Meet The Pros – Ben Johns

Meet The Pros – Ben Johns

There is no doubt that Ben Johns is a fierce competitor.  


Ben Johns - Fierce!

Ben Johns – Fierce!


Ben Johns fiercer

Ben Johns – Fiercer!!

Ben Johns - Fiercest

Ben Johns – FIERCEST!!!!

Ben can be an intimidating contender who brings his tennis “tenacity” to his pickleball game. Watch out for him at Nationals this year. Enjoy!

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

2017 US Open Pro Men’s Singles – Gold
2017 US Open Pro Men’s Doubles – Bronze
2017 US Open Men’s Doubles 19+ – Silver
2017 US Open Mixed Doubles 19+ – Bronze
2017 SoCal Summer Classic Men’s Doubles 19+ – Gold
2017 SoCal Summer Classic Men’s Doubles Pro – Silver
2017 SoCal Summer Classic Mixed Doubles Pro – Bronze
2017 SoCal Summer Classic Men’s Singles Pro – Gold
2017 Canadian Nationals Mixed Doubles Pro – Gold
2017 Canadian Nationals Men’s Doubles Pro – Gold
2017 Canadian Nationals Men’s Singles Pro – Gold
2017 PPF Zone Bend Men’s Doubles Pro – Gold
2017 PPF Zone Bend Mixed Doubles Pro – Silver
2017 PPF Zone Bend Men’s Singles Pro – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Elite Pro from Engage Pickleball because it provides the maximum amount of spin and power. I also love how I can really feel the ball on the paddle.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I first played pickleball in Estero, Florida in February 2016. The Bella Terra Community built pickleball courts right next to the tennis courts where I played tennis with my brother. I saw pickleball played while I was hitting and thought it looked like fun, so I gave it a try and loved it!

What’s your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I like outdoors way better. It’s much more dynamic and difficult to play than indoors. Indoors uses a very soft ball that is too easy to control.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I love playing both doubles and singles because of the change in strategy and shots, but I do enjoy doubles more. There’s more variability in the game and the points last longer.

Ben Johns/Joey Farias - Gold,

Kyle Yates/Wes Gabrielsen – Silver, Ben Johns/Joey Farias – Gold, Chris Miller/Tyler Loong – Bronze at the Professional Pickleball Federation Tournament, Bend, Oregon

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

My favorite place to play are the first courts I ever played on, the Bella Terra Community courts. I like them because they’re the most familiar to me.

Clinic at Bella Terra Community Courts

Clinic at Bella Terra Community Courts

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I don’t really have a secret sauce, but for players that want to improve, my biggest tip is practice smart. Always practice your fundamentals like dinking and 3rd shot drops. Even if you’re not successful with them for a while, you’re going to improve faster than everyone that doesn’t practice them. If you’re playing with lower level players, experiment, try new shots, and don’t worry about winning.

What’s your day job?

I don’t have a regular job, but I do teach pickleball quite a bit.

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

How much I play a week very much depends on where I’m at. While I’m in Florida I might play 10 hours a week. While I’m in Maryland it’s probably between 0-3.  I make time to play just by getting everything else I have to get done on schedule.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I wouldn’t say I have any “lucky” rituals. For me it’s all about preparation. Lots of practice leading up to the tournament helps along with eating well, getting a lot of sleep, etc.

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

My main goal is winning gold in Men’s Doubles Pro at one of the big three tournaments: U.S. Open, Tournament of Champions and USAPA Nationals.

Aspen Kern posted on Facebook, “I was asked this week who I least liked going up against, and I answered ‘Ben Johns.'”  You will definitely be a witness to some fierce pickleball if you get to see Ben compete.   Thanks, Ben!

Gamma Proves Beauty Isn’t Skin Deep… When It Comes to Paddles

All paddle surfaces are not created equal.

When it comes to graphics, Gamma has found that good-looking design isn’t only a matter of appearance; it also affects how a paddle plays.

This means that you should never have to choose between style and function. And now with Gamma’s new paddle releases, you can own the best of both worlds.

The Mirage and Razor are here to bring together the best aspects of paddle technology and surface design.

