14 Days of Legendary: Honoring Those Who Helped Make Pickleball Great

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14 Days Of Legendary

Honoring those who have made pickleball GREAT

DAY ONE:  Pat Kane
When I started playing over 12 years ago, there was only one answer to who was the best player in the game.  Everyone agreed it was Pat Kane.  In my early years I saw him play many times and it didn’t matter whether it was singles, men’s doubles or mixed doubles, I NEVER saw him lose.
Simply a legendary player.

DAY TWO:  Arlen Paranto
Can you say legend? Arlen Paranto could fill a whole chapter in the history of pickleball book. But what is important to you and what we know for sure is that pickleball paddles would not be what they are today with the his creativity. In 1984 Arlen, a Boeing Industrial Engineer, put together fiberglass and a Nomex Honeycomb and created the very first composite paddle.  Yes, Arlen moved us away from wooden paddles.
Simply a legendary man..

DAY THREE:  Fran Myer
Fran is another legend that helped form pickleball as you know it today.  Fran was on the very first board of directors for USA Pickleball, then known as the USAPA. In 1999 Fran along with her husband Barney launched the very first pickleball website, called Pickleball Stuff.  It offered information as well as products, though you couldn’t pay for the product online with a credit card at that time.
 So Fran Myer has helped shape the sport of pickleball from the business side, the administrative side and the player side. Thank you Fran for all you have done and continue to do.

DAY FOUR:  Billy Jacobsen
Many years ago I attended my first Nationals tournament in Buckeye, Arizona.  And one of the very first high level players I saw was a guy who simply looked like a professional athlete. When I met Billy, he instantly impressed me as a kind, generous soul, but on the court he was amazing. So much fun to watch.  During his hey day, he was almost unbeatable.
3x USAPA Nationals: National Champion
4x USAPA Nationals: Silver medalist
2x USAPA Nationals: Bronze Medalist
Billy was a dominant open player for two decades. And to add to his legendary status, Billy Jacobsen is the only player to have ever won national level tournaments in singles and doubles playing entirely left handed during one tournament and then entirely right handed during another. Quite simply, everyone who saw or met him loved Billy, and still do today.  Billy was one of the very first inductees into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.  A Legend.

DAY FIVE:  Mark “Yoda” Friedenberg

Some say Mark Friedenberg invented pickleball.  That is not true, but Mark has done so much to shape pickleball that it would seem he created it.  Mark was the first president of the USA Pickleball Association as well as the first Ratings and Rankings director. (No do not blame him for the current rating system). Mark has won more gold medals than can be counted at the National and Regional levels. 8x USAPA National Champion
4x USAPA Nationals Silver medalist
6x USAPA Nationals Bonze medalist
For many years Mark owned Pro-lite Sports and made it one of the major paddle companies. He also authored The Official Pickleball Handbook which has exposed an entire new wave of players to pickleball. But the one thing that truly makes Mark legendary is his penchant for teaching.  Though we cannot track the actual numbers, we believe he may be the all time leader in lessons given.  Truly a giver and a well known legend.

Mark Friedenberg

DAY SIX:  Robert Lanius

This will be a new one for most newer players.   But if you have ever been to a tournament that ran smoothly because the tournament director chose to use the PickleballTournaments software, then you have long time pickleball player Robert Lanius to thank.  Robert and his wonderful wife Jettye worked tirelessly as tournament directors for years.  And as Bob recognized the various challenges encountered during the tournaments, he designed and coded the software that eliminated the problems and essentially has made it possible to have tournaments with large numbers of players  If not for computer software, it would be almost impossible to smoothly run a tournament over a few hundred players. Today that software is known as PickleballTournaments.com.  Thank you Robert Lanius.  You are a true legend of pickleball.

Mark Friedenberg

DAY SEVEN:  Earl Hill

Earl is a familiar name to anyone who has been around pickleball for awhile. He was on the very first board of directors for the new USAPA. But what many people may not know is that pickleball is now growing at an exponential rate because of Earl’s tireless work and his creation of the USAPA Ambassador program.  It is because of Earl that today there are over 1600 passionate ambassadors growing pickleball in every nook and cranny of the US. Thanks to Earl Hill.  A legend.

Mark Friedenberg

DAY EIGHT:  Enrique Ruiz

When you meet Enrique the first time, you will never forget him and everyone loves him. He reaches out to players everywhere with a helping hand and words of encouragement.  He is a true gentleman on and off the court. Enrique was one of the first true ambidextrous players on the tournament scene.  He switches effortlessly from right hand to left which allows him to cover big chunks of the court with minimal movement.  So when you see him play, you just automatically want to copy is style of play, but few can.  He has won multiple national championships and is simply a special person in our sport. Yes, a legend.

Enrique Ruiz

DAY NINE:  THE TEAM – Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner

It is really hard to mention one without the other.  For years and years and years, the team of Alex and Jennifer ruled women’s pickleball at the very top level.  We don’t have a final count of how many tournaments these wonderful ladies won together, but I do know they are still stacking titles up today, and I know this:  In 2011 this duo traveled to Buckeye, Arizona and won the Womens Open Doubles title at the USAPA National tournament.  Just a side note, the entry fee for a player to enter was $30. From 2011 all the way through Nationals 2014, Jennifer and Alex did not lose a Womens Open match.  This is a streak at the top level which will likely never be beaten. Two awesome ladies on and off the court, they are truly legendary.

Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner

How To Get Your Pickleball Courts Built: Show Me The Money

How To Get Courts: Here’s A Great Example

Why don’t more communities have dedicated pickleball courts?
99.99% of the time, the answer is MONEY.  Trust me, if you walk into any town council meeting or parks and rec meeting and announce that you have the total amount of money needed to build some pickleball courts or better yet, a pickleball facility, you will get instant cooperation.  Roadblocks and obstacles will disappear like magic.  And soon your community will be playing pickleball.
So then the question is…where do you find the money?
THE ANSWER?
EVERYWHERE!!!

So what is the formula for getting money from everywhere to build a place to play pickleball?  Here is the perfect example and the perfect blueprint, and it is called PICTONA.

We recently visited Pictona to participate in their very first tournament.  We had the Pickleball Rocks booth there as a vendor and I was lucky enough to find someone to partner with me so I could play men’s double.  Had a great time.

But I got so much more by attending.  I saw first hand what is possible when you get private citizens, organizations, companies and civic leaders all pulling together for the good of a community.

The picture above is a recent photo.  To help you better understand how any community of any size could do this, let me take you on a tour.

In the picture, let’s begin on the left side.  That is three beautiful Bocce courts. Then right above that you see a shade structure sitting right next to a regulation size Croquet court.  Next, though it is hard to see in the picture, sits two Shuffleboard courts. All these are free, fun outdoor activities for seniors. 
Keep that in mind as we take the rest of the tour.

Who do you know that supports senior activities?

Next, look at the lower right hand corner.  That area is the Community Gardens.  It contains raised garden plots that you can rent for a season, as well as a children’s garden where kids learn how to plant and raise flowers and vegetables.  Plus there is a Hydroponic garden that supplies the fresh vegetables for the in-house restaurant and bar that is appropriately named, “The Kitchen”.   More about The Kitchen in a bit.
Who do you know that supports gardening or kids education?

Now let’s move to the center of the picture.  You will see dark green areas.  Those are shade structures scattered throughout 16 beautiful, individually fenced pickleball courts.  Each court has at least 8 feet of space on each side and 10 feet beyond the baselines.  Outdoor pickleball at its best. 
Great fun and great exercise.

Who do you know that supports healthy living and exercise?

Also in almost the exact center of the picture is a small grey shade structure.  Actually it is not small at all.  That is a big covered pavilion area with picnic tables, nice restrooms and storage building.   This is a great area to bring the family for a picnic or bring a group for a relaxing game of cards or a board game. 
Just a fun area.

Who do you know that supports family activities?

Now we’ll move to the crown jewel of Pictona.  This is the big covered area in the upper center of the photograph.

That is the home of 8 more pickleball courts, all under one roof with fences, bleachers and an amazing upstairs 180 foot long observation deck.   Take some food upstairs and enjoy the view and watch the competition.

In the picture you can’t see it because it has a slanted roof, but attached to the back side of the 8 covered court structure is the heartbeat of Pictona.  It runs all the way to the rear parking lot.   It is a building that houses “The Kitchen” in-house restaurant, which serves a variety of smoothies and healthy food items along with a fully stocked bar area. 

In addition, it houses a Table Tennis Room (yes they have a Table Tennis Club) and also hosts some fun Cornhole games, as well as locker rooms, massage room, conference rooms and the Welcome Desk, plus a fully stocked Player Shop with paddles, apparel and accessories.
Who do you know that supports healthy, fun community activities?

So I give you this tour not to tout Pictona, though it is a magnificent facility, but to show what can be done when you get multiple people and entities working together to support the community.

The ground was broken for Pictona in May 2019 with completion in July 2020. The total cost?  $6M. 
How was it raised?

It started with a $3M donation from wonderful community supporters and pickleball player’s Rainer and Julie Martens.
It included private contributions from 560 people who signed up as pickleball club members even before the construction was complete.
It included a $400K ECHO grant. (please don’t write me to find out what that is or how to apply).
It included sponsorships including:
Florida Health Care Plans ($100K for each of the next 5 years) to be the sponsor/supporter of all the Senior related activities.
Advent Health ($20K for each of the next 5 years) to be the sponsor/supporter of the 8 covered courts.

Brown & Brown Insurance ($10K each of the next 5 years) to be the sponsor/supporter of all the Youth related activities.
S.R. Perrott ($5K for each of the next 5 years) to be the sponsor/supporter of the covered recreational pavilion and “The Kitchen”.

Yes, this was a huge project and is now a wonderful community centered facility for Holly Hill Florida.

But what it really is, is the template for how to build pickleball courts or a a pickleball facility of any size in any community.

Pictona was built by people, organizations, small businesses and corporations who love to help support good worthwhile causes. That is the key.  Find those who support worthy causes and bring them together for a great community project.

Those supporters are out there in every community. It is just a matter of finding them and letting they know that building pickleball courts are a key activity that can help improve any community large or small.

So we would encourage you to change the way you think about getting pickleball courts.  Even indoor courts.

Don’t try to convince the city or town leaders, or parks departments to build courts.  We know how that goes…most of the time.

Instead, find those financial supporters first.  Sponsor and donors, private and corporate, they are your key.

Money talks and money wins the pickleball courts….every time!

Good luck and keep those new courts coming.

Rocket

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