Through the Falls: A Norwegian Exploration of Pickleball

Last year our Director of Sales, John Cowley, took part in a sister city program between Kent and the Sunnfjord area in Norway.

It’s a beautiful place home to “artists, handcrafters, folk musicians and dancers” and is called the home of waterfalls due to its beautiful landscape streaked with over 50 waterfalls tumbling over mountainsides and into Norway’s deepest fjord, the Sognefjord.

 

Sunnfjord Waterfall

 

Being the pickleball fanatic that he is, John decided to bring pickleball supplies along with him on his trip to introduce the sister city members to our favorite game!

The result was a rousing success, especially since fellow participant Inge Larsen was already involved with the recreation center in Sogn og Fjordane where John stayed. Both the kids and adults took to the game easily and enjoyed getting in on the action.

 

Sunnfjord Pickleball Courts

 

In addition to his pickleball play time, John got to try freshly-made beer tapped directly from a birch tree (which he said was fantastic) and explored the gorgeous surroundings with new friends.

A particularly amusing story is that of Stigen, an area on the western side of the fjord where two farms sit just above some extremely steep paths. The name comes from the Norwegian word “stiger,” meaning ladder, because once you reach the highest part of the hill ladders must be used to reach the farms.

 

Stigen

Stigen – we wouldn’t want to make that climb!

 

In older times when the church’s men would travel around the area collecting tithes, the clever farmers of Stigen would grab their ladders and make themselves scarce, preventing the tax collectors from taking their hard-earned coin!

John had a wonderful time and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend others explore sister cities and other ways to share pickleball across the globe. As we’ve found again and again as pickleball reaches international locations, people love its simple rules and addictive gameplay just as much as we do.

 

John and Norway Group

 

Check out this quick video John shot of some Norwegian players learning the ropes!

And maybe relate to that moment when you’re ready to slam a winner and end up driving the ball into the net instead of the opponent’s feet…

 

 

Have you ever gone on a sister city trip, or would it be something you’re interested in? What opportunities would you like to spread pickleball internationally?

Pro Player Daniel Moore on Pickleball Tourism and Why You Should Get Your Karaoke On in Japan

Daniel Moore and his father, Scott Moore, have been popular pros around the tournament circuit for years now. But even we were impressed when we found out just how far that circuit actually runs!

Daniel has only recently returned from a whirlwind of pickleball-related travel ranging from London, France, Spain and Japan to the recent USAPA Nationals, where he won three bronze medals in the age events, along with silver in the mixed doubles open event with Simone Jardim and gold in the men’s doubles open event with Matt Wright.

It would be wrong to say this jet-setting lifestyle is a recent development. Daniel grew up in Japan for 16 years before moving to LA, where he then studied abroad in Mexico before traveling to Kenya to work at a social enterprise organisation.

Daniel with Bainbridge Cup

As part of Team North America, Daniel helped us take home the Bainbridge Cup

Not wanting to give up pickleball or travel, what was the Moore family to do? Run a pickleball tourism company!

Today, the Moores (including Daniel’s mom, Susan) manage PickleballTrips.com where they lead groups of picklers to beautiful international locations to see the sights, meet friendly locals and of course, test their pickleball skills on foreign soil. Such destinations include Mexico, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand and Daniel’s “home away from home,” Japan.

Working not only as an official Paddletek representative but a tour leader for WalkJapan, Daniel has extensive experience finding great locations to share off the beaten path.

PickleballTrips

We feel extremely fortunate Daniel made time amid his busy schedule to share his work and why he believes picklers should broaden their horizons by signing up for a tour. Enjoy the interview below!

PBC: How did you and your family decide to start Pickleballtrips.com, and what sort of difficulties have you faced?

DM: My dad and I got involved in pickleball a few years ago. I was already in the tourism business in Japan, bringing international tourists over for walking tours of the Japanese countryside. So doing a pickleball trip to Japan was the first obvious step. We both liked travel and pickleball, and pickleball trips was an excuse to get paid for being able to do both of those things.

Obviously there is a lot of hard work that goes into the trips, but that’s just part of any business. After Japan though, we kind of said, why can’t we do this all over the world? Doing camps across North America was the easiest place to start since that’s where my dad is based, and from there we have branched off into Spain, Mexico for now, with hopefully a lot more destinations in 2019.

PickleballTrips in Barcelona

PickleballTrips in Barcelona, Spain

PBC: What are some of the things you think separate the typical “tourist experience” from a trip that stays with people on a more meaningful level? 