Gamma Mirage

Gamma Mirage, $89.95

This duo’s most clever feature is all in the face, in that Gamma uses a direct print process rather than a screen print or a printed label during manufacturing.

Direct Printed Graphics

Chuck Vietmeier, Director of Product Marketing at Gamma, explains, “[Direct printing] not only gives us a clear, clean and high-end look, but it allows players to get the most response from the face of their paddle. Vinyl graphics in our opinion do not allow for proper ball feedback.”

Gamma dug into customer research to find out what players were seeking in their equipment at high levels of play. Aside from determining that polymer core paddles were clearly the top choice when it came to trends, they found many players craved a responsive feel and softer sound.

Smooth Poly Core

This resulted in the paddles utilizing Gamma’s new “Sensa Poly Core” for increased control, while offering variation in surface materials and weight.

Chuck says that the new polyester core in the Gamma paddles make them a more comfortable option for players at all levels of play. “The core is so responsive that allows a player to hit more accurate shots with less effort.”

Gamma Razor

Gamma Razor, $109.95

The Mirage uses a composite face while the Razor has a graphite surface.

The Perfect Face/Weight Combo

Chuck explains the graphite-faced Razor “allows for a lighter, more maneuverable paddle with lots of pop and ball feedback. It has more more power without sacrificing control and feel.”

The Mirage weighs in at a heavier 8.0 oz, with the Razor sitting at 7.6 oz.

These paddles do have a standard edge guard unlike Gamma’s original series with their patented flush edge guard, but the face overlap is minimal (~1/8″) and only serves to broaden the sweet spot within the paddles.

One thing Gamma has brought back is their popular updated honeycomb grip from the 2.0 line, offering high traction and increased comfort thanks to the cushioned design.

USA-Made and US Open Success

We know many of our customers care about where paddles are manufactured, which is why we’re also happy to report that Gamma paddles are produced wholly within the USA.

All of the paddles are, of course, USAPA approved so you can take them to your next tournament.

Lucy with Phaser 2.0

Lucy with her original Gamma favorite, the Phaser 2.0

A top player who’s been making use of Gamma’s line is 5.0 player Lucy Kitcher. Lucy took home several gold medals at the 2017 US Open and originally met Gamma reps at the tournament last year.

Gamma felt “her passion and drive to excel in the sport of pickleball matched [theirs],” and from there on out an ideal partnership was formed.

Pro Player Lucy Kitchner Shares Her Pick

Lucy formerly used Gamma’s Phaser 2.0 and is now playing with the Mirage due to its balance between touch and power. She notes that players coming from a tennis background may prefer the Razor for its more fast-acting graphite surface.

“Gamma shares the same passion for pickleball as the players,” Lucy says. “They’ve expanded into pickleball because they enjoy the game and have been in and amongst the players asking questions and looking to provide them with what they want.

“They’ve already been on the front lines with grips, ball carts and nets, and are now are producing top-notch paddles that will suit recreational players as well as the pros.”

Finding the Magic Fit

We loved Lucy’s response when we asked her how players could determine the right paddle for them amid the new lineup.

“It’s like Harry Potter: The wand chooses the wizard! You really have to try them and see which one feels right.”

We agree! Wizards—er, players, that is—know there’s nothing quite like trying a paddle for yourself.

We’ll take this moment to gently remind readers that here at PickleballCentral, we give all customers a 30-day, 100% satisfaction guarantee.

After purchasing any paddle from us you’re free to try it out for those 30 days to ensure it’s a match. If it isn’t, just give us a call and we’ll exchange it for one that serves you better.

Lucy rounds out her admiration for Gamma by adding, “Gamma has been pleasant and flexible to work with and has given me the tools I need to play my best. I’m hoping to be a positive representation of the high quality brand they are. I’m grateful for their support and hope they feel the same about my efforts to share their product line with others.”

Try out the new Gamma paddles and feel their responsiveness for yourself after checking out the lineup.

What’s in a Weight? 4 Ways Paddle Weights Affect Play

There are many qualities to consider when purchasing a new paddle, but the one we hear rallied about the most is weight.

This is a reasonable focus for many players. Weight is the one attribute which can often make or (literally) break someone’s well-being on the court.

