around the club for others to read. There is a good variety of articles, and the photos and physical pages are high quality! Personally, I would love to see more intermediate skills advancement articles, as well as product reviews.”

“I’m picking up useful tips from this magazine that are improving my game.
I highly recommend a subscription.”

A fellow pickleballer gave me a copy and it’s so informative to me (as a beginner trying to ‘catch on to how the game is played).
Articles with information are so appreciated”

Every Pickleball Magazine issue contains training tips from some of the best trainers in the country. Who doesn’t want to learn how to “Run Down a Lob Safely” with Sarah Ansboury or “Hit Down the Middle” thanks to Coach Mo? Subscribe today, and if you are already a subscriber, make sure your subscription does not expire.  You cannot afford to miss an issue!

.

 

The Pickleball Haven at Camp West Fork

If you are looking for a pickleball getaway, look no further than Camp West Fork in Montana. Situated a mere 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 7 miles from the sky runs of Big Sky, Camp West Fork is an ideal vacation spot for pickleball fanatics.

paradise small.jpg

Not only do you get to bask in the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountainside, but temperatures are the perfect conditions for pickleball. This is especially true during the months of summer where daytime temperatures reach upwards of the 70’s. During the summer season, the sun illuminates the sky until 9:30 at night, when the temperatures drop to a high of the 50’s. That makes almost any time of the day the perfect time to play pickleball.

Camp West Fork has everything a pickleball lover would desire – a beautiful backdrop, ideal temperatures, and of course…a court! Although the first two have everything to do with Mother Nature, the second is thanks to a couple who fell in love with pickleball, Barry and Zoe Silverman.

bzoe

From Courtship to Pickleball Court

The couple first bonded over their love of fly-fishing. Taken away by the beauty that is Montana, the twosome decided to do more of what they love. They purchased a 26 foot Jayco bumper pull bunk house trailer. They attached the rig to a pickup truck, and a lifetime of adventure began.

Five years into their adventure, the two purchased a co-op in Orange County, California called Laguna Woods. They did this as a way to keep their dogs away from Montana’s “mud season.”

While spending time at Laguna Woods, Barry and Zoe stumbled upon some people playing pickleball. With the encouragement of the pickleball players, the Silvermans picked up a paddle and never looked back.

barryzoe

What drew Barry to the sport was its correlation to ping pong. His father, George Silverman, served the United States Army during World War II. During his time of service, Mr. Silverman became quite the accomplished ping pong player.

As Barry fondly remembered, “He drilled me on the proper strokes and strategies for tournament level play.  I maintain that ping pong is THE closest game of all to pickleball and strategies and shots translate very well.”

me and dad

Barry with his father, George

From Passion to Pet Project

Following a great mud season in Laguna, the Silvermans headed back to Big Sky, where they brought along their newfound passion. Barry remembered coming back to the resort and meeting with the parks department.

He suggested, “That one of the four public tennis courts be lined as a dual purpose venue to accommodate both tennis and pickleball.  They were quite receptive and we soon had two pickleball courts on which we put USAPA’s temporary nets.  They gave us a grant which helped purchase the nets.”

Located on the west fork of the Gallatin River, Camp West Fork was born.

scott & Daniel with air t

Barry’s passion led him down a path of DIY extremes. Taking the bull by the horns, the Silvermans held this project close to their hearts. They jumped right on the renovations.

As Barry recalled, “I acted as the general contractor on the project and brought my concrete from Belgrade, my court painter and fencer from Polson and ordered equipment from Tennis Court Supply.” The pickleball fanatic beamed with pride. “Scott Moore, National champion and all around great guy, called ours ‘the prettiest courts I have ever played on.’”

The evolution of the pickleball courts continued.

winners

As Barry explained, “A few years later, we decided to put two courts on our property. We wanted dedicated courts and felt that our 14 acre property was a perfect venue for pickleball courts and the social aspect they provide.”

From Idea to Reality

With courts in place, now all Camp West Fork needed was people to play on them.

