The Top 4 Draws of the Pickleball National Championships at Indian Wells

Now that the intense competition of the USAPA National Championships has cooled down, we’ve heard plenty of feedback from individuals who have attended as both participants and observers. The event was a rousing success and many were extremely pleased with the professionalism and attentiveness displayed by the staff at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

For those who only got to watch the coverage on ESPN or are curious if it might be worth attending next year, here are a few of the positives attendees appreciated about the event and venue:

Affordability

Parking at Indian Wells was $10 for the day, and many of the matches were completely free to attend. The Championship Court was only $10 to sit in the general seating area and ranged from $35 – 50 depending on the day and event for more premium seating.

The range of available food wasn’t incredibly varied and mostly included the basics (salad, burgers, hot dogs), but on the plus side the venue allowed visitors to bring their own meals, making it easy to maintain a budget or indulge in fine dining while watching games.

At PickleballCentral we also gave out over $9k in free merchandise, so you could’ve ended up leaving with more gear than you came with!

Incredible Matches

Around 2,300 players came to play on the 45 converted tennis courts at Nationals, and top talent from around the U.S. was on display. If you wanted to see some great games, Indian Wells was certainly the place to be.

Many visitors also noted that the pros were very approachable and enjoyed chatting with fellow competitors and attendees at their tents between games. Whether watching or participating, there were many opportunities to learn from the best by proxy.

Top Tier Management

The Indian Wells management team was noted to be very receptive to feedback and continually worked to ensure a pleasant experience for all involved. A number of observers noted that their comments were taken into consideration, such as asking for shaded bleachers outside the grandstand, and the next day portable umbrellas had been moved into the area.

Indian Wells staff held meetings with department heads daily after the games to determine what was running smoothly and what needed work. After the first day of play it was noted that the white chairs at one stadium’s end were creating a glare in the sun, and so overnight, the staff changed the chairs to dark green to improve visibility.

Clearly the staff cared about providing an exceptional experience for all involved, and they’ll only continue to get better over time.

Impressive Venue

The cleanliness and beautiful appearance of the Indian Wells facility was greatly appreciated by all present. There was live music, the courts were hosed down every night, and the seats were wiped down and cleaned.

Interestingly enough, the bathrooms were of particular note! Attendees noticed that they were continually cleaned throughout the day and had a very spacious interior. Seems like a small thing, but everyone appreciates it when the place they relieve themselves actually feels relieving!

If you got the opportunity to go to Nationals, what were some of your favorite moments or aspects of Indian Wells? We’re looking forward to another fantastic showing next year!

Pickleball Players Create Calendar to Raise Funds

Many picklers have come up with unique and interesting ways to raise funds for their clubs, from themed tournaments to collaborations with local businesses. Recently the women of Simi Valley YMCA came up with a new idea to support their local courts by making a pickleball-themed calendar.

Florence Trapani, aka Miss November, shared, “I always take pictures and videos and put them on Facebook. Then Sue and I were like, at the same time, ‘We should do a calendar!’ Then we were laughing about who’s going to buy our calendar. So we asked the guys who play with us, and they were like, ‘We’ll all buy a calendar!’”

Image from last year's  2017 Triple Crown Professional Pickleball Tournament in Simi Valley

Image from last year’s 2017 Triple Crown Professional Pickleball Tournament in Simi Valley (Credit: Simi Valley Acorn

The women involved are all sizes and dressed in their favorite pickleball attire for the images. Alongside raising cash for the YMCA, they hope that the calendar might dispel some of the uncertainty surrounding pickleball for newcomers. Gary Gossett, the local USAPA ambassador explained:

“Sometimes people poke their head through the gate and they’re intimidated because they see all of us playing and they don’t know how to play. This looks intimidating because it’s such a small court, so I think the ladies doing this will lighten it up a little bit — and it will be a hit.”

The players all decided to take action shots of their signature moves, such as the “chicken wing” and “punch.” The calendar serves as a way to promote pickleball, its players and the community.

We’ve actually seen a few other groups put together pickleball calendars, but it’s primarily been for fun/promo purposes rather than as a fundraiser. AIPA, for example, showed several of their members in different court locations to serve as memorabilia for their members, partners and friends.

Have you tried any unique ideas for fundraising to support your pickleball club? What sort of activities or goods would you be interested in?

Upcoming 2019 Pickleball Retreats in the Tropics

As the weather cools down in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve been looking out for exciting new pickleball experiences that offer a bit more warmth on the courts. Most of us prefer playing outdoors, and unless you’re used to weathering icy blasts, it’s a lot more fun to play in the sunshine!

Pickleball Vacation Adventures has a beautiful trip to the Mayan Riviera scheduled for 7 nights, running from Jan 6 – 13th in 2019. There will be daily open play at the stunning Grand Palladium Colonial Resort including clinics led by the PVA team of pros including Ben Johns and Christine McGrath.