If a paddle’s shape doesn’t feel right, you can swap from a long face to a wide one with relative ease. Choose the incorrect weight, and you may find old injuries flaring up, even putting a damper on your play due to pain.

It might seem intimidating, but selecting a paddle with the best weight for your needs doesn’t have to be difficult. If you keep in mind the following attributes, then you’ll be able to make an informed decision:

Mini Weight Lifter

What’s your perfect weight? (Credit: Tim Lauer)


The most obvious way a paddle’s weight affects play is through its ability to generate power. Heavy paddles provide additional speed and heft behind every hit, even when you aren’t focused on slamming.

Contrary to the common myth that players with weak wrists are better off with a light paddle, sometimes an option slightly on the heavier side is just what’s needed to give that extra pop of power to drive balls over the net.


Paddle materials play a large role in how easy it is to direct pickleballs during play, with softer options like polymer considered easier to control. While this is half of the equation, weight is another factor which affects how well you can manage the game’s tempo.

A heavier paddle is more difficult to move quickly. Even strong players take more energy to move a heavy paddle to a different position, which can prove problematic during fast rallies at the net.

A lighter paddle is easier to maneuver, but on the other hand, it’s harder to defend against slams due to having to stabilize the paddle yourself instead of letting a dense paddle absorb the shock for you.


You shouldn’t need a blackboard to know the ball will go where you want it (Credit: simpleinsomnia)


While it would be nice if manufacturers could magically create their paddles at any weight players desired, it’s tricky to balance so many factors during construction. Composite materials are generally heavier than graphite, which is why you’ll see most heavy paddles use composite faces while lighter paddles use graphite faces.

There are exceptions of course, especially as paddle technology has become more refined. Manufacturers are offering all sorts of material pairings at different weights. But if you prefer the feel of a certain face type, you may want to check what weights are offered for that particular material.

As of now, paddles classified as “very heavy” on our site are still entirely composed of composite or wood options, though you can find a few graphite paddles if you move down to the standard “heavy” category. The reverse provides more options (there are plenty of lightweight composite paddles).


When discussing weight distribution, paddles can be referred to as head-heavy, handle-heavy or balanced. Depending on your play style and background in other sports, you may prefer a head-heavy paddle since this feels more akin to a tennis racquet and helps lead your swing into the ball.

Handle-heavy designs are great if you have more of a “wristy” game and want the paddle to feel like an extension of your body, where balanced paddles are suitable for just about any player.

A paddle’s weight combined with its shape determines its weight distribution, so be sure to keep an eye on how each paddle’s balance will affect your ability.


If only we all had this level of balance! (Credit: Ricardo Liberato)



If you like the way a paddle plays but still feel something is “off,” take advantage of our 30-day return policy and give it a shot in a different weight. Even something as small as a 0.2 oz difference is noticeable to pros at a high level of play.

You never know when a simple change may give you just the edge you need.

Kovalova and Wright Elite Pros

Following this train of thought, Engage has recently announced their famous Elite Custom Pro is now being offered in a new “Lite” model which averages an even 7.6 oz.

This is lighter than their original 7.9 oz Standard model, so players who loved the Custom Pro’s length and versatility but craved more speed are recommended to give the paddle another perusal.

Check out the Elite Custom Pro listing and let us know if you have any questions about how to determine your most suitable paddle weight!

Pickleball Hall of Fame – And the Nominees Are…

It is time to recognize the people who have made huge contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball. The new Pickleball Hall of Fame has been created to recognize the “best of the best,” the best competitors, the best volunteers, the best creative minds in the international sport of pickleball. The Pickleball Hall of Fame has invited the pickleball community to nominate exceptional individuals who deserve recognition. You are invited to attend the Hall of Fame Dinner in Casa Grande, Arizona on Friday, November 10th at 8:00 pm, following the USAPA National Championships.  

The Pickleball Hall of Fame Nominating Committee has chosen ten individuals as finalists. The 2017 Nominees in alphabetical order are:

Bill Bell

Bill Bell

Bill Bell

Bill Bell was a successful businessman. He obtained the nickel concession for International Nickel and spent a lot of time traveling in Indonesia. Bill and his family were regular guests of Joel Pritchard. During one of his two-week stays at the cottage in 1965, that’s when the game of pickleball was invented. It was Bill and Joel who tried out different plastic balls that first day. He and Joel invented the game of pickleball, but right away they invited Barney McCallum to be a partner in Pickle-Ball, Inc.

