MLP Daytona Group C Preview

We are less than 72 hours away from the premier league kicking off in the Sunshine State for MLP Daytona. We have already broken down what to expect in Groups A & B but now we look forward to the preview of Group C.

Related: MLP Daytona Group B Preview

Here’s the current state of Group C, including a recap of MLP Mesa and some predictions of how we see it all playing out in Daytona!

Group C

Mesa Recap

ATX Pickleballers 1-2 10th Place (missed playoff)

Florida Smash 3-2 4th Place (SF Loss to LA Mad Drops 1-3)

LA Mad Drops 5-0 1st Place (Won MLP Mesa)

St Louis Shock 1-2 8th Place (missed playoff)

Group Overview:

Last but not least the final group for MLP Daytona includes our Mesa champion Los Angeles Mad Drops who went undefeated on their way to the title, leaving with an unblemished 5-0 record. The Mad Drops were led by none other than third round pick Julian Arnold who was the MVP of the event and played lights out, taking over matches and seemingly winning every hands battle he found himself in. The Mad Drops will first be tasked with taking out the other three teams in their group before they can think of repeating, a group that features not only young talent but veterans with big stage experience. Although the ATX Pickleballers and the St Louis Shock didn’t advance to the knockout stage they were both a few points away from walking away with a much different result in Mesa. Let’s dive into the numbers and find out which teams have the best chance of advancing in Daytona.

ATX Pickleballers

Round 1: JW Johnson (3rd pick)

Round 2: Jackie Kawamato (22nd pick)

Round 3: Jade Kawamoto (27th pick)

Round 4: Gabriel Tardio (46th pick)

The ATX Pickleballers left Mesa with a disappointing result, going 1-2 and now head to Daytona in 10th place out of 12 teams.They had an opportunity to advance to the knockout stage with a win over the New York Hustlers in Saturday’s last group play match but fell short losing 1-3. ATX took the first big swing of the draft, opting to pass on top females Anna Bright and Catherine Parenteau for JW Johnson, a move that drew criticism from the top followers of the sport. JW was less than impressive in Mesa as Anna Bright and Catherine Parenteau found themselves playing against each other in the finals. ATX has to be wondering if they made the right decision and it will be up to Johnson to help right the ship and prove he was worthy of that 3rd overall pick if his team wants a chance of sniffing a playoff berth.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

48.37% (10th): The ATX Pickleballers finished 10th in team point differential finishing only ahead of the LV Night Owls and team Frisco Clean Cause.

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. JW Johnson: 40th (46.96%)
  2. Jackie Kawamato: 28th (48.50%)
  3. Jade Kawamoto: 29th (48.12%)
  4. Gabriel Tardio: 44th: (46.63%)

Mesa Team Match Results (4-8)

  1. Seattle Pioneers 0-3
  2. LV Night Owls 3-2
  3. NY Hustlers 1-3

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. JW Johnson 2-5
  2. Jackie Kawamoto 3-3
  3. Jade Kawamoto 3-4
  4. Gabriel Tardio 2-4


The drafting of JW Johnson at #3 looks like a miss at this point as Johnson finished with a 2-5 overall match record and 40th overall in player point differential in Mesa. However, the selections of the Kawamoto sisters may have saved their draft. Although the Kawamoto’s are not full time touring professionals they are both consistent doubles players that give ATX nice lineup balance next to their two male counterparts. The lefty Jade is coming off an improbable run to the women’s doubles final at the Florida Open as she made her debut with Selkirk’s popular Invikta Power Air (a paddle made famous by Tyson Mcguffin and Catherine Parenteau). The paddle gave her some much needed power on speed ups and counters and were assuming both sisters will be sporting that paddle in Daytona. If this young nucleus wants to avoid a similar fate they’ll need JW Johnson to not only play like the #3 pick but to also help lead when he’s on the sidelines cheering on his teammates.

Wild Card: 

Gabriel Tardio: We have talked at great length about what JW Johnson needs to do in Daytona but the x-factor for this team will be the 18 year old Gabe Tardio, one of the last picks of the premier league draft. Tardio is extremely talented and showed flashes of that ability in Mesa but he also suffered through stretches of inconsistency around the kitchen line. Can Tardio rise to the occasion or will the pressure be too much for him playing against the savvy veterans in Group C?

