Texas Open Sees 28 Junior Participants, Wyatt Stone Helps Youth Find Pickleball

The 2nd annual Texas Open was held September 12-15, where stalwart players braved the heat to test their skills at the Open Wagon Wheel Tennis Center in Coppell. Of the 747 participants that took part, 28 were juniors ranging from 7-18 years old.

These young players are a growing demographic which has only recently gained legislation needed within USAPA-recognized events to fully take part. While many picklers have expressed enthusiasm for the newer generation getting involved in the sport, the reality is that the journey toward full integration hasn’t been as cut and dry as grabbing a paddle and showing up.

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

We recently spoke with Ashley Stone, mother to the winner of the Lone Star Award (Wyatt Stone). She was willing to illuminate some of the challenges the juniors have faced and overcome in addition to describing their experience at the Open:

“My son Wyatt has played in 12 tournaments and taken 18 medals since January 2019. When he first started playing, we had to ask tournament directors to lower the minimum age to allow him to play. He even pre-qualified for the American State Games, but they wouldn’t let him join due to their minimum age restriction last January.

“I have been adding junior events to the USAPA Junior Facebook page and website for a few months. In a short period of time (Jan-Sept, 9 months) we have seen the minimum age lower to include junior players in about 90% of all tournaments nationwide, excluding the senior tournaments. Pickleballtournaments.com just added a “junior” search feature to their toolbar this month as well. This is a huge milestone for the junior movement!

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

“In the first few tournaments, Wyatt would often be one of two or three juniors playing in the 19+ skill events. With each tournament we have seen more kids at each event. The Mansfield Summer Slam which was on September 7th had 6 junior players playing up in age 19+ by skill. The Texas Open is the only tournament in the mid-south to have enough kids to make junior brackets work.

“At the Texas Open, events were grouped by players 7-13 and 14-18 years old, a handful of which also played in 19+ age/skill events. The kids came from Texas and Oklahoma areas. Skill ranged from novice play to a 4.0 skill level. All of the kids have a family member who introduced them to the sport and are very passionate about it. They had a really good time and thought it was cool the mixed open events were happening on the same day as the junior events. The kids’ games were right next to pro players.

“One thing that was really great was the pro players (Joey Farrias, Lucy Kovalova & Matt Wright, Michella & Daniel DeLaRosa, to note a few) would stop to watch the kids and do a quick meet and greet. Some of the pro players even refereed junior games. Two I can think of were Gigi LeMasters and Anna Leigh Waters.

“There were also 2 junior pro players, Anna Leigh Waters & William Sobek, who competed at the pro open level.  All the juniors lined up to watch at least one of their games.”

Junior girls' doubles winners

Junior girls’ doubles winners (Gold: Sophia Irwin & Madi Warden, silver: Michaela McElroy & Caitlyn Chia, bronze: Natasha Cole & Katelyn Click)

Ashley mentioned something many junior players would like to see moving forward is divisions separated by skill rather than age.

“The Texas Open (and all other USAPA-sanctioned tournaments) divide juniors by age. We have not yet attended a junior tournament in the US that has enough kids to divide by age and then further divide by skill. What I have seen is that ability doesn’t discriminate by age. In an event with kids ages 7-13 or 13-18 in the Texas Open, we had novices competing with advanced players. All the kids and their families unanimously agreed they would have healthier competition if they played in events by skill.”

It’s also exciting to note that a junior was chosen as the recipient of the Lone Star Award at the Texas Open, a recognition given to someone who has used pickleball to help build up their community and improve people’s health. The winner this year was Wyatt Stone, Ashley’s son.

“Wyatt completed the IPTPA level II certification in less than a month with the desire to teach as many kids pickleball as he could reach. He went to Oklahoma twice to volunteer with youth camps, ran the Andy Roddick Pickleball Camp in Austin, hosted monthly kids’ camps over the summer and set up (with the parks department) a free weekly pickleball clinic for kids that he will teach.

Junior boys' doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson Silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio Bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior Boys Doubles 13-18 Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister Silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren Bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister

Junior boys’ doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson, silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio, bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior boys’ doubles 13-18 (Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister, silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren, bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister)

“The September classes have been booked up since last month. Wyatt volunteers working with his mentor May Laz at clinics, camps, challenges and tournaments on a weekly basis. He is also the USAPA Junior Pickleball Facebook editor and has more than organically tripled the followers since he took it over. He runs the Pickleball Facebook Junior forum and San Antonio IH35 to Austin Pickleball meetup where he organizes free competitive play.

“Wyatt is 14-years-old and had only been playing a a couple of weeks when he asked to go to the Texas Open as a spectator. After spending the weekend at the Texas Open, Wyatt wanted to learn how to play like the pros. Wyatt played in his first tournament in January, the Oklahoma State Games, and took 3 gold medals.

