Ambassador Series – Jan Lucas, USAPA Ambassador for the Greater La Crosse Wisconsin Area

Ambassador Series – Jan Lucas – USAPA Ambassador for the Greater La Crosse Wisconsin Area

Tournament medals Jan Lucas

Jan Lucas and husband Robert

When you hear about a growing pickleball program, you have to know there is a USAPA Ambassador working to make it happen. Enjoy Jan’s story!

I started playing pickleball in December 2014 while visiting my parents in Arizona. When we got back home to Dayton, OH, we found one court and kept playing. In 2015 Larry Vergilio, USAPA Ambassador, asked if I could help teach pickleball. I made myself available and started teaching women at a local tennis club. I love the game and I love to teach people about the health benefits of pickleball, both the physical and emotional benefits.

Later my husband got a promotion which meant a move to La Crosse, Wisconsin, right on the Mississippi River. He went to La Crosse ahead of me, while I stayed back to settle things with our house. He immediately connected with folks playing pickleball. We already had a large group of friends when I arrived. Pickleball always comes with a built-in community.

Oak Park Pickleball Courts in Onalaska, Wisconsin

Oak Park Pickleball Courts in Onalaska, Wisconsin

In the La Crosse area I found there were 4 dedicated courts in the area and no USAPA Ambassadors, so I became an Ambassador for the greater La Crosse area including several suburbs of La Crosse. The USAPA does a great job of building pickleball programs through the Ambassador program. We petitioned the city to put in more courts with 100 signatures. We did phone calls, attended council meetings, got friendly with tennis people and won their support. The city has agreed to install 6 more courts with lighting. We are very excited because in the fall when the days are shorter, lighted courts allow folks to play longer outdoors. We have 2 local YMCAs that have pickleball. In the nearby town of Homer there was an unused tennis court where we set up pickleball on half of the court. 30 miles away in Winona, Minnesota there are indoor courts.

Bob and Jan Lewis

Robert and Jan Lewis with Dave Weinbach at River Valley Paddle Battle

La Crosse Area Logo

La Crosse Area Logo

We started a club for our community which has grown to almost 300 members. We have 250 followers on our Greater La Crosse Pickleball Facebook page and an additional 150 followers on our private La Crosse Pickleball Club page. We have 275 followers on Instagram. We’re growing, getting new courts, gaining identity as a large group and starting to bring home wins and medals at tournaments.

People come from 30 miles away in Minnesota to play pickleball. Most folks are recreational players. Only 10% of all players go to national tournaments, and they’re mostly guys. Many of our players are moving up in the grading system. We approached a tennis center in Winona about adding pickleball to their program and they agreed. We had the River Valley Paddle Battle Round Robin event last March. I’m also partnering with Dave Weinbach for our next big tournament in March 2020. He’s bringing in sponsors and lots of pros! Our club is almost at 300 people – not quite there yet, but we will be in another month. We are having our 1st sanctioned tournament with 60 people participating. We will have a booth with videos showing the game of pickleball.

We use the GroupMe App to keep in touch with everybody in the club, letting them know changes in court availability or announcing pick-up games and special events. Drop-in play is scheduled every day. We have round robin tournaments and summer leagues. Dave Weinbach has provided clinics in our area too.

Jan Lucas and friends

Mike Gritzmacher, Robert Lucas, Diane Walker and Jan Lucas at a tournament

Events often are partnerships with folks in the community. For example, in May we supported cancer research in Gunderson. In September, we will be doing pickleball demonstrations during a “Stepping Out In Pink” event. The Honorary Chairperson, Candi Bucheger, is a cancer survivor. The city has an annual Riverfest event. This year is the first time our club will be involved. We’ll have one court with players on it all the time and one court for folks who want to learn the game. We just got business cards to hand out and we will have a booth with a monitor in place showing folks playing pickleball. We’re excited to continue finding opportunities to grow the game in our community.

La Crosse Area Pickleball Club

La Crosse Area Pickleball Club

Ambassador Series – Meet Mary Barsaleau, USAPA Ambassador, Coachella Valley, California

AMBASSADOR SERIES – Meet Mary Barsaleau

Rosie Garcia, Vincente and Mary Barsaleau

Referee clinic with Rosie, Vincente and Mary – what a TEAM!

Mary Barsaleau loves getting EVERYONE into the game. Her love of the sport is clearly apparent by all the work she is doing to promote the game of pickleball. Enjoy!

