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:
Consistency
Control
Accuracy

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, usapa.org.

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

http://www.abqjournal.com/456474/sports/go/demo-teaches-the-fun-of-pickleball.html

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

NEW COURTS IN PAYSON, ARIZONA – A DREAM COME TRUE

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!

Can you recall the History of Pickleball Composite Paddles? Steve can!

We are so glad to know Steve Paranto!  He is a wealth of information about all things pickleball.  In this installment,  Anna interviews Steve about the history of composite paddles and Pro-Lite Sports. Enjoy!

Anna:  Okay, so, here we have Steve Paranto. And Steve has a long history of pickleball. Steve if you could tell us about when you started playing and what kind of paddle you used.

Steve:  My very first exposure to pickleball was my community college, which is a suburb of Seattle, where the sport, near where the sport was invented, Green River Community College. And all the tennis players, I was a tennis player, during our lunches, we would go in and play pickleball and the first two weeks of college our professors went on strike. So we felt like, well we’re not going to class, let’s play pickleball all day and we did that. And back then our paddles were wooden paddles with holes in them and they weighed about 13 ounces, so they were very heavy.

Anna: And you said that your dad..

Steve:  So my dad would follow us around to tournaments and my dad was a Boeing engineer and he was an athletic person, so he loved sports and would root us on. And the partner I had at the time, we did fairly well, but we kept losing in the semis and finals to the same people over and over. And I was frustrated and I came home one day and I said, “You know these paddles, these wooden paddles are too heavy.” I weighed a pickleball paddle and I weighed a pickleball and they were thirteen times heavier than the ball. I weighed a tennis racket at the time and a tennis ball, and they were seven times heavier. And I said, “The ratio is off.” So a week later, Dad makes two prototypes out of Boeing floor paneling, he was an engineer at Boeing and we had the prototypes, we went to the next tournament and beat those guys, the same guys that we were losing to and that was the start of the company.

Anna:  I am curious about the facings on those. Were they graphite facing?

Steve:  They were fiberglass, they were fiberglass the very first (ones). They were honeycomb, just like everything you see now is basically a copy of some sort of that material.

Anna:  Do you know what year that was?

Steve: That was 1984.

Anna: And did it have an edge guard on it or how did that..?

Steve:  That was the only part of the paddle my dad did not manufacture, we had that molded by a company. My dad made every single portion of that paddle in our garage in Eatonville, Washington.

Anna:  And then, what about the grips and the build ups on those?

Steve:  Oh well, Dad did that out of a foam material, cut that out of foam. He did that all himself. Beveled it. Had a process to bevel it and then we would be gripping paddles. It was about a 22 step process to make a paddle.

Anna:  And you made them in your, your garage?

Steve:  Garage.

Anna:  Right! Did your dad play pickleball too?

Steve:  …he did and he got very good for senior level. He was winning local stuff for his age. He is 84 now, so. At that time, he was younger than I am now. So it’s kind of hard for me to believe when I look at those old pictures that, “Hey Dad, you’re younger there in that picture than I am now.”

Anna:  Right. Your dad started the company Pro-Lite.

Steve:  He started Pro-Lite.

Anna:  And he named it Pro-Lite because of…

Steve:  Well, it was the lightest paddle available and we thought we’d put “Pro” in front of it. The lightning bolt came from watching the movie “The Natural” by Robert Redford. We were watching the movie when we were starting the company and we liked how Robert Redford put the lightning bolt on his bat. So the next day we had a lightning bolt as our logo.

Anna:  Great. And then you guys sold the company to..?

Steve:  We sold it to Mark Kendall Lario who then a couple years later sold it to Mark Friedenberg and now Mark Friedenberg’s son, Neil has it.

Anna:  Very good. Well, thank you Steve, so much for sharing with us the history of the paddle.

Steve: Yeah, you’re welcome.

It is so good to hear this story.  Pickleball started as a cottage industry and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years.  If you have a good story about the history of pickleball, just shoot me an email, eliza@pickleballcentral.com.

Pickleball from a Chair– Rick Marion’s Story

Rick Marion

Rick Marion is truly a spin master. He puts a wicked spin on the ball when playing pickleball, as he spins across the court in his wheelchair with surprising speed.  After using a standard wheelchair to play pickleball and tumbling out forward, backwards and sideways, Rick now uses a special basketball wheelchair with an extra wide base for stability.

Thirteen years ago, Rick fell from a ladder at work.  The impact fractured his spine and left him with a head injury. He spent months at a rehab center and had titanium rods in his back for a year. The result was a diagnosis of “incomplete paraplegic”.  Rick has only partial use of his legs. He can stand up, but can’t walk without assistance.

For the first ten years after the accident, he felt sorry for himself, drank a lot of beer and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Rick had a breakthrough when he realized he had much to live for. There were others far worse off than him and his daughter was pregnant with his first grandchild.  Rick quit drinking and smoking and found his way to the Bill Heddles Recreation Center in his home town of Delta, Colorado.  Since then, he’s made a dramatic life change. Rick is now an inspiration to people in his community.  To Rick, Pickleball is a sport, not a game.  He is one serious pickleball player. Rick competes in tournaments and was entered in men’s doubles and mixed doubles at the recent Western Colorado Senior Games.

Rick is the only wheelchair pickleball player in his local area.  Because he’s passionate about introducing pickleball to other people in wheelchairs, Rick has teamed up with a local USAPA Ambassador, Ken Marquet to get the word out that pickleball is for everyone.  Together they have reached out to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, a world renowned rehabilitation hospital that specializes in helping people with spinal cord injuries.   Craig Hospital has a Therapeutic Recreation program and Rick is an “ambassador” for including pickleball in their program.  – Anna

Rick Marion