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Florida Smash

Round 1: Jesse Irvine (8th pick)

Round 2: Jorja Johnson (17th pick)

Round 3: Travis Rettenmaier (32nd pick)

Round 4: Collin Johns (41st pick)

The Florida Smash made a strong run to the semifinals losing a tightly contested battle to the eventual champion Los Angeles Mad Drops. One of the major storylines on draft night was surrounding Travis Rettenmaier. For those who don’t know Rettenmaier is the co-owner of the Florida Smash. The question was would he draft himself or would another team draft him, creating a massive conflict of interest? Well, Travis decided to bet on himself in the 3rd round and based on the results in Mesa he backed it up as he finished 12th in overall player point differential and helped lead his team just shy of a spot in the final. The real story of the draft though were the selections of Jesse Irvine and Jorja Johnson, who seemingly fell into their laps in rounds 1 and 2 after some interesting swings on male picks by the ATX Pickleballers and the St Louis Shock. There is a lot to like about this battle tested group but repeating the same result in Daytona won’t be easy as they once again will have to face off against the Mad Drops in group play.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

51.04% (3rd): The Smash finished 3rd in overall team point differential behind the LA Mad Drops and the Seattle Pioneers

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Jesse Irvine: 21st (49.52%)
  2. Jorja Johnson: 9th (53.23%)
  3. Travis Rettenmaier: 12th (52.56%)
  4. Collin Johns 26th (48.89%)

Mesa Team Match Results (6-3)

  1. Frisco Clean Cause 3-0
  2. LA Mad Drops 0-3
  3. So Cal Hard 8s 3-0

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Jesse Irvine 2-2
  2. Jorja Johnson 4-1
  3. Travis Rettenmaier 4-1
  4. Collin Johns 2-2


Gender doubles is a strength of this team as each individual knows exactly which position on the court they are going to play and is very comfortable in that role. Irvine is a right ride rock that allows the sixteen year old Jorja Johnson the freedom to be aggressive and take chances on the left.  Meanwhile 4th round pick Collin Johns fills the exact same role in men’s doubles which puts Rettenmaier in his familiar left side position, playing the pseudo  Ben Johns role in that partnership. The personalities also blend together nicely with Rettenmaier/Irvine being more vocal leaders and Johnson/Johns leading more by example. The Smash clearly put a lot of thought into how all their pieces would fit together and it paid dividends in Mesa. However, they did have one of the easier roads to playoffs, knocking off last place Frisco Clean Cause and the So Cal Hard 8s, who were without first round pick Riley Newman. We’ll see how they fare this go around with a much tougher schedule of opponents in the group stage.

Wild Card: 

Jorja Johnson: Both Irvine and Johns play a more conventional style of pickleball, often waiting for the action to come to them and forcing their opponents into uncharacteristic mistakes, The Smash know what they have in those two but the play of Jorja Johnson in MLP continues to surprise us given her age and experience. She’s clearly not afraid of the big moments and that type of confidence is crucial when competing on pickleball’s biggest stage. This team will go as far as Johnson’s play takes them as she offers the most upside of any player on this roster.

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Los Angeles Mad Drops

Round 1: Catherine Parenteau (5th pick)

Round 2: Irina Tereschenko (20th pick)

Round 3: Julian Arnold (29th pick)

Round 4: Thomas Wilson (44th pick)

The Mad Drops couldn’t have dreamed of a performance like they had in Mesa, as they went undefeated and only dropped two total matches en route to the MLP title. With the ATX Pickleballers taking a swing on JW Johnson the Mad Drops were left with a little easier of a decision as they selected Catherine Parenteau. Parenteau,along with James Ignatowich, is in the running for most improved player of 2023 as she has shown a level of consistency we hadn’t seen from her in 2022. The Mad Drops backed up the pick by going with MLP legend Irina Tereschenko who was one of the leaders of two time champion team BLQK last year. With all that experience in the first two rounds, the Mad Drops now needed some dominant left side males to fill out their roster. Sitting with the 29th pick in round three they went with Julian Andiamo Arnold, who ended up as the MVP of MLP Mesa. They rounded out their draft taking uber talented Thomas Wilson who has quietly put together a great year playing alongside Arnold and Vivienne David. This team will be the favorites once again and it’s easy to see why as they not only have experience but hit a home run on all four of their picks.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

56.25% (1st): The Mad Drops finished 1st in overall team point differential slightly ahead of the Seattle Pioneers

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Catherine Parenteau: 3rd (55.25%)
  2. Irina Tereschenko 6th (54.22%)
  3. Julian Arnold: 2nd (55.64%)
  4. Thomas Wilson: 4th (54.74%)