Mary Barsaleau in Action

Mary Barsaleau demonstrating at the L.A. A.P.E teachers clinic

How did you get into pickleball?

I started teaching and coaching after I finished the teaching credential program at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1983, after playing tennis, basketball and softball in college.

I was introduced to teaching pickleball at the Cal Poly workshop in 1984. It was a blast, and we had mini tournaments after classes. I incorporated pickleball into my physical education curriculum at Francis Parker, and in the Grossmont and Tustin Unified school districts. I coached both the boys’ and girls’ varsity  and J.V. tennis teams for 7 years at Tustin High, and even my tennis team loved pickleball!

Before we had courts, I used the service boxes on the tennis courts and dropped the volleyball nets on the volleyball courts, at first using tennis balls and hard plastic paddles. The kids loved it!

I ran summer tennis camps for 12 years and did “pickleball Wednesdays” from 2002-2015 in Tustin. They wanted to play pickle more than tennis!

In 2012 I joined a P.E. workshop friend who told me they were playing competitive pickleball at Crown Valley middle school. Bill Smith and Jane Porphir as well as many others took me under their wing, told me to quit “playing like a tennis player,” and encouraged me to enter some tournaments. After joining Phil Dunmeyer’s early morning Tustin district employee gang (aluminum nets and taped lines) I played my first tournament at the Palm Springs Senior Games in 2013. After recovering from back surgery, I moved from 4.0 to 4.5 and became a USAPA ambassador in 2015.

Refs in Training Mary Barsaleau

What a great bunch of Refs in Training

Why did you become an Ambassador?

I love pickleball, love teaching others and wanted to start a program that did not conflict with sanctioned tournaments and social play at Tustin. I had run many events as an athletic director, and thought that the round robins which Cyndi Glavas and Phil Dunmeyer first organized at Tustin were the way to go.

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

My first round robin was the Summer Sizzler in the summer of 2015, and I just hosted Summer Sizzler 4! The round robin format is a great way to meet people, socialize, practice for tournaments and not worry about being eliminated. I have run about 20 events at Tustin, and 5 in Palm Springs. That is my major ambassador contribution, and I hope to continue to run these events everywhere. 

Montana School Demonstration Mary Barsaleau

Mary and youth at the Montaras School Demonstration

Highlights of being a USAPA ambassador? Accomplishments?

I finished the IPTPA training to be an instructor in July. I plan to attend the Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR) certification program in September at Seal Beach, so I can compare the two teaching programs. PPR is a subset of the Professional Tennis Registry, of which I have been a member for years. They provide certification and insurance for instructors.

Mary Barsaleau, Garcia with Montana School Students

Mary Barsaleau, Rosie Roper with Montaras School youth

Rosie Roper and I ran two clinics for L.A. Unified in June, for both students and APE teachers. I recruited Jeanie Garcia, Doug Nichols and Gary Rogers to help, along with Bev Vigil, who works for LAUSD. San Clemente ambassador Manny Romero is working to schedule an inservice for his teachers this year, after we ran a senior center demonstration along with Phil Dunmeyer earlier this year. I am working with Steve Riggs to start the program in Irvine when the Portola facility is completed. I recently changed my ambassador registration from Tustin/Long Beach to the Coachella Valley and hope to run more round robins, in-service workshops and school district programs in the desert.

Dean Mangione, USAPA ambassador in Palm Springs, has worked hard to promote pickleball in a variety of programs, and has been my mentor. Along with Rosie Roper, we ran a free clinic during Spring break that had over 45 kids! He and his wife Nancy have worked with the city, and have offered free youth programs indoors at both Demuth and JOJ community centers. Along with Vicki Oltean with the City of Palm Springs, and Dave Paquette, I have run 5 round-robin tournaments during the season, with great success. Hank Reimer is running referee clinics and training in the Palm Desert area, and I am working with him to become a certified referee.

Challenges to getting pickleball into communities?

We need to work cooperatively with the tennis community and offer free programs to introduce our sport in camps, after school programs and schools. Senior center demonstrations, Back to School Night or Open House demonstrations, and off season leagues for high school girls and boys tennis teams are only a start.

When we get them playing, they will push their communities to build more courts. Sponsorships from businesses will help with funding, and corporate Health and Wellness is a great place to offer pickleball to get employees active and exercising. I would like to see everyone on the courts!

Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

It has been a delight talking with USAPA Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador Denise Donald about how pickleball has taken over her life. Here is some of her story. Enjoy!

I started playing pickleball in 2011 and became instantly addicted. When I started there were only 8 folks playing pickleball in South Jersey. We used masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. The township got wind of it and painted pickleball lines on 2 tennis courts. I love encouraging folks to play. I use to get folks to participate. I did meetups for drills and skills, but people complained about them using the only courts available for drills, so the local rec. center let me be on their schedule for drills and skills sessions. Now I get paid $50 for each class! In 2019, we have 1284 people playing pickleball in South Jersey.

I love seeing people enjoy themselves. All retirees I meet seem to want to fill their time with activity, but a lot of sports don’t have time to play during the day. Retirees used to say to me, “I don’t know what I’m going to do in retirement,” so I suggest trying pickleball, and now they play pickleball every day. Pickleball makes folks feel like they are a part of something bigger. It’s a grass roots movement that has become a national movement.

I have been very busy since I first signed up to be a USAPA Ambassador 6 years ago. I have done 2 podcasts on NPR with Marty Masowarin about how to grow the sport. I get calls every week to help start pickleball. When I started, there were less than 12 Ambassadors in the District. Now there are 61; 31 in Pennsylvania, and 30 in Jersey, with more people interested. The Area Team includes Bill Gionetti, Egg Harbor Township. Bill Gionetti does pickleball classes weekly. He’s 82 and has been dedicated to growing pickleball for 10-15 years. We have a lot of folks do the ground work and do hours of work just for the enjoyment of and growing the game. South Jersey has a Facebook page.

If growing pickleball is the goal, you can be sure that pickleball has been growing by leaps and bounds in my district. In Jersey Shore, every town now has put in pickleball courts. In June of 2016, I located an unused basketball court and turned it into 4 dedicated pickleball courts. 8 of the dozen who started playing pickleball still play. One township is building 5 more courts from scratch. Another township had no money, but offered to power wash a court and put down lines. Altogether, we have courts at the Croc Center, a Tennis Club and 2 skate rings. In Mashpeh, a court was added in a church, and have had 8 players since November. The county has been very receptive to supporting the growth of pickleball. They have provided grants and masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. 

We have some great pros in the area, some of whom are IPTPA certified trainers, including Sarah Ansboury, Aspen Kern,  Christine McGrath and Ben Johns. Some IPTPA-trained folks do Boy Scout programs teaching pickleball. Ben Johns will be teaching pickleball clinics in the fall. Christine, Aspen, Ben and Kyle also did a fundraiser recently.

Most folks here are 3.0/3.5 recreational players. In the area, we have up to 4.5 players, but no 5.0. 4.0s say we focus too much on older folks/recreational. 7 miles from Philadelphia there is an elite group of 4.5 and 5.0 players. Folks from North Jersey have to travel an hour to play with them. I am getting requests to get tournaments going for the 4.5 and 5.0 players, but my strength is introducing pickleball to communities and folks new to pickleball.

Have you ever taken the time to thank an Ambassador for all they do to promote the game of pickleball?  If in your travels your path crosses with Denise Donald, please thank her.  She is one hard-working USAPA Pickleball Ambassador.


Sequim Picklers

It takes a village to grow a pickleball community.  Sequim Picklers is one such community that is growing because folks like Jack Olmsted, Video Blogger and Ben Sanders, USAPA Ambassador work hard to get the word out about pickleball in their community.  Enjoy!


Ben: Hi my name is Ben Sanders. I’m director of court operations for the Sequim Picklers in Sequim, Washington. We are presently at the Boys and Girls Club which we rent on weekends for indoor play when it it raining, which it is going now. So we have an indoor venue. We have a hundred and thirty-four members at present. We would love to have anyone in the Sequim area, even on the peninsula. We have several people from Port Townsend, numerous people from Port Angeles that come to play with us and our members of our club. And we’d love to have you.

We play Pickleball. You see the venue behind me. We end up with between 25 and 35 people on Saturdays and Sundays each day. And then we play seven days a week. That is Monday Wednesday and Friday at 9 o’clock in the morning till noon. Tuesdays and Thursdays from three o’clock until five. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays has at three o’clock also has free instruction for anyone member or non-member to come and learn how to play the game of pickleball.

Jack: How do you become a member?