Barry and his wife discussed how to go about this endeavor. “After much thought, my wife and I decided that the best avenue for growth of pickleball in our community of 2,500 permanent residents would be by forming a club and charging a token annual fee for membership.”

With an official pickleball league in place, the twosome decided to turn Camp West Fork into the ultimate pickleball destination by offering pickleball boot camps.

Scott & Daniel 1

The concept of holding a pickleball camp was first sparked from a conversation with aforementioned pickleball player, Scott Moore.

Barry spoke about the conversation:

“We began talking to Scott Moore about ordering PaddleTek paddles and showed him pictures of the property while sharing our vision of hosting pickleball training camps.  I hold downhill skiing boot camps for my good friends, as I am a certified PSIA instructor.  I found the total immersion they received was so helpful for their skiing that it seemed only natural to offer it to pickleball players as well.  Scott immediately jumped on the concept and we put the first camp together.”

As Barry put it, pickleball boot camp is a total immersion in pickleball covering theory, strategy, stroke analysis, shot selection… just about every facet of the game.  We begin each morning with stretching and warm up.  We work on paddle skills, hand eye coordination and then focus on a single skill each day.

“We hold two planned pickleball sessions daily with the morning being the most focused and intense.  We incorporate training aids, some of which we have developed here exclusively for our campers.  We have a Simon ball machine, which campers can sign up for to practice specific shots.  Afternoons are geared towards open play and utilizing their newly acquired skills.

“We also video tape every camper in a competitive game and analyze their performance with them.  Our final day, we bring in local players from our club to hold a round robin tournament on the two courts.  We can always find players of just the right level to push our campers and test their new skills and strategies in a real live situation.”

Guests usually participate in two sessions a day.  The morning session runs from 8-11 and the afternoon from 3-5.

girls at ousel falls

If you would like to learn more about Camp West Fork Pickleball, including rates for accommodations, please visit their official website.

Quad Cities Pickleball Club – For the Love of the Game!

The Quad Cities Pickleball Club (QCPC) has recently launched a youth program and a youth clinic in the Quad Cities.  Here is their story, provided by QCPC member Ruth Senneff. Enjoy! 

Introducing the Quad Cities Pickleball Club

The cities of Bettendorf and Davenport are Mississippi River towns on the Iowa side of the river, and the cities of Rock Island, Moline and East Moline are on the Illinois side. These are the major cities in the Quad Cities, and there are about 20+ other communities in the local area. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club draws most of its members from 4 counties and 25 different towns/cities. The club has close to 450 members, and we think 2-3 times more people play the game locally. Pickleball is a hit in the Quad Cities!

How Pickleball Got Started in the Quad Cities

In 2007, a couple of friends from the area spent some time in The Villages over the winter months. Back in town, they would talk about this fun game of pickleball being played down there and wished they could get it going in the Quad Cities. When some players approached both Bettendorf and Davenport Park Boards about the sport, Davenport stepped up to the plate first and marked 3 courts at Northwest Park. Since NW Park is adjacent to the Duck Creek Bike Trail, people would stop their bikes and ask about the game. In June of 2008, a clinic was held at the courts to teach this new sport and to gauge interest from the QC community. A local newspaper, the Quad City Times, covered the clinic and printed an article about it.

The local pickleball craze was on its way. Lines were soon put down on a tennis court in nearby Bettendorf. Dean Easterlund was the first area USAPA Ambassador. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club was organized in 2013 as a nonprofit with a board of directors and about 80 members. Dean served as president of the club the first two years, established our website, and worked with city leaders in getting our first six dedicated courts in Bettendorf in the fall of 2013. Just a few miles to the north, the City of Eldridge, Iowa, put in six lighted dedicated courts the following year, followed by six more on the Illinois side at Mel McKay Park in Rock Island. In 2015, the City of Davenport put in 8 dedicated courts on the original spot where play began.

Bettendorf School District and the City built six dedicated courts on the Middle School campus in 2016, and we celebrated those new courts with school administration, city staff and some youth in June.

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Silvis, Illinois now has 2 dedicated courts — making a total of 34 dedicated courts in the Quad City area. With our indoor venues, we have close to 90 courts available, and pickleball is easily accessible year-round, without the need for a membership in a retirement community or athletic club — although a membership option is available at the Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club.

