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!

AMBASSADOR SERIES – Ron Tugwell, North Virginia, Fairfax County

Ambassador Series – Ron Tugwell

Location: North Virginia, Fairfax County

Ron Tugwell, Home Plate Awards

56th Annual Home Plate Awards Banquet, Ron Tugwell, organizer on the left,

Ron Tugwell is a life-long sports enthusiast and coach. We are glad to have him in the pickleball “family” now! Enjoy!

How did you get into pickleball?

I’ve been involved in sports all my life. I coached baseball. My son played professional baseball. I played tennis, but I’ve had 2 knee replacements in 4 years. After the last knee surgery, I tennis-ed out, and started playing golf. It was tough to learn and hard on my knees. Then about 7 years ago I visited my parents who live in a retirement community. They played pickleball and I started hitting around with them. I got hooked, went home and found places where it was played. I play pickleball now 4-5 times a week. My wife and I both play. We get to know people better playing pickleball than when we played tennis. We enjoy organizing pickleball parties and we travel with it. I played at Naples (US Open). It’s nicer traveling with pickleball than with golf. Pickleball is my passion. The appeal of the game is that it is easy to learn and fairly inexpensive.

Why did you become an ambassador?

I was approached by Helen White, Asst Regional Mid-Atlantic Director, outside DC. She’s great! She asked for help with the Mid-Atlantic Tournament, so my wife Peggy and I jumped in and helped. Peggy and I like to travel and play together, and we like to help, so we jumped at the chance to become ambassadors. We work together as co-ambassadors. We handle a lot of calls and have a lot of visitors to the places that have pickleball.

Highlights of being an ambassador? Accomplishments?

Helen, Peggy and I work together to get more people playing pickleball. Two years ago, 20% of folks who took our classes stayed with it. Today, every class is full, and they often have played already and have already bought a paddle. The growth includes younger folks ages 30-50. Pickleball is also being introduced in public schools.  We introduce pickleball at local middle schools for the first-time last year. 

We just finished hosting a City Open Tournament in DC. We also had the 10 best pickleball pros, like Tyson McGuffin, Irina Tereschenko and Joey Farias, come to do exhibition play. Three stayed around after to do clinics. We filled 260 slots for a 3-day clinic.

Pro clinic

Clinic participants and the Pros – Tyson McGuffin, Irina Tereshenko, Joe Farias in the cente, row did you get into pickleball?

What challenges have you encountered in getting pickleball into communities?

I know pickleball will grow. My wife and I are both educators, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that the game is 80% practice and 20% play. Most folks are 3.0 level and not seeking to improve much. It’s sometimes hard to get folks to do skills and drills.  

Peggy Tugwell

Tyson McGuffin and Peggy Tugwell

We are behind on providing enough facilities for the demand for the game. There are no dedicated courts within 50 miles except Fredricksburg. Pickleball is big in pockets of Maryland. In the DC area, there are more indoor courts. We have heavy competition with other activities. Fairfax County wants all facilities to be multipurpose. A number of facilities are small and some have tile floors, like one site near Arlington which is not so good for pickleball. There are 220 tennis courts in Fairfax County, and only 20% are being used. We are looking into one perfect location, easy access in the DC area. It has 11 tennis courts that no one uses, with 2 that have pickleball lines. We are working hard to convince the county athletic board to consider expanding pickleball in this location.

Food, Fun and Pickleball at Smash Park in Des Moines, IA

Chicken N Pickle may have been the first entertainment, restaurant and pickleball venue, but we can now add Smash Park to that list!

The location in Des Moines, IA features a casual restaurant that offers burgers, chicken, cocktails and salads. Pickleball isn’t the only sport they have available either, with bocce ball, pingpong, shuffleboard and board games ready for action.

Smash Park

The Des Moines Register article announcing the opening notes that “a majority of Smash Park’s 47,000 square feet is dedicated to pickleball.” Open play is $7/day on unreserved courts, or $10 – 20 depending per half hour depending on the day and time. There are 6 indoor and 2 outdoor courts.

The facility will be hosting leagues starting in October and plans to provide training clinics and regional tournaments down the road.

We’re always excited to hear about more entertainment and court locations opening up around the U.S.! The Smash Park site shares that they hope to “[recreate] those same backyard summer vibes of ’65, when pickleball was new and friends and family gathered to play, laugh and have fun together.” Sounds like our kind of place.

You can even rent out the Smash Park deck as an event space for parties or fun events when you want to have a posh pickleball gathering.

If you’re in the Des Moines area, be sure to check it out and share in the fun.

Ambassador Series – Meet Mary Barsaleau, USAPA Ambassador, Coachella Valley, California

AMBASSADOR SERIES – Meet Mary Barsaleau

Rosie Garcia, Vincente and Mary Barsaleau

Referee clinic with Rosie, Vincente and Mary – what a TEAM!