Mesa Team Match Results (9-0)

  1. Florida Smash 3-0
  2. Frisco Clean Cause 3-0
  3. So Cal Hard 8s 3-0

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Catherine Parenteau 6-0
  2. Irina Tereschenko 4-0
  3. Julian Arnold 6-0
  4. Thomas Wilson 4-0


It’s hard to find any flaws with this roster and the stats back it up as all four players finished in the top six in player point differential. That type of performance will be nearly impossible to repeat but they still find themselves as the overwhelming favorites to advance out of this group. The question isn’t about talent or on-court fit, it’s how they will handle adversity and high expectations will all eleven teams now gunning for them. With the year that Catherine Parenteau is putting together alongside the experience of Tereschenko, energy of Julian Arnold and shot making of Thomas Wilson it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Mad Drops are not once again in a position to win the title on championship Sunday. We’ll see how it all unfolds but this team seems destined to have a similar year that team BLQK had in 2022.

Wild Card: 

Julian Arnold: Arnold is our wild card pick as his relentless aggression can both win his team a match or just as easily lose it. We never saw a drop in his level at MLP Mesa which is a big reason why the Mad Drops went undefeated. However, what if Arnold’s play slips a bit?  Will he pull back on that aggression and allow his teammates to get more involved or will he continue to try and take over? If the Mad Drops happen to take an early exit it may be because Arnold tries to force the issue too much rather than take a backseat if his A game doesn’t show up.

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Saint Louis Shock

Round 1: Jay Devilliers (7th pick)

Round 2: Simone Jardim (18th pick)

Round 3: Allyce Jones (31st pick)

Round 4: Erik Lange (42nd pick)

Last but not least we have the St Louis Shock who were one of the seven teams in Mesa with a 1-2 record. They finished last place in their group and missed out on the playoffs, a result they will be looking to change in Daytona. This is another team with a heavy veteran core, but unlike the Florida Smash, their draft strategy was a bit of a head scratcher. They reached for Jay Devilliers in round one who only has one medal on the PPA tour in doubles this year. In rounds two and three they selected Jardim and Jones who both own impressive resumes but are right side players at this point in their careers. Lange wasn’t a bad swing in round four but his upside is limited and he’s not the best fit next to Devilliers in men’s doubles. The Shock have a lot of questions to answer still and they will most certainly be the underdogs to make it out of Group C.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

49.40% (7th): The Shock finished in the middle of the pack in overall team point differential. 

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Jay Devilliers: 37th (47.41%)
  2. Simone Jardim: 16th (50.40%)
  3. Allyce Jones 8th (53.27%)
  4. Erik Lange: 34th (47.91%)

Mesa Team Match Results (7-6)

  1. California BLQK 2-3
  2. Milwaukee Mashers 3-0
  3. The 5s 2-3

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Jay Devilliers 4-4
  2. Simone Jardim 5-3
  3. Allyce Jones 3-4
  4. Erik Lange 2-5


Although the fit between Jardim and Jones looked to be an issue heading into Mesa they performed well together as their grind it out styles were able to break down some of the stronger women’s teams out there, evident by their win over the Mashers Callie Jo Smith and Lucy Kovalova. They also secured wins over Anna Leigh Waters/Lea Jansen and Andrea Koop/Megan Fudge as they swept the board in women’s doubles. Jones looks to be one of the steals of the 3rd round as she not only finished 8th in overall player point differential but has four doubles medals to her name in 2023. In order to become one of the Cinderella stories of Daytona they’ll need a better performance out of first round pick Jay Devilliers. Although Jardim will go down in pickleball history as one of the greatest to ever do it, we expect to see Jones to team up with Devilliers as she is the hotter player of the two right now (Jardim no longer plays a full schedule of events). That lineup switch will give the Shock more firepower on line one and may give some of the stronger teams in this group some headaches.

Wild Card: 

Jay Devilliers: This team will go as far as the flying Frenchman takes them as we expect a similar effort out of Jardim and Jones in Daytona. If Jay can play like a worthy first round selection the Shock go from underdogs to contenders to make it out of Group C. Devilliers is more than capable but he’lll need to bring a higher level of energy and focus to get the job done against what is a very strong and well balanced group of teams.

