Remember When Pickleball….

Memories are wonderful things, especially when it comes to pickleball.
We remember important milestones in the growth of the sport and we remember personal events that continue to make us smile (or sometimes cry).
I remember playing my first USAPA Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona.
As a new 16 year old, just getting my feet wet, I won the Mens Singles 5.0 Open division and pocketed my first pickleball paycheck of $1,000.  Wait, maybe that is just a fantasy.
But I do actually remember that first nationals for me.  It was in Buckeye, and I did manage to play in a big men’s singles bracket and come in 4th in my first singles tournament.  And I remember that almost every court at that nationals used a standard portable net on a taped tennis court. I also remember how hard it was to buy a paddle 13 years ago. Today we think it’s tough to buy a paddle because there are thousands of paddles to choose from.  I remember that I could only find three companies online who sold paddles, ProLite Sports, Pickleball Inc and Fran Meyer’s Pickleball Stuff.  I also remember that if you liked one of the paddles they sold, you couldn’t buy it on their website and pay for it with a credit card.  You had to mail them a check, and when your check cleared, they shipped your paddle. That was only 13 years ago.

I remember that only 13 years ago, that clearly the best player on the planet was a guy by the name of Pat Kane.  I couldn’t find anyone to argue that, and Pat was in his early 60’s at that time. He simply won everything against everybody.

I remember living in southeast Indiana only 13 years ago and not being able to find any pickleball courts in Cincinnati (except suburb Middletown) or Indianapolis or Dayton.  Some volunteers in our tiny town of Brookville built 2 nice ones so we could play.  Those two courts became the seeds that spawned many midwest communities, towns and cities.

I remember that 13 years ago, seemingly nobody had ever heard of the sport of pickleball.  “What’s that?”  You spent a lot of time telling the pickleball story, especially the dog part. 🙂

I remember when every tournament treated players the same, no matter what level or age they were. We all shared a nice hospitality area and everyone pitched in to make sure everyone had a good time.I remember the joy on people’s faces when they would show up at our courts for the first time and they were welcomed with open arms to come out and play.  No paddle?  No problem, here’s one of mine. That culture by the way has never changed at our courts. Sad that some places don’t create the same experience for those new players. But that’s for another article.

I remember when there was no money prizes to play for and I remember when a tournament didn’t really need big corporate sponsors to be able to hold a good event.

The local grocer donated the bananas and the local insurance agent furnished the bottled water for the players.

Your memories of course are different from mine.
The key point about my memories is that they are from only the last 13 years.  It is amazing how the sport has changed and continues to change.  But it has seen all this change in only the last 10-13 years.   With recreational players and amateur tournament players growing in record numbers, it is a fun time to be a part of this great sports.  It continues to make memories for me, my family and all my friends who will soon be playing.
All good memories indeed.
While you play pickleball today, make yourself some memories and help someone else make some good ones too.
So Let’s Play,
Rocket

2021 Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year Announced

Pickleball Rocks Players Of The Year: Zane Navratil and the Certified Referees

During the year, people throughout Pickleball Nation email us or use our NominateAPlayer.com website to tell us about their favorite players. They tell us about players who have dominated in tournament play, but many times they also tell us about players who have had tremendous impacts on their communities or towns or even the game of pickleball overall.  (We really like those.)

Throughout the year we may recognize a player, club or community of the month, or we may give a simple Facebook shout out. They are all deserving.  But once a year, we pull together all the nominations and feedback, to finally determine who is most deserving to be called the Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year.     It’s certainly not an easy task.

Past winners include amazing people such as Riley and Lindsey Newman, Stephanie Lane, Ben Johns, Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters, Enrique Ruiz, Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, Daniel Moore and Scott Moore, Aspen Kern, Simone Jardim, Dick Johnson and more.
You’ll notice all our past winners are definitely great players, but you will also immediately recognize they all are very giving of their time and talents to “help pickleball grow”, which of course is the foundation of our Pickleball Rocks mission.

This first player hit us from both angles. Not only has hard work and
perseverance paid off big time in his game, his impact on the actual
game itself is undeniable.

Many of us even named a shot after him. The “Zanesaw” serve has been
tried by legions of pickleball players, some as young as our 9 year old
grandson all the way to some of the top names in the sport of
pickleball. Though the two handed spin serve has now been eliminated
from the official rules, Zane’s creativeness and ability to push the
boundaries brought many great, meaningful conversations to our sport in
2021. These conversations are important because they help people
recognize how fast the sport is growing and understand how decisions made now will
impact the way pickleball looks in the future. So whether you like the
chainsaw serve or not, Zane created a point in time that will help shape
the future of pickleball.