“He has been competing ever since, playing in 9 tournaments with 16 medals. He took a gold medal at the MT Regionals, earning a spot at Nationals which he will attend in November. He became IPTPA certified in June and added teaching to his rigorous training schedule.

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

“Wyatt did not have racket or paddle experience prior to playing pickleball and has come up through the ranks by working hard and earning his place training with local 5.0 players. He publishes a blog on his website with articles relevant to junior players and their families: WyattStonePickleballJunior.com

“Wyatt joined the Pickleball Rocks Team this past summer and accepted the nomination to lead the USAPA junior program as the USAPA National Junior Coordinator.

“He is thankful every day that he steps on the court and loves to see other kids getting involved in recreational and competitive pickleball.”

Unique Ideas for Pickleball Tournament Prizes

As pickleball’s popularity grows, more organizations have become willing to sponsor tournaments. This leads to the allure of prize money, which few players will turn down. While many groups would love to be able to offer similar rewards, what if you’re a smaller venue or want to do something different to draw in participants?

Aside from cash winnings, here are some prizes or trophies you can offer winners instead of run-of-the-mill medals.

Glasses, mugs or other drinking vessels

PNW Classic Medal

PNW Classic “Medals” – Photo by Kimberly Strong

At the recent Pacific Northwest Classic in Bend, OR winners were given glasses filled with colored paper to represent their placement (gold, silver or bronze). Aside from the interesting presentation, the glasses also had their medal color and tournament logo printed on the surface to commemorate the event.

This is a wonderful idea which allows players to show off their prowess while receiving a “medal” they can use in day-to-day life!

Refunded registration/free entry to a follow-up tournament

Sometimes the cost of entry to tournaments is not exactly cheap, especially when paired up with travel, lodging and food expenses. Returning a player’s registration fee is a great way to give them a financial break without actually having to spend money, or alternately you can offer free entry to another tournament if you’re planning more later on.

Gear or gift certificates

Soliciting businesses for cash outright can be a hard sell, especially if you’re setting up a smaller tournament or contest, but you may be able to acquire donations of a different sort. Manufacturers might donate paddles to award winners, or you can even contact local companies to see if they’ll offer gift certificates in exchange for advertising on promotional materials.

Popular options include general sports stores (for accessories and/or apparel), restaurants, specialty food shops, salons and movie theaters.

Gold and Silver PNW Classic Medals

Close-up of PNW glasses (Credit: Kimberly Strong)

Pickle-related goods

Pickleball does have an unusual name, and it can’t hurt to take advantage of it. Nalley Fine Foods was the game’s first official sponsor, after all, and they gave out jars of pickles at tournaments. Few people dislike this sour treat.

Aside from handing out the food itself, you can give away pickle ornaments, candy, mints, t-shirts or even a yodeling pickle!

There are plenty of other ideas you can explore that won’t break the bank such as tournament patches, water bottles, photos or volunteer hours. What are some of your favorite tournament awards or what would you like to see given away on the podium?

The Best Pickleball Vacation Options For Summer 2019

Pickleball has spread to more locations than ever before, so when you’re on the move and looking for games you can often find a few local courts via sites like the USAPA’s Places 2 Play.

That being said, if you’re looking for a more pickleball-specific getaway this summer, there are events that will offer far beyond a few casual games. From tournaments to clinics and globe-trotting excursions, read on to start planning your ultimate pickleball getaway! Click on the event names for more information and details on how to sign up.

Pickle Palooza – Encinitas, CA – Aug 2 – 4

Pickle Palooza is a 3-day event open to pickleball fanatics of all skill levels. Pros Steve Dawson and Dave Fleming are hosting Palooza, and they’re bringing a bevvy of other top picklers with them, including Kyle Yates, Matt Wright, Lucy Kovalova and many more. Attendees will enjoy exhibition matches, pro interviews and instruction, paddle demos and open play. Training and entertainment is being hosted at the Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle Club in beautiful Southern California.

Sign up by June 30th for a $25 early bird discount!

Palooza Pros

Palooza Pros

Tournament of Champions – Brigham City, UT – Aug 21 – 24

This tournament has an attractive prize pool and many exciting opportunities surrounding it, including the soothing Crystal Hot Springs, ATV and air boat rides, and beautiful national parks. Sign up for our BOOST Training Camp to get an extra dose of pickleball several days before the tournament. The camp runs from Aug 17 – 19th with coaching from Steve Dawson, Peter Hudachko, Jennifer Dawson, Brian Ashworth and Del Kauss.

