u3a: The Bedrock of Pickleball Participation in the UK

DUPR
June 23, 2024
3 minutes
  • Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing activities across national volunteer-led movement for older adults.
  • u3a pickleball groups are significant drivers of participation for the over-50s in UK.
  • With 3,000 players out of an overall membership of 400,000, there is huge scope for growth.

The average age of the pickleball-playing population in the UK is gradually reducing — but, for now, over-50s remain the bedrock of the sport's participation base. A significant percentage of these older players are discovering pickleball through u3a. 

The u3a is a huge volunteer-led movement that keeps retired people active and learning. It is made up of around 1000 u3as  across the UK who organize activities that keep older adults mentally, physically and socially active. These range from sport to learning a language, history, photography, walking, wine tasting and much more.

Three years ago, there were 15 pickleball groups across the u3a movement. Now (May 2024), there are 139. It is one of the fastest growing sports within u3a and now boasts over 3,000 players. For context, Pickleball England has 5,000 registered members over 50 years of age and there are an estimated 15,000 players of all ages (including non-members of the governing body) in the country.

David Pechey has been the u3a's National Subject Advisor for pickleball since 2021. Having started his own club in Bramhall, Manchester in 2018, he felt pickleball strongly aligned with u3a's objective of encouraging older adults to become and/or stay active.  

David, 73, has published guidance and a package of resources on the u3a website for anyone wanting to set up their own group. He has also undertaken a Pickleball Leaders Certification to teach people the basic techniques and tactics. Some are happy with a regular hit and chat; others have progressed to competing and registering with DUPR. 

"You get great satisfaction from helping people learn to play and seeing them grow in confidence on court," said David. "But some u3a groups have started without any help from me. I am just a sounding board if people need one, but pickleball is increasingly creating its own momentum."

David also adds,

"Pickleball is so accessible for people of my age. They don't want hours of training with a coach. As long as there is someone to teach you the rules and basic tactics, you can start playing pickleball to a reasonable level pretty quickly. That's why it has struck a chord. People have been able to get a bit of physical activity and social interaction while feeling they are having a good, competitive game." 

As pickleball groups have popped up and grown throughout the u3a movement, the organization has organically become a key participation driver for the sport in the UK – all led by the enthusiasm and passion of volunteers. 

David stated,

"A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the local champions in every active u3a group: the group conveners, coordinators and leaders. These are local heroes with enthusiasm, initiative, perseverance and patience. A debt to them is owed by me and by every u3a player that enjoys exercise, fun, gentle competition and social interaction as a result of their efforts.”

With just under 100 u3a pickleball groups across the UK, there is obvious potential for it to spread much further.

"We haven't reached 10% yet, so I want to continue to help grow it throughout all the u3as  in the UK," states David. 

With players’ ages ranging from 50 to early 90s, thousands of people in the autumn of their years are being given a new lease of life through u3a and pickleball.

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July 14, 2024

What Is A Pickleball Rating? A Guide to Understanding and Leveraging Pickleball Ratings

In pickleball, knowing your skill level is essential for fair matches and tracking progress. This article explores pickleball ratings, explaining what they are, how they work, and their importance in the community.

What Are Pickleball Ratings?

At its core, a pickleball rating is a numerical representation of a player's skill level and performance on the court. These ratings provide an objective measure of a player's ability, allowing for fair and competitive matchups regardless of age, gender, or experience level. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the sport, understanding your pickleball rating is essential for navigating the competitive landscape. 

How Do Pickleball Ratings Work?

Pickleball ratings are typically determined using sophisticated algorithms and data-driven analysis. These algorithms take into account various factors, including match outcomes, player performance metrics, and opponent ratings, to calculate precise ratings for each player. Unlike traditional static rating systems, modern pickleball rating systems, such as the one offered by DUPR, employ dynamic algorithms that continuously adjust ratings based on recent match results. This dynamic approach ensures that ratings remain accurate and reflective of players' current skill levels over time.

Understanding the Pickleball Rating System

The pickleball rating system serves as a vital tool for assessing players' skill levels and ensuring equitable matchups during games and tournaments. Powered by sophisticated algorithms and data-driven analysis, this system assigns numerical ratings to players, providing a standardized measure of their proficiency in the sport.

A pickleball rating is a numerical representation of a player's skill level and performance on the court. It provides an objective measure of a player's ability, allowing for fair and competitive matchups.

DUPR's Dynamic Rating System

DUPR is a revolutionary rating system designed to provide accurate and dynamic player ratings. Unlike traditional static rating systems, DUPR's algorithm continuously adjusts ratings based on match results, ensuring that ratings reflect current skill levels.  DUPR's dynamic rating system unifies pickleball across age, gender, and location by analyzing match results to accurately evaluate all players across a 2.000 - 8.000 scale. 

Key Features of DUPR's Rating System

  • Accuracy: DUPR employs advanced algorithms to analyze match data and calculate precise ratings for players.
  • Dynamism: Ratings are updated in real-time, reflecting players' performance and skill progression.
  • Accessibility: Players can easily access their ratings and track their progress through the DUPR platform.

How DUPR's Rating System Works

  • Match Data Collection: DUPR collects data from pickleball matches, including match outcomes, player performance metrics, and opponent ratings.
  • Rating Adjustments: Player ratings are adjusted based on match results, with wins against higher-rated opponents leading to rating increases and losses resulting in decreases.
  • Continuous Feedback Loop: DUPR's dynamic system ensures that ratings remain accurate and reflective of players' current skill levels over time.

Benefits of DUPR's Rating System

Competitive Integrity: DUPR promotes fair and balanced gameplay by accurately assessing player skill levels.

  • Skill Development: Players can track their progress and identify areas for improvement through their DUPR ratings.
  • Community Engagement: DUPR fosters a vibrant pickleball community by providing a platform for players to connect, compete, and grow together.

Pickleball player ratings lie at the heart of the sport, shaping the competitive landscape, guiding player progression, and fostering a sense of community among enthusiasts. 

With DUPR's dynamic rating system leading the charge, players can trust in the accuracy and responsiveness of their ratings, empowering them to elevate their game and enjoy the thrill of pickleball to the fullest.

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Educational
Data
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

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