The Future of Power Pickleball: Will the Bangers Win?

We veterans love the soft game with its long rallies. The USAPA does its part by making rule changes to preserve the soft game and protect the nature of pickleball to keep us happy. Instructors remind frustrated students who want to wail on wiffle balls that consistency and patience are rewarded.

Many young people along with tennis and racquetball players put down their paddles because they find the soft game so dreadful. So far, no player has been able to achieve a 5.0 rating without some level of mastery of the soft game.


Dinking slow and steady (Credit: Michael D. Martin)

And all the while, uninformed spectators find the 50-stroke rallies confusing and boring…

Why don’t they just hit a winner and finish the point? 

But perhaps the spectators are not so wrong.

Last night I played with a 25-year-old college tennis stud that got me rethinking where pickleball might go. He hit the ball so hard and low that put away volleys were unthinkable.

Just try to block the ball back,” I told myself. These young tennis players love Morgan Evans’ longer Signature Paddle by Selkirk. And like Morgan, they’re hitting with amazing speed and topspin.

A ball hit very hard within an inch or two of the net with topspin might land near the kitchen line.

Makes it tough to volley, even with my larger Omni 31P Paddle! With a bit of practice and focus, it’s not so hard to hit a ball within a few inches of the net. Hey, the net is only about 22 feet away and waist height!


Can you defend against slams? (Credit: Chad Ryan)

So I predict that, at the highest level of play, doubles rallies will get shorter rather than longer in the coming years.

Much shorter. More like singles.

Serves and returns will not simply be preliminaries but will become more aggressive shots that are vital to the outcome of the point. Just as there is one setter in volleyball, expect that one partner will hit every third shot while the other partner (who happens to be of basketball proportions) performs the spiking role to pounce on a popped up volley.

Tactics may involve the forward player acting as a decoy or even blocking the opponents’ visibility to the ball until the last moment. Volleyers on both sides will frequently leap or straddle the kitchen corner to put away shots near the sidelines. Most points will involve the ball hitting the floor only twice—the service and return.

Then, watch out!

Pickleball and basketball

Will pickleball requirements become more similar to basketball’s? (Credit: Baliboa Racquet)

I’m not saying there will be no place for soft shots, but I can imagine the soft shots punctuating aggressive play. Even now, a barely perceptible trend is emerging where attackers, not the defenders, are more likely to win the point.

A lot of this might depend on whether the injection-molded ball (Onix Pure 2) or a rotationally-molded ball (DuraFast 40) prevails in top play. But my theories on which ball encourages the power game are still in process.

Okay, I’m probably wrong about all this. I hope I’m wrong and rallies get even longer. But the sport is going somewhere, and younger athletes than me will define that path.

Then again, perhaps the USAPA will dictate a nerf ball!

These blogs make wild speculations so easy and forgivable. What matters much more than my opinion?  Your opinion. Please blast away!


Chicken N Pickle: Food, Fun and Pickleball All Under the Same Roof

Many players speak in awe of Chicken N Pickle, the “do-it-all” restaurant/entertainment complex hybrid that’s taking the pickleball world by storm. For those who haven’t heard of it yet, it’s time to remedy that so you can start booking a trip down to Kansas City, Missouri!

Chicken N Pickle Complex

The fantastic Chicken N Pickle complex

Chicken-N-Pickle consists of an incredible 8 courts (4 indoor and 4 outdoor), a beer garden with a shack serving 25+ canned beers, full bar and sandwiches.

There’s also a 5,600 sq. ft. restaurant featuring wood fire rotisserie chicken with all-natural healthy ingredients, 30+ TVs, a rooftop bar, courtyard with a jumbo TV and yard games that opened last November.

Maybe if we ask nicely we can live there?

Thanks to Kellen Mumm, the VP of Operations, for kindly taking the time to share new details about this wonderland and how it got started! [Note: This interview was conducted last year and so all mentions of specific dates were for 2016.]