Registration deadline: June 22nd

Gamma PB Classic Tournament – Pittsburgh, PA – July 26 – 28

This tournament is located in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center boasting 150,000 square feet of space and 36 courts. Top players will be in attendance and there’s over $13,000 of prize money to be won. Enjoy open play on the courts before the competition begins. Be sure to take advantage of the location and set out for the beautiful Phipps Conservatory, museums and zoo nearby!

Registration deadline: July 1st

French Open PB Championships – Fayence, France – Aug 29 – Sept 1

An exciting international tournament we’ve featured before, complete with pre-tournament clinics from Kyle Yates and Irina Tereschenko. Fayence is a gorgeous medieval village and close to many popular sightseeing locales. If you want to continue your stay in Europe and find more pickling opportunities, the Spanish Open won’t be happening much later, running from Sept 6 – 8th.

Registration deadline: July 31st

Fayence

Fayence

Vulcan US National Indoor PB Championships – Hot Springs, AR – July 18 – 21

Skill challenges, pickleball clinics, entertainment and beautiful scenery all surround this indoor tournament that comes complete with 26 air-conditioned courts. Hot Springs Village is only 20 min from the venue and has a wide variety of amenities to explore such as boating, golf, nature trails, fishing and other outdoor activities. Receive a free Vulcan backpack at check-in!

Registration deadline: June 27th

Scott Moore Pickleball Trips: Rhine Wine & Dine – Rhine Region of Germany – July 9 – 18

Essen, Germany was named the 2010 European capital of Culture and will be hosting the 3rd Bainbridge Cup which pits Team North America vs Team Europe. This is immediately followed by the German Open from July 13 – 14th. Get the most out of your time in the area by traveling with pickleball pros Jon and Daniel Moore. They will be taking their group on a historical, cultural and gastronomical tour of the stunning Rhine region.

Where to View Games from the 2019 US Open Pickleball Championships

The US Open has been in full swing since the beginning of this week in Naples, FL, full of outstanding pickleball talent and intense competition. Our PickleballCentral staff has been working hard to help players enter giveaways, demo paddles and test ball machines. It’s been busy as usual, but we love seeing everyone’s passion!

Check out a few photos from our booth:

If you haven’t been able to involve yourself in the action personally, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Thanks to the efforts of several groups and players, you can watch some of the most exciting games wherever you may be.

It may mean foregoing the lovely Florida sunshine, but at least you’ll get to check out some high-level techniques!

One of the best places to stay up-to-date is Pickleball Channel’s Facebook page. They’ve captured many great matches and will be continuing to live stream today if you want to catch pickleball history being made in the moment.

To get you started, here’s their capture of the gold medal mixed doubles 25+ match, showing Parenteau-Farias vs. McGrath-Evans:

 

If you don’t currently have the time to watch full matches, stay tuned to review the 2019 results on the US Open’s official site.

Are you currently at the US Open yourself, or is it still a dream to play there someday? We hope everyone has been enjoying this incredible event regardless of whether they’re present in person or not!

3rd Bainbridge Cup Arriving in Germany – Are You Team North America or Europe?

This summer an exciting showdown will happen between two powerhouse pickleball teams representing North America and Europe at the 2019 Bainbridge Cup in Essen, Germany. Will you be part of the action?

Closely following this competition is another great international opportunity in the form of the first German Open. It’s time to mark your calendars for July 12 – 14th if you want exposure to some of the world’s top pickleball talent.

Bainbridge Cup 2019

All players who register for the Open are placed in their respective teams based on country of origin. Last year Team North America won the title in with pro Daniel Moore at its helm, and Europe, with the guidance of Oliver Strecker, is eagerly looking to settle the score.

The German Pickleball Association is hosting the event at the TVN Tennis Centre. As one of the largest indoor tennis halls in Europe, its 14 tennis courts will be converted to an impressive 28 pickleball courts! It offers generous training rooms, showers, match seating, parking and new LED lighting along the courts.

TVN Tennis Centre

The Bainbridge Cup itself will take place Friday, July 12 and is an age/skill-based competition with men’s, women’s and mixed doubles. The same categories will apply at the following German Open on July 13 – 14th. The registration fee is $63 while the event fee for the Bainbridge Cup is $17 for all events and $17 per event for the German Open.

Essen is known for its important role in German industry due to its history in coal mining and steel production. It has a number of unique museums dedicated to this subject and others such as design and art. It’s also home to a series of beautiful botanical gardens collectively known as Grugapark that not only includes a wide array of plants, but aviaries with enclosures for herons, flamingos and owls.

With theatres, elegant churches and even a Baroque Castle (Schloss Borbeck), there’s much to enjoy.

Grugapark in Essen (Credit: Grugapark.de)

Popular nearby cities (within an hour’s travel time) include Dusseldorf, Cologne and Dortmund. A number of local hotels in Essen can be found on the German Pickleball Association’s website.