DM: Our trips are totally different from your typical sightseeing vacation because we endeavor to do three main things. First, our customers receive top notch instruction from certified professional pickleball players. The instructors are usually myself and my dad but we are branching out and bringing in different pros on the trips.

Jennifer Lucore is coming to the May 2018 Japan pickleball trip, for example. Everyone has a slightly different perspective on teaching so we want to provide that as well as the chance to come on a trip with different top players. Second, we connect people around the world through pickleball. We give our customers the chance to grow pickleball in a new country while making friends and doing things most tourists would never be able to do.

I think this is a huge reason why people come back on multiple trips with us: the relationships with local players and other participants on the trip. Finally, we do a few typical tourist activities because some places are popular for a reason!

PBC: Are there any particularly fun or amusing events that have stood out to you during your previous pickleball trips to Japan?

DM: On this year’s Japan trip we had a karaoke party in Osaka that was absolutely insane. After karaoke, we played bingo and the locals had prepared these gag gifts that our customers wore. You can see the photos below for the result. 🙂

PickleballTrips Karaoke   PickleballTrips Karaoke

The language barrier can slow things down, but I speak fluent Japanese and Spanish and translate as much as I can. Hotels, trains, restaurants and so on are pretty English-friendly. The local players don’t always speak that much, but pickleball is a common language and people manage fairly well.

I find that hand gestures and a desire to communicate will take you a long way when traveling internationally and people appreciate any effort to learn their language.

PBC: What are some of the main things your groups have taken away from their experiences in Japan?

DM: Being able to help spread pickleball across the world is a huge benefit for our trip participants. People feel like they are part of something bigger than just improving their own game. And like I said previously, it really is about the relationships formed with local players and other people on the trip.

PBC: You wrote about your first time introducing pickleball to Japan and experienced some difficulties, but it turned out to be a learning experience. How have things progressed and what does the pickleball scene look like these days?

DM: Pickleball in Japan right now is still small but definitely growing. We have about 5 clubs between Tokyo and Nagano Prefecture, where I live. I would guess that over 1,000 people have actually played pickleball and around 250 are playing consistently.

The hardest part right now is not court space (every gym in Japan has badminton courts lined) but finding someone to manage the local clubs. The goal is to grow the number of clubs across the country and get people playing consistently, not just one time.

Daniel Starting Pickleball in Japan

Daniel at one of his first pickleball events in Japan

I travel around a lot, but funding and time are always issues. The JPA (Japan Pickleball Association) has done a great job translating materials and introducing people to the sport, though, so I think it will continue to grow steadily.

We have a pretty diverse mix of sports backgrounds that people come from. Badminton and table tennis are big in Japan, but probably because of my tennis background, at the moment we have more people who came from that. And just like in the States, we’ve had people join who have never even played sports before, which I think is awesome.

PBC: How have you managed to get the necessary funding and equipment over to Japan? Has it mostly been a labor of love?

DM: I have definitely invested a lot of time and money into growing the sport in Japan. Paddletek has given me some paddles and apparel, and some people in Japan have put a lot of their time and money into it.

That seems to be how it always is though; someone has to do it for a while out of a love of the sport before you see any results.

PickleballTrips in Saku

PickleballTrips in Saku, Japan

PBC: It looks like the Hachioji PBA has really taken off! If someone was visiting Japan on their own, would they be able to drop by the club for practice?

Yes, Hachioji is probably the biggest club in Japan right now, but Saku is up there too. Hachioji has been playing the longest so they have that advantage. But mostly it’s the dedication of people like Makoto Sato who organize play and manage the club.

At first everyone was playing at one location but as the number of people has grown, they’ve expanded to multiple gyms and play almost every day of the week. It’s also branched off into places around Hachioji like Yokohama, so that’s cool to see.

They love having people join! Hachioji is actually on the USAPA places to play, but the best way to find out about the time/location is to e-mail Makoto directly, makoto.sato@jpickleball.org.

Some solid play from locals at the Hachioji Club

PBC: We noticed you were covered in the newspaper/on TV during a trip to an Okayama school. What was the response from kids and how did the opportunity come about? 

DM: A friend of mine had a connection with Mimasaka University in Okayama Prefecture so we went down to teach a PE class. The students absolutely loved it! We taught about 80 kids in 3 different classes and they want us to come back sometime next year.

