National Junior Pickleball (NJP): Nurturing the Next Generation of Pickleball Players

DUPR
June 28, 2024
4 min

Pickleball, the sport that has captured the hearts of millions, is growing exponentially across the United States. Among its most enthusiastic players are the young athletes who represent the future of this dynamic sport. The National Junior Pickleball (NJP) organization is at the forefront of this youth movement, providing an unparalleled platform for junior players to compete, learn, and grow. With events like those held across the nation, NJP is transforming the landscape of youth pickleball and creating unforgettable experiences for young athletes and their families.

The NJP Experience

The excitement and friendship of NJP tournaments are palpable from the moment the kids step onto the courts. Maverick, a 12-year-old player, encapsulates the spirit of these events perfectly:

“NJP is the absolute BEST tournament for Juniors. In both Arizona and Missouri, there was nonstop pickle play, great kids, and fun times on and off the court.”

He reflects on the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere that NJP strives to foster, where every match is an opportunity not just for competition, but for making lasting memories and friendships.

Ariana A, aged 13, also shared her enthusiasm about her NJP experience:

“My first NJP experience was simply amazing! Everyone involved in the organization of this event was kind, welcoming, and extremely supportive. They did a fantastic job of running a fair and smooth tournament. I got to compete and become friends with exceptionally talented kids from around the country. Overall, it was a fun and pleasant experience and I can’t wait to participate in the next National Junior Pickleball event!!”

From ensuring fair play to creating a supportive environment, NJP's commitment to excellence is evident in every aspect of their events.

DUPR’s Role at NJP

Courtney Loughridge, founder of  NJP, agrees that the common story among parents of players is that there is a lack of recreational games for kids.

“Parents say that their kid only plays rec with adults, don’t have any kids to play with and they don’t want to play against adults in tournaments. We don’t know where they fit in or what their true skill level is.” Courtney says.

NJP has continuously supported the growth of pickleball by utilizing the DUPR platform at the start of every junior's pickleball journey.

“On the first evening of the event, NJP evaluators watch during skills clinic and king of the court style open play to ensure players are in the correct general skill bucket of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, as well as age groups of 12U, 14U, and 18U”, Courtney states.

DUPR has been a way for the Juniors to play competitive games within their age and skill in singles, doubles, and team events with players from all around the country.

She adds “all of these matches are reported to DUPR, so they have an accurate skill rating by the end of the event”. 

The use of DUPR at NJP tournaments has led Juniors to easily find level-based clinics, leagues, and tournaments regardless of age in tournaments outside of the league as well.

“Once Juniors have a DUPR, they can more easily know where they should register and can use their DUPR to track their pickleball journey as they grow and develop”, Courtney says. 

The NJP Championships in October will be seeded accordingly using DUPR ratings, to help ensure that brackets are fair and balanced throughout the field. 

A Community of Support

One of the standout features of NJP is the strong sense of community it builds among participants and their families. Tina L, mother of 10-year-old Madison, expresses her gratitude for the organization’s family-friendly approach:

“As a parent, I’m thrilled that NJP is geared to benefit the kids!! They have so much fun and play so many games! Kids and parents building new friendships! It reminded us of our travel soccer club days!”

The round-robin play format ensures a fair and competitive experience, as brackets are organized by similar skill levels and age groups, allowing participants to compete against peers of comparable ability. Beyond the excitement on the courts, players can enjoy a variety of perks, including free swag. The top three winners in each age and skill division will be honored with medals and a podium ceremony, celebrating their achievements in style. Additionally, the event provides opportunities to connect off the courts, fostering lasting memories and networking with potential partners and sponsors, enhancing the overall experience for all attendees. NJP events are also designed to allow players to meet and get to know each other before committing to a team. Players can sign up for the tournament with or without a doubles partner or team.

Empowering the Next Generation

The mission of NJP goes beyond organizing tournaments; it is about empowering young athletes and helping them reach their full potential. By providing a structured yet enjoyable environment, NJP helps players develop their skills, gain confidence, and learn important life lessons through sport. The organization’s dedication to youth development is evident in every aspect of its operations, from the high-quality facilities to the professional and supportive staff.

Looking Ahead

As NJP continues to grow and expand, the future looks incredibly bright for young pickleball players across the country! With each tournament, NJP not only showcases the talent of junior athletes but also strengthens the pickleball community, one match at a time.

For more information about upcoming events and how to get involved, visit the National Junior Pickleball website. Whether you’re a young player eager to compete, a parent looking to support your child’s passion, or a pickleball enthusiast wanting to witness the future of the sport, NJP offers something truly special. Join the NJP community and be part of the exciting journey as we nurture the next generation of pickleball stars!

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July 10, 2024

Can Pickleball Earn Its Place in the Olympics?

As anticipation builds for the upcoming Summer Olympics, pickleball enthusiasts find themselves asking a familiar question: why hasn't pickleball earned its place in the Olympic Games? 