Mary Barsaleau loves getting EVERYONE into the game. Her love of the sport is clearly apparent by all the work she is doing to promote the game of pickleball. Enjoy!

Mary Barsaleau in Action

Mary Barsaleau demonstrating at the L.A. A.P.E teachers clinic

How did you get into pickleball?

I started teaching and coaching after I finished the teaching credential program at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1983, after playing tennis, basketball and softball in college.

I was introduced to teaching pickleball at the Cal Poly workshop in 1984. It was a blast, and we had mini tournaments after classes. I incorporated pickleball into my physical education curriculum at Francis Parker, and in the Grossmont and Tustin Unified school districts. I coached both the boys’ and girls’ varsity  and J.V. tennis teams for 7 years at Tustin High, and even my tennis team loved pickleball!

Before we had courts, I used the service boxes on the tennis courts and dropped the volleyball nets on the volleyball courts, at first using tennis balls and hard plastic paddles. The kids loved it!

I ran summer tennis camps for 12 years and did “pickleball Wednesdays” from 2002-2015 in Tustin. They wanted to play pickle more than tennis!

In 2012 I joined a P.E. workshop friend who told me they were playing competitive pickleball at Crown Valley middle school. Bill Smith and Jane Porphir as well as many others took me under their wing, told me to quit “playing like a tennis player,” and encouraged me to enter some tournaments. After joining Phil Dunmeyer’s early morning Tustin district employee gang (aluminum nets and taped lines) I played my first tournament at the Palm Springs Senior Games in 2013. After recovering from back surgery, I moved from 4.0 to 4.5 and became a USAPA ambassador in 2015.

Refs in Training Mary Barsaleau

What a great bunch of Refs in Training

Why did you become an Ambassador?

I love pickleball, love teaching others and wanted to start a program that did not conflict with sanctioned tournaments and social play at Tustin. I had run many events as an athletic director, and thought that the round robins which Cyndi Glavas and Phil Dunmeyer first organized at Tustin were the way to go.

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

My first round robin was the Summer Sizzler in the summer of 2015, and I just hosted Summer Sizzler 4! The round robin format is a great way to meet people, socialize, practice for tournaments and not worry about being eliminated. I have run about 20 events at Tustin, and 5 in Palm Springs. That is my major ambassador contribution, and I hope to continue to run these events everywhere. 

Montana School Demonstration Mary Barsaleau

Mary and youth at the Montaras School Demonstration

Highlights of being a USAPA ambassador? Accomplishments?

I finished the IPTPA training to be an instructor in July. I plan to attend the Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR) certification program in September at Seal Beach, so I can compare the two teaching programs. PPR is a subset of the Professional Tennis Registry, of which I have been a member for years. They provide certification and insurance for instructors.

Mary Barsaleau, Garcia with Montana School Students

Mary Barsaleau, Rosie Roper with Montaras School youth

Rosie Roper and I ran two clinics for L.A. Unified in June, for both students and APE teachers. I recruited Jeanie Garcia, Doug Nichols and Gary Rogers to help, along with Bev Vigil, who works for LAUSD. San Clemente ambassador Manny Romero is working to schedule an inservice for his teachers this year, after we ran a senior center demonstration along with Phil Dunmeyer earlier this year. I am working with Steve Riggs to start the program in Irvine when the Portola facility is completed. I recently changed my ambassador registration from Tustin/Long Beach to the Coachella Valley and hope to run more round robins, in-service workshops and school district programs in the desert.

Dean Mangione, USAPA ambassador in Palm Springs, has worked hard to promote pickleball in a variety of programs, and has been my mentor. Along with Rosie Roper, we ran a free clinic during Spring break that had over 45 kids! He and his wife Nancy have worked with the city, and have offered free youth programs indoors at both Demuth and JOJ community centers. Along with Vicki Oltean with the City of Palm Springs, and Dave Paquette, I have run 5 round-robin tournaments during the season, with great success. Hank Reimer is running referee clinics and training in the Palm Desert area, and I am working with him to become a certified referee.

Challenges to getting pickleball into communities?

We need to work cooperatively with the tennis community and offer free programs to introduce our sport in camps, after school programs and schools. Senior center demonstrations, Back to School Night or Open House demonstrations, and off season leagues for high school girls and boys tennis teams are only a start.

When we get them playing, they will push their communities to build more courts. Sponsorships from businesses will help with funding, and corporate Health and Wellness is a great place to offer pickleball to get employees active and exercising. I would like to see everyone on the courts!

Pickleball Station Featured on King 5 News

Last month our training and court rental/drop-in business, Pickleball Station, was featured on KING 5 News. The article and corresponding video discuss pickleball’s growth from its beginnings here on Bainbridge Island.