Joel, Barney and Bill wrote the first set of official rules for the game that first two weeks. During his international travels, he would ask Barney McCallum to send a complimentary set to someone Bell met in his travels, helping the game of pickleball to grow internationally.


Mark “Yoda” Friedenburg

Mark Friedenberg

Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg

Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg has been competing for 40 years and is a USAPA National Gold Medal Champion. He was involved in the USAPA early on as a board member and became the first president of the new USAPA in 2005. He has continued to serve on the USAPA Ratings and Rankings Committee.  He owned and operated the  Pro-Lite Sports company continuing the legacy begun by Arlen Paranto of producing quality composite pickleball paddles.

Mark has been a mainstay in pickleball as a pickleball pro, a stellar tournament organizer, a premier pickleball instructor and author of “The Official Pickleball Handbook”.  On the court he has always conducted himself with class and a great sense of humor.  He has showed great prowess as competitor in tournaments and has often medaled against some of the best competition in the nation. He has earned the name “Yoda” for his skill in the game and in his work as an instructor. Our sport would not be what it is today without the impact of competitor Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg.

Alice “Jo” Hancock

Jo Hancock

Jo Hancock at the 2016 USAPA Nationals

The heart of every pickleball event is found in the dedicated volunteers. Jo Hancock has taught pickleball at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise Arizona for many years. When Earl Hill started a USAPA membership drive, she was the first to sign up. She has consistently demonstrated great sportsmanship, and always had room for one more at her house. Jo is “creme de la creme” in the world of pickleball tournaments!  When members of Arizona Traditions pickleball club decided it was time to organize the first Senior Olympics, Jo was there helping organized volunteers and finding homes for players to stay during the tournament. These kinds of big events couldn’t happen without volunteer referees. Jo made herself available to referee or serve as linesman in every tournament she entered. Jo has been a terrific competitor as well. She won 149 medals in the 15 years of competing in pickleball tournaments. Some of her best wins were at The Huntsman National Senior Games and The USAPA Nationals.  Everybody knows Jo Hancock.

Billy Jacobsen

Billy Jacobsen

Billy Jacobsen, 2009 USAPA Nationals

Billy Jacobsen’s name is synonymous with “Pickleball Pro”. Everybody knows Billy. He has played in at least one pickleball tournament a year for 35 years in a row. That is quite a rare distinction! This is what nominator Wes Gabrielsen has to say about Billy Jacobsen:  “Despite some physical challenges, including hearing loss and chronic Type 1 diabetes, Billy Jacobsen dominated in pickleball tournaments for many years. Billy was a successful high school and college tennis player, eventually playing for the University of Washington Tennis team. His stellar tennis skills transferred easily to pickleball and he began to find tremendous success on the court. Due to his impressive performances, medal finishes, the grit he shows by playing through some tough physical limitations exemplify why he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The history of pickleball cannot be written without including Billy’s name and accomplishments with it.

Robert (Bob) Lanius

Bob Lanius

Bob Lanius, photo credit: Pickleball Channel

Robert “Bob” Lanius, owner and developer of the Pickleball Tournaments website started working on medical research systems development while still in college. He graduated with in the first Computer Science BA class from the University of Texas in Austin. Bob continued working in developing medical research and hospital information systems through the ’80s.  He worked for Microsoft as a consultant in the ’90s from the Dallas office and relocated to Redmond, Washington as a project manager for international clients. After Microsoft, Bob started his own consulting business.

Bob and  his wife Jettye were introduced to pickleball in 2000. Their RV travels took them all over the country, organizing events and spreading the word of pickleball.  They eventually settled in the Happy Trails community in Surprise, Arizona. Bob designed the Happy Trails Pickleball Club website in 2004, where he reported complete tournament results and events around the country.  He has served as commissioner for the Arizona Senior Olympics and Grand Canyon State Games. Bob’s  PickleballTournaments system has been used to manage hundreds of pickleball tournaments in the USA and worldwide.