How was Chicken N Pickle conceived? Or: What came first, the Chicken or the Pickle? 

Chicken N Pickle was born over a couple of beers. David Johnson, the owner, was the first to bring up the idea. [Want to know something really weird? David Johnson is the owner of PickleballCentral, but he’s a different David… weird coincidence!]

He saw pickleball and was amazed by the social aspect of the sport. It was incredible to see 30+ people all hanging around these courts talking and having fun. He played with some friends for the first time in AZ and (just like everybody else) played one game and was hooked.

Inside the Chicken N Pickle restaurant

Inside the Chicken N Pickle restaurant

He knew we needed this in Kansas City and his first thought was to add a restaurant. One of his favorite restaurants in the Grand Cayman Islands is called Chicken! Chicken! So he thought, “Why not a rotisserie chicken place?” Bill Crooks was brought on as a consultant because of his experience opening over 30 restaurants nationwide, and he’s helped us find some incredible talent such as Bill Koning as General Manager and Alex Staab as Chef.

Since that initial meeting, our idea has grown into the giant complex you see today.

Do you play pickleball personally? Where did you first discover the game and what are your favorite parts of it?

I first played pickleball in high school, but I didn’t know it was called pickleball at the time because my PE teacher decided to name it after himself! I rediscovered it (this time under the right title) when CnP was born and have been playing ever since. Since we opened I play 5-6 times per week and I like to think I’m getting pretty good.

Chicken N Pickle Indoor Courts

Chicken N Pickle indoor courts

I love how easy it is to get started, and it’s the only sport that you can play with anyone regardless of age, gender and athletic ability. It’s a great family sport and a great date night sport. Since I’m very competitive by nature it’s fun to compete at, and it’s humbling when someone twice my age runs me around the court and doesn’t let me score a point…

Your group seems to use a lot of Selkirk-branded paddles – is there are partnership between you two? And if so, how did that come about?

I was introduced to Andy Gensch, who is one of the few 5.0 players in the Kansas City area. He then introduced me to Selkirk and they’ve just been amazing to work with. We use the Selkirk 20P-XL as our rental paddles so our customers get to play with top-of-the-line equipment. We want everything at CnP to be tournament-grade pickleball and Selkirk helps us achieve that. I personally play with the 300A-XL and love it.

Andy Gensch

Andy Gensch

What are your eventual goals with Chicken N Pickle? Would you like to expand to more locations or are you concentrating on building your first location for the time being?

We would love to bring Chicken N Pickle to other cities across the country as we feel pickleball is growing faster than it can handle and we want to help that cause. We are focusing on making this first one work; there have been and will be more lessons from this prototype that will help us bring our concept to many locations.

What has the local response been like? Do you find yourself getting customers who are already picklers, or more newcomers to the sport who get hooked after visiting?

We’ve taught pickleball to more people than I can count. It’s been amazing! The local picklers and newcomers stop by because there’s no place like it and CnP has this atmosphere of fun. We have a lot of leagues going now and I would say 50% are people that have started playing at CnP in the past 2 months.

The Chicken N Pickle outdoor courts duting construction

The Chicken N Pickle outdoor courts duting construction

Andy Gensch seems to help out with teaching at Chicken N Pickle, and you have classes coming up with other pros as well. Are you looking to do outreach to develop other events like this?

Andy has been amazing and I have the testimonials from his lessons to prove it! He has been a big part of bringing people like Enrique Ruiz and Dee Davidson in for clinics, which were huge successes. We also have Dave Wienbach coming for a clinic and he’ll play in our October tournament.

Andy loves pickleball and has been instrumental in growing the game. We both love the fact there are so many new faces. The clinics and lessons he provides are going to make the sport that much more competitive. We do beginner clinics and advanced clinics as much as we can to help give our players more resources.

You host food trucks in addition to your rotisserie offerings. How did that idea develop and do you find it adds another layer of fun for visitors? It seems like you use a lot of nearby stores to give people a locally-flavored experience.

