Reading, Writing, and Pickleball

Kevin Brown
February 15, 2024

For most kids, gym class is the highlight of the school week. It’s a much-needed break from serious class work and a chance to run around, play with friends, and expend energy playing basketball, soccer, volleyball, and floor hockey. Today, an increasing number of schools are adding pickleball to the menu as a way to provide students with a fun, easy way to increase physical activity and combat childhood obesity while addressing their ever-shrinking budgets.

 

Tailor-Made For Schools

Many aspects that have made pickleball so popular with adults – it’s easy to learn, it’s a fun workout, games are quick, and it allows people of various abilities and fitness levels to play together – also make it a great fit for school gym classes. Students can progress very quickly, which builds up their self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment and can lead to improvements in their overall academic achievement.

Pickleball is also ideal for schools because it solves the problem of how to provide students with a fun physical activity while adhering to tight budgets. According to The Society of Health and Physical Educators, (SHAPE America), the average elementary school spends only $462 per year on physical education. That’s not per child —that’s for the entire school. Given these constraints, pickleball provides a cost-effective activity that many students can play while meeting government mandates for physical education.

 

DUPR Fuels the Growth of Pickleball Among Younger Players 

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) estimates that 8.9 million people played pickleball in 2023. As the average age of pickleball participants continues to trend downward – it’s currently at 35 – DUPR is working with organizations across the country to expand the sport further among younger players. For example, the most recent National Junior Pickleball Championships powered by DUPR was held in October in Las Vegas and featured 113 boys and girls ranging in age from 9-18 competing in singles, doubles, and team tournaments. 

Bringing Pickleball to Schools

In addition to DUPR’s efforts, the nonprofit organization PHIT America is making it easy for schools to add pickleball to their physical education curriculum. PHIT America’s Play Pickleball initiative donates everything a school needs – paddles, nets, balls, training aids -- to introduce pickleball to students. Launched in Spring 2023 with the ambitious goal of delivering more than 100 kits to elementary schools throughout the US, PHIT America is partnering with pickleball pro KaSandra Gerke to spread the word about the fun and health benefits kids can enjoy from playing pickleball.

 

Pickleball is all about teamwork and good sportsmanship and therefore fits nicely with the values schools teach every day. The sport’s explosive growth over the past few years is poised to continue, and anyone who has watched an MLP or PPA match is witnessing the success younger players are having on tour. Seventeen-year-old Anna Leigh Waters continues to dominate and teen phenoms Hayden Patriquin and Quang Duong consistently compete at the highest levels. You never know, somewhere in America a student could be picking up a paddle in gym class for the first time, get hooked on the sport and soon play in a few pickleball tournaments, get their DUPR rating, and maybe become tomorrow’s next great pickleball champion.

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April 10, 2024

The Power of Sibling Partnerships in Pickleball

On April 3rd, at the Major League Pickleball Premier Level Draft, the New York Hustlers selected Jackie Kawamoto with the 16th pick of the 2024 draft.

Shortly after, the Los Angeles Mad Dogs used the 26th pick to select Jackie’s twin sister, Jade Kawamoto.

The final rosters for the MLP Premier teams are comprised of the 48 most in-demand players in professional pickleball. Six of those coveted spots went to three pairs of siblings: the Kawamoto sisters, Ben and Collin Johns, and Jorja and JW Johnson.

Whether as practice partners, doubles teammates, or competitors, sibling teams have a unique chemistry that is difficult to replicate. Their shared history, communication skills, trust, competitive edge, and motivation all contribute to their success on the court.

For Jackie and Jade, the sibling advantage has helped them rise rapidly through the ranks of professional pickleball.

“Just having that person to always practice with was definitely an advantage for us,” says Jackie. “I'm a righty and Jade is a lefty, and we move together very well. I think that's our biggest strength. I know where I need to be when she gets pulled wide, and vice versa. I know all of her shots. We just know each other's game so well.”