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum graduated from the University of Washington in 1950. He had $10, half a tank of gas and one job offer – selling envelopes. He was a top-notch salesman at the Griffin Envelope Company. He eventually ventured out on his own firm named McCallum Envelope Company & Printing Co. Barney’s past accomplishments include several patents. He had a knack for determining a need and filling a niche. On Bainbridge Island, when Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell decided to go into business together to produce pickleball equipment, they knew they needed help and both agreed they needed Barney, so they walked right over to his house and enlisted him in their new project, Pickle-Ball Inc.

Barney was the driver of equipment development – figuring out how to cut paddles, what wood to use, where to buy everything. He experimented with all kinds of materials for paddles. He worked diligently in helping to create the rules and was the major force, with Jim Weller, behind creating the double bounce and non-volley zone rules. Barney personally composed a one-page set of rules included in each $29.50 retail set that started the explosive growth of this new game of pickleball. He set up a business relationship with Cosom for the pickleballs and hired NW Center of Handicap in Seattle to make the wood paddles. He and his wife Carol attended trade shows to promote the game.

Barney said the great thing about pickleball is the good balance between offense and defense. Barney proudly shared, “…the biggest pleasure for me about the game, besides meeting a lot of wonderful people, is seeing people not involved in any athletics at all taking up the game.  I have people tell me how pickleball changed their lives, how they never did a thing with sports before but they can play pickleball. That’s quite a reward.”

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto

Arlen Paranto is a retired Boeing engineer. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota where he learned early the importance of being able to fix everything himself. Arlen went to work for Boeing in the early 50’s. He worked his way up through the machine shops to supervising engineer without a college education. He was Supervisor of the Year in 1986. Arlen was always coming up with ways to fix things and make them better, which led to his being made head of  the Cost Savings Division at Boeing. Arlen got involved with pickleball in the early 80’s. This was the time when Sid Williams was forming the United States “Amateur” Pickleball Association.

Arlen loved the sport so much, and knew he could make the sport even more fun.  Soon, he was making prototype paddles using space age material that Boeing used as floor paneling in their jet aircraft. The honeycomb core made the paddles lighter than wood and gave them a bigger sweet spot. The first composite pickleball paddle made it easier for all skill levels to enjoy the sport at a all levels. This prototype paddle became the Pro-lite paddle company.  Arlen made the first composite paddles in his garage in Eatonville, Washington. He was also on the first committee to come up with the rule book for tournament play and helped design portable net systems. With his new composite paddle, he competed in the Washington State Senior games, and continued to play into his early 80’s. He still enjoys keeping up with the sport and is truly amazed with the growth of the sport and the level of today’s play.

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard

Joel Pritchard was a delegate to the Republic National Convention in 1956 that nominated Dwight Eisenhower for President. That began his political career. He was a six-term U.S. Representative from Seattle from 1959-1967 and a two-term Washington Lt. Governor 1989-1997. Despite all his political accomplishments, the game with a funny name, pickleball, may carry his widest-reaching legacy.

Along with a few of his friends, Joel Pritchard invented the game of pickleball at his house in 1965. After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together (USAPA History of the Game).

Joel Pritchard and several friends filed articles of incorporation for Pickle-Ball, Inc. in 1968. Joel introduced pickleball to his fellow legislators, and organized social events like softball and pickleball for House members. He attended many of the tournaments in Seattle/Tacoma area when his scheduled allowed. According to Sid Williams,” Joel was always gracious and presented the awards to the players.” Sid presented him with a plaque, “The Father of Pickleball,” to honor all his work promoting pickleball.

Martha Wassermann

Martha Wasserman

Martha Wasserman

Martha was introduced to pickleball in 2002 and became a community pickleball organizer for seven years. She is known for both her competitive spirit and exemplary sportsmanship. She started playing in tournaments in 2003, and has proven to be a formidable opponent. Martha was one of the first two female players in Arizona that moved up to the 5.0 level of tournament play. She won Gold in USAPA National tournaments from 2006-2009. Martha volunteered to help the USAPA with entry of Tournament Results and has served on the USAPA Rating Committee.  She is currently working to grow pickleball where she lives in Michigan by hosting a clinic and pursuing the re-purposing of some High School tennis courts.