High school students in Japan are pretty busy with their traditional school sports and studying, so the goal is to get it into college campuses across Japan where kids have a little more free time. Then when they graduate and move around the country, hopefully they’ll take pickleball with them.

Pickleball in Okayama

PBC: Is there anything you’d like to add about your tours or pickleball in Japan in general? Why would you recommend people sign up for a tour?

DM: The pickleball trips we provide are experiences of a lifetime. Japan can be a little tough to access on your own, but through our tours we can show you how beautiful and welcoming it really is by getting a local’s perspective. It’s an amazing place you won’t want to miss!

If you’re curious about other locations as well, please check out our site because we have many more trips on the way, especially starting in 2019. I’m thinking China, India and Kenya…

At PBC we greatly appreciate the Moores’ contributions to the pickleball community and believe these irresistible tours are packed with value. Want to see the world while enjoying your favorite game?

Sign up at PickleballTrips.com (click the images to see full itineraries) or surprise friends and family with an experience they’ll never forget. They will be visiting Japan twice in 2018 in May and October

An Exciting Recap of the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship – An Event to Cherish
Please enjoy this report on the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship presented by Manish Rao:

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championships

Many of us dream of playing pickleball at the highest level among the best competitors. This is exactly what we Indian players got to experience on October 28-29 at the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship held at the Jamnabai Narsee International School in Juhu, Mumbai.

This event, hosted by the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA) and organized by event managers, Sports Wizards, saw many firsts in Indian pickleball. It was the first time Indians had a chance to witness international players at a tournament in their home country. Both groups had an amazing time interacting with each other and sharing their love of pickleball.

The biggest attraction was the squad from Bangkok, Thailand, captained by the group’s passionate mentor, Steve Cable. There were also participants from the USA and UK. We had the pleasure of hosting one of the kindest pickleball souls in the world during the tournament: the one and only Elaine Shallcross from the UK. She’s such an inspiring lady that even at the age of 64, she gave every player a run for their money!

Teaming up with the iconic Atul Edward of India, Elaine bagged the coveted gold in the Mixed Doubles category. She not only showed us her pickleball skills, but her people skills! Elaine’s positive attitude brightened every player’s day. Even for those who didn’t medal, interacting with Elaine felt like being showered in gold dust.

I have to throw out a mention to Emmett Williams from Alaska as well, a gentleman on a business trip to India who stayed back to play at the Open. In spite of the extreme heat and humidity, Emmett was amazing. He freely shared his enjoyment of the game with his Indian partner, and that’s what pickleball is all about! It’s not just the win or the loss, it’s playing to inspire others.

Footage from the Men’s Doubles semifinal featuring Nikhil Singh / Prashant Kalani (Rajasthan) vs Mayur Patil / Ajay Choudhari (Maharashtra)

It’s not easy to conduct back-to-back matches in the extreme heat of Mumbai. We made sure every match had a referee, scorer and linemen for all matches, including the league match. We required many dedicated and skilled volunteers to give their best throughout the event regardless of the tough conditions. The fact that everyone held out is a demonstration of the power of pickleball and the passion surrounding the sport in India.

The event was supported by many sponsors, including PickleballCentral. The national TV channel, Doordarshan, recorded all the finals and were aired a week later. The venue itself was an icon! We appreciate the Jamnabai Narsee Trust for providing us with a world-class facility where setting up 3 courts was possible. It took the event to the next level. Thanks to Mr Sujay Jairaj, the Indian Open saw some amazing competition and great friendships formed.

Every match was on schedule due to the great team effort from Tournament Director Rahul Wani and company. Each event had 16 teams with 4 groups each, meaning a total of 96 players took part in this inaugural event.

The highlights include –

Men’s Doubles:

This was a fight between the traditional rival states of Rajasthan & Maharashtra. Nikhil Rajput / Prashant Kalani beat Manish Rao / Bhushan Potnis 11-7, 5-11,11-5 in a cliffhanger which went to 3 sets. The young and energetic Rajasthan duo kept their nerve and got the better of the “Old Fox” duo from Mumbai. Pickleball itself was a winner too; the match was carried out in a cordial manner off the court while all cylinders were firing on court.

2017 India Open Championship Men's Doubles

2017 India Open Championship Men’s Doubles: With Manish Rao, Mk Pickleball, Bhushan Potnis, Nikhil Singh Rajput and Ajay Chaudhari.