But beyond the zany serves, Zane embodies everything we look for in our
Pickleball Rocks Players of the Year.
Of course he is one of the top professional players in both singles and
doubles. Just check the brackets in any tournament he enters and his
name is always around the top. But also the demand for Zane the coach
is second to none. We received almost as many votes for Zane because of
his clinics and lessons as we did for his playing ability. People just
love learning from Zane.  If there are still any doubts about his 2021 credentials, just check out this graphic below.
And yes, it did not hurt that he puts family (Jenny) ahead of winning a National Championship.  A man of character too.

So we are proud to name Zane Navratil our 2021 Pickleball Rocks Player
of the Year.

Yes it has been an unusual year and having an unusual selection for our next Player of the Year just makes sense right now. We believe a lot of players, especially new ones entering the sport likely don’t understand the importance of this choice.

In 2016 the USAPA had the vision to create the national certified referee certification program. Two people, Lynn and Lynda Laymon, were tasked with creating the guidelines and steps that a person would go through to be awarded the title of Certified Referee. Those original steps and tasks were daunting to say the least. Many people who wanted to become a certified referee could not make it through the gauntlet. But thankfully there were individuals out there who had the desire,
perseverance and even the willingness to fail, who made it through the program and became the seed group that created this great national organization of today. Today the certified referee program is headed up by Mark Peifer and the program is growing like wild.

Yes it it still the toughest certification of any kind to obtain in the sport of pickleball. But the Certified Referees bring that much needed element of professionalism that will see our sport continue to grow and be admired by players and non-players alike in the future. It is a first class organization of individuals who are dedicated and extremely good at officiating a pickleball match.  We have been long time supporters of referees at all levels and believe they are a key to any good tournament.  We are certainly thankful this organization exists and are proud to recognize all the Certified Referees as our
Pickleball Rocks Players of the Year.

Scott Lennan Joins The Pickleball Rocks Team

Scott Lennan Sponsored By Pickleball Rocks and Gearbox –

Scott Lennan

We are so pleased to announce our newest Pickleball Rocks brand sponsored player.

While traveling the country we search for players who exemplify our mantra to “Help Pickleball Grow”. They must be a player who reaches out to help others while exhibiting the utmost integrity on and off the courts. We feel we have found the perfect match for us.

As a member of the Pickleball Rocks team Scott will travel from community to community and tournament to tournament, spreading the good word about pickleball.

We are truly excited and proud to have him wearing and promoting the Pickleball Rocks apparel brand.

We are equally excited for Scott as this sponsorship also provides him with an exclusive paddle sponsorship from our branding partners at Gearbox Sports. Watch for Scott as he uses the new technology GX5 and GX6 paddles.  Hit him up for a demo.  I’m sure he will be happy to help.

So help us welcome Scott Lennan to the Pickleball Rocks team

Though we’re sure we’ve missed some, here is a good list of Scott’s tournament medal accomplishments.

2021 Minto US Open – Mixed Doubles 60+ with Moira Roush – Gold*

2020 Fall Brawl – Senior Men’s PRO with Joe Frasca – Bronze

2019 USA Pickleball National Championships – Men’s Doubles Skill/Age 5.0: 55+ with Steve Cole – Gold*

2019 Grand Rapids Beer City Open – Senior Mixed PRO with Deb Mascarin – Gold*

2019 Grand Rapids Beer City Open – Senior Men’s PRO with Scott Moore – Gold*

2019 Minto US Open – Mixed Doubles 60+ with Cherie Chao – Silver*

2018 USA Pickleball National Championships – Men’s Doubles 5.0: 55+ with Steve Cole – Gold*

2018 Pickleball Zone Bend Pacific Northwest Regional – Senior PRO Mixed Doubles with Susan Baze – Bronze

2018 Pickleball Zone Bend Pacific Northwest Regional – Senior PRO Men’s Doubles with Steve Cole – Silver

2018 Brigham City Memorial – Senior PRO Mixed Doubles with Stephanie Lane – Gold

2018 Brigham City Memorial – Senior PRO Men’s Doubles with Steve Cole – Silver

2018 Minto US Open – Men’s Doubles 55+ with Steve Cole – Bronze*

2017 Pickleball Zone Bend Pacific Northwest Regional – Senior PRO Men’s Doubles with Jim Hackenberg – Silver

2017 Pickleball Zone Bend Pacific Northwest Regional – Senior PRO Mixed Doubles with Roxanne Pierce – Bronze

2016 USAPA Nationals VIII – Men’s Doubles 55+ with Jim Hackenberg – Gold*

2016 USAPA Nationals VIII – Mixed Doubles 55+ with Roxanne Pierce – Gold*

2016 SoCal Summer Classic – Senior Open Men’s Doubles with Dan Gabanek – Gold*

2015 USAPA Nationals VII – Men’s Doubles 55+ with Jim Hackenberg- Gold*

2015 USAPA Nationals VII – Mixed Doubles 55+ with Roxanne Pierce – Silver*

2015 SoCal Summer Classic – Men’s Doubles 50+ with Scott Moore – Gold*

2014 USAPA Nationals VI – Men’s Doubles 35+ with Tony Tollenaar – Bronze*

2014 USAPA Nationals VI  -Mixed Doubles 55+ with Roxanne Pierce – Gold*

2014 USAPA Nationals VI – Senior Open Men’s Doubles with David Redding – Silver*

2013 USAPA Nationals V – Men’s Doubles 50+ with Jim Hackenberg – Gold*

2013 USAPA Nationals V – Mixed Doubles 50+ with Roxanne Pierce – Gold

Pickleball Rocks Player of the Month: John Browning

Sometimes, we hear about a player or champion of the sport over and over and over again. And since our mission is to help pickleball grow, this choice for Player of the Month was an easy one.

