Meet The Pros – Tony Girodo

Meet The Pros – Tony Girodo

Tony Girodo with Linda Dillon

Tony is a full-time RV’er, so he gets to play pickleball with folks from all over. He must have a fantastic array of pickleball friends. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2019 National Senior Games Mixed Doubles with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2019 Wickenburg Ranch Men’s Doubles Age – Gold

2019 Grand Canyon State Games Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Gold
2019 Robson Ranch, Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2018 Margaritaville USAPA Nationals, Mixed Skill/Age Doubles with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2018 US OPEN Men’s Doubles Age with Bob Costanza – Gold
            Mixed Doubles – Skill with Connie Reker – Bronze
2018 Happy Trails, Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Gold
2018 Duel in the Desert, Men’s Doubles Skill/Age with Doug Cook – Gold
2017 Round Up@ Sun City AZ, Men’s Doubles Skill/Age with Bill Marshall – Gold

Tony Girodo Gold

2016 🌵🏅Duel in the Desert🏅🌵 Mixed Doubles Age/Skill Groups 65+: 4.0, GOLD Audrey Sherfey and Tony Girodo, SILVER Terry Saunders and James Saunders BRONZE Diane Hill and Donald Bangs

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently play with the Tempest Wave. I used to play with an original Paddletek pickleball paddle, no model name, and had it for about 7 years.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

Ten and a half years ago my wife and I started RV’ing. At our first stop in Palm Springs I kept hearing this “ping – ping – ping” sound and went to investigate. I was invited to play, and the rest is history. I have a tennis and racquetball background. My wife plays recreationally. Pickleball has turned out to be a great social sport. We’ve made a lot of good friends. No matter where we go, we find people who play pickleball.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Ninety-five percent of the time I play outdoors.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer doubles. I may venture into singles at some time in the future.

Tony Girodo, bronze

Marriott Desert Ridge Holiday Classic December 1, 2017 Men’s Doubles 70+ 4.5: Gold: Barry Jeff Stone & Malcolm Derr, Silver: Jim Saunders & Brian Parkes, Bronze: Tony Girodo & Doug Cook

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Indian Wells is my favorite place this year, also Happy Trails and Pebble Creek. The Surprise, Arizona area has 16 public area courts that are great. They may be expanding the number of courts in the future.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I have a supportive spouse, and that really helps. It also helps to get the right partner. Get one who plays like you or better. Make sure you drill all the time and seek to play with better, skilled folks. This builds confidence. It helps to use a Sports Tutor machine to practice drills.

What is your day job?

I am a full-time RV’er with my wife. Just recently visited Portland, Maine and the beach in New Jersey.

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

I play 2-3 hours a day, 15-20 hours a week. I usually take a day off during the week to let my body heal. Thankfully, I ‘ve had no major injuries.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I pet our dog “Mojo,” a schnauzer who gives me big “MOJO.” 

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

My current goal is to medal at the USAPA Nationals.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

This is a great game to play and for meeting new friends. I keep playing to keep active. Eighty percent of my commitment to the game is so that I can continue to eat ice cream! I try to improve every day. I suggest working on 1 or 2 things at a time, like dinks, lobs and 3rd shot drops. That’s the best way to improve your game, in my opinion. 

Introducing Pickleball as a Competitive Sport: Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas


Activity Center at Trinity Episcopal School, Galveston

I heard it by the grapevine that some great things were happening in one school PE program in Galveston, Texas.  Here is some of their story, shared by Anne Hyatt, Program Director at Trinity Episcopal School. ENJOY!

We are in our 4th year of playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal School, and I jokingly say that I have a group of little addicts. They are always asking me if they can play during PE, get more court time, when our next tournament is, etc. They are nuts about pickleball! I’m our school’s Program Director, and coincidentally also in my 4th year here. I was charged with creating after-school and extra-curricular activities in our new athletic facility, and in my first year I stumbled upon pickleball in an equipment catalog and thought we should give it a shot. We practice once a week, on Fridays, from 3:00pm-5:30pm. When I started, we played on Fridays for the spring semester. We are now up to every Friday from September – March, and I know they’re going to ask me for extra practices in April. 


The first year wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped. We only had about 18 students in 2nd – 8th grade, and a lot of them didn’t stick with it. The second year I had more students (20) in the same age range, but I tried to change our dynamic: we had holiday parties, a separate practice for the older kids and hosted our first “tournament.”