The answer lies in the intricate process of gaining recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a journey fraught with challenges and complexities.

At the heart of pickleball's Olympic aspirations lies the need for recognition from the IOC, which meticulously evaluates several key factors before considering a sport for inclusion in the Olympics. These factors include popularity and participation, international federation recognition, global reach, and alignment with Olympic values.

Ryan Maher, Vice President of Commercial Operations at DUPR, acknowledges the hurdles facing pickleball's Olympic journey. 

Despite the sport's surging popularity, Maher emphasizes that the path to Olympic recognition is far from straightforward. "There's a lot more politics and money that goes into it," Maher explains, dispelling the common misconception that popularity alone guarantees Olympic inclusion.

One significant obstacle hindering pickleball's Olympic aspirations is the absence of a unified international governing body. 

On May 15, 2024, United Pickleball Association (UPA), which owns Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), announced the launch of United Pickleball Association of America (UPA-A) as the new National Governing Body (NGB) of the sport. 

Although USA Pickleball (USAP) has historically been the self-appointed NGB since 1984, the emergence of UPA-A challenges this status, particularly because pickleball is not yet recognized as an Olympic sport. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) would designate an official NGB if pickleball became Olympic-recognized, providing funding and legislative support while establishing a monopoly over the sport's management.

Both UPA-A and USAP aim to become the definitive authority, offering various solutions and improvements. However, this rivalry might lead to issues such as differing rating systems, paddle approval lists, and rule sets, which could create chaos and hinder the sport's unified development. 

Maher elaborates, "A sport is not going to make it into the Olympics when you have so much political tension within the sport around who is the governing body internationally."

“The reality of it is that we're so early in the sport’s growth - not early in the sport, it's been around for a while - but so early on in this massive boom. We're not done seeing people coming in and trying to kind of take hold of the space. And it's just going to take a while for that all to tease out.”

DUPR, while not directly involved in federation politics, plays a pivotal role in standardizing player ratings globally, a critical aspect for Olympic consideration. Maher elucidates, "What DUPR is creating is a pathway from the amateur side all the way up to the pro side, which leads into the Olympic side." 

“If a country is sending their delegation of users to the Olympics, how do they know who those people are? Those players play in local events, earn their way to regional or national events, and that is all facilitated by the programming around a rating. With DUPR being aligned with the PPA and MLP, the two largest pro organizations in the sport. That's just where the rating side of the sport is going. That is a big piece of countries around the world, all filtering into these pathways for the sport to be entered in the Olympics as well.”

Financial considerations also loom large in pickleball's quest for Olympic recognition. Maher draws parallels with squash, another sport that faced a prolonged journey to Olympic inclusion. He notes, "It wasn't until the billionaires got involved that squash made its way." 

Another significant challenge highlighted by Maher is the standardization of equipment regulations, particularly paddle standards. As paddle technology advances, ensuring uniform standards becomes imperative to maintain fairness and integrity in the sport. 

“We need to standardize internationally. If we don't have someone who's governing standards internationally, that could be an issue," Maher says.

Despite the obstacles, Maher remains cautiously optimistic about pickleball's Olympic prospects. He suggests a realistic timeline, indicating that Olympic inclusion might not occur before 2036 but says, "There's no doubt in my mind that it will be someday."

Community
Events
July 8, 2024

A Step-By-Step Guide for Staying Hydrated & Preventing Pickleball Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps can ruin your pickleball game. They strike without warning, leaving you sidelined and frustrated. But there's good news: you can prevent them with the right approach.

Pickleball players face unique challenges inthe summer heat. Long matches, intense rallies, and scorching temperatures create a perfect storm for dehydration and cramping. We'll explore why this happens and how to stop it.

By the end, you'll have a clear plan to stay hydrated and cramp-free. Let's dive in and keep you on the court all summer long.

Understanding the Cramp Culprits

Many players instinctively blame dehydration for their muscle cramps, but the reality is more nuanced. While hydration certainly plays a crucial role, muscle fatigue is an equally important factor often overlooked. 

Dehydration can indeed trigger cramps, but simply drinking water isn't always the solution. 

Electrolyte imbalance can cause cramping even if you're well-hydrated, which is why smart replenishment strategies are essential. Moreover, as muscles fatigue during intense play, the nerve signals controlling contractions can become disrupted, leading to involuntary spasms.

Research has shown that cramp-prone athletes tend to lose more sodium through sweat, making thoughtful hydration particularly crucial for pickleball players battling the summer heat. Studies have also demonstrated that electrolyte-rich sports drinks fortified with carbohydrates are significantly more effective than water alone in delaying the onset of cramps. 

By addressing both hydration and muscle fatigue, you'll dramatically reduce your risk of cramps. Let's dive into practical steps to keep you playing at your best.

Hydration: More Than Just Water

While chugging plain water before a match might seem like a smart move, it can sometimes backfire. Excessive water intake without proper electrolyte balance can actually dilute your body's mineral concentrations, potentially increasing your cramp risk.

