Rise of the Utah Valley Wolverines: A New Era in Collegiate Pickleball?

Kevin Brown
March 14, 2024

Rise of the Utah Valley Wolverines: A New Era in Collegiate Pickleball?

This past weekend saw a remarkable turn of events in what was once hailed as Trailblazer territory, as the #1 Utah Tech Trailblazers were dethroned, and the Utah Valley Wolverines emerged as the champions of the Utah Super Regional.

While the western region of collegiate pickleball doesn’t have the same number of schools or density as the eastern regions, one could easily argue that the western region is the country's most competitive. 

The Utah Super Regional, held at the Picklr in Kaysville, Utah, welcomed 11 schools from 4 states, forming 20 teams in the main bracket. Among them were veteran teams like Arizona State, University of Utah, and Loyola Marymount, alongside newcomers to DUPR collegiate pickleball such as Stanford and Brigham Young University.

Four of the teams that competed are ranked top ten in the DUPR Power Rankings that came out this past week on DUPR, and three of those teams are ranked top six. Not surprisingly, each one of these schools earned themselves a bid to nationals:

  • #1 Utah Tech
  • #3 Utah Valley
  • #6 Utah State
  • #10 Grand Canyon

However, the biggest story of the tournament was Utah Valley’s performance. Utah Valley was the only school this weekend that had multiple teams win every match in their group stage. The #1 team from Utah Valley won every single of their eight matches without dropping a single game against their opponents. In the finals, they handed Utah Tech their first-ever 0-3 match loss and first-ever finals loss in a regional tournament. 

Will Utah Tech (or another team from the west) step up and take the crown back from Utah Valley? Either way, this is definitely the start of the newest collegiate pickleball rivalry and hints that we will see a level of competition in the 2024 Collegiate National Championship that will break records. 

A very special thanks to The Picklr for hosting the second DUPR Collegiate Super Regional of 2024. To learn more about The Picklr, visit their website here: thepicklr.com

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May 16, 2024

Dinking on Deck: The Cruise Industry is Riding The Pickleball Wave

Pickleball player demographics, tight court dimensions and easy accessibility is making it a popular addition to cruise liners and riverboats.

Pickleball's unique blend of fun, friendship, fitness and accessibility has attracted millions of older people to the court in the last few years. These players can now combine their new favorite hobby with another activity beloved by retirees - cruises.

As well as hitting the demographics bullseye, pickleball is an attractive proposition for the cruise industry because of the low price of installing courts and their compact 20mx44ft dimensions, far easier to accommodate compared to those of tennis, squash or padel.

 

Many cruise ships already contain pickleball courts either indoor or on deck, but Pickleball International is taking its offering several stages further. The company was founded by former professional basketball player Eric Dailey Sr, who is now applying his 15 years' experience in basketball training, competitions and tours to the sport he fell in love with almost as soon as he picked up a paddle.

 

His sports travel enterprise included a partnership with cruise industry giants Caribbean International, which he is now expanding. Pickleball International offer cruises which include pickleball tuition from top pros, competitions and off-court physical preparation including yoga, spin classes, strength and agility training in top-of-the-range gyms and aqua training in the ship's swimming pools - in addition to all the usual cruise attractions: dinners, parties, casino nights and much more. 

 

AmaWaterWays Co-Founder

Eric says: "The training is an important part of the offer for this demographic of pickleball players. We can't play like we're 17 any more! We have a world-class yoga instructor and facilities to prepare our players' muscles for four hours of fun on court each day."

 

Caribbean International's ship, The Odyssey of the Seas, has three indoor pickleball courts. Five-day cruises set sail from the UK, Greece and the USA (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) to the Caribbean, Australia, Hong Kong and Alaska. A maximum of 24 players go on a single trip and all standards are catered for by Pickleball International's roster of highly qualified pro coaches ('Z' Orano, Pedro Penteado, Jay Jaudon and Fiona Edwards).

 

"These cruises are for guys who want to improve," says Eric. "If you're a DUPR 3.0, that's fine, go have fun and learn. If you're a 5.0, there will be plenty of competitions to get your teeth into. It's a great opportunity for anyone who loves pickleball and loves to travel."

 

UK-based Amadeus River Cruises have pickleball courts on their Amadeus Cara and Amadeus Silver III and offer pickleball-themed cruises on which you can take on locals at clubs along the way.

 

Janine and Damian on board

AmaWaterways, headquartered in Calabasas, California, has also spotted pickleball's potential. Last year, they added a full-size pickleball court on the 21m-wide deck of the AmaMagna riverboat which cruises along the Danube through Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey.

 

Pickleball activity led by on-board coach Damian fuses perfectly with the ship's large gym and Zen Wellness Studio (offering circuit training, resistance bands and core training, yoga and Pilates). “More people want to stay active when they’re on holiday. Pickleball is really easy to pick up and you can quickly start playing a game,” says Damian.