Students playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal

I think there were only 6 students registered, but at that point they finally had a grasp of the rules and it was awesome to see this competitive spirit come out of them during tournament play. I also added pickleball into my PE curriculum. I think it was a combined effort of students getting better and me getting better too. I was more confident in the rules and how to play the game and it helped the kids be more confident as well.

Last year the program took off; I had 30 students registered for after-school pickleball, with an even split of 15 2nd-5th graders and 15 6th-8th graders. We extended our season and played from October – March, and 20 of the 30 students participated in our 2nd annual “Spring Swing Tournament.”  


Trinity Episcopal medal winners at Mid-South Regionals

I took 10 students to the USAPA Mid-South Regional in May of 2016 to compete, and everyone medaled in either doubles or singles (or both). We were the only Juniors registered, but we don’t mention that. 😉 Last year’s group was so large that I had to enlist the help of a couple parent volunteers, and we also hosted a family night where parents could play with or compete against their students.

This year the program is at an all-time high. I have 37 students playing after school, 18 2nd-5th graders and 19 6th-8th graders, and they are insane about the sport. Every week my younger kids learn some part of the court, the game or the rules of play and we practice basic techniques like forehand shots, volleys and serving. We end almost every practice with a game called “Defender” – sort of like King of the Court – and they all groan when I say time is up. My 6th-8th graders work on skills and strategy. They play as many games as they can during the hour and half practice. I’ve literally had to blink the lights on them to get them to quit and go home.


2016 Spring Swing Tournament Participants

We really are a pickleball school, as silly as it sounds. When my players traveled to Louisiana in May to compete, it was the farthest any of our athletic teams had ever traveled to compete. I have kindergarten parents stop me and tell me that they can’t wait for TWO years from now, when their child can start playing pickleball. One of our biggest challenges is that they don’t have the opportunity to compete against other students, or they aren’t really welcomed to enter in the 19+ division of tournaments. They are crazy about pickleball, and it’s so cool to see their development and growth in the sport. I love what the sport has done for our students and for our campus as a whole.

Thank you Anne for sharing how a program like yours can grow pickleball athletes!

What’s on Your Pickleball Bucket List?

Bucket List

Bucket lists are all the rage these days, from the general “100 things to do before I die” to the highly specific “501 books to read before I’m 50,” it seems like there’s a list for everything. So why not one for pickleball?

As a wise person once said, “A goal not written down is only a wish.” There is power in writing down your goals. Bucket lists help provide direction, focus and purpose – and with so many things competing for your time, writing down what is truly important to you and what you want to accomplish and experience can help you block out the noise and keep your eye on the prize. And what’s the prize? More pickleball experiences, of course!

As pickleball explodes in popularity, the number of ways to enjoy pickleball explodes as well. There are pro-run clinics to attend, a ton of tournaments to test your skill at, pickleball tours to take part in – you name it! So why not make a list and start checking off the awesome?! Here, to help you get started, is our pickleball bucket list.

Pickleball Bucket List

1. Ref a tournament – It’s a snap to learn, you get a front row seat to tons of matches and you give back to the sport you love while helping improve your own game.

2. Play in a tournament in all categories – Singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Get out of your comfort zone and diversify your playing style!

3. Perfect the dink, behind the back and around the post shots.

4. Attend as a spectator or play at the US Open Pickleball Championships.

5. Participate in a pickleball tournament that benefits a charity.

6. Go on a pickleball tour (U.S.) – With places to play in every state, you can start in Alaska and end in Florida and never run out of fun

7. Go on a pickleball tour (world) – We’ve seen pickleball tours offered in Spain, Japan, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, and we’re sure more will pop up as the sport continues to grow. If you don’t want to hire a tour director, hit up Facebook or Google to find clubs across the globe and make your own tour.

8. Get a pickleball pen pal from another country or age group. Pickleball is played on 6 of the 7 continents (come on, Antarctica!), so reach out to a pickleball club through Facebook and see who answers. You never know what you’ll learn about how the rest of the world experiences pickleball!

9. Get a one-on-one lesson from a pro. Treat yourself and invest in your game by enlisting someone at the top of the sport to really dial into what you’re doing well and what you could work on.