Mixed Doubles:

Atul Edward (India)/Elaine ShallCross (UK) beat Steve Cable/Suprarat (Thailand) 9-11, 11-0, 6-11. After winning the first set, Atul and Elaine let their guard down to be rolled over by Steve / Suprarat 11-0 in the second set. The 3rd set was an amazing contest of skill and mental toughness. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and that’s what Atul / Elaine did by utilizing clever tactics and closing on the kill. What a match, with a standing ovation to Elaine for her grit!

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

Women’s Doubles:

Suprarat & ThitiWorada (Thailand) beat Karishma & Rutuja (India) 11-9, 11-8. The “Smiling Assassins” and “Thailand Duo” showed the importance of teamwork and made the win look easy. The Indian women were overawed by the occasion but still put up a great fight.

The Indian Open was not just about winning or losing. Every participant and organization involved in the planning of this event was a winner. Pickleball has been in India for the last 10 years and this tournament has shown the world that we have arrived in style.

To pull off an event of such magnitude shows that Indian pickleball is in right hands. Our passion and persistence is paying off and we hope to host many more international events!

Mixed Doubles semifinal with Atul Edward (Mumbai, India) / Elain Shallcross (UK) vs Ashwani Kumar Wadhawa & Geetam Sharma (Jaipur, India)

The bar has been set extremely high for the next Indian Open tournaments. We are well on our way to becoming the top pickleball event in Asia. We’d love to welcome even more competitors the next time around!

The First Bangkok Open Pickleball Tournament

“This tournament will go down in pickleball history!” Manisha exclaimed, one of over seventy players taking part in the first Bangkok Open.

As new competitions spring up all around the world, we have Mr. Sunil Valavalkar of AIPA (All India Pickleball Association) to thank for giving us a dink by dink breakdown of some fresh action in Thailand and how this event came to be.

Team India - Bangkok Open 2017

The Bangkok Open Pickleball Tournament took place at the Santisuk English School on February 19th this year and involved an international cast including players from Thailand, India, the US, Australia, Vietnam and several other Asian countries.

Although it wasn’t an IFP-sanctioned tournament, the event reflected a high standard of organization and competition.

It all started in December 2016 when Steve Cable sent an email to Sunil Valavalkar inviting Indian players to join the tournament.

The two didn’t expect a huge response, but a week before the sign-up deadline, Sunil had received over 30 requests from players all across India. The picklers responded out of pure passion, willing to cover all travel costs on their own.

The rush of feedback was a double-edged sword for Steve. He’d only accounted for an additional 10 players at the tournament, but with a bit of finagling, he managed to accept 22 participants from India. In the end, there were 5 players from state of Maharashtra, 9 from Rajasthan, 4 from Bihar, 2 from Jharkhand and 3 from Uttarakhand.

Karan-Kavita - Bangkok Open 2017

Once the player selection was finalized, Rahul Wani took over the task of giving Team India a professional look.

He created playing kits for the whole team consisting of blazers, trousers and shirts displaying AIPA’s logo and the Indian national flag. Team India was ready to represent!

Even though high-level Indian picklers like Manish Rao, Atul Edward, Shanai Mehta and Anish Mehta have competed in international tournaments before, none have ever done so on behalf of their country.

As such, it was a special treat to see a pickleball team in their national colors for the first time.

At 8 am sharp, the tournament began after a brief introduction by Steve. It consisted of three events: men’s doubles, mixed doubles and women’s doubles.

The initial rounds were played in a round-robin style, where 4 groups had to play 3 matches. The top 2 teams from each group qualified for the knock-out rounds.

Santisuk English School - Bangkok Open 2017

Every match was played with a competitive yet sporting spirit. Three courts were made across the parking area of the school, but the organizers had to stay on their toes to maintain the time schedule. There were a large number of matches, with many lasting over 30 minutes.

The following pairs from India reached the qualifying rounds in men’s doubles: Manish and Sachin, Dr. Bharat and Ashwani, Anand and Siddarth, and Gajendra and Gourav.

The 3 medal positions would all be won by Indian players, but it was anyone’s guess as to which pair would come out on top.

Everyone thought Manish and Sachin would be the winners, since Manish is a proven international player and has great chemistry with his partner. Yet there’s a reason why people say pickleball is a great leveler.

While playing the semi-finals against Anand and Siddarth, Sachin started cramping. He tried to continue through the pain, but ended up collapsing on the court due to a pulled muscle.

Fifteen minutes were allowed for injury time, but Sachin couldn’t recover that quickly, so both Sachin and Manish decided to forfeit.