We are huge on everything local. Local produce when we can, local beers (we plan to have 28 taps with all local flavors). People in Kansas City love  supporting their neighbors and we’re no different.

David Johnson of Chicken N Pickle

Bill Crooks, primary Chicken N Pickle consultant

Is there anything in particular you’d like to say to our PickleballCentral readers?

I would invite anyone passing through Kansas City to stop by and play a game and give me feedback! We want to grow pickleball as much as possible. We also have events every month, such as: Oktoberfest on September 1st, Halloween on October 2nd and our first ever pickleball tournament Oct 20 – 24. Sign-ups have been going fast.

You can find out more about Chicken N Pickle on their site and find out what events they have coming up at their blog. Everyone visit if you can, and send them some love to let CnP know you want to see MORE of their facilities in the near future!


Throwing Our Hat Over the Wall – PickleballCentral is Moving!

“Three people were on a journey. They had walked thousands of miles across the country when they came to their biggest obstacle – a solid brick wall. Instantly one man threw his hat over the wall, so he had no choice but to climb it.”   – Old Irish Adage


The new home of PickleballCentral is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

We signed the lease yesterday – our figurative, “hat over the wall.” PickleballCentral is moving to a warehouse/office space that is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

The new space will have four indoor pickleball courts. The courts will be open to the public every day of the week from early morning to late at night. The new space will host pickleball clubs, pickleball tournaments, pickleball lessons, pickleball pro-tours and pickleball parties!

The new space will also have a big retail store that will provide customers an opportunity to touch, feel and demo paddles on the courts and try-on pickleball clothing!

Finally, we are extremely proud to announce that the new space will be home to The Pickleball Museum! Pickleball is an American Original. It was invented a short ferry ride from Seattle on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The sport of pickleball likely would not have left Bainbridge Island if it weren’t for one man, Barney McCallum.  Barney and his friends the Pritchards and Bells invented the game by accident in the summer of 1965.  Their kids were bored and they didn’t have equipment to play badminton, so they used what they had on-hand to play “badminton”, a whiffle ball and table tennis paddles.  They lowered the net and voilà pickleball was born!

Barney started making wood pickleball paddles by hand for friends. In 1972, to keep track of the accounting and taxes, Barney started a small business in Seattle called Pickle-ball Inc. Barney already was a very successful businessman with his own big company, McCallum Envelope. He didn’t need to start another business, but thank goodness, he did! Pickle-ball, Inc made paddles, balls and net systems and the sport grew. Other pickleball equipment manufacturers emerged in the Seattle area – ProLite Sports and S-Type Sport, now called Onix Sports. Today, thanks to Barney McCallum, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world!

With our acquisition of  Pickle-ball Inc. last fall, we are excited and honored to create The Pickleball Museum as a place where people can learn about the history of pickleball and learn about Barney’s extraordinary contribution to the sport.


Barney McCallum is one of the inventors of Pickleball and founder of Pickle-ball Inc.

For years my husband, David, has collected pickleball artifacts. We have some of the first paddles made, an old pickleball hole drilling machine and other items. If you have a pickleball item that you think belongs in The Pickleball Museum, please contact David Johnson,


New home of PickleballCentral, Pickleball Inc. and The Pickleball Museum.

We move in early April 2017. Come check us out when you are in town! Our new address is 22330 68th Ave. S., Kent, WA 98032.

 – Anna Copley, founding partner,

Pickleball Helps Keep Youth Active in Yavapai County Detention Center

We all know pickleball is great for stress relief, and who better to benefit than cooped up kids? Last year the Prescott Pickleball Association and its associates took the game to those who’d appreciate it at the Yavapai County Detention Center. The youth had a great time learning the game and getting to release some steam.