10. Get an autographed paddle and get all the top players you meet to sign it. Keep it where you can see it and it can serve as inspiration for how good you want your own game to be.

You can start your signature collection with a U.S. Open Bantam EX-L Signature Edition

You can start your signature collection with a U.S. Open Bantam EX-L Signature Edition

 11. Introduce the sport to one person from each age category. Part of the magic of pickleball is that it crosses generations. Remind yourself of the game’s unifying power by spreading the sport to people you don’t consider peers.

12. Make a paddle from scratch – It’s easier than you think.

13. Medal in a tournament. (Dream big!)

14. Attend a pickleball-themed wedding. This one might take a little more luck than the rest, but if you can swing it, hats off to you! There’s no way a pickleball-themed wedding won’t be fun.

15. Build a court in your own backyard. How great to be able to play whenever you want.

Catron Pickleball Complex Knoxville Tennessee

Catron Pickleball Complex Knoxville Tennessee

16. Compete against a player from each rating level. Test yourself against higher-rated players and help a lower-rated player improve their skills.

17. Help someone go up a rating.

18. Try 6-player pickleball.
19. Compete in costume.Apex Park in Arvada Opens First Dedicated Pickleball Courts in Colorado

20. Attend a match at the Olympics when pickleball becomes an Olympic sport! 🙂

So there’s our list. How many of these have you already checked off, and what would you add?



Lewisville All-Ages Pickleball Tournament

Lewisville Tournament PBC bags

Lewisville Open Tournament Women’s Brackets

Lewisville, Texas has a consistently warm climate and is close to Lewisville Lake, so it has become the recreational hub of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The community of Lewisville, Texas has a strong following of senior-aged Pickleball players in the community, but is also gaining more interest from the younger generations.  In order to meet this growing demand for pickleball competition, the City has created an all-age pickleball league and tournament. The City of Lewisville hosted its 3rd annual all-age pickleball tournament on March 24th this year.

The tournament took place at the Frederick P. Herring Recreation Center.  Anyone was eligible to compete.  There were no mixed doubles.  There were 2 brackets in which to participate: Men’s or Women’s Intermediate, and Men’s Or Women’s Competitive. Lunch was provided to all participants in the tournament and medals were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in Men’s and Women’s categories. Brackets were determined by registration. The registration fee was $15 per person or $30 per team.

Lewisville Tournament PBC bags 2

Lewisville Open Tournament, Men’s Brackets

They had 64 participants with 17 Men’s doubles teams and 15 Women’s doubles teams. The Final Medal Results Men’s and Women’s Doubles were:


1st- Andy Burnett & Chris Swafford

2nd- David Henson & Vic Palma

3rd- Donnie Gibson & Derek Robb


1st- Charlotte Rivera & Angela Luhman

2nd- Rebekah Maddalena & Susan Henderson

3rd- Leslie McCarthy & Barbara Sherman

A good time was had by all.  Congratulations, Lewisville, on keeping a good tournament going 3 years in a row!

Pioneer Park Pickleball Courts in Walla Walla, Washington

You have to love anyone who has a heart for pickleball.  And there are some really great people in Walla Walla, Washington who came up with the idea for outdoor pickleball courts that could be available to the whole community.

Nancy Kress, Ted Cummings, Dave Gibson

Ted Cummings, Nancy Kress and Dave Gibson

Ted Cummings is a retired school teacher who taught racquet sports at Walla Walla High School for 5 years (tennis, badminton & pickleball).  He is one of 3 key people who spearheaded the community interest in having dedicated pickleball courts in Walla Walla, Washington. His key project planning team members included Dave Gibson and Nancy Kress.

 Pickleball Training at the YMCA - Ted Cummings, Susan Anfinson and Dave Gibson

Pickleball Training at the YMCA – Ted Cummings, Susan Anfinson and Dave Gibson. Cool Sweatshirts!

In August of 2014, Ted pitched Dave on the idea that pickleball courts needed to become a reality for adults and children to play pickleball outdoors.  Dave threw in the first donation and they were off spreading the word about how new pickleball courts could improve the community.  Nancy had the grant writing experience and community connections.  This small team got the community excited about pickleball.

Pioneer park design

The best design in the country!

The Sherwood Trust gave them a grant in the amount of $57.000 for community improvement and fitness.  In five months, the pickleball community raised $130.000.