You can come any of our events seven days a week Monday though Friday, plus Saturdays and Sundays indoor at the Boys/Girls Club and at any of those events will have cards ready for you to sign for membership. Membership is not very expensive, it is a little over buck a month. So, you’re at fifteen dollars a year for membership. We will then explain what we are doing. We are in the process right now of building our own courts that will be at Kerry Park near the dog park. We are looking to build 12 courts ourselves. The city has chipped in we have raised well over $116,000 ourselves. So that we can end up with a state-of-the- art facility for members to play at and we will also open it up to the public.

Jack: What is the goal? How much do you have to raise?

Ben: Our goal is $250,000. It has to be built with union and professionally. We have to go by the City codes and so it’s a little more expensive. But, we have a goal of $260,000. We’ve raised, I believe $116,000. So, we are well on our way to get the courts we want built. We’re all trying to do it sooner than later because we are running of years.

Jack: You are running out of years because of your age bracket?

Ben: Because our age bracket. We have a lot of young players. Our president is a young player. He came from the tennis group but he’s given up tennis and has taken on pickleball. Doug Hastings is the president of  the board. I ams also a three year board member and also an ambassador to the United States Pickleball Association. So, anytime you have any questions or the instruction, set-up or practice or anything you can give me a call. My name is Ken Sanders my number is locally 360) 808-1024 We play on Tuesdays and Thursdays even when I’m not here I have a group of instructors that come in and continue that instruction once you start it on Tuesdays and Thursdays at three o’clock on either of those two days. It is basic instruction, intermediate instruction and even advanced practice where you can work on lobs or you can work can overhead slams and all aspects of the game.

Jack: Can you give us a little tip? You got a paddle and a ball in your hand right now. Can you give us a little pickle ball tip?

Ben: The tip is that most people are afraid that when they stand at the kitchen line which is right in front of the net they afraid that when the ball comes at them they will bet hit. So, if you simply take your paddle hold it nice and loose when you are at the kitchen line put your thumb on the back, like this, and then hold it here and touch the paddle and anything that comes at you just punch the ball forward. Punch the ball forward. Anything that comes right at you – your face or your chest or over here all you do is punch the ball forward. You don’t have to be afraid of anything coming right at you because you are all prepared to defend it and it gets back over the net and extends the game and become a pickleball player.

If you would like to see the whole interview, you can find it on the Seattle PI website:

Bill Giannetti, USAPA Pickleball Ambassador Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

Bill Giannetti at Delilah Oaks Court Dedication

Pickleball Ambassador Bill Giannetti along with Mayor McCullough cut the ribbon to officially open the new pickleball courts at Delilah Oaks Pickleball Courts.

I had a brief conversation with Bill Giannetti the other day.  His story must be like many others who become a USAPA Ambassador.  He plays tennis. He met a couple of guys, Stan Shumaker and Dave Wheeler, who introduced him to pickleball in Pennsylvania. Stan learned about the game when he visited Arizona about 5 years ago.  They all gathered on the tennis court and taught Bill the game.  Stan works for the City of Philadelphia so he had great connections to promote pickleball in the community.

Bill lives in a 55+ community and he got pickleball started there. Now there’s about 20 folks who turn out every day to play.  In the township, they’re allowed to play once a week in the community center.  There’s a meeting soon to see if they can play in the gym, which means they can set up 4 nets for more participation in his clinics. Bill loved learning about the game, so, it seemed only natural that he would become a USAPA Pickleball Ambassador.  Bill got a grant from the USAPA for two portable net systems and started introducing the game out in a parking lot.  In New Jersey, he first got permission to play in an elementary school once a week.  In the summer, Bill and his friends tape pickleball lines on tennis courts and play a couple of times a week.

Bill Giannetti and friends demonstrating pickleball

Bill Giannetti and friends demonstrating pickleball

Bill gives regular clinics throughout the year.  With one or two nets, he can include 12 folks in his clinic, but 4 courts would be perfect.  He plays in Ocean City, NJ as well.  There are about 30 folks who play there regularly 3 times a week.  Bill still plays tennis with his wife on Saturdays, but you’ll find him playing pickleball Monday thru Friday now. On August 26, 2015, there was a dedication for the opening of new pickleball courts.  Egg Harbor Township Parks and Recreation held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the courts located in Delilah Oaks Park.  They are open to the community from sunrise to sunset.