Listening for Opportunities

The idea was planted when former racquetball champion Jerry Northwood formed the Prescott Pickleball Association with members of his club, the Willow Hills PBC, and other interested players. The group was looking to construct eight outdoor courts at Prescott’s Pioneer Park and needed city council approval to move forward.

Before Jerry got a chance to speak with the council, a woman named Gay Staling from the Yavapai County Detention Center gave a presentation.

Yavapai County Detention Center Demo

From left to right: Ben Sialega, Jerry Northwood and J.T. Schulze demonstrates pickleball during a visit to the center

Jerry had never considered putting a program together for detainees, but was inspired by the thought and introduced himself to Gay afterwards. To his surprise, he didn’t have to overcome any logistical or security nightmares. In fact, the YCDC already had a gym on site!

With the help of fellow pickler Ben Sialega, Jerry visited the center and determined what would be needed to arrange a 2-hour clinic for 11 boys and 11 girls (one hour for each group). Members from the Willow Hills PBC donated both equipment and time as volunteer coaches after going through a background check.

Sharing the Fundamentals

The clinics involved an introduction and history of pickleball followed by a demonstration using advanced players.

“We made sure to use both male and female players so that everyone could see it’s possible to be competitive regardless of gender. For those in the group who had experience with similar sports like racquetball, tennis or table tennis, we showed them how quickly they could pick up the game and start having fun.”

The schedule included a daily 1-hour visit over the course of a week to teach the kids all the basic rules, safety tips and warm-up exercises. After a positive response from the youth (ages 12-18) and the detention officers, they continued the program 1 day a week for 2 hours. The youth, staff and volunteer coaches all appreciate the new activity.

Yavapai County Detention Center Explanation

Jerry Northwood explains pickleball to youth in the juvenile detention center

“When a student is released from the facility I give them my card and encourage them to call me so I can set them up with a club in their area. Hopefully the desire to keep on playing will be a healthy distraction from other things they could get involved in,” Jerry says.

Rallying toward a Happier Future

In addition to the detention center, the Prescott Pickleball Association provides duplicate programs for the Boys/Girls Club of Prescott. They have one indoor court with approximately twenty youth, ages 12-15. They call the program “modified” pickleball as the ceiling is only 8’ high.

“Believe it or not, this actually works and the staff and youth love it! They are currently in the process of constructing three outdoor pickleball courts as part of a sport court. We are two months into this program.

Willow Hills Pickleball Club also has a program for youth ages 10-15. They have 3 indoor courts and run the clinic for 1-1/2 to 2 hours each week.”

The youth of the YCDC tapping paddles in the "good game" gesture

The youth of the YCDC tapping paddles in the “good game” gesture

“We have a ball machine we named Samson to help teach. Our primary objective is to have kids learn the sport so they can be competitive with adults. We did have complaints about balls ending up all over the place beforehand… for some reason, the adult players didn’t appreciate that! Now we have 11-year-old youths playing in adult tournaments.

Finally, we have a program for veterans and first responders to learn racquetball and pickleball. The vets live at the VA and in a VA program for PTSD, brain injury trauma and alcohol/drug abuse. This program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and has been going for over three years now.

It’s extremely rewarding to see lives changed.”

A great big “thank you” to Jerry and his associates for letting us share their story and for putting forth the effort to support people of all ages from all walks of life with the power of pickleball.

1st Anniversary of the Pickleball Magazine


Pickleball Magazine, the first magazine dedicated to America’s fastest-growing sport, was launched in January 2016. Wayne Dollard of Dollard Publishing is responsible for starting the magazine! We are glad to share his story on how this fabulous publication got started. Enjoy!


Wayne Dollard, Dollard Publishing

In the 1990s, I was a Color Systems Specialist for Canon. In 1999 I began publishing a national magazine for the sport of Platform Tennis, just for fun. A few years later, I quit my day job and began adding direct-mailed community magazines to my publishing portfolio. By 2015, I had 40 employees and 42 magazines being direct mailed to over 2 million households.