“We've practiced with each other our whole lives, so it comes naturally,” adds Jade.

Like many professional pickleball players, the Kawamoto sisters have a background in competitive tennis, playing throughout their childhood and into college. 

Their journey with pickleball began in 2019.

“At first it was just fun, something to do with the family,” says Jade. 


“It didn't take long for all of us to get hooked and pretty much play nonstop,” adds Jackie.

They started competing in 2021, and in less than 3 years, they’ve become top rated pros. The Dink recently rated Jackie and Jade the number five women’s doubles team in the world for 2024, and their 5.9+ DUPR ratings demonstrate how far they’ve progressed in their short time since finding the sport.

“Chemistry is such an important part of this game because of the nature of the game and how quickly it goes,” Jackie explains.

Jade adds that the emotional support is just as important as the training.

“When you grow up with each other, and you're the same age and have gone through similar experiences… I know it's a cliche or whatever, but it does help you on the court to have someone that knows your emotions and knows how to bring you up when you're down,” she says.


This season, that bond faces a new challenge. Where the Kawamoto sisters played together for the ATX Pickleballers in 2023, this year they’ll meet as rivals.

It’s fitting, perhaps, that their new teams represent the sister-cities of New York and Los Angeles, two American metropolises that share similarities and a healthy rivalry.

For Jade and Jackie, meeting head-to-head is an opportunity to keep improving their game.

“We were pretty competitive with each other when we were younger,” Jackie recalls. “It always pushed us to be a little bit better.”

“We still like to be competitive with each other,” Jade says, “but mostly in a fun-spirited way, not like ‘I have to be better than you at this’. It helps us get better if we're trying to have that competitive mindset, but also keeps it fun.”

Community
MLP
March 14, 2024

‘A Real Eye-Opener' - Reflecting On Our Trip To The Indian Open

David McCune says the India pickleball market is ‘poised to go boom’ and that the nation’s technically adept players pose a real threat to the USA’s hegemony in the sport.

Johnnie Pickles, DUPR Crew

DUPR Executive Director David McCune was "blown away" by the level of play and scale of pickleball participation on a recent overseas activation at the Indian Open in the vast, vibrant city of Mumbai.

 

February's Indian Open, organized by Global Sports, boasted a $150,000 prize purse, making it the most lucrative pickleball tournament ever played outside North America. 

 

David's observations highlight that players from sub-continental and Southeast Asian regions bring exciting new skill sets to the court that are set to provide a stern challenge to the USA's hegemony in the sport. What was even starker is that when a nation of 1.4 billion people gets a taste for a new sport, it can create high volumes of participation quickly!

 

"The region is poised to go 'boom!'" smiled David after meeting with partners, athletes, sponsors, club owners, local dignitaries and celebrities in Mumbai to raise awareness of the benefits of DUPR (or "humanizing the algorithm," as he neatly calls it).

 

David added: "The best question about the level of play in India is not to ask how far they are behind the States, but how far along they are. Let me tell you, these guys are doing very well indeed!

 

The tournament was a real eye-opener for some of the US pros. When they got into those rapid hand battles, it wasn't a series of blocks and speedups — the Indian athletes were actually redirecting their attacks with spin on the ball. These guys are used to badminton where a shuttlecock reaches speeds of nearly 500 km/h, so pickleball is virtually in slow motion for them."

 

David was particularly taken by the current Indian No. 1 Harsh Mehta: "Until he hits it, you just don't know whether he's going to roll it, cut it or flick it. I watched him break the ankles of one of our top 10 pros numerous times! This guy is incredible."

Dave McCune, Sathwika Sama, and Ben Hildreth

 

Brian Omwando was another competitor in the Indian Open draw. An ex-tennis player turned pickleball fanatic, he opened Nairobi Pickleball Club last May and has helped embed DUPR as the go-to system in tournaments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Brian led a squad of five players to Mumbai (it was his first-ever plane flight).