This player has grown his reputation, not just through playing pickleball, but for his incredible love and passion for it.

As the story goes, John took his own basketball court and converted it to a pickleball court so he could start teaching friends and neighbors this great game. He has taught many, many people from Fowler, and Fresno, California, including
many high school groups.  And because of his giving and giving and giving to grow pickleball there, the town of Fowler has even built two courts and dedicated them to John.

His pickleball passion and energy is just boundless.

So please help us congratulate our Pickleball Rocks Player of the Month, John Browning.

2020 Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year Announced

The Pickleball Rocks Players of the Year: Team Newman and Stephanie Lane

During the year, people throughout Pickleball Nation email us or use our NominateAPlayer.com website to tell us about their favorite players. They tell us about players who have dominated in tournament play, but many times they also tell us about players who have had tremendous impacts on their communities or towns or even the game of pickleball overall.  (We really like those.)

Throughout the year we may recognize a player, club or community of the month, or we may give a simple Facebook shout out. They are all deserving.  But once a year, we pull together all the nominations and feedback, to finally determine who is most deserving to be called the Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year.     It’s certainly not an easy task.

Past winners include amazing people such as Ben Johns, Team Waters, Enrique Ruiz, Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, Daniel Moore and Scott Moore, Aspen Kern, Simone Jardim, Dick Johnson and more.
You’ll notice all our past winners are definitely great players, but you will also immediately recognize they all are very giving of their time and talents to “help pickleball grow”, which of course is the foundation of our Pickleball Rocks mission.

We believe everyone will agree, 2020 was a crazy year for our wonderful sport.  Many tournaments were cancelled. Public pickleball courts were closed and padlocked.  A challenging year indeed.  But in spite of it all, players still creatively found ways to safely and effectively play, and new players found pickleball in record numbers.

This year we are recognizing a team and an individual who throughout the year brought joy to those around them both on and off the courts.  Are they great players?  Yes indeed. But a lot of great players received votes throughout the year.

This year’s Player Of The Year recipients stood out for those “extra” things that make the sport of pickleball so special.  

Our first award winner burst on the pickleball scene only three years ago. But this brother and sister duo have quickly captured the hearts of people nationwide. Their mixed doubles style of teamwork is fun to watch, and has put them on the medal stands in virtually every tournament they’ve entered. 

Both Lindsey and Riley have quickly become famous for their two handed strokes, both for drives and dinks and even blocking. We see this style is now being tried by even some of the top pros as an effective way to control the ball during a point.

The final point that really put Team Newman on our medal stand was the fact that in 2020, we saw them playing, not only on the biggest pickleball stages, but in all parts of the country and all sizes of tournaments.  They are always great examples of fantastic teamwork, but more importantly, class and good sportsmanship. This support for our great sport during a truly trying year, meant a lot in our book as well as the many people who sent in their votes and feedback.

 

So our team wants to personally thank Riley and Lindsey Newman for being beacons for pickleball.

Help us congratulate them as 2020 Pickleball Rocks Players Of The Year.

Our next 2020 Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year was a no-brainer this year.  People have been sending in votes for her for years and we too have always loved Stephanie Lane.  This was the year that set Stephanie above all our other nominees.

Everyone knows that Stephanie has been playing and growing pickleball for years and has been on the medal stands with some of the biggest names in the sport.  But what put her over the top in 2020 was her relentless pursuit of doing good for pickleball.

Throughout 2020, Stephanie donned her mask and journeyed to courts everywhere to teach her famous clinics to help those brand new players get started right.  Everyone who takes her clinics are amazed at how quickly they are able to play and compete themselves.

But on top of that, Stephanie is also one of the top trainers for the IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professionals Association) and 2020 was a banner year for her.  Her quest is to teach people how to teach pickleball in such a way that everyone receives good, consistent training.  So this year she taught multiple sessions where she taught pickleball players and tennis teaching pros alike, how to teach this great sport.  So watch for a lot of new players coming into the game who know how to dink, drop, drive and yes lob.

Her birthday shout outs on Facebook are legendary and just the icing on the cake for her to win our 2020 Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year award.  Please help us congratulate this great player and friend to everyone, Stephanie Lane.