PPA Tour Kicks Off with Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier: Features $500k Overall Payout, Top Destinations

This year players of all skill levels will get to enjoy new avenues for intense competition and fun in the form of tours. The first series leading the way is the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) with their Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier at the Mesa Tennis Center in Arizona.

Starting today, the tournament will run through Sunday the 16th and host events for doubles and singles across gender, age and skill brackets.

 

The PPA is not USAPA-sanctioned, which will allow players to get a fresh start by accruing “PPA Points” to determine their ranking within the association’s system. The points will accumulate throughout the year based on players’ performances within each tournament and allow them to gain priority registration to the higher-paying grand slams. To see a breakdown of how these points are earned, click here.

The PPA Tour is taking its events seriously and drawing plenty of pro participation, as its name implies. Top players who will be competing include Ben Johns, Simone Jardim, Kyle Yates and Leigh Waters, among many others. Alongside the amateur brackets will be pro-only events that are sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Another unique draw for the pros and those watching them is the Pro Player’s Cup, where hand-selected teams consisting of 2 men, 2 women and a senior of each gender will engage in a double elimination tournament. These events will be played on the Friday of each grand slam tournament (Masters, Showcase and PPA Championship) to add even more excitement to the competition!

PPA Logo

The PPA has made the effort to showcase itself as a family-friendly environment where picklers will not only be playing hard but making the most of their downtime with top court venues, entertainment, dining options and opportunities for interaction with the pros.

The impressive prize purses have been drawing deserved attention as well, with each qualifier offering $55k pools and the grand slams ranging from $100-150k. Players can also take part in raffles, games and other smaller (but no less enjoyable) ways to win. PickleballCentral is currently providing a pop-up store at the Mesa Qualifier as one of PPA’s sponsors, so if you’re taking part be sure to drop by and give us a wave!

If you weren’t able to make it to AZ but are still interested in getting in on all the fun, the next few PPA events are still accepting registrations. They are as follows:

Georgia Open at Life Time, March 26-29

Dallas Grand Slam Qualifier, April 2-5

The Masters Grand Slam (Phoenix), May 13-17

For a full list of upcoming events on the PPA Tour, visit their site here. Follow the latest happenings at the Mesa Qualifier at PPA’s Facebook page and check out some of the amazing pro matches while you’re at it.

Will you be making a stop at any of the PPA Tour’s locations? If so, we hope to see you there! Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments.

Ring in the New Year with Top Tier Pickleball

Happy 2020 to all the pickleball players out there! We hope the new decade will bring joy, new friendships and improved skills to all.

While many of us likely spent the last days of 2019 with family, watching fireworks or making a toast, hundreds of picklers pushed themselves to end the year with a pop rather than a bang at the World Pickleball Championships in Punta Gorda.

The inaugural event made history despite delays brought on by the weather. Organizers were happy with the turnout and amenable to bringing it back next year. The championships took place in a location with its own impressive backstory: the Pickleplex.

The Pickleplex was entirely funded by private and company donations, opening in June of 2019. The 16-court complex was made to relieve others in the area which were already crowded, offering players more opportunity to join games without a wait. Now it’s had a “trial by fire” after being tested by some of the best players in the world, and the city is excited the Pickleplex is seeing such prominent use.

The World Pickleball Championships ran from Dec 27-30 and saw coverage on Fox News due to the revenue brought in for the county.

If you want to enjoy the event’s competitive energy from the comfort of your own home, you can see the finals matches in the video below. What better way to start off your New Year than watching and learning from the best? (Unless you already have some of your own games scheduled!)

We hope the picklers involved in the championships will carry their enthusiasm with them in the months to come and wish the same for everyone who couldn’t make it in person.

Do you have any pickleball-related or personal resolutions for 2020? Let us know in the comments!

6 Last Minute Pickleball Gifts Sure To Bring Joy

There are only a few days left before the holidays, but just because you don’t have time to spare for shipping doesn’t mean you can’t give a present to a pickleball lover.

The following all require zero time in transit so that you can provide them at the perfect moment. Better still, several of these options are experiential, so they’ll live forever in the recipient’s memories. Go ahead and choose a gift that will keep on giving!