 

"It was a totally new experience for us - seeing how players warm up, the different drills they do, and tactics like stacking, which we are now including in our practice sessions. The standard was a different level but we were amazed how well we played against players who have been playing for many more years than us."

 

British player Louis Laville reached the round of 16 in the men's singles where he fell to India’s Rohit Patil. He was also bowled over by the host nation's rising stature in the sport.

 

“Pickleball in India is absolutely exploding," he said. "They have coaching programs, investment, sponsorships, and financial backers.

 

“What the tournament showed us is that the UK and Europe need to get on with developing pickleball facilities and getting more people playing very quickly, because the rest of the world is starting to motor ahead in terms of numbers and level of players and investment into the sport. I am very excited to watch the top Indian players take on some of the top pros at April’s US Open!"

Written By: Mike Dale

Community
Events
March 8, 2024

Empowering Women on the Pickleball Court: The Importance of Women's Only Spaces

International Women's Day marks a global celebration of women's accomplishments and resilience. In the realm of pickleball, clubs like Pickle Pop and Gold Coast Pickleball's women's only group exemplify this spirit by providing platforms for women to excel, compete, and support one another.

Pickle Pop, Santa Monica

The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California is famous for its shops, dining, and proximity to the beach and the Santa Monica pier. However, the area was hard hit by the effects of the pandemic and is still recovering, creating the perfect opportunity to bring pickleball to some of LA’s most in demand real estate.

Steph McCaffrey, a former professional soccer player with an MBA from Wharton, and Erin Robertson, a Project Runway winner with a background in design and fashion, teamed up to cofound Pickle Pop right in the heart of the promenade. This pickleball venue stands out not only for its distinctive pink courts but also for its commitment to fostering an inclusive and empowering environment, particularly for women.

Robertson says, “a lot of times in sports, everything is super masculine, even for women's sports. It's not like I wanted to make it (Pickle Pop) feminine and fluffy, but I definitely wanted to soften the energy of it, so it felt warm and welcoming, but also fun, bright, energetic and like you would want to move your body.”

The decision to introduce a women's only open play at Pickle Pop was fueled by their general manager Jane Hollon's observation of the need for a space where women could enjoy the game and, as Hollon puts it, “avoid the male players who maybe aren't as experienced and are just like bang, bang, bang.”

What began as a one morning event has now blossomed into “one of our most popular programs,” says Hollon, expanding to three days a week. The program’s rapid growth highlights the demand for providing spaces tailored to the unique preferences and needs of women in the pickleball community.

"If you don't have a DUPR, do you even play pickleball?" says Hollon. Pickle Pop recognizes the importance of DUPR’s rating system and recently organized a fun event to help players earn their rating.

Gold Coast Pickleball, Queensland, Australia

Six thousand miles across the ocean, nestled in Carumbin Beach in Queensland, Australia, Gold Coast Pickleball’s facilities cater to local players of all types and skill levels.

Suzanne Mackenzie decided to team up with two friends to start a women's only pickleball group at the facility after feeling targeted on the court.

“I’d be on the court with my husband, who has bad knees and isn’t very mobile, and these young guys would absolutely be targeting me. I’d say ‘ease up, buddy.’ It was intimidating, terrifying, not enjoyable.”

Determined to build confidence among female players, Mackenzie envisioned a community grounded in friendship, camaraderie, and teamwork.

The success of Gold Coast Pickleball's initiative is evident in its growth from 30 participants to over 90 women of various ages and skill levels. Utilizing DUPR has proven effective in maintaining a level playing field, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to participate.

As Sue Bailey, a member of the group says, “the women's only group opened up an opportunity for us (women) to play competitively. You play socially and win some games or lose some games. It doesn't really matter. But when you're playing with a team, it adds that extra incentive to work harder, get better, and to support the team.”

As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's raise a paddle to Suzanne, Steph, Erin, Jane, and all the women who are leading the game on and off the court. They're breaking barriers, building communities, and showing the world what women can do when they come together.

Written By: Alana Jackler

Community