Nancy Kress consults with Eagle Fence owners RaeJean and Tom

Nancy Kress consults with Eagle Fence owners RaeJean and Tom

The design was drawn up and construction began.

Nancy and her laser thermometer

Nancy and her laser thermometer

Pioneer Park laying asphalt

Pioneer Park laying asphalt






It took 4 inches of gravel, 3 inches of asphalt, multiple layers of paint.

Volunteers at work

Volunteers at work

They had their opening ceremonies on November 5, 2015 and are already planning their first tournament for the weekend of July 22nd, 2016.

Pioneer Park dedication

Pioneer Park Pickleball Court Dedication Ceremony

They have dedicated the courts to the Parks and Rec of Walla Walla.

Fall Pickleball at Pioneer Park

Fall Pickleball at Pioneer Park

They have a core group of about 35 people who get together every week to play pickleball.  They have a schedule for intermediate and advanced players.They’ll be offering clinics for adults this month and will offer clinics for kids in the late spring and summer.  It will be a cool addition to the summer sports programs of soccer and tennis already offered.

There is an awesome brass plaque installed on the gate number one that thanks all the main donors.

Pioneer Park Plaque

Pioneer Park Pickleball Courts Plaque

Dave, Ted and Nancy consider it one of their greatest accomplishments to offer volunteer hours to improve their community.  Together they put in 900 hours into planning, presentations, grant writing and seeking donors.  They put time into promotional shirt distribution and they supervised onsite contractors, net and windscreen installation and leaf-blowing projects.  I’d say it was a job well done!  Congratulations to you all and to your community for their support!

Dave, Ted and Nancy with dog

Dave, Ted and Nancy taking a well earned rest break

U. S. Open Pickleball Championships – April 26 – May 1, 2016


First Ever US OPEN Pickleball Championships

The first ever U.S. Open Pickleball Championships begin April 26 through May 1st in Naples Florida. The US OPEN Pickleball Championships will not only have the most courts for one tournament with 48 courts, but it will also have the most players and spectators.  According to Terri Graham, US OPEN Pickleball Championships founder, this tournament has more players registered than any other tournament in the history of the sport.  With close to 800 registered players at this time, and still 5 weeks remaining to register, this is bound to be a historic event.  It promises to display the finest players in the world before the largest crowds in the 700-seat ZING ZANG Championship court.

CBS Sports Network Coverage

CBS Sports Network will broadcast the Pro Doubles finals within 30 days after the actual event.  With over 50 million subscribers, pickleball will be introduced to millions of people that will potentially become new players.  The popularity of this sport is ready to explode and we are so excited to be a part of the growth process.
Entertainment offerings abound, including the ZING ZANG challenge: two players hit as many balls back and forth as possible within a minute. There will also be a KID’S DAY on April 26th with 200 local elementary students and celebrities, a US OPEN VILLAGE where food and entertainment will be served, and an endless array of parties and music in the evenings. The US Open will be much more than a tournament; it will be a Pickleball Carnival!

Prize Money to the Winners

Like the USAPA Nationals and the Tournament of Champions in Utah, the US Open offers significant prize money to medal winners. Unlike other major tournaments, the US Open will include Skill Level competitions down to the 3.0 skill level, so nearly any player can compete at the first US Open Pickleball Championships! 1,000 players and 5,000 spectators are expected to participate. 47 courts are now being surfaced with the pricey DecoTurf, the same surface used for the U.S. Open Tennis Championship courts at Flushing Meadows, NY.

Pickleball Pros Abound

Sixty-two men who are already known on the tournament circuit are registered for the Men’s Pro doubles competition. For unbelievable rallies, be ready to watch these teams:

Wes Gabrielsen & Daniel Moore
Marcin Rozpedski & Morgan Evans
Brian Ashworth & Scott Moore
Kyle Yates and Dave Weinbach
Chris Miller and Rafael Siebenschein

For Women’s Doubles Pro, watch one of these teams:

Sarah Ansboury & Christine McGrath
Alex Hamner & Jennifer Lucore
Gigi LeMaster and Tonja Major
Christine Barksdale & Catherine Parenteau

And for Pro Mixed Doubles, tune into the awesome combination of Daniel Moore & Sarah Ansboury or Wes Gabrielsen & Alex Hamner.  Or watch one of the thirty other outstanding mixed doubles teams.  For the Pro events, gold medal matches will be between the last two undefeated teams in the winner’s bracket while the bronze medal goes to the winner of the consolation bracket. For all other events, the normal double elimination rules apply.