Martha has coordinated fund raisers to purchase pickleballs for her local club. She was instrumental in developing a schedule for ladder, round robin and drop-in play. Martha’s organizational skills helped her club design and build their first dedicated courts. Membership exploded with the dedicated courts and over time 10 more courts were added.   Martha traveled to South Africa where she introduced the game of pickleball to children at the Open Arms Orphanage.

Sid Williams

Sid Williams

Sid Williams

In 1980, Sid Williams was employed as a civilian at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. When Sid was introduced to pickleball, he thought it was a “wimpy” sport. “I found out differently, once I got out on the court,” Williams said. “I was sore for two days. It’s a good workout, a good aerobic exercise…”  (source The Seattle Times, 8/24/1990) Anyone who played pickleball in the Seattle/Tacoma area, especially in the early years, would have known Sid Williams and his passion for pickleball. Many feel Sid is one of the key people that brought the game of pickleball out from the family backyard and into national recognition.

In 1982 he started organizing tournaments and teaching pickleball. He had extensive experience doing the same in racquetball and remarked: “Teaching racquetball and teaching pickleball is not that much different – just demonstrate what the sport is about.” His goal was to make pickleball a recognizable household word worldwide. He was the first Executive Director and President of US Amateur Pickleball Association and served from 1984 to 1998. The name was changed to the US America Pickleball Association (USAPA), which was organized to promote the growth and development of pickleball. During his tenure, the USAPA developed a ranking system, expanded the official rules, offered free instructional clinics and seminars, promoted pickleball at inter-collegiate and intramural levels of competition, published a quarterly newsletter and began establishing representatives to cover the sport at the national level. He continued his involvement in pickleball until 1995.

Many thanks to the pickleball community members who presented these candidates for consideration. We honor  and greatly appreciate all of these ten nominees for their contributions to the growth and popularity of the game of pickleball. 

The Pickleball Magazine Provides the Latest and Greatest in Pickleball Trends

Pickleball Magazine continues to offer excellent articles about pickleball trends, best places to play and tournament features. In the latest issue, Wayne Dollard, publisher of Pickleball Magazine, shares his personal experience in “Building Your Dream Court.” Wayne shares the main reasons he considered building a home court, which include having a place for parties and social gatherings.

He also shares the list of things to consider before building a court, like space and cost. Excellent photos are included showing the stages of building the court, as well as a check list with a price breakdown. This article is definitely one of the best for explaining everything that goes into building a home court. The USAPA has also published a book, “Pickleball Courts: A Construction & Maintenance Manual,” that is helpful on this topic.

The Oct/Nov 2017 issue also contains two USAPA announcements: A Major Region Restructure for 2018 and the new USAPA Sanctioned League Play. It also has a great Q & A page “The Rules Guru” that answers some complex questions about the interpretation of the IFP Official Tournament Rulebook.

We enjoy hearing feedback from Pickleball Magazine subscribers. Here are some of our most recent customer reviews:

“This is a terrific magazine, and I’ve been passing it around the club for others to read. There is a good variety of articles, and the photos and physical pages are high quality! Personally, I would love to see more intermediate skills advancement articles, as well as product reviews.”

“I’m picking up useful tips from this magazine that are improving my game.
I highly recommend a subscription.”

A fellow pickleballer gave me a copy and it’s so informative to me (as a beginner trying to ‘catch on to how the game is played).
Articles with information are so appreciated”

Every Pickleball Magazine issue contains training tips from some of the best trainers in the country. Who doesn’t want to learn how to “Run Down a Lob Safely” with Sarah Ansboury or “Hit Down the Middle” thanks to Coach Mo? Subscribe today, and if you are already a subscriber, make sure your subscription does not expire.  You cannot afford to miss an issue!



Meet The Pros – Brian Thieme

Meet The Pros – Brian Thieme

Brian Thieme

Brian Thieme in action


Brian is fairly new to the game and has already established himself as a formidable, yet humble, competitor with an awesome sense of humor. Enjoy!

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

2017 Round Robin Pebble Creek Pickleball Tournament, Men’s Doubles with Kyle Thieme – Bronze
2016 SPA #1, Men’s Open Special Event Day Doubles 5.0 with Erik Fosdick – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why? 