Pickleball Vacation Adventures

Pickleball Vacation Adventures – Mayan Riviera

Meals, lodging, hotel transport and instruction are all included in the price tag. Pickleball Vacation Adventures will also be heading to Israel and Ecuador in June and August respectively, so if you don’t have enough time to plan for Mexico, take a look at their other upcoming trips.

The Pura Vida House is another excellent tropical escape that should be on your pickleball to-do list. Located in Costa Rica, this 5-star resort is home to three white sand beaches, two spas, a host of fantastic restaurants and private courts at the nearby Hacienda Pinilla.

Brian in Costa Rica

Brian in Costa Rica (Credit: Pura Vida House)

Pura Vida House also offers 7-night trips throughout the year and hosts a number of traveling pros for top tier instruction. Spots for these experiences sell out fast, but act soon and you might be able to snag time with athletes like Tyson McGuffin, Aspen Kern and Laura Fenton Kovanda.

PickleballCentral’s beloved, bearded pro Brian Ashworth helped host travelers in Costa Rica earlier last year and said the experience was one he’ll always remember. Available trips start in April 2019 and are currently scheduled through May.

Lastly, we have a reminder that PickleballTrips, run by the highly talented and kind Daniel Moore, has several tours scheduled around the world next year in stunning international destinations. The first to come up will be in San Carlos, Mexico (February) and Thailand (Feb/March).

We’ve spoken with Daniel about his work as a instructor and guide before, so be sure to take a look at our PickleballTrips interview to find out more about the exciting and personal experiences he seeks to create.

Are you planning any warm weather retreats this winter, or are you taking your game indoors so your skills don’t ice over this season?

When Should You Poach?

Poaching, which involves one player moving to take a shot that was hit to their partner, is a fairly common technique in pickleball, especially at higher levels of play.

Some picklers rightly assume that poaching can be frustrating to your partner if done indiscriminately. After all, those balls were intended for them and there should be a certain level of trust between both players. However, in high stakes scenarios like tournaments where one player is often heavily targeted (either due to a lower skill level and/or to try and fatigue half of the competition), poaching can be a necessity to avoid burnout.

So when should you make a move to cover your partner? We discuss the best circumstances below:

1) If your partner is out of position.

The best and clearest instance of when you should poach is when your partner is having to really exert themselves to cover their side of the court. Maybe your opponents hit a tricky shot right at your partner’s feet and there’s no way they could recover fast enough to chase after it. The ball was lobbed and they’re facing the wrong way. They’re struggling to follow the ball’s spin. In any of these situations and similar scenarios, if you see the opportunity it’s safe to say you should take it to avoid losing the point.

Shot down the middle

If he’s a rightie, the player in white should normally take this shot. (Credit: Michael and Sherry Martin)

2) If the ball is coming toward your forehand.

It’s easier for most players to hit with their forehand. When you encounter those annoying shots down the middle of the court, or even if the ball is heading slightly to your partner’s side, if your dominant hand is in position then you’ll be able to reach it more easily and return it with more “zing.” The same goes for your partner as well. When you switch sides on the court, try to allow whoever has the “power position” to take advantage of their role, unless either of you has a killer backhand.

3) If your opponents are being consistent.

Has the other team been reliably targeting your partner? It’s tougher to tell what your competition’s plans are at the start of the match, but if it’s obvious they’re trying to wear your partner down, it’s likely time to start drawing some of the heat away from them. Start slipping over to their side and changing up the pace of play in order to throw the other team off their game.

As always, be respectful of your partner and be sure to discuss strategies with them and if they mind you poaching before starting a game. You may find that when you’re the partner under fire, poaching can be a saving grace!

What experiences have you had poaching or being poached, and is it a technique you like to employ during games?

Can Pickleball Reduce Crime?

We have talked about pickleball being taken to correctional facilities before and how it’s positively influenced the inmates there. Pickleball has little if any direct physical contact between players, making it an ideal spoke to promote competition without aggression. It’s simple to get started and generally lends itself to friendly banter between opponents.

An article from the Daily Herald has presented another interesting viewpoint on pickleball’s perks, saying that the game has even reduced crime in Orem, UT.

Sharon Park Courts

A beautiful view from the Sharon Park courts

Six courts were introduced to Sharon Park, and comparing crime statistics from June – July this year to 2017, “drug calls are down 40 percent, fireworks complaints 50 percent, juvenile problems 60 percent, public peace 60 percent, suspicious activities 20 percent, and theft is down 57 percent.”

Pickleball alone likely can’t be credited with having all the solutions, as city spokesman Steven Downs said that “activating” parks is a known deterrent to crime. The city has also improved walkways, added additional lighting and benches and updated restrooms. Yet pickleball has clearly played a large role in creating a family-friendly atmosphere and revitalizing the area.