I was introduced to pickleball when I visited family at The Villages, Florida. I have a competitive tennis background and even played a couple years at Penn State. I was also nationally ranked in platform tennis for several years until I was permanently sidelined by a back injury and surgery in 2011. I began playing pickleball socially last year. In my first tournament, I won a few rounds at the US Open 35 Mixed and Men’s 4.5 Doubles. I have since won a few local tournaments.  My wife Lisa and sons Jordan, Brenden and Tyler really enjoy pickleball, so we’ll be putting a court in our backyard this spring.

US Open LogoIn June of 2015, I received phone calls from Terri Graham, Director of the 2016 US Open Pickleball Championship, and Chuck Vietmier, Director of Product Marketing for Gamma Sports, who encouraged me to launch a magazine for pickleball.

I did further research on the sport, and had positive discussions with Justin Maloof, the Executive Director of the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).  Justin gave me the statistics that made this venture all the more attractive: 2.5 million players worldwide, USAPA membership growth from 4,071 to over 10,000 in 3 years and a similar rate of growth in places to play listed on the USAPA website. usapa

Justin and I brainstormed content features and the first Pickleball Magazine was published in January last year. The USAPA does not have an ownership interest in the magazine, but we offer them free content and they email the magazine to their 10,000+ player membership. The USAPA has been very helpful in getting Pickleball Magazine started.

Now, just 14 months after launching, we email each issue of the magazine to over 100,000 people, as well as sending print copies in the mail to 5,000 people. We also distribute the magazine to over 200 Barnes and Noble locations. Both the digital and print subscriptions for Pickleball Magazine are growing every day. We imagine Pickleball Magazine will continue to grow in popularity for many years to come.

Thank you Wayne for giving us your story on how the first Pickleball Magazine got it’s start. You’ve done a great job with this publication and we look forward to all of your future issues!

If you are interested in subscribing to Pickleball Magazine, here is some great information for you:

  • Pickleball Magazine is published six times per year.
  • Each issue runs around 60 – 70 pages and contains 20 or more feature articles.
  • Each issue contains four to six great instructional articles with detailed recommendations for drills, strategy, and skills development.

Click here to subscribe to Pickleball Magazine

Cemented: The Success Story of Seymour Rifkind

CEMENTED: The Success Story of Seymour Rifkind

“I will be the 1969 State All-Around Champion and State Parallel Champion.”

These are the words that 16-year-old Seymour Rifkind etched into wet cement on a hot summer night in 1967. This was the same cement that he used to anchor the parallel bars into the ground that he built in his backyard. “I had a lot of my teammates come over and practice on the bars,” the International Gymnastic Competitor Gold and Bronze medal winner fondly recalled.

“It was there for everyone to see. I shared that goal and dream with others. When I had injuries, when I was tired, burnt out, didn’t feel like working out, they would be the ones who would say, ‘Hey, remember you said you would be State Champion?’”

Two years later, Seymour Rifkind became the 1969 State All-Around Champion and State Parallel Champion.

Seymour Rifkind on the cover of The Modern Gymnast Magazine in 1969

Seymour Rifkind on the cover of The Modern Gymnast Magazine in 1969

“If you do everything you promise yourself, then your belief system is extremely powerful. In your mind the goal is already accomplished.” It’s this exact mantra that has propelled Rifkind from a High School standout in the field of gymnastics into an international superstar.

The Strength of Family

With a DIY mindset and drive to succeed, Rifkind has parlayed that success by creating his own marketing firm, becoming a best-selling author and founding the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA).

The need to succeed wasn’t something that Seymour Rifkind just woke up and decided one day. It was a gene he was born with. As the first-born son of a Holocaust survivor, Seymour understood the importance of family from an early age.

“There are many studies and books written on children of Holocaust survivors,” recalled the eldest Rifkind boy, “One trait is a strong motivating factor to be successful not just for themselves, but their parents.”