I am currently using the Selkirk Pro S1c. I have tried many brands and many paddles. But every single one of the Selkirk paddles feels great in my hand. I’ve stuck with the current model because it gives me what I think is a perfect mix between power and feel. My tennis game was all power. With pickleball you need that feel and soft-handed touches to keep points alive. This paddle seems to do it for me without making me try too hard. 

The Thieme Brothers - Kyle and Brian

The Thieme Brothers – Kyle and Brian

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
My older brother, Kyle, was looking for a game that he and his wife could play together.  Both were strong Division 1 tennis players, and were hoping pickleball wouldn’t aggravate her tennis injury. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to play without being in pain. Kyle called me knowing how much I love to compete, and told me to give it a try. So, I give all the credit to him for introducing me to this great sport.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

Being from Arizona and knowing how to handle the intense heat, outdoor is all I’ve known. I’ve spent limited time indoors at the hometown church and recreation centers. Having just moved to San Diego, I’m sure I’ll be spending more and more time outdoors as well.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Growing up playing tennis, I loved singles but was always a better doubles player. Hoping the same would transfer over to pickleball, I tried my hand in a few singles tournaments and discovered that it is a young person’s game. I am only 27 years old, but watching the top singles players run around, dive and leave the matches bloody and exhausted just isn’t for me anymore. I enjoy the “cat and mouse” part of doubles, always having to think and make split second decisions.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

I am not a well-traveled player, but plan to change that this season. I have only played at 3 venues consistently. The Starting Courts have a special place in my memory bank. To me a court is a court, and the people are what make it special.  My brother and I were extremely lucky to stumble into a group of guys in Scottsdale, Arizona that were very much above us. It was an honor to watch and learn while playing with guys like Aspen Kern, Matt Staub, Jotham Darrin and Erik Fosdick. I am now in San Diego, and my home courts are at the world-famous Bobby Riggs Tennis Center run by the Dawson family. The facility is filled with an amazing group of people. On any given night, you can find solid 5.0 matches on 5 to 6 courts.

Bobby Riggs Pickleball Courts, San Diego, CA

Bobby Riggs Pickleball Courts, San Diego, CA

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Secret sauce? I make a pretty good salsa, if you have extra chips… but as far as playing goes, nothing really. If I had to pick something I would say my unpredictability. My college tennis coach once told me, “You make some of the dumbest shot selections I’ve ever seen. But they work and your opponent has no clue what you’re doing, so keep it up.” In pickleball that strategy doesn’t work quite as well. My biggest tip for those willing to learn is the opposite of my “secret sauce” – hit the ball over and be consistent. It’s extremely hard to overpower someone at the top levels. So just be smart and hit the easy balls over and in.

What’s your day job?

I recently started a new career adventure as a foreman for a construction company working in the San Diego School District.

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

Six weeks ago, my answer was very different: only playing 4-6 hours per week. I have now been blessed with excellent pickleball just 10 minutes down the road, available 7 days a week. I am currently playing 20-25 hours per week, and will continue to do so as long as my body permits.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I’ve never been a superstitious player. However; if you refer back to my “wins” section, perhaps I should try and adopt something. Anything can help, right?

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

The majority of my goals are more off court than on.  In a perfect world, all the top players would be able to use their skills to better their communities. However, my one on-court goal is to always medal higher than my brother.  It’s a must to keep the sibling rivalry alive.

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

Have fun. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.

The Pickleball Haven at Camp West Fork

If you are looking for a pickleball getaway, look no further than Camp West Fork in Montana. Situated a mere 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 7 miles from the sky runs of Big Sky, Camp West Fork is an ideal vacation spot for pickleball fanatics.

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Not only do you get to bask in the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountainside, but temperatures are the perfect conditions for pickleball. This is especially true during the months of summer where daytime temperatures reach upwards of the 70’s. During the summer season, the sun illuminates the sky until 9:30 at night, when the temperatures drop to a high of the 50’s. That makes almost any time of the day the perfect time to play pickleball.

Camp West Fork has everything a pickleball lover would desire – a beautiful backdrop, ideal temperatures, and of course…a court! Although the first two have everything to do with Mother Nature, the second is thanks to a couple who fell in love with pickleball, Barry and Zoe Silverman.