Edward on K5 News

 

You’ll learn more about the expansion of pickleball and a discussion on the various high-level players taking the game to the next level.

It also features interviews with our local friend, collaborative partner and top player Glen Peterson, along with pro Tyson McGuffin who grew up in Chelan, WA.

Check out the video to catch glimpses of our instructors Peter Hudachko and Brian Ashworth on the courts, in addition to our CEO Ed Hechter!

 

 

Military Tries Their Hand at Pickleball, Warrior Games May Add to Lineup

Our veterans have accomplished some amazing things, and now they’re adding pickleball to their lists!

We got word that Steve and Ramona Boone, Great Plains Region Directors of the USAPA, directed the first Warrior Games pickleball demo on June 3 and 4 this year.

Warrior Games 2018

The Department of Defense Warrior Games is a multi-sport competition whose participants are entirely made up of active-duty members and veterans who have sustained injuries or illness during their service. They were organized in 2010 as “a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and expose them to adaptive sports.”

Thanks to Steve and Ramona, pickleball is now being considered as an addition to the sports currently represented at the Warrior Games. For now, a variety of veterans from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Special Ops Command have had their first taste of the game, and many will be taking it back to their homes in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia.

Warrior Games 2018 Demo

The pair shares:

“Most of them had never played before, although a few had heard of pickleball. But they learned fast and had a ton of fun. Of course, having the Denver Bronco cheerleaders and mascot come out and play didn’t hurt!”

Each Warrior was given a paddle and ball (packaged in a PickleballCentral bag) and taken on the court with a team of instructors. Everyone had a great time and many said they would give it another go later on.

Warrior Games Playing Pickleball

This demo marks the initial step toward sharing pickleball with even more veterans in the future, and hopefully we’ll be seeing it represented in the Warrior Games soon!

Pickleball Joins the AAU and Brings Players of All Ages into the Fold

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is a multi-sport event organization that promotes programs across the U.S. It was recently announced that pickleball will be added to the group’s roster and more opportunities to play will spring up in the AAU’s 55 U.S. districts.

The AAU has around 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers, and formerly served to establish global standards in amateur sports. It also helped prepare athletes for the Olympic games. In the 70’s, they changed their focus to promoting sports programs for both adult and youth participants “beginning at the grass roots level.”

AAU Logo

This is an incredibly exciting development for pickleball—not only will the AAU provide yet another burst of visibility to the game, but the USAPA will work in conjunction to co-brand a series of recreational pickleball leagues and tournaments.

Those who are already part of the USAPA will be able to enjoy a special membership through AAU website (in conjunction with a full AAU membership) in order to enjoy these new programs.

Partnerships like this will form the foundation of credibility that pickleball needs to be recognized as a viable sport on a global stage. The more support the USAPA gets from longstanding organizations such as the AAU, the more easy it will be for pickleball to find its way into schools, rec centers, and hopefully one day, the Olympics!

AAU Junior Games

AAU Junior Games Medalists

If you’re interested in taking part of these competitions, keep an eye on the AAU Pickleball site to see upcoming events.

The Junior Olympics took place on July 30, but the Indoor Nationals will happen August 13-19 while the Outdoor Nationals in Nov. 28 – Dec 2. Both will be taking place in Florida, where the AAU’s headquarters are located.

Is Your Paddle Texture Standing Between You and Tournaments?

In May of 2016 the USAPA announced that paddle textures would be regulated so that players couldn’t impart as much spin in their hits (at least, not without proper technique). This caused several paddle manufacturers to either remake their offerings or maintain their current designs with the understanding that players wouldn’t be able to use those paddles in USAPA-sanctioned tournaments.

The amended rules state:

2.E.2. Surface. The paddle hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart additional spin on the ball. Paddle roughness is determined using a Starrett SR 100 Surface Roughness Tester. The allowable limits for roughness shall be no greater than 30 micrometers (µm) on the Rz reading (average maximum height, peak to valley), and no greater than 40 micrometers on the Rt reading (maximum height, peak to valley)…

While recreational players went unaffected, there was also a sizable group of picklers frustrated to learn the paddles they’d been playing with would no longer be viable in competitive play.

Spinning

Using spin as a technique can totally change your game (Credit: Melissa O’Donohue)

Spin is still a high-level strategy used to this day, but it’s more difficult to pull off and less extreme in execution without highly textured paddles, which “grip” pickleballs and send them twisted back across the net. When the USAPA made the motion to regulate texture, it was in the hopes of maintaining pickleball’s accessible nature and ensuring an playing field, so no one would be able to perform these techniques more easily than their opponents.