Instead, focus on a more strategic approach:

  • Consume a sports drink containing electrolytes 2-4 hours before play to prime your system.
  • During activity, aim to replace 16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost through sweat.
  • Consider using a hydration tracking app or smart water bottle to ensure you're hitting your targets.

Grab the Ultimate Pickleball Hydration guide for more information on pre-, during, and post-match hydration. It includes a special formula for determining exactly how much fluid you need to consume every 15-20 minutes to stay in peak form on the court.

[I WANT THE HYDRATION GUIDE]

Proper hydration not only prevents cramps but also enhances overall performance and speeds up recovery between games. By fine-tuning your hydration strategy, you'll gain a significant advantage on the court. 

However, hydration is just one piece of the puzzle – let's explore another crucial factor in cramp prevention.

Fueling for Success

The role of nutrition in preventing muscle cramps is often underestimated, but it's a critical component, especially during grueling tournament play. Proper fueling keeps your muscles energized and less prone to fatigue-induced cramping.

To optimize your nutritional strategy:

  • Consume a balanced meal rich in complex carbohydrates 3-4 hours before play to build up your energy reserves.
  • During tournaments, snack on easily digestible carbs every 60-90 minutes to maintain steady energy levels.
  • Consider using carb-electrolyte gels between games for a quick boost when time is limited.

These tactics help keep your glycogen stores topped up, delaying the onset of muscle fatigue that can lead to cramping. While pickleball may not be as intense as ultra-endurance sports, the principle of consistent fueling still applies. Research on team sport athletes suggests consuming 30 - 60g of carbs per hour during prolonged activity – adapt this to your specific needs and playing duration. 

By fueling smartly, you're helping your muscles function optimally and resist fatigue. This translates directly to fewer cramps and improved performance, especially in those crucial late-game moments. But there's one more vital element we need to address to complete your cramp-prevention arsenal.

Training for Resilience

Your overall fitness level plays a significant role in how susceptible you are to cramping. The less conditioned you are, the faster fatigue sets in, increasing your risk of muscle spasms. This is especially true when you push beyond your usual intensity or duration of play.

To build cramp-resistant muscles:

  • Gradually increase your pickleball training volume and intensity over time to improve your stamina.
  • Incorporate resistance training into your overall fitness routine to improve strength, power, and stamina on the court.
  • Don't neglect overall cardiovascular fitness – it's the foundation of your on-court endurance.

A well-rounded training program complements your hydration and nutrition efforts, creating a powerful trifecta of cramp prevention. Together, these strategies form a comprehensive approach to keeping you on the court and off the sidelines.

The Takeaway

Preventing muscle cramps requires a holistic approach that addresses hydration, nutrition, and fitness. By implementing the strategies we've discussed, you'll significantly reduce your risk of cramping and elevate your game, even in the most challenging summer conditions.

Authors

Pratik Patel

Erik Korem, PhD

Community
Educational
Partners
July 5, 2024

Paths to Reliability: How to Achieve a 60% Reliability Score…and Progress to 100%

The DUPR Reliability Score gives players more insight into how close they are to achieving a reliable rating. If your Reliability Score is above 60%, your rating is reliable, and you can be confident that you’ll have a competitive experience playing with others at a similar level. If you’re under 60%, whether that’s because you’re a new player, or you haven’t played in a while, it means you have more playing to do! But don’t worry, there are a variety of ways to reach a 60% Reliability Score, and, for overachievers, progress from 60% to 100%. 

Here are some paths you can take to get a good reliability score. Each match represents one game. Matches with more games will count more and progress you to reliability faster because there will be more information input into the rating system. 

Remember, the biggest takeaways are playing frequently (and inputting your results!) and playing with a variety of players. 

Reliability Progression Paths 

Just starting out or have less than 10 games under your belt? Here’s how to get to a reliable rating (60% Reliability Score). 

These paths assume the following: 

  • Opposing player or team ratings are all within 0.5 of your player or team rating. 
  • Teammates and Opponents are reliable (ie have a 60% Reliability Score).
  • Matches are with 2 or more unique partners (Doubles only) and against 6 or more unique teams.
  • Matches are each one game.

Note - There are many ways to achieve a Reliability Score of 60% or higher. The biggest takeaway is more is better! Play more games, play more with similarly rated players, play more with players who are more reliable than you and play with a wide variety of players. Those are the key factors in improving your Reliability Score. 

Already have a reliable rating? Here’s how to achieve a 100% Reliability Score

These pathways assume:

  • Players and opposing teams are all a similar level (ie within a 0.5 range)
  • Teammates and Opponents have a 60% Reliability Score (or higher) 
  • Doubles matches are with 4 or more unique partners 
  • All matches are against 12 or more unique teams 
  • Matches are each 1 game 

Note - The biggest takeaway is more is better! Play more games, play more with similarly rated players, play more with players who are more reliable than you and play with a wide variety of players. Again, these are the key factors in increasing your Reliability Score. 

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