From Courtship to Pickleball Court

The couple first bonded over their love of fly-fishing. Taken away by the beauty that is Montana, the twosome decided to do more of what they love. They purchased a 26 foot Jayco bumper pull bunk house trailer. They attached the rig to a pickup truck, and a lifetime of adventure began.

Five years into their adventure, the two purchased a co-op in Orange County, California called Laguna Woods. They did this as a way to keep their dogs away from Montana’s “mud season.”

While spending time at Laguna Woods, Barry and Zoe stumbled upon some people playing pickleball. With the encouragement of the pickleball players, the Silvermans picked up a paddle and never looked back.


What drew Barry to the sport was its correlation to ping pong. His father, George Silverman, served the United States Army during World War II. During his time of service, Mr. Silverman became quite the accomplished ping pong player.

As Barry fondly remembered, “He drilled me on the proper strokes and strategies for tournament level play.  I maintain that ping pong is THE closest game of all to pickleball and strategies and shots translate very well.”

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Barry with his father, George

From Passion to Pet Project

Following a great mud season in Laguna, the Silvermans headed back to Big Sky, where they brought along their newfound passion. Barry remembered coming back to the resort and meeting with the parks department.

He suggested, “That one of the four public tennis courts be lined as a dual purpose venue to accommodate both tennis and pickleball.  They were quite receptive and we soon had two pickleball courts on which we put USAPA’s temporary nets.  They gave us a grant which helped purchase the nets.”

Located on the west fork of the Gallatin River, Camp West Fork was born.

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Barry’s passion led him down a path of DIY extremes. Taking the bull by the horns, the Silvermans held this project close to their hearts. They jumped right on the renovations.

As Barry recalled, “I acted as the general contractor on the project and brought my concrete from Belgrade, my court painter and fencer from Polson and ordered equipment from Tennis Court Supply.” The pickleball fanatic beamed with pride. “Scott Moore, National champion and all around great guy, called ours ‘the prettiest courts I have ever played on.’”

The evolution of the pickleball courts continued.


As Barry explained, “A few years later, we decided to put two courts on our property. We wanted dedicated courts and felt that our 14 acre property was a perfect venue for pickleball courts and the social aspect they provide.”

From Idea to Reality

With courts in place, now all Camp West Fork needed was people to play on them.

Barry and his wife discussed how to go about this endeavor. “After much thought, my wife and I decided that the best avenue for growth of pickleball in our community of 2,500 permanent residents would be by forming a club and charging a token annual fee for membership.”

With an official pickleball league in place, the twosome decided to turn Camp West Fork into the ultimate pickleball destination by offering pickleball boot camps.

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The concept of holding a pickleball camp was first sparked from a conversation with aforementioned pickleball player, Scott Moore.

Barry spoke about the conversation:

“We began talking to Scott Moore about ordering PaddleTek paddles and showed him pictures of the property while sharing our vision of hosting pickleball training camps.  I hold downhill skiing boot camps for my good friends, as I am a certified PSIA instructor.  I found the total immersion they received was so helpful for their skiing that it seemed only natural to offer it to pickleball players as well.  Scott immediately jumped on the concept and we put the first camp together.”

As Barry put it, pickleball boot camp is a total immersion in pickleball covering theory, strategy, stroke analysis, shot selection… just about every facet of the game.  We begin each morning with stretching and warm up.  We work on paddle skills, hand eye coordination and then focus on a single skill each day.

“We hold two planned pickleball sessions daily with the morning being the most focused and intense.  We incorporate training aids, some of which we have developed here exclusively for our campers.  We have a Simon ball machine, which campers can sign up for to practice specific shots.  Afternoons are geared towards open play and utilizing their newly acquired skills.

“We also video tape every camper in a competitive game and analyze their performance with them.  Our final day, we bring in local players from our club to hold a round robin tournament on the two courts.  We can always find players of just the right level to push our campers and test their new skills and strategies in a real live situation.”

Guests usually participate in two sessions a day.  The morning session runs from 8-11 and the afternoon from 3-5.

girls at ousel falls

If you would like to learn more about Camp West Fork Pickleball, including rates for accommodations, please visit their official website.