New US OPEN Official Paddle and Balls

Wilson’s bright new Neon Flare pickleball will be introduced at this tournament. It almost glows in the dark!  Paula and I were able to play 20 more minutes at dusk the other day because of this ball’s visibility.

Wilson flare










Check out the U.S. Open-sponsored paddle, a limited edition Paddletek Bantam EX-L paddle, with the U.S. Open colors and logo. Now this is a practical memento from the inaugural U.S. Open Pickleball Championships!

If you would like to sponsor this event, please contact David Majick at

U S Open Pickleball Paddle

Best Reasons to Hold a Tournament: Featuring Northwoods Pickleball Tournament -Three Lakes, Wisconsin

Best Reasons to Hold a Tournament: Featuring Northwoods Pickleball Tournament -Three Lakes, Wisconsin

I was curious!  What are the main reasons for offering to hold a pickleball tournament?   So I started asking folks who have held tournaments recently.  Chuck Radtke and Steve Dennis have graciously taken the time to share some of the story behind the Northwoods Pickleball Tournament in Three Lakes, Wisconsin.  Enjoy!


If you are ever in the neighborhood of Three Lakes, Wisconsin, you absolutely have to stop in and play pickleball! Three Lakes is the only community in Wisconsin that offers a chance to play pickleball 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Their lighted courts and the screens around the courts allow anyone in town the opportunity to play pickleball, any time of the day or night.

Wisconsin Map#1 Best Reason to Hold a Tournament: A Great Location

Three Lakes has 8 outdoor courts that are screened and lit for 24-hour play, and have an additional 8 courts available for indoor play when the weather gets bad. They have a good working relationship with the local schools and the rec center. In the summer they will have people playing pickleball from age 7 to the low 80’s.
The town of Three Lakes entered a contest 5-6 years ago and won the distinction of being the Single Best Town in America. Three Lakes is a part of the largest chain of lakes in North America. There are 27 lakes altogether, including the Eagle River system. The population of the township where Three Lakes is located is about 2000. Throughout the year, sports enthusiasts often double the population, except for the “Mud Season,” with fishing, hunting, snowmobiling and summer lake activities rounding out some of the offerings.

#2 Reason to Hold a Tournament: Great Organizers

Chuck and friends

Chuck Radtke checking out the schedule with tournament participants

There are two cool people in Three Lakes who are the energy behind the Northwoods Pickleball Tournament in Three Lakes: Chuck Radtke, who has been playing about 3 years and Steve Dennis, USAPA Ambassador. Steve played tennis before Chuck introduced him to pickleball. After the first couple of times playing, he bought a couple of paddles and since then has been hooked for life. He became an ambassador after about a year to keep connected with the greater pickleball community.
In the summer of 2013, Chuck and Steve introduced Pickleball to the schools. They scheduled 1 day a week, and the school arranged their Physical Education schedule to allow community pickleball during the day.  These guys are very creative.  They are always coming up with ideas to promote the game of pickleball in Three Lakes.
A year ago, during a high school basketball game during half time, they did a pickleball demonstration with a portable net and the vinyl EZ Court Lines. Chuck did the announcing while others community members demonstrated the game. It was fun. A lot of folks had never heard of pickleball and the demonstration actually got a few new folks out to try it.

Another fun thing they did to bring attention to the game: at the 4th of July parade, which draws folks from towns all around the area, they marched in the parade and did pickleball drills. One time they even had someone (Chuck) dress up as a pickle.  So they marched in formation, bouncing pickleballs,  and they did a marching drill chants, like:

Pickleball is here for you –
Come to Burnside ‘n’ play today.

#3 Reason to Hold a Tournament: Community Support

Three Lakes Photo

A Group from the Villages, Florida who came to the Northwoods Tournament

The town of Three Lakes is very supportive of pickleball, especially the Three Lakes school district and the Parks and Recreation department. Play is coordinated every day at all locations. Not as many folks play in the morning as in the afternoon and evening. They have 150 on their email list.