 

As more cruise companies capitalize on pickleball's popularity, we are sure to see the trend for dinking on deck spread across the globe.

Community
Events
May 14, 2024

Meet the Passionate Organizer Behind The Dink Minor League Pickleball

With pickleball's rising popularity, there's a growing demand for local tournaments catering to amateurs.

The Dink Minor League Pickleball (formerly known as Minor League Pickleball) gives players an exciting way to compete, emphasizing teamwork, strategy, and camaraderie. 

Following Major League Pickleball’s innovative format involving teams of four players (two women and two men), teams compete against other teams in four events: women’s doubles, men’s doubles, and two mixed doubles matches. A singles-based tiebreaker format, called a dreambreaker, is used when teams are tied 2-2. 

The Dink Minor League Pickleball’s National Pathway allows teams to compete locally to pursue a spot at the national championship. A national leaderboard is utilized to display ranked players, allowing you to easily view their standings.

Its first official season was in 2023, and its director, Caroline Luelf, is tasked with growing the organization.

Luelf's journey with the league began as a participant, along with her husband, in a one-day event in Kansas City. The convenience of these short events appealed to the couple, balancing their passion for pickleball with family commitments. 

As Luelf says, “When you have four kids, planning the logistics, getting all the kids to where they need to be and us being gone three or four days for a tournament, that's not easy.”

After participating in several Minor League Pickleball events and experiencing firsthand the thrill of competition and community, Luelf was inspired to bring the experience to her hometown in Oklahoma. Her first event sold out and received rave reviews. Luelf shares, “This one team posted on Facebook that it was their favorite tournament ever. They didn't even win a match!”

People were hungry for more events, and Luelf decided to reach out directly to the league saying, “I love everything about Minor League Pickleball, and I have all these ideas on how to grow it.” A few weeks later, they offered her a job.

What sets the league apart is its emphasis on the team concept.


Unlike traditional tournaments, where players compete individually, The Dink Minor League Pickleball encourages collaboration and support among teammates. With rally scoring and opportunities for coaching between points, players are fully engaged both on and off the court, creating an electrifying atmosphere for participants and spectators alike. 

"The Dink Minor League Pickleball is for everyone,” Luelf notes. It’s for any player — from amateurs to non-contracted pros, regardless of age. Events have seen players as young as 12 and as old as 70. The family-friendly nature is obvious, with Caroline herself cherishing the opportunity to play alongside her husband and 18-year-old son and create lasting memories on the court.

Looking ahead, The Dink MiLP's goal is “to be in all 50 states” (they are currently in 29 states) and “continue to expand globally,” according to Luelf. With events planned across the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and beyond, it’s poised to become the premier destination for amateur pickleball enthusiasts worldwide.

Whether you're a seasoned player or new to the game, The Dink Minor League Pickleball welcomes you to find a team, join the fun, forge new friendships, and experience the thrill of pickleball like never before.

Join a team, have fun, and experience the excitement of pickleball! Sign up now!

Written by Alana Jackler

Minor League
Collegiate
April 8, 2024

University of Florida Wins the Georgia Super Regional with Help From Their Spectacular Spectator Section

There is no limit to the number of teams a school can submit to a Regional, and the University of Florida (UF) used that to their advantage this past weekend by bringing five teams to compete. Never before had a school brought more than three teams to a DUPR Collegiate Pickleball event! By the time the finals rolled around, all of the players from the eliminated UF teams could be heard cheering on their last remaining team in hopes of securing their first Regional championship. 

In the finals, UF faced Clemson, who was both the winner of last year’s Georgia Regional and the winner of the last Super Regional in Virginia. Clemson taking the first game in Women’s Doubles didn’t phase UF, as UF rattled off 3 straight wins in Men’s Doubles, 1st Mixed Doubles, and 2nd Mixed Doubles to secure the title. Prior to the Georgia Super Regional, UF and Clemson had already secured spots at Nationals, so the remaining four bids went to University of Georgia, University of North Florida, Florida College, and Southeastern University (SEU). All school maintained a great team spirit throughout the tournament which made it even more exciting to be a part of!

The Georgia Super Regional also welcomed Charleston Southern University, Davidson College, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, and The University of Texas at Tyler to their first DUPR Collegiate Pickleball event! University of Kentucky almost pulled off a #14 seed vs. #3 seed upset against SEU in the Round of 16 by taking them to a Dreambreaker. In fact, the playoffs for this tournament saw an incredibly high number of Dreambreakers, as 7 out of the 15 elimination playoff matches went to a Dreambreaker, including both semifinals and 3/4 of the quarterfinals. Here is the link to view the full schedule and standings from the weekend.

A special thanks goes to our DUPR Collegiate Pickleball partners: JOOLA, HEAD, GAMMA, Rally Republic, Total Pickleball, and OOFOS. Another thanks goes to Pickle & Social in Buford, GA for hosting the 2nd annual Georgia Super Regional! 

Collegiate
Events