Growing Pickleball In the Quad Cities

The area has 5 USAPA Ambassadors living in Bettendorf, Davenport, and DeWitt, Iowa; and Coal Valley and Geneseo, Illinois. Although from different towns and across state lines, these ambassadors work very well together, supporting pickleball initiatives all across the QC. Three of the ambassadors are tournament directors. Our Paddlewheel Tournament and the area’s American Cancer Society Charity Tournament are growing in participation each year. Last year the QCPC managed the pickleball games for the regional Iowa Winter Sr. Olympics held in Rock Island. The QCPC also manages the pickleball games for the local Sr Olympics each June as well, where the pickleball event continues to be the largest event in the Olympics.

Currently, we are looking at the possibility of hosting a regional pickleball tournament in the future, and what that would require in preparation. The Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club is a venue capable of handling such a tournament, as well as BettPlex, a regional sports complex currently under construction in Bettendorf. Our cities lie right along I-80 and 1-74, and a local airport serves both United and Delta, making the area easily accessible for our tournamets or pickleball visitors.

Our current president, Larry Miller, has a big vision for pickleball in the area.  Larry is a IPTPA-certified trainer, and has set up a training program for all levels, using local trainers as well as bringing in national pros. Last year Coach Russell conducted a clinic. In June we hosted Dave Weinbach and Stephanie & LeEllen Lane for a clinic. Many of our players are becoming confident and successful tournament players, playing in tournaments around the country.

Community outreach is another area of focus, and our large volunteer base is dedicated to promoting pickleball as well as giving back to our local communities. We offer free beginner lessons on both sides of the river, have held charity tournaments, have had two blood drives, food drives, participated in community health fairs, offered pickleball lessons to our Plus 60 club, and offered youth camps and clinics.

Okay, now to our involvement with youth!

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

In 2014, another player and I met with the Phys Ed staff at Bettendorf Middle School (from which I had recently retired as a math teacher). Pickleball has been taught at this school since the mid 1980’s as part of a racquet unit, and we thought we could do some volunteer time with the pickleball portion. As it turned out, 17 volunteers from all over the Quad Cities area helped teach pickleball in over 1000 middle schools over the course of 18 days that winter.

In the summer of 2015, we held our first Youth Clinic at our Kiwanis Park dedicated courts in Bettendorf. 40 youth signed up! We had to chalk lines on the nearby tennis courts to make enough courts available. We had enough volunteers to put two on each court, which is great to have on a court of 4 kids.

In 2016, in cooperation with Rock Island Park Department, we offered a four-day pickleball camp at the dedicated courts in Rock Island, IL. We had 11 youth participate in the camp and compete in a round-robin tournament on the last day. This camp was completely staffed by QCPC volunteers.

Our second annual youth clinic, in 2016, saw 32 youth attend with another large group of volunteers. Like the 2015 clinic, it lasted 2 hours, with a break in the middle, and lots of fun drawing prizes at the end.

2016 Summer Youth Clinic - Youth and Volunteers

2016 Summer Youth Clinic – Youth and Volunteers

This year, we had our 3rd annual clinic at the new Bettendorf Middle School courts, with 43 coming to that one! This time we didn’t have the extra space, so we had 7-8 youth on a court with 2-4 volunteers per court.

2017 Youth Clinic

2017 Youth Clinic with students watching a lesson

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School with Quad City club members and youth

It worked really well, thanks to our volunteer trainers who were quite comfortable with the numbers and creative in keeping the kids engaged in learning skills. For our drawing at the end we had 20 Pickleball Central drawstring backpacks, along with some PC decals, carabiners, etc. donated by Pickleball Central. (Thank you! I think you have that picture already.) We also had 4 Ranger paddles donated to our program by Paddletek, and some small items from Onix. We acquired some local items as well, and each child went home with a prize.