Anand-Siddarth - Bangkok Open 2017

The incident proved very lucky for Anand/Siddharth, who went on to overcome Dr. Bharat/Ashwani to become the men’s doubles gold medalists.

This was a fairy tale ending for the pair, who had lost the first set 11;0 due to nerves, then regained their composure to beat the favored pair of Dr. Bharat/Ashwani 11;0, 9:11, 4;11.

The mixed doubles finals came down to Steve Cable/Fang vs Niraj/Megha. The Thai pair was very aggressive and won the first set 11:4 , then Niraj/Megha pulled up their socks and won the second set against all odds. The final set was an epic one, with Megha in particular pushing herself to the limit, but it wasn’t enough to save the team. Steve and Fang kept their nerves to win the third set, and with that, mixed doubles gold.

The final scores were 11:4 , 5 :11 and 11:5.

Sunil and Manisha with Nopaluck Cable - Bangkok Open 2017

The women’s doubles had a different format: Instead of fixed partners, the players had a chance to partner with and against every other player over several matches. It was a unique experience, with the results declared on an individual basis.

Thai pickler Fang was declared the winner based on overall points, with Rekha from India nabbing 2nd.

Each participating player received a certificate and the winners were given gold/silver/bronze medals with t-shirts as mementos.

Thanks to the Bangkok Open, many players from India and Thailand developed a mutual respect for one another. During the closing ceremony, Sunil expressed his desire to set up an Asian Federation of Pickleball—a wish that was applauded by all players present.

Indian Team - Bangkok Open 2017

Some teams won and others lost… but the big winner was pickleball! “Victory is in the quality of the competition and not the final score.“

We wish the best to all the competitors, and for an eventual repeat of the Bangkok Open!

Sunil and Nopaluck - Bangkok Open 2017

Sunil and Nopaluck

Meet The Pros: Manish Rao

Meet the Pros: Manish Rao – #change is inevitable #Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change

playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

#proliterebel #reverethegear #bangkokopen #bronze with My partner Sachin Mandrekar All well that ends well — playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

We are always on the lookout for good news stories about the game of pickleball.  Manish Rao is very happy about pickleball coming into his life.  He posted on Facebook recently:

This (Facebook) post is not about ego-boosting or self-marketing, it’s just a post to show gratitude to people who have made a big difference in my life. In 2011 I was reduced to minimal activity due to my back issue, sciatica. It kept me away from all sports and thus resulted in a huge weight increase, and signs of prosperity by means of hair loss. I was living in the world of fooling myself and kept saying I can’t change as it’s destiny. But its not destiny which has to change but the mind has to. Will power is important, but more important is to find the right people in the walk of life who can make this change happen through their positive thoughts.

In March, 2014 one lazy Sunday evening I met Sunil Valavalkar, who, along with his team, gave me a demonstration of an unknown game called pickleball. At that time I didn’t know that my life would change so drastically because of that Sunday. My great friend Ravi Shetty and I took the demonstration of this sport to our building and since then this sport has become my life. Its been 2-3 years that I have been playing this sport and this sport is responsible for me being happy and healthy, along with that it has given me friends all across the world. I am totally indebted to sir Sunil Valavalkar and pickleball. Not only the mental agility has increased but my physical ability is at an all time high. Sports can elevate self-confidence to a level which cannot be imagined. I am thankful to all these people in my life who were there for me at the right time and hence my life changed for the better. If not for all those people who have been a part of my wonderful journey, I would have been a Mr. Nobody sulking in life and just existing in life and not living life. I am not saying that I am the happiest person in life and no worries or stress at all. All I am saying is that my life is much better than what I had expected. Today I have a great family, a lovely sports career and a bunch of great friends. #bepositive #nevergiveup

There is always more to the story, so we asked him the following Meet The Pros questions. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major tournament wins?

Gold : Men’s Doubles  : Atlantic Regional ( Portland Maine) June 2016 : Partner Ravi Shetty ( New York ) 3.5 level
Gold : Men’s Doubles : 2016 : Nationals  winner : Venue : Jaipur : Partner Bhushan Potnis

 Silver : Doubles : 2015 : Nationals : @ Haryana , Panipat : partner Sachin Mandrekar
Gold :  Mumbai Open : 2017 : Jan : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  State Open : 2016 : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  Mumbai District : 2015 : Partner Sachin Mandrekar
Silver: Mumbai District : 2016 : Partner : Bhushan Potnis

Rebel PowerSpin

Rebel PowerSpin

What paddle do you play with and why?