An estimated 11 million people died during the mass execution known as the Holocaust. This number includes many of the family members of Albert Rifkind. “My father lost his siblings. Two other brothers. He felt guilty for surviving. He felt his older brother was smarter. His younger brother was the kindest. My father was the troublemaker.”

Coping with the loss of losing his beloved family, Albert Rifkind was determined to provide the family he created with everything they could ever need. The guilt-ridden survivor emigrated to the United States without knowing a lick of English. He never passed the 10th grade, instead turning to the workforce to provide for his family.

Seymour Rifkind at the Ironman Triathlon

Seymour Rifkind at the Ironman Triathlon

This exhibition of work ethic and sacrifice paired with his father’s stories of survival resonated with a young Seymour.

“It became extremely important to me to make him happy, make him proud. I was the first born Rifkind son, and I took that as a major responsibility. The Rifkinds had survived another generation.”

Although the Rifkind brood had everything they needed thanks to the sweat of their father’s brow, there was little money to be had. The reality of their situation as a poor family in the 1960’s was that the young men in the Rifkind household wouldn’t be able to attend college. Therefore, they would have to enlist in the army. This was during the height of the Vietnam War. “I knew people that graduated, turned 18, went to Nam and in six months they were gone.”

As Seymour’s peers found themselves being drafted, the savvy teen needed a plan that would get him into college and away from the battle lines. Aware of how war ravaged his father’s family was, Seymour sought a path to freedom through extracurricular activities. It was during this formative time that the driven teenager discovered his ticket to higher education: gymnastics.

“In PE class I did the most pull-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups. I was a small guy with innately good strength in proportions of my body.” It was these characteristics that led him to become a standout on the parallel bars. As his aspirations to compete at the college level became clear to coaches, the Head Coach at Michigan State University said, “You’re a talented kid. A good parallel bar specialist, but to get a scholarship to college, you need to compete in all the events.”

That was all Seymour needed to hear.

Hard Work’s Reward

With two years to graduate, Seymour Rifkind began the intense training that has become his trademark. There were five events that he needed to excel in to become the well-rounded star athlete he dreamed of being. They were parallel bars, rings, high bar, floor exercise, pommel horse.

Seymour Rifkind's 21st Century Samurai book

Rif’s book on the path to success and fulfillment.

“Pommel horse would be my greatest challenge, so I borrowed one from the school. I took it home and set it up in the basement. A friend came over and I told him that I wasn’t quitting until I did two circles around the horse.” Saying it out loud makes it a reality. With blistered hands, Seymour refused to come up for dinner when his mom called. His friend went home.

Finally, his dad came home from work at 11:30 that night. He came downstairs and said to Seymour, “What is this? You’ve had enough! You’ve been doing it for 9 hours already. Enough is enough!” Before heading back upstairs, his father turned around one last time. “Ugh. You’re so damn stubborn.”

Stubborn indeed. At 2:30 AM, Seymour finally nailed the two circles.

It was during this time that Seymour built his parallel bars in the backyard. “I got pipes, found oars from a row boat, dug holes and poured cement.”

And it was in that cement, that he cemented his legacy. Two years after etching his goals and aspirations into the foundation, the soon-to-be graduate stamped his ticket to college. The rest is history.

Upon graduating college, Seymour Rifkind would go on to become an International Gymnastic Competitor Gold and Bronze medal winner. Acknowledging the example set by his father, the advice given by a college coach and the encouragement of his peers, Seymour realized that he didn’t accomplish his goals alone.

“It’s a mixture of success and luck. There’s a lot of people who work hard, but they’re not successful and don’t go the right way. You need to surround yourself with those who share your visions. Put forth the work ethic and sacrifice.” The ability to separate himself from the tunnel-vision athlete and step into the role of a leader who sees the big picture is what led him to become a coach. Rif competed in an Iron Man Triathlon, and using the wisdom that was passed onto him, he’s since coached over 25 All-Americans and worked with five Olympic gymnasts.