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

With Larry’s passion for training along with parent requests for continued play after the clinic, Larry set up a class for pickleball skill lessons as a follow-up to our clinic. Sixteen players came to the first class last week. We found that many of the kids preferred to play the game rather than have a formal skill lesson, so trainers gave occasional pointers while letting them play. Another class will be held this coming week, and then with school starting, perhaps one later a Saturday depending on interest.

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

What is exciting and different about this summer’s clinic from previous two years are two things: 1) the sponsor support from Pickleball Central, Paddletek, and Onix; and 2), the follow-up opportunities for kid-play. With Larry’s initiative and organizational help, we extended our youth pickleball program by adding afternoon youth lessons/play times. The original thought was to offer skill lessons, but the youth that have come are showing us that, at this point anyway, they like to get together with their peers and just play pickleball!!

 

Pickleball Ken Shows How to Build a Community around Pickleball

“Pickleball has totally changed my life.”

Those are the words of Ken Marquardt, or Pickleball Ken, as he is affectionately known to friends and fellow players alike.

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Pickleball Ken has taken his life-changing passion and turned it into fodder to transform the pickleball scene of the metro Denver area.

When we last left off with Pickleball Ken it was December of 2015. As the holiday season rolled along, we presented Ken with our Pickleball Central “All Heart” Award alongside the APEX Parks and Recreation District for organizing a Pickleball for Heroes event.

Since then, Pickleball Ken has kept himself pretty busy. Around the same time Pickleball for Heroes was coming to fruition, Pickleball Ken had another iron in the fire. He was going to find a way to get the Denver area outside and playing pickleball!

Fueled by his passion, Pickleball Ken jumped head first into a project that saw the creation of 8 pickleball courts turn into 16 before finally turning into 24! Follow along as we uncover how one person’s dedication can influence a whole community.

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“I have overcome so many challenges in my life.”

As a cancer survivor who also endured two shoulder replacements and two knee replacements, Ken Marquardt has had his share of setbacks. Always an athlete, Ken was crushed to learn that he would no longer to play the sports he loved, such as tennis.

Ken spoke about how he could no longer play tennis to a classmate who travels around in her RV. She informed Ken that they don’t stop at any RV park that doesn’t have pickleball. When Ken informed her that he had never heard of the sport before, his classmate urged that he give it a try.

With his interest piqued, Ken Googled local pickleball courts and came up with one in the Denver area. Ken made the trek and played his first game.

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It was on that day that Ken Marquardt became Pickleball Ken.

“When I started playing, it changed my life. And then I saw other people with sadness in their lives, how they just forgot about that (sadness) when playing pickleball. It’s good for them mentally and physically. I want to share that with everyone. “

Traveling from the north-end of Denver to the sole pickleball court in the area, Ken and a few other local pickleball players agreed that they needed a court closer to where they lived. That’s when Pickleball Ken turned a dream into a community project.

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“The director of APEX  (Park and Recreation District) Mike Mills and I, talked about our community needs outdoor courts. Mike had 10 acres off of 82 and Sims that were free.”

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Mike Mills of APEX

With a place in mind, the project now needed funding. Ken and Mike Mills took their plans to Jefferson County Open Space.  Funds received from Jefferson County Open Space are derived from lottery money, making it tax free dollars.

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The first time Jefferson County Open Space was approached was back in November of 2013. Following a presentation by Pickleball Ken and company, the project was allotted $255,000. This was enough money for the first eight courts to be created.

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From there, the vision grew and funding was approved for eight more courts that were completed in the following year. Now, the project is in its final stages. To the tune of 1.7 million dollars, this 24 court park is going to be completed, and fully operational for all to enjoy.

Looking back at Ken’s initial charitable endeavor with Pickleball for Heroes, this new 24-court facility also pays homage to those who have sacrificed for their community. Ken stated,

“We want to honor all veterans. Whether, firefighters or policemen, and especially the military. And that is why the park is named Community Heroes Park. ”

 

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Not just in name alone, the park also pays homage through a symbolic eagle.