Early on I used to play with the Paddletek Bantam EX-L. In 2016, I shifted to  thePro-Lite Rebel. I’m loving it for the balance and spin control. I totally feel like a Rebel with this paddle and can’t imagine playing pickleball with with anything but this piece of art. #proliteproud: #Rebel  I really am thankful to Pro-Lite for providing me with these amazing paddles.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

In my childhood I used to play a modified sport kind of like pickleball in our building premises. We played the game with a tennis ball and handmade paddles on the badminton court. So when we participated in the demo of this sport in 2014, we were totally hooked on the game immediately. It’s been almost 3 years now since I started this game and I’m a total addict; on days I don’t play pickleball I get withdrawal symptoms. We’ve made a dedicated court on our building premises, so every day is pickleball day!

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I love playing outdoors!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I am a doubles player and love the doubles game as its a game of strategy and planning unlike in single. I love the patience involved in the doubles game and the bonding with the partner makes it special, hence I always prefer the doubles game.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Manish withbuddies

Pickleball buddies Sachin Mandrekar, Saumitra Korgaonkar, Bhushan Potnis, Sunil Joshi, Abhijit Madbhavi and Ashutosh Madbhavi.

My favorite place to play pickleball is my Home Court @ Mumbai, Mangal Kripa. This has been my residence since childhood and to have a dedicated court for this amazing sport makes it special. I love playing on this court as we are a group of highly passionate pickleball players under one roof.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

The secret is nothing but just love of this sport and having a passion for the game. Once the passion is there it’s just a matter of time to master the game. The main thing about this game is to have patience. This game is like chess, its more mind work than power. The less the errors, the more wins.

What’s your day job?

I am the CEO of my own Business of Security Automation systems, Electromech Automation Pvt Ltd. I have been involved with this firm for the last 25 years.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play approximately 7 to 9 hours in a week. We play in the evening every day after work on week days from 9:00 pm to 10:30 pm, and on weekends we try to play twice a day.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t believe in luck much; however, the harder I work , the luckier I get! The only ritual before the tournament is to FOCUS and not get distracted!

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

Personally, the only goal I have for pickleball is to see this game grow in India exponentially. I want to play in the USOPEN in 2018 and every year after that! That’s a goal I want to fulfill. Personally this game has given me immense pleasure in life and changed my complete outlook for life! 

Anything else you’d like to share about your pickleball experience?

Oh, this is very tricky question; I can go on and on about my experience of pickleball. I will try to give a few.

I always was a sports man, but in 2010 an injury to my back got me into lazy mode resulting in putting on lots of weight. It has changed only by the addition of pickleball into my life. I got back to sports as this sport is non-invasive and easy on the body initially. The addiction of this sport gave me the will power to over come my back injury and made my goal to lose weight fast. Totally I have lost 14 kilograms in one year, all due to pickleball!

I am a short-tempered person, but I can safely say that due to this game and its very nature of requiring patience with the shots, especially dinks, it  has worked wonders with my temperament. I am much more relaxed and generally don’t lose my top over silly things! My confidence level is at the highest level nowadays and the interaction with the younger generation for coaching of pickleball gets me energized. I am also happy to be the First Indian Player to be officially in a sports gear contract for Pickleball in India, thanks to team PROLITE! This has been a real boost to me to make this game grow more and more. This game has been a game-changer for me and for my family. I am happy that my wife Ashwini and my daughter Tanya are a avid pickleballers too.

Thank you Manish for sharing your enthusiasm for this wonderful game of Pickleball.  See you at the USOPEN in 2018!

 

The IFP Bainbridge Cup 2017 – Pickleball History in the Making

It’s a rare moment indeed when you can be part of an historic sporting event.

In 1927, when Great Britain visited the United States to play in the first Ryder Cup, they had no idea the spectacle it would become. Nor did fans or players foresee how big the World Cup would grow when they experienced the first Cup in Uruguay in 1930.

International Pickleball Tournament - Spain 2016

International Pickleball Tournament – Spain 2016

Now it’s pickleball’s turn to make history with the launch of the IFP Bainbridge Cup. Due to the rapid growth of Pickleball around the world, the future of pickleball’s Intercontinental Team Competition appears bright, with the inaugural event set to take place in Madrid Spain, September 15, 2017. The IFP is the International Federation of Pickleball, the governing body of the sport and the organizer of the Cup.