For newer players that weren’t competing at the time these changes went into effect this may seem like a non-issue, but it’s still an important topic that we see come up fairly often. Some beginners go into pickleball “blind” and buy whatever paddle they enjoy playing with or are recommended, but if and when they eventually look at entering tournaments, they may be surprised to find out the paddle they’ve been using isn’t allowed.

As such, if players think they eventually might want to delve into competitive play and don’t want to change paddles down the road (which is another feasible option), we highly recommend asking our representatives if the paddle they’re buying is “USAPA-approved.”

You can also check this information for yourself by visiting the USAPA website, highlighting the “Rules & Referees” heading, and looking at the “Approved Paddle List.”

Although the USAPA has limited the amount of texture on paddles, this doesn’t mean all paddles are entirely smooth. Our customer service team is always happy to help people decide which option may be best for them, so if you’re looking to get a bit of an edge when it comes to working on spin, we can help!

Lipen Chang, one of our customers, recently reached out to us because he found himself in a situation similar to that described above. He had purchased 6(!) paddles from our Amazon store but discovered that an upcoming tournament wouldn’t allow him to use his paddle due to texture regulations. We were able to replace his paddle with another option… after which, Lipen (and his partner) went on to win gold in the tournament!

Lipen Chang

Lipen Chang and his gold medal!

It just goes to show that even if you’re currently using a non USAPA-approved paddle, it’s more about the player than the gear! Of course, getting the right paddle matters when it comes to complementing your skill and getting into tournaments, so don’t hesitate to try different things until you find the perfect option.

You can always give us a call at (888)-854-0163 if you’d like to find out if your current paddle is USAPA-approved, what textured paddles we recommend and how to stay up-to-date on the newest paddle innovations. Best of luck on the courts!

Paddletek Pro Core Brings a Higher Level of Reactivity and Precision to the Game

Paddletek has been keeping its newest and greatest core technology close to the chest for the past couple years, but they’ve finally released it to the public. With the new Bantam EX-L Pro and TS-5 Pro, players can expect to enjoy more pop, control and durability. Basically, more of the Paddletek greatness players have come to expect in a stylish new package!

Bantam TS-5 Pro

Bantam TS-5 Pro

Curtis Smith at Paddletek explained to us why their Pro core took some time to become available and why it’s a worthwhile improvement over previous iterations. Originally it was a matter of price and finding the right position in the market:

“The new tech in the Pro Core was actually developed a couple years ago. We tested the paddle with a few of our pros and local recreational players then. The expense of the core, however, would mean a retail price that we felt was too high for the existing market. Recently other brands have proven the viability of the retail price we needed to produce the paddle, so we added a few patent pending upgrades to the technology and retested. The results included just a few specification changes per [player] input.”

Paddletek’s New Construction

In terms of construction, the Bantam EX-L and TS-5 Pro core has a thicker design that also stiffens the handle. There is also a yet to be revealed patent-pending technology being utilized that adds extra responsiveness and quality to the entire design.

Many players are tired of hearing the old chant of “touch and power” when it comes to a paddle’s benefits, but in the case of Paddletek’s Pro core, it’s a fitting mention. Curtis explains:

“To describe the difference in the Pro core versus the original, we have to bring in a third aspect of play: forgiveness. The new Pro core adjusts the amount of energy required to activate the ‘pop’ of the paddle. Typically, you don’t want pop for soft shots since it reduces control and touch.

Bantam EX-L Pro

Bantam EX-L Pro (multiple colors available)

By increasing the energy required to activate the pop, the paddle’s touch or control rating increases. But when the pop is activated, it activates in a stronger, more efficient manner, providing increased power that is more accurate. Better accuracy increases the paddles forgiveness.

Now players can play with a paddle with the touch and forgiveness of the Tempest Wave, but have power that exceeds the [original] Bantam EX-L.”

A Core that Adjust to Your Needs

This intriguing concept of “activating” the pop of a paddle makes sense to us, as we often hear about players either lamenting the soft touch of control paddles outside of dinking or accidentally sending a pickleball hurtling toward the baseline when they wanted just a light punch. With the Pro core, you can gently nudge pickleballs over the net while still having the capacity for those “put away” shots.

Curtis finishes by saying, “The Bantam Pro series is for players who want to add power to their game but not sacrifice control or touch, or for players already playing with powerful paddles but wish to increase that power or add more touch to their soft game. We rated the original Bantam EX-L as an intermediate to pro player paddle. But the added control and forgiveness of the new Bantam Pro series allows us to rate the paddle from beginner to pro.”

Players who have followed Paddletek for some time may also have noticed that both of these paddles also have updated graphics. Not only do the designs look stylish, but they have a textured fiberglass face with UV-coating that helps prevent damage and fading over time.

Try out the updated Bantam EX-L and TS-5 Pro today to feel the difference in play at the Paddletek section on PickleballCentral.