Mayor McCullough serving the first ball — at Delilah Oaks Pickleball Courts

Mayor McCullough serving the first ball — at Delilah Oaks Pickleball Courts

Bill has been invited to give a clinic in Vineland, NJ, and that’s how he spreads the good news about pickleball.  Bill has also been asked to consider becoming a Regional Ambassador.  Since he’s well known in the area already, it wouldn’t be a stretch.

Bill loves the game:  it keeps him busy, it keeps him fit, and he has fun too!  Thank you Bill, for your dedication to promoting the game of pickleball in the Atlantic Region.

Click here if you’d like to read more info about the Egg Harbor Township Recreation Dept offering pickleball.

PickleballCentral “All Heart” Award: Jeff Anthony and the Pickleburg Community


All Heart Award: Jeff Anthony and the Pickleburg Community

Jeff AnthonyPickleburg

Jeff Anthony, USAPA Ambassador

Meet the creator of Pickleburg:  USAPA Pickleball Ambassador – Jeff Anthony.

Jeff was an active tennis player before trying pickleball 4 years ago.  Jeff likes competition, likes being responsible for his own behavior on the court and is willing to “share” in doubles. The first time he played pickleball, he injured his Achilles tendons in both feet. So, after recovery from his initial pickleball injury, he’s been actively playing for 2 years now. He feels fortunate that others took the time to show him how to play. He loved the game of pickleball so much that he did a lot of research, like how to get started, how to get better. Since necessity is the mother of invention, he then designed and built the Pickleburg website to share what he learned with others who asked about pickleball. He was so amazed by the number inquiries he received about how to get started that he put buttons up front on the website,  “Getting Started” and “Getting Better”.

Pickleburg is not a club, it is a way to find information about pickleball in the area. Jeff does the Pickleburg website for fun. When he posts new articles, it means he has learned something new about pickleball that he wants to share with other pickleball fans. He encourages folks who contact him to register on the website so they can have access to contact information of other players in the area.  Registration also helps in the sending out of announcements, especially when there is inclement weather and the pickleball schedule or venue has to be changed. How big is Pickleburg? Although primarily focused on supporting and growing the sport in Williamsburg, receives visitors and inquiries from across the US and Canada.

Jeff was approached by a regional Ambassador about 2 years ago to become a USAPA Ambassador.  It seemed consistent with what he was doing through his Pickleburg website. Jeff comes from a military background that had an emphasis on collaboration and hi-performance environment. Collaboration is key to a great tournament, especially with the Williamsburg Fall Classic. The James City County Parks and Recreation Department (JCC P&R) has worked with various groups through the years to support the growth of pickleball.  JCC P&R puts on the local pickleball tournament, the Williamsburg Fall Classic.  The tournament draws top players from the state and up and down the east coast.  This year, the tournament will be expanded to include a local player day and then added clinics.

Medalists 2015 WFC

Medalists at 2015 Williamsburg Fall Classic: Erin Coppersmith, Jeanie Duncan, Becky Jilcott, Jimmy Ritchie, Carolyn Law, Steve Valiant

Mid County Park, Williamsburg, VA

Mid County Park, Williamsburg, VA

The Pickleburg website makes it easier to promote the game with one voice.  Jeff helps the JCC P&R with media releases, promotional materials and reaching out to potential sponsors and by posting registration info on his website. People who have been involved in pickleball longer than him have helped put it on the actual Williamsburg tournament.

Jeff is also a pickleball coach, and when he holds classes, he has them work for an hour and then he lets them loose. He starts slower with his classes.  He is really aware of the potential to hurt oneself with too much play. He has a catch phrase about the potential harm of overplay: “green legs and hamstrings.”

The local Pickleburg folks do clinics in cooperation with the James City County Multi-Sport Summer Camp for Kids:  offering classes for the 7-9 year old and the 10-12 year old age groups.  It is a good way to bring forward a child’s ability to pay attention.  They may not always pay attention in school, but every one who attends their summer clinics really pays attention.  They also do a clinic for 80-somethings at a continuing care community.  Those folks are excited and enthusiastic to try it; they are all still kids inside.  That is why he loves the game: it is so easy to be enthusiastic about it.

WFC 2015

Williamsburg Fall Classic 2015

Jeff and the whole Pickleburg Community are to be commended for their efforts to spread the good news about pickleball through tournaments, clinics and just plain fun playing the game.