Bainbridge Cup Format

The Bainbridge Cup features two teams: “Team North America” and “Team Europe” (with the possibility of a third “Rest of the World” team). Each Team will compete to take home the first ever Bainbridge Cup trophy. Participation in the Cup is open to ALL players who register, thus players of all age and skill levels are invited to take part.

The format includes Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Matches, and all players are guaranteed a minimum of four matches. It will be a round robin format with players grouped by skill and age. The Team with the most points (match victories) over the course of the day will be crowned the winner.

Join the Team

Playing in the Cup offers a unique opportunity to join the Team of some of the biggest names in pickleball: Team “North America” players include Marcin Rozpedski, Jennifer Lucore, Kyle Yates, Simone Jardim, Alice Tym, Rob and Jodi Elliott, and Daniel Moore. For Team Europe, top players include Oliver Strecker, Ernesto Cardenas, Faye Plummer, Carlos Perez, Cyril Dirand, Leonardo Gonzalez, Gema Garcia and Ian Medhurst.

IFP Bainbridge Cup Logo - 2017 Spain

 5 Full Days of Pickleball

Immediately following the Cup competition (Friday, Sept. 15) will be another international competition: on September 16 and 17 the 3rd Annual International Pickleball Tournament will be held at the same location as the Cup. Therefore, there will be three consecutive days of competition at the same location: September 15, 16 and 17, 2017. In addition, the Pickleball Pros in attendance will be offering free clinics on the two days prior to the competition, on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 13 and 14.

Venue and Early Registration

The Cup and International Tournament will be played at Ciudad de la Raqueta (Racquet City), one of Madrid’s premier racquet sport clubs. There will be 20 competitive courts and a Championship Court with stadium seating. Early registration runs until May 31st. The event is filling up fast so registration is encouraged now to ensure a spot. Registration and detailed Cup information is available at PickleballTournaments.com.

Podium Shot - Spain International Tournament 2016

Podium Shot – Spain International Tournament 2016

See the Sites of Spain

Madrid, Spain’s vibrant capital city, is full of history, culture, a festive environment and wonderful gastronomy. It is home to the Royal Palace as well as the Prado Museum, which features one of the finest art collections in the world. Tour activities have been organized to allow participants to make the most of their trip. For more information send an email to info@pickleballspain.org.

Be a Part of History

It all adds up to five days of fantastic pickleball and history being made. And you can be part of it all, as a player or spectator. Years from now, when Pickleball is an Olympic Sport and the Bainbridge Cup is televised by ESPN, you can say, “I was there at the very beginning of it all.”

 

— Mike Hess, President of the IFP

Pickleball in the Czech Republic: A Lesson in Fun

When a teacher and a sports trainer join forces, you know things will get done! Pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic thanks to a determined duo made up of US Open silver medalist Lenka Mišičková and teacher/counselor Jodi Oppenhuizen. These two players have plenty of expertise between them and use a friendly yet consistent process for integrating the game into local communities.

Lenka and Jodi

Jodi Oppenhuizen (left) and Lenka Mišičková (right)

Joining Forces

The first time pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic was in 2014 after Jodi was introduced to the game by her parents and learned to play in Michigan. She brought donated paddles and balls to the Christian International School in Prague where she works and started a pickleball club. Wanting more partners to play with, she also taught her friends about the game and created the Pickleball Czech Facebook page to share information.

A year later and worlds apart at the time, Lenka visited with a friend in Meadville, PA. There she was introduced to senior pickleball champion John Vicek. After sharing pictures from his matches, John and his wife invited Lenka to their home in Windsor, Canada to learn the game. Lenka quickly took to it, having been a ping pong champion in her teen years and an athlete her whole life.

Pickleball in Prague

Pickleball in Prague

It was only last year (2015) that Lenka and Jodi crossed paths. Lenka contacted Jodi after finding out about her efforts through a mutual contact in Amsterdam. After falling in love with pickleball, she wanted to help spread the word about the addictive game.

Gearing Up

Jodi lent equipment to Lenka so she could teach pickleball to kids at FIT Sports Club just south of Opava in Hradec nad Moravici, where she also trains them in ping pong, tennis, roller blading and floor ball (known in the U.S. as “floor hockey”).

Lenka’s first attempt was during the children’s summer camp, where they quickly became interested in the sport. As a follow-up, she continued to teach them pickleball during the 2015 – 2016 school year in the Czech Republic’s Moravian-Silesian region.