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  1. The LA Mad Drops 3-0: The LA Mad Drops have little to no holes on their roster. Even if they get pushed to a dreambreaker, all four of their players have the ability to play singles. We don’t see them dropping a match in this group.
  1. ATX Pickleballers 1-2: ATX has the youngest core out of all four teams in Group C and their lack of energy is a major concern but we think talent wins out here as they take the tiebreaker in overall team point differential. This is a bet on JW Johnson and the 18 year old wild card Gabe Tardio getting it done in men’s doubles.
  1. Florida Smash 1-2: In our second group stage upset we have the Smash being the first team left out of the playoff. Irvine’s PPA results haven’t been up to her standards of late and Collin Johns is still a question mark on the left side in mixed doubles. They should form very strong gender doubles lineups but the dreambreaker may ultimately cost them a playoff spot as Irvine/Johns are seen more as liabilities than assets in singles.
  1. St Louis Shock 1-2: As good as Jardim and Jones were in Mesa, having to carry the load against the likes of Irvine/Johnson, Parenteau/Tereschenko and the Kawamotos is too much to ask of them. The pick of Devilliers in round one continues to rear its ugly head as the Shock once again find themselves at the bottom of their group.

MLP Mesa Arizona: 2023 Major League Pickleball Season Kicks Off

Did you get a chance to check out MLP Mesa, Arizona as the 2023 season kicked off live on the Tennis Channel? If not, we have you covered!

This past weekend the world’s best and brightest pickleball stars took to the courts in Mesa, Arizona for an action-packed weekend of Major League Pickleball. This was the first of six events slated to take place throughout the season for MLP.

Related: PPA Hyundai Masters: Johns and Waters Triple Crown

After battling it out in a round-robin group stage, the MLP’s Premier and Challenger level teams were placed in a six team bracket for the right to be crowned the first champion of the 2023 season. There were some unforgettable matchups and excruciatingly close dreambreakers that could very well shape the future of pickleball.

Here is everything you missed at MLP Mesa Arizona:

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MLP Mesa Challenger Level

Major League Pickleball is split into two levels of play this season, the challenger and premier level. During the halfway point of this season teams will redraft and can choose players from the premier or challenger level to draft. There were just as many eyes on the challenger level as the premier level this weekend out of curiosity for who might get moved up. Here are our superlatives for challenger level play across MLP Mesa.

Challenger Level Teams To Watch: Orlando Squeeze, Bay Area Breakers, Chicago Slice, Utah BLQK, Brooklyn Aces, Atlanta Bouncers

The six teams predicted to move on to the playoffs heading into the weekend held true. These teams were the most talked about in the challenger level and for good reason. The Bay Area Breakers and Utah Black Diamonds distanced themselves, both earning a spot in the championship.

Standouts: Ewa Radikowska, Rachel Summers, Andreas Siljestrom, Coach Scott Crandall

The female tandem of Ewa Radikowska and Rachel Summers were a standout for most fans watching the challenger level at MLP Mesa. They both helped propel the Bay Area Breakers to a championship.

We’ve also seen a lot of pro tennis players take a shot at pickleball and we are still finding out that skills on the tennis court don’t always translate to the elite level of pickleball… that is unless you’re Andreas Siljestrom. The big man finished his first MLP event as the 15th ranked player in point differential and will surely continue to make a splash with his unique combination of skill and size.

Living Up To The Hype: Connor Garnett, Christian Alshon and Pablo Tellez

Connor Garnett was one of the names that was constantly being brought up as a player to watch, and boy oh boy did he live up to the hype.  Garnett finished the weekend as the Number 10 ranked player in point differential percentage, and this was while going against the other teams’ top mixed doubles tandems.  Lots of eyes on him and the dude delivered.

Christian Alshon and Pablo Tellez continued to impress, lifting the Bay Area Breakers to a championship. There is no question these two players are Premier level talents so don’t be surprised if they get called up to the big leagues during the next MLP Draft half way through 2023.

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MLP Mesa Challenger Level Champions: Bay Area Breakers

Going into challenger level play, the Bay Area Breakers were labeled the heavy favorites to come out on top, and that held true. Without a doubt Christian Alshon and Pablo Tellez proved themselves as premier level worthy players, leading the Bay Area Breakers to the Challenger Level Championship without dropping a match. It wouldn’t be easy as they had to face off against the lefty tandem of Robert Cassidy and Olivia McMillan on The Utah Black Diamonds. Despite losing 3-0 the Black Diamonds should be more than proud with their performance, as all three games ended with both teams being frozen and us returning to a little traditional pickleball to end the games.