Downs says that, “These pickleball courts have not only been a physical benefit to our citizens, it has also been a social benefit. Every day you can see families, friends, neighbors, and others interacting together. We are ecstatic that these courts have been received so well. We plan to do more in the future.”

So there you have it! Pickleball not only provides benefits to health and happiness, but city safety as well. With many parks across the country opening up more pickleball courts or renovating current locations, we hope to see many more improvements in the future.

Have you ever had personal experience with pickleball making a location safer or more welcoming to the community? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Dick Johnson Is the 2nd Pickler to Win “Personal Best” from the NSGA

Dick Johnson has received the “Personal Best” Award from the National Senior Games Association, the largest multi-sport event in the world for athletes 50 years and older. This recognition is only presented to a handful of athletes out of over 100,000 entrants across 20 sports. In the Games’ 31 years of history, this is only the second time a pickler has received the award, and the first for an Idahoan.

Looking at Dick’s incredible accomplishments and character, the award is well deserved.

The indomitable athlete has medaled twice in all seven national and world pickleball championships, and won close to 200 medals (mostly gold) in tournaments. More impressive yet, he’s done it within only five years of starting the sport.

Dick Johnson

Credit: National Senior Games Assoc.

Dick had played tennis since the 8th grade and won state championships. After a back fusion surgery in 1978 he continued to mentor his three daughters, all of whom became high school tennis champs.

Unfortunately, the surgery only partly suppressed Dick’s back pain, forcing him to permanently quit tennis about 20 years ago. Like many coming from a racquet sport background, he wanted to find a sport that would still challenge him and help him stay healthy without exacerbating his discomfort.

Pickleball was the answer, and the 78-year-old has given back by helping to construct a new facility at Hobble Creek in Boise, as well as becoming a founder of the Super Seniors International Pickleball Association.

Dick’s wife, Lawana, is proud of his dedication, skill and passion, saying that she is happy his work inspires others. He continues to serve through his devotion to “God, family and community.”

An article by the National Senior Games Association interviews Dick and shares more of his experiences and impressive accomplishments. Dick explains how pickleball helped him overcome his back pain and type 2 diabetes, how he got through multiple operations, his biggest inspirations and how he stays motivated.

Give it a read to find out more about this wonderful pickler! Our congratulations go out to Dick and his family.

Do You Care That Pickleball Sounds “Silly”?

Upon hearing the name “pickleball” for the first time, most people laugh in a mixture of amusement and confusion.

Why is it called that when the game has nothing to do with pickles? Don’t people care if it’s taken seriously? Shouldn’t we all have more dignity?

We’ve discussed the name here, and founder Barney McCallum is clearly in favor of keeping it despite some protest. We all know the majority of people who actually try the game after their initial shock fall in love with it, odd name or no. And indeed, we find a certain amount of joy in the fact that our favorite sport has a name that’s both playful and memorable.

Pickles playing pickleball

Having a name like pickleball is a good reminder that players shouldn’t take things too seriously. Certainly there are high level players who approach the sport with a certain amount of reverence, especially if they make their living through it or play at pro tournaments.

But just because pickleball may be some people’s livelihoods doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a bit of fun with it. This is true with anything in life—if we stop taking the opportunity to smile or laugh about something, even in serious times, then finding a spark of joy in other areas becomes that much harder.

This is all ten times truer when it comes to games. Sports are not only intended to promote fitness and friendly competition, but fun! “Pickleball” lets us know we should never lose sight of that.

We also think that pickleball might be unfairly picked on now and then due to its rising star. There are many sports with funny names that are still treated with respect and even represented in the Olympics.

Take, for example, luge. Particularly doubles luge. This is admittedly one of the most difficult and dangerous sports in the world. People go hurtling over ice at speeds of over 90 mph. The name comes from a word in a French dialect meaning “small coasting sled.”

Doubles luge

That’s all well and good, but let’s face it… in the U.S. at least, the pronunciation sounds a bit like the much less flattering “loogie.” Add that to the fact that when lugers get in position, it’s somewhat reminiscent of an uncomfortable, double-stacked human hamburger patty.

Did people poke fun at luge, a sport many had never even heard of until the Winter Olympics? Sure! Yet no one was denying the athleticism and skill required to steer sleds at such intense speeds. Indeed, the seeming absurdity of luge became a bit of a “thing” as viewers tuned in first out of curiosity, then became honest fans as they admired the daring feats these athletes accomplished.

Why shouldn’t pickleball embrace its inherent silliness in the same way? If the sport’s name is just one other way to capture newcomers’ attention and get them wondering about the game, then we couldn’t care less how unusual it comes across at first blush.

We’re not hesitant to indulge in the sport’s goofy side, and at our original PickleballCentral location, we even had one of our Yodeling Pickles out front to greet customers.

Do you enjoy the sillier aspects of pickleball? What was your first reaction when you heard the infamous name? Any particular memories surrounding it that stand out? Let us know in the comments!