People in Three Lakes like to support their Green Bay Packers, so, when there is a game, they adjust their pickleball schedule. If the Packers game is in the morning, they shift pickleball into the afternoon. If the Packers play in the afternoon, then they play pickleball in the morning. Three Lakes folks are more sociable than other places that Steve has played. If folks are gone for a while, the local players always make a big deal of welcoming them back to the game. He’s had experience in places like Florida, where folks tend to be more competitive. Chuck and Steve are also Russell Wilson fans  (Seahawks quarterback) because Russell went to college in Wisconsin.

Pickleball community members provide wood paddles made by a local carpenter and provide demo paddles for people to try. They charge a little more than what is needed to cover expenses in the tournament registration fee, and the extra funds go directly to support pickleball in the community. It helps with the purchase of nets, balls, and other equipment so that pickleball can remain free to the community.

#4 Reason to Hold a Tournament: Participants Looking for a Friendly, Sociable Competition


In the summer of 2014 they held their first non-sanctioned tournament. Because it is not sanctioned by the USAPA, they are able to keep it open for everyone to participate. There were a few folks who turned out for the competition, but most were there because of the social aspect of the game. So far they haven’t had to use the indoor courts much for their outdoor tournament. In July 2015, Coach Mo and his assistant came and conducted 3 days of clinics in Three Lakes after their tournament. The 3rd day of the clinics, they had to use the indoor courts because of inclement weather. This year will be their 3rd tournament.

Coach Mo at Northwoods

Coach Mo conducting Clinics

Responses for their tournament draw from 8 different states, involving 120 players. Their 3rd Tournament is this July. Their press release for the tournament is going out this Friday. They expect at least 120 pickleball players this year as well. The tournament is open to all and both men and women of all ages and skill levels have the opportunity to compete. It is not an elimination tournament, rather round robin, so everyone has a chance to play up to 7 times. In the last tournament, 2 men entered with their grandsons. Steve competed in his first tournament and lost all 9 times, but he still had a lot of fun, because all the folks he played with were so friendly and sociable.

#5 Reason to Hold a Tournament:
A Community With a Heart for Pickleball

The Northwoods Pickleball Tournament is offered under the umbrella of the Three Lakes Parks and Recreation Department so they don’t have to set up their own 5013c. All the money from the tournament, after expenses, goes to support pickleball and make it free to all who want to play.  Chuck and Steve also actively solicit sponsors for the Northwoods Tournament each year, and anyone who pays the $25 fee gets their company listed on the back of their tournament t-shirts.

Great Tournament Shot

Great Tournament Shot

The Three Lakes community certainly does have a huge heart for pickleball! Make sure you stop in if you are in the neighborhood!

For more info, go to the Three Lakes Group site (pickleball info at the bottom).

For the Love of the Sport, Meet Pickleball Gems Ray and Renee Padilla

Ray and Renee Padilla

Ray and Renee Padilla

Sheer dedication! That’s how I describe Ray and Renee Padilla and their Pickleball Training program. Ray and Renee offer free instruction to folks from age 4 to 94 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As I listen to Ray’s account of how he got into teaching the sport of pickleball, I hear his dedication to all athletic programs that help a student to learn to do their best, no matter what.

Retired from the Department of Defense after 41 years, Ray has been certified to coach soccer for Olympic level players.  In all sports, Coach Ray likes to teach in the dynamic, progressive style. He is not a fan of classroom lectures. He believes in getting out there and practicing as soon as possible: “Less talk, more doing!” He teaches the “why”, the “what” and the “pros and cons” of technique. Then he encourages his students to make what they do the best, even better. He has lots of paddles, so he shows folks the nuances of paddle grips and paddle sizes.

Ray Teaching Pickleball at a Summer Rec Program

Ray Teaching a Summer Rec Program

Ray and Renee’s motto is “Doing our best to Give Back and Pay It Forward, to develop, promote, grow and share the dynamic fitness exercise Pickleball experience to all ages.

Ray loves to coach with three things in mind:

It’s a labor of love for Ray and Renee. They do their training workshops on a volunteer basis. They reach out to school P. E. programs. They work with veterans. They teach at a Senior Center and they work with special needs students at a local high school. They set up at locations that don’t have enough space with a mini court. It’s an easy way to teach the basics of the game of pickleball. They offer training mostly indoors. Albuquerque weather can be daunting at times: 100 degrees, a mile up in altitude, can cause fatigue and heat-related health problems.