1. Gift Certificates to PBC

Gift certificates get a bad rap as being uninspired and noncommittal, but many pickleball players are very selective about their gear and prefer freedom to find the right fit. Perhaps they mentioned a specific paddle they’re after, but unless you’re in close contact they may have already bought the item they wanted, so it’s safer to let them choose their own products. A gift card is always appreciated and lets the recipient select a present they’ll certainly use. Be sure to choose email delivery after adding the gift card to your cart so you won’t be waiting on snail mail.

2. Pickle Palooza – The Best Pickleball Festival of the Year

Pickle Palooza is an event that will run from Feb 21-23 (2020) in Phoenix, AZ. Hosted by senior pros Steve Dawson and Dave Pickle Palooza LogoFleming, it includes court exhibitions, paddle demos, pro interviews, skill instruction, open play and more. This is an ideal experience for a player you know who loves the sport but might not feel ready for competitive play, or even for a tournament-goer who’d enjoy downtime around the greats. Visitors have tons of opportunities to engage with the pickleball community at large in a fun, lively environment. The celebration takes place at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, which offers plenty of its own entertainment with a spa, golf course, 5 pools and outstanding restaurants.

3. BOOST Pickleball Training Camps

Help take someone’s skills to the next level with an intensive BOOST training camp. Geared towards 3.0 – 4.0 rated players, these intermediate courses run for several days and are led by some of the world’s best pickleball players and instructors. The programs involve drills and clinics that improve technique and translate into fast improvement during competitive games. Participants spend over 12 hours with optional open play time working to strengthen their mechanics and strategies. The instructor to student ratio is 8 to 1 to allow for personal attention, and camps are offered in several locations throughout the U.S. including WA, CA, HI and AZ.

4. Buy a Brick at the Bainbridge Island Founders Courts

Pickleball originated on Bainbridge Island, WA when a group of families wanted to create a game to share with their kids. In honor of the threeBainbridge Island Pickleball founders’ contributions, six new courts are being built on the island at Battle Point Park. For $150 you can buy one of the bricks that will be used to build the walkways and areas between the courts and have the recipient’s name immortalized within the facility. It’s a great way to publicly show the giftee’s support and love for the sport. This is an especially meaningful gift for someone who inspired your pickleball journey—whether that’s the person who introduced you to the game or a club leader (larger bricks are available if you want to include a logo or other image in the design). Their contributions will be known to all in a soon-to-be historic location.

5. Make a Donation To a Pickleball-Related Cause

Similar to the suggestion above, there are other ways you can contribute to pickleball in honor of a friend or family member at your own price point. One organization is the PLS (Pickleball Legacy Scholarship) Foundation. This group uses funds to award scholarships to qualifying young athletes which can be used toward tuition at accredited educational institutes.

The USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) and Sid Williams Junior Pickleball Fund are both dedicated to increasing accessibility to the sport through the development of programs in schools, recreation centers and other locations (specifically focused on youth pickleball in the case of the Sid Williams Fund). Donations can easily be made online or by sending a check to the addresses listed via the link.

6. Sign Your Giftee Up as a Doubles Tournament Partner

Maybe you’re a pickleball player yourself and enjoy playing the game with your friend. If you know they enjoy competitive play and will have the time for a specific tournament date, you can take the initiative to sign them up (taking care of registration fees) as your doubles partner. Better still if you’re willing to cover their travel costs, especially if it’s to a dreamy destination like Kona at next year’s Hawaii Open (1/22 – 1/25). This event takes place directly after one of the aforementioned BOOST camps in Kona, so you can double down on the pickleball training for an extended stay.

Hawaii Open

Another great upcoming tournament for those who can’t travel quite so far is the IIPC, the International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia, WA. It’s one of the largest indoor tournaments in the world and runs from 3/30 – 4/5, making it a great option for those who might enjoy a side trip to Portland or Seattle in the early spring.

Lastly, there are two exciting pickleball tours coming up with tournament locations spread widely across the country. If you haven’t seen a nearby state listed yet, take a look at the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) and PPA (Professional Pickleball Association) lists to see if they’re hosting a competition in your neighborhood. These tournaments have strong prize money offerings and also lead to championship games with even greater stakes.

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!