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Although its beauty is undeniable, Ken didn’t feel that displaying an eagle was enough to give thanks to our servicemen and women. That is why he organized the aforementioned Pickeball for Heroes event where proceeds went to veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Using pickleball for charitable efforts didn’t end there. As the park has grown, so has its community outreach. Pickleball Ken and the Denver pickleball community started putting on clinics for autistic and disabled children. As Ken fondly recalled,

“I had a mother come up to me and their son was 17 years old and never stood up in his life. And she had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘Thank you, Ken.’ And it just totally changes my life and other people’s lives. And so, I wanted to share that with everybody.”

With his passion and dedication, Pickleball Ken has blown the door open for pickleball in the Denver area. Seeing firsthand how pickleball transformed his life, he is now sharing that gift in a park made by the community, for the community. Who knows what Pickleball Ken will be up to the next time we check in with him?

 

 

 

Planning a Pickleball Tournament Just Got Easier: PickleballTournaments.com and PickleballCentral.com Become Affiliate Partners

Are you planning on holding a pickleball tournament? Do you have your committee and volunteers in place? Do you have your venue and dates picked out? What about the hundreds of other details?

The number of pickleball tournaments in the United States, and around the world, is increasing and helping to grow the sport of pickleball. At PickleballCentral we are thrilled that it is getting easier for a player to find a local pickleball tournament, but we also understand that the planning and directing of a pickleball tournament is a very complicated and time-consuming endeavor. That is why we are excited to announce that PickleballCentral.com will now be making it easier than ever for tournament directors to get everything needed for a fun, affordable and stress-free event.

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On September 7, 2017 PickleballCentral and PickleballTournaments.com will begin an affiliate partnership to provide the needed services and products for pickleball tournaments. PickleballTournaments.com is the worldwide industry leader in pickleball tournament software, management and services, while PickleballCentral.com is the world’s leading online store for pickleball equipment. Working from the same set of core values, these two companies are determined to see participation in pickleball continue to grow, and the best way to accomplish that is to increase the number of available tournaments.

Tournament Planning Becomes Less Complicated

Now tournament directors will be able to quickly and easily access the #1 resource for pickleball equipment and the #1 resource for pickleball tournament registration and management during the tournament planning process. Instead of spending additional time searching a variety of sources for custom gear, apparel, medals and other tournament merchandise, now support and supplies will be just a few clicks away.

“We will offer custom pickleball t-shirts, pickleball medals, referee gear, custom pickleballs and custom pickleball paddle covers,” states Anna Copley, co-owner of PickleballCentral. “We have lots of product ideas that are unique and affordable for pickleball tournaments.”

The number of pickleball tournaments has grown at an incredible rate over the past few years, and PickleballTournaments.com has been growing as well, providing services to tournament organizers that ease their workload and make for streamlined events. Their web-based tournament management system is used by the thousands of tournament directors who register, organize and manage tournaments of all sizes, and is the one website all tournament players visit for tournament information, registration and to follow themselves or friends and family through live tournament brackets and player results.

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Developed by Bob Lanius, a Microsoft developer who needed a more timely and efficient tool for directing large events, this proprietary software handles everything from registration and payments to event marketing, scheduling and real-time activity tracking during the tournament. Many credit their easy-to-use management software as having a large impact on the rise in tournaments.

“No other software in the world can manage hundreds of matches across multiple brackets in the automated fashion that PickleballTournaments.com does,” states Melissa McCurley, CEO of PickleballTournaments.com. “If it weren’t for Bob developing this site, there would not be the explosion in the growth of tournaments like we see today. It just wouldn’t be possible. We all owe Bob a lot of gratitude.”

Partnering for Pickleball Growth

Having sponsored a number of tournaments, PickleballCentral had been looking for a way to become more directly involved in the planning process. The opportunity to work directly with PickleballTournaments.com came at the perfect time.

“We saw a need for pickleball specific tournament supplies, so we were thrilled when Melissa approached us last spring to discuss an affiliate partnership,” added Anna. “Partnering with PickleballTournaments.com connects us with the epicenter of pickleball tournaments. We are honored to be the Official Supplier of pickleball tournament supplies for PickleballTournaments.com and are excited about our new line of pickleball tournament products.”

Take a look at the pickleball tournament items we’re offering in conjunction with this wonderful partnership!