Ray's Pickleball Training Class

Pickleball Training Class

There’s a growing contingency of tourists interested in pickleball. People traveling through Albuquerque from places like California, Idaho, New York and Chicago find out about Ray’s Training Program and stop in to learn more about the game. Information about Ray’s Pickleball Training program is posted on the USAPA website,

See the link below for an article in the Albuquerque Journal that highlights Ray’s Pickleball Training:

Thanks Ray and Renee for sharing your love of pickleball with the wonderful folks in Albuquerque!

Pickleball: Mix it up with your Spouse

Glen and Paula Peterson

Glen and Paula Peterson

Recently a top player approached my wife and suggested she find a mixed doubles partner for tournaments other than her ball-hogging husband and more suited to her level of play. For some uniquely competitive couples, this may be good advice. But for many, including my wife and me, playing doubles together is great fun and adds to the list of shared experiences we get to cherish for years. Even some of our losses provide humorous memories. The pickleball court is simply another venue to enjoy my best friend. This is not to say that we have never had conflict on court. My wife has reminded me several times that a ‘look’ I give her occasionally when she miss-hits a ball is unhelpful; so I am learning how to be an encouraging partner and notch down my competitiveness when we play doubles. Losing, in my case, can be winning. Most marriages will not only survive pickleball court conflict but will benefit.  And working together to formulate an effective strategy may even generate a few medals! In tournament play, teams are relentless in hitting nearly every ball to the weaker of the two opponents. This pickleball ‘bullying’ shakes the confidence of weaker players. When things are going poorly for my wife in these situations, I have found that pointing out the flaws in her play and suggesting she become more focused dramatically improves her play. Well, not quite!  It is best if I avoid even the the most subtle indications of frustration and simply enjoy being on the court with her and express appreciation that she is willing to partner with me and is trying so hard; after all, the only reason she is playing the sport in the first place is to be with me! Here are five guidelines we find helpful in playing doubles together.

  1. It is all good…even losing.  For most of us, life — including marriage — transcends pickleball.  It is possible to retain perspective while playing pickleball.
  2. Have a strategy and talk, talk, talk.  Singles can be a lonely sport; doubles ought to be a social sport where partners communicate. I was once reprimanded by the opposing team for hogging so many balls in a match that my wife and I won; Paula responded for me by saying she expected me to take those balls. We were on the same page.
  3. Encourage each other in your own unique way … no chest pumps. Find reasons to celebrate one another’s accomplishments: a good shot, an extraordinary effort, winning a point or a game. The best partners acknowledge one another with a paddle touch or some other gesture after every point. Consider developing your own unique method of encouraging one another on court. Hey, you’re married; show some affection!
  4. Never admonish your partner in either verbal or nonverbal ways.  Lessons are for drills and preparation, not for tourneys or games. Leave your losses on the court, and certainly don’t take them home with you!
  5. Set expectations. We recently played a better mixed doubles team, and I began by telling my wife we would not win, but that we would try to get a few points.  We won the first game 11-1 and my wife played wonderfully. The other team made a needed adjustment and eventually won the match. But we enjoyed shaking them up a bit.

Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg from Michigan may be the most accomplished mixed doubles couple in the senior tourney circuit.  Even much younger teams fear them. Their communication on court is admirable and often humorous to spectators. They sure appear to be having fun; and their play is remarkable. Partners in pickleball and life I asked Jim for the keys to their success. Whenever he and Yvonne step on the court, they have the below goals in mind:

  1. Let’s try to win
  2. Let’s support one another
  3. Let’s try to model good teamwork and sportsmanship
  4. Let’s have fun
  5. Let’s learn something from this.  What can we do better next time?

Jim says “Yvonne is the perfect partner.  She is always positive and supportive.  I’m just lucky to be married to someone who can play at a high level and keep me under control, most of the time.  If you ever see us play you’ll know there are times when she says ‘do we need a time-out?’.  That’s her gentle way of saying, ‘Jim, you better start behaving or I’ll walk off the court.’.  Fortunately, it’s a message that usually brings me back to reality. The reality being pickleball is just a game and we’re fortunate to be able to play it together.” Despite the humility in Jim’s comments, he and Yvonne are models on court for sportsmanship, teamwork and extraordinary pickleball.  Many of us hope to emulate them. Finally, to those spouses who feel they can never achieve parity with their already accomplished mate, recognize that the barriers to succeed in this sport are far less than other sports such as tennis. And, if the rumored proposal that player ratings be averaged for partners in tournament play is ever adopted, this will make it even easier for many couples to compete. Pickleball, like golf, can be enjoyed for an entire morning or afternoon. We often play for 3-4 hours.  My marriage definitely benefits from spending this time together.