In spring 2016, Lenka purchased the domain for the Pickleball Czech website to better network with newcomers. Her and Jodi’s initiative was also strengthened by the head of the Ukraine Pickleball Association, David Conover.

A star of donated pickleball gear!

A star of donated pickleball gear!

In the following summer, Jodi participated in the Michigan State Games where she was recognized for her efforts to start pickleball in the Czech Republic. While there, she established a sister club relationship with the Grand Rapids Pickleball Club.

She also received support from Paddletek, Selkirk Sports and PickleballCentral when it came to acquiring more equipment, which is currently finding use on both sides of the country (Prague and Hradec nad Moravici)!

Despite having a decent amount of paddles and balls, one area where the Czech Republic lacks “equipment” is when it comes to the courts themselves. In fact, there are currently no pickleball-specific courts in the country. But Jodi and Lenka don’t let this slow them down!

“Although there are no courts that have been made exclusively for pickleball,” Jodi says, “there are many badminton courts. [Since] a doubles badminton court is the same size as a pickleball court, you can typically find a place to play indoors.”

Lenka adds, “[When] I train outside my house we just find level ground and use chalk for lines!”

Pop-Up Pickleball

When Lenka visited Jodi for the first time, they found another way to adapt to their surroundings. Jodi suggested they play pickleball on the Charles Bridge, one of the most famous tourist locations in the country.

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

“And we did!” She confirms. “We played many other unusual places in the city and were able to talk to people from various countries about pickleball. I appreciate Lenka’s humor and positivity.”

How’s that for pickleball guerilla marketing? No more excuses for not playing if you lack a “proper” court! Jodi shares another benefit of teaming up with Lenka aside from her open-minded attitude:

“She’s won several medals in tournaments, so it’s great to have an excellent Czech player in the country paving the way for future players.”

A Fighter’s Endurance

Indeed, it was Lenka who won the silver medal for women’s singles in the US Open. Amazingly, it was her very first pickleball tournament and she had to fight through an injury the whole way.

“The US Open was the first [pickleball] tournament in my life. I didn’t know what my level of play was, but because I have lots of experience in ping pong I felt I could adapt quickly. I had very good partners with me. In the women’s doubles we won 4th place and in mixed doubles we got 5th.”

“At the beginning of the second day my leg muscles started to hurt. I couldn’t take a step without intense pain. But because I’m great fighter I wanted to make it through to the end! I honestly have no idea how I won silver in those conditions. After every match I visited the tournament doctor who iced and bandaged my leg.”

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam Tournament

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament

“Afterwards I went to a hospital back in the Czech Republic and they determined it was inflammation of the muscles and tendons. I wasn’t allowed to play for nearly a month. After waiting things out I competed in the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament and had the same issue return… but I won another silver medal! Miracle.”

Lenka may attribute her wins to luck and divine intervention, but we give her credit for tons of grit, determination and skill. (Though we hope her legs have gotten some much-needed rest and fully recovered!)

In addition to teaching pickleball during the school year and during summer camp for kids in Opava and Ostrava, Lenka is sharing her talent by joining with the Osatrava Municipal Hall to organize exhibitions in primary schools.

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Incredibly enough, coaching pickleball and numerous other sports isn’t even this champion’s day job. Lenka primarily teaches law and economics to people transitioning in the work force. In her remaining time, she has also published 3 books on sports. (Stop making us look bad, Lenka!)

Her endless supply of resiliency is perhaps no surprise when you hear Lenka has spent her life tracking down extended family after contact was lost between relatives in the U.S. in 1948 and 1968 due to the Czech Republic’s communist regime. Thankfully she has been able to find several aunts and uncles at this point, and shows no signs of slowing down.

We’re glad this determination has spread into other areas of her life and that picklers get to benefit!

Setting the Scene

The big push for Lenka and Jodi to establish pickleball in the Czech Republic will come when they’re able to host their own competition. Although there haven’t been any tournaments in the Czech Republic yet, several countries nearby have seen them, such as Amsterdam and Ukraine.

Lenka with Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament

Lenka with doubles partner Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament (with their gold medals!)

Europe in general has been making great progress, considering there was a pickleball tournament in Spain this past September and in the UK in October. As the number of players in the Czech Republic continues to grow, Pickleball Czech looks to the future with hope and plenty of spirit.


 

PickleballCentral offers a big round of applause for Lenka’s wins and both women’s dedicated efforts to continue growing the sport around the world. Thank you both for taking the time to share your work with us!