Following his successful sports career, Seymour Rifkind met athletic retirement with yet another journey. He started his own marketing firm. Through this endeavor he’s been able to share his visions and work ethic with like-minded people. Seymour’s success has bred the success of many others, and continues to do so with his book, 21st Century Samurai: The Secret Path to Success and Fulfillment.

Much like his father, Seymour prides himself in his ability to provide for his family. He wants his children to live an even better life than he did. Spending quality time with those he loves is something near and dear to his heart.

A New Dream for Pickleball

“I’ve always been a big sports nut and had season tickets to the Bears for 30 years. I had a goal. I wanted to visit all the different NFL stadiums, but only when they played the Bears.” He loved the opportunity to see new communities, meet different people, but most of all, allow for some quality time with his wife and two sons.


Rif in the orange shirt, lower right corner, competing at the 2016 US OPEN Pickleball Championship

It was during this time that fate met Seymour Rifkind yet again. After taking in a Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers game, Seymour looked at his team’s schedule and saw they were going to be in Atlanta next week to take on the Falcons. Instead of flying back to Chicago, the Rifkind brood stayed local. He decided to visit some friends who lived at The Villages in Florida.

It was then that Seymour was introduced to pickleball. “15 minutes, I was hooked into the game.”

Upon heading back to Chicago, Seymour couldn’t keep his mind off the sport he knew so little about. He attempted to seek out other players in the community, and found a couple of park districts where he could play pick-up games. “All different levels of players. No real drilling. No instruction. Just go out and have fun.”

Having a tennis background, Seymour couldn’t help but pick up the fundamentals relatively quickly. However, it was that exact tennis background that made him realize there were a few bad habits he needed to drop. Driving the ball at other beginners, Seymour thought his tennis background was the secret to pickleball success. That was until he entered his first pickleball tournament.

“I got beat up real bad. I saw people doing shots I never attempted before.” And then he thought to himself, “There’s obviously a better way to play than what I am doing.” Like always, Seymour sought out like-minded people with more experience. He needed a better understanding of the fundamentals.

Organizing Excellence

“I recognized right away that this is a great sport, but there was no formal instruction taking place.” The same man who as a young boy wrote his dreams in cement now had a new goal in sight. He was going to set up a commission that would agree on the fundamentals of pickleball. Once everyone was on the same page, those people would train the teachers who will train the pickleball players of tomorrow. The long-term goal? To make pickleball an Olympic sport in the next 20 years.

“In the summer of 2015, I had a simple strategic plan. We need to do what’s best for the sport. We needed people more qualified than me to buy into this.” Seymour called a meeting between top players in November of 2015 at the Pickleball Nationals. He shared his vision. “They responded positively and quickly. A lot of other people saw the need to get this done.” Once the like-minded people were on board, the IPTPA was born.


One year later, IPTPA has certified over 100 instructors, with 235 in the system at various stages of training. They are doing it consistently. They are doing it the right way.

“A year ago when I first started thinking about this, if we could get 100 instructors, it’s an obtainable objective. And we did.” Now, the sky is the limit. Heading into 2017, one of the initiatives of the IPTPA is to spread into Europe and Asia. Seymour recently spoke to federations in India about getting IPTPA directors over there. They plan to assist these countries and give them better equipment.

“Some countries don’t have the funding needed to afford some of these things. If everyone in the pickleball community, manufacturers of paddles and balls, if we all get together, we can put together a program to help developing countries enjoy pickleball.

After all, you need competing countries if you are going to have an Olympic sport. With a DIY athlete with the mindset of Seymour Rifkind at the helm, this can become a reality. “The sum of all good helps. Being unselfish and loving the sport makes them share with each other.”

This is exactly why Seymour Rifkind’s legacy has been one of a success. It’s the same reason why his success story can help cement pickleball’s Olympic aspirations.

Lunch with Pickleball Founder Barney McCallum


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.


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.


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