– Glen Peterson


I’ve been chatting with Deanna Wright for about two years about how pickleball is taking off in Payson, Arizona.  You’ll be delighted by this Payson pickleball success story.

Deanna Wright

Deanna Wright

We never dreamt in a million years we would ever get our own pickleball courts,” explains Deanna Wright. “We petitioned the Town of Payson for permission to put ½” tape down on two of the four existing tennis courts in town. We only wanted to put down ½ inch tape so as not to aggravate the tennis players too much. We chalk the court lines every day. The tape would last longer than a day. We begged for a year and a half.”

Deanna breaks the good news: “Payson recently poured concrete for two brand new courts dedicated to pickleball!

New pickleball court in Payson

Brand New Pickleball Court poured

“They will be painting the courts soon. The kitchen will be painted in lime green and the rest of the court in a regular green.” Deanna’s huge circle of pickleball friends can hardly wait for the courts to be ready. Deanna has never played on a real pickleball court. She is pinching herself to make sure she isn’t dreaming.

Aero-D Graphite

Aero-D Graphite

Interest in pickleball has been growing in Payson, Arizona for the last 2 years.  As the story goes, Cindy & Phil Galvin told Dianne Wing about pickleball.  Dianne researched and taught herself the game.  One day, Mike Wing invited Deanna over to join a group playing pickleball. She was immediately hooked on the game. After about 6 months of playing pickleball, Deanna started teaching pickleball to anyone who showed an interest in the game. Just recently, she taught a church youth group and their leaders how to play pickleball.

Deanna’s favorite paddle is the Pro-Lite Aero D Graphite paddle.
She also likes the Pro-Lite Blaster 2 Alloy and the Phantom Graphite paddles.

Graphite Phantom

Phantom Graphite

Deanna is definitely a “Pickleball Spark Plug!” A lot of folks, most recently from Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska, are snow birds.  If they stop by to watch while Deanna and friends are playing, Deanna will walk over after a game and answer questions. Usually, they are open to trying the game. Nearly everyone who plays becomes addicted to the game.

Deanna has 2 sons. Logan is now 14 and very involved in Special Olympics. His brother Joshua loves sports and is an avid athlete.

Joshua Wright playing Pickleball

Joshua Wright playing pickleball, Photo by Michele Nelson, courtesy of Payson Roundup News

Blaster 2 Alloy

Blaster 2 Alloy

Joshua’s Little League friends and teachers come out to play too. “We invite anyone and everyone to come join in the fun,” says Deanna. “Playing sports is a great way to spend time with your children, get to know them better and know what is going on with them. Family time is mostly spent at a field or by a pool, but when we want to really engage in a sport that can be played as an entire family, it is Pickleball!

Line chalking pickleball courtMike Wing designed a plywood tool with a hinge and a clamp that made it possible to hold the chalk they used daily to re-draw pickleball lines on one of the tennis courts in town. Plans to build pickleball courts in Chaparral Pines, a gated community within 5 miles of Rumsey Park are underway. “We are here to stay,” beams Deanna about the Payson Pickleball Club.

These folks are dedicated to the game.  Deanna shares, “It’s so hard to go a day without pickleball. In January, Payson had 8 inches of snow. Dianne and I went out and shoveled snow for about 2 hours, just so when the snow melted, we wouldn’t have to wait so long for the court to dry!”

Folks who play pickleball payson

Some of the many people who stop by the Payson tennis courts to play pickleball during the week: Pat Patterson, Jodee Smith, Paul and Jacque LeSueur, Joel Dean, Jennifer Kiley, Mike and Dianne Wing, Maryse Vossler, Joshua and Deanna Wright. Photo by Michele Nelson, courtesy of the Payson Roundup.

The Payson Pickleball Club is steadily recruiting some of the other tennis players in town to try the fastest-growing sport in the country!

Thanks, Deanna, for sharing your story about your new pickleball courts in Payson!