The Bainbridge Cup is sure to be full of incredible talent from around the world just as it was in Italy last year. Sign up now to secure your position and represent your team!

Test Your Indoor Pickleball Skills at the Finnish Open

This week the U.S. is hosting the lnternational Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia, but there’s another competition coming up you won’t want to miss if you’re seeking more opportunities for international exploration and honing your indoor skills: the Finnish Open!

Pickleball Finland will be hosting the tournament June 14 – 16 at the Esport Center in Espoo. This is the largest indoor sports complex in all of the Nordic countries. There are a total of 16 courts available and the venue is very polished, to say the least.

Finnish Open 2019

The Esport Center offers a large variety of services for participants and visitors, including a café with 70 seats, pro shop, locker and shower rooms, and saunas—an obvious “must” considering the location!

Espoo is only a 20-minute ride on the metro line from Helsinki, making it easy to shuttle back and forth. The capital of Finland provides plenty of options for fun when you’re not at the courts, from its famous market square where countless stalls and fishing boats sell their goods, to a church made from ancient rock, a zoo filled with 150 species, a giant central park, elegant museums and a UNESCO-protected island fortress.

Helsinki

Helsinki (Credit: Travel Triangle)

The 3rd Finnish Open is a skill-level tournament (official of self-assessed) with singles, doubles and mixed events. Participants are guaranteed a minimum of four games per event. The deadline for registration is May 24th, so make sure to sign up through their management site soon.

The registration fee including one event is 45€ (~$50). The price lowers for each additional event you join, costing 15€ for the second and 10€ for the third. You can also add a full-course buffet dinner on Saturday for ~$40 and a special tournament t-shirt for ~$17.

Before the tournament begins, on Thursday (6/13) players can enjoy Pickleball Finland’s weekly open court session to warm up and meet your competition. A special deal has also been arranged with Sokos Hotel Tapiola Garden for discounted rates. Click here to read more about the opportunities for lodging.

Esport Center

Pickleball at the Esport Center (Credit: Pickleball Finland)

Sokos Hotel is only about 1.5 mi from Espoo and has a number of enjoyable amenities including a shopping center, cultural center, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art and a Lutheran church. If you’d prefer not to walk the distance to the Esport Center, you can also take the affordable metro, bus or a taxi.

Don’t miss out on this special opportunity to take in the sights of beautiful Finland while fitting in your craving for pickleball. Go visit Pickleball Finland to reserve your spot!

Play at the 2019 French Open and Explore the Medieval Village of Fayence

France is renowned among many for its food, fragrances and fashion, but if that wasn’t enough to entice you to visit, you can now add pickleball to that list as well!

This year from August 30th to September 1st Pickleball France will be hosting the French Open Pickleball Championships. The locale is Fayence, a stunning medieval village within the Provence region.

French Open 2019

Fayence is within an hour’s drive of popular cities like Nice and Cannes, but even within the village are plenty of activities including fishing, horseback riding, swimming, hiking and enjoying gourmet food. A total of 9 “perched villages” all reside within the same area so you can take in the picturesque landscape by exploring them all. Click here to learn more about Fayence and take in the stunning sights!

The French Open will host clinics with pro players Kyle Yates and Irina Tereschenko (both gold medallists at the US Open) the Thursday before competition begins as well as the first day (8/30). Events include:

Men’s and Women’s Singles

Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles

Age/Skill-Based Tournament

19+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+ (Depending on # of participants)

Every player is guaranteed at least four matches per category. Participation is limited 200 participants, so sign up now to avoid missing out! Official IFP rules apply, however this is not an IFP-sanctioned tournament. Everyone gets to enjoy a tournament dinner on Sat (8/31) including some of the region’s famous Rosé wines.
Fayence

Fayence (Credit: Experience Cote D’azur)

If you’d like to turn your trip into a real tour, you’ll be happy to know that Kyle and Irina will be running a bootcamp (for 16 participants) immediately after the Open. From Sept 2 – 5 you can receive personalized coaching from some of the best players in the world over the course of 5 sessions. You’ll also be swept away for a day-long busy tour to St. Tropez and dinner at the La Camandoule restaurant.

For more information and pricing, visit Pickleball France.

No need to stop there! Once you’ve warmed up and learned from the pros, you can even continue on to Madrid for the Spanish Open running from Sept 6 – 8th for a true European pickleball trial.

The venue for the French Open is the Tennis Club de Fayence which holds 16 outdoor courts. Registration fees are 40€ or approximately $46 for early birds (Feb 1 – May 31) or 50€/~$57 for standard registration (June 1 – July 31). It is 10€/~$11 per event.

Fayence Court

Start planning your trip today and visit PickleballTournaments to sign up for this incredible opportunity to wander the dreamy south of France while testing your skills in your favorite sport!