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Sixth Man of Mesa: Meghan Fudge and Stefan Auvergne

Free agency in the very first event? Due to injury or prior planned engagements, two players from the premier level needed to be replaced by challenger level players whose teams did not move on to the playoffs. Meghan Fudge subbed in for Maggie Brascia on the California BLQK Bears, while Stefan Auvergne subbed in for Riley Newman of the SoCal Hard Eights. Despite being a sub-in, Auvergne left the weekend as the 17th ranked player player based on point differential percentage.

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Premier Level

The Premier level play of MLP Mesa was jam-packed with some of the most intense play we’ve seen out of any pickleball event. There were a number of upsets and players that took the next step in becoming pickleball greats. Although only six teams made the playoffs, there were a number of players who didn’t advance who we think stood out this weekend.

Best Of The Rest: Allyce Jones, Dylan Frazier, Stefan Auvergne, Federico Staksrud, Simone Jardim.

Despite not advancing to the playoffs, all five of these players ranked top 17 or better out of a pool of 48 players. Allyce Jones and Federico Staksrud both finished in the top 10 rankings, and i’m sure they’ll come back with a vengeance.

Simone Jardim showed she can still hang with the best of them, pulling off a couple of huge wins with Allyce Jones.  Her presence is still a force in the women’s game.

Best Moving On:  Julian Arnold, Catherine Parenteau, Ben Johns, Jorja Johnson

There were few mixed tandems as lethal as Julian Arnold and Catherine Parenteau at MLP Mesa. They dominated all weekend with a great combination of skill, strategy, and heart.

Ben Johns is already known as one of the greatest pickleball players ever, and he furthered that status leaving MLP Mesa as the top ranked player in point differential. Jorja Johnson has also been on a meteoric rise since entering the pickleball scene and finished the weekend as the 9th ranked player in point differential.

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Team Rivalry of the Weekend: Battle of the Border

Out of all matches leading up to the championship game, none may have been more hype than the regional battle between the New Jersey 5’s and the New York Hustlers. 5’s owner and GM Gary Vaynerchuk was on-site during the match to witness his first MLP event and the intensity was second-to-none.

Trailing 2-1, James Ignatowich and Lea Jansen pulled off an incredible comeback (and a major upset) being down 20-14, over Tyson McGuffin and Anna Bright, at what was at that point the biggest moment in the tournament. The dreambreaker was hotly contested with the score swinging back and fourth before the Hustlers would ultimately win 21-19.

This is a matchup that pickleball fans will be relishing for years to come because it truly came down to the strategy of matchups. Fans everywhere were treated to sights they always wanted to see, like Anna Leigh Waters vs. Tyson McGuffin in a singles game that matters. The Waters vs. McGuffin dreambreaker illustrated how important dream breaker strategy is. Seeing Waters against McGuffin gave us more insight into what a top individual male vs a top individual female looks like on the pickleball court at the highest level.

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Los Angeles Mad Drops vs. Florida Smash Semi-Final

Player Rivalry of the Weekend: Travis Rettenmeier vs Julian Arnold

The first semi-finals matchup for the Premier level at MLP Mesa saw the Los Angeles Mad Drops square off against the Florida Smash. The Mad Drops were without a doubt the most dominant team throughout the weekend, not losing a single match. They took care of the Florida Smash in the semi-finals with a clean 3-0 sweep.

There was some loud jawing between Smash’s Travis Rettenmeier and Mad Drops Julian Arnold, all in good fun of course. That intensity spilled over to the rest of the team and gave us one of the most hype games of the weekend. Their last game saw Julian Arnold and Catherine Parenteau narrowly edge out Jessie Irvine and Collin Johns in a 22-20 mixed doubles game.

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Seattle Pioneers vs. New York Hustlers Semi-Final

We got to see potentially the most anticipated individual and team matchup in the Pioneers vs. Hustlers semi-finals. The Pioneers are led by Ben Johns, the top male player in the world. Closely following Johns in the rankings is Tyson McGuffin, the New York Hustlers lead pickleballer. McGuffin and Johns have battled it out relentlessly on the PPA stage, but this was the first time the elite athletes squared off in the MLP format.

The match went to a dreambreaker which was tightly contested to the end. The Hustlers were able to narrowly edge it out, winning 21-18 to advance to the championship. Going into the match we knew what we were getting out of top draft picks Anna Bright and Ben Johns, as well as players like Etta Wright and Tyson McGuffin. It was Lacy Schneemann however that would emerge and decide the game in a dreambreaker.

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Los Angeles Mad Drops vs. New York Hustlers Championship Match

The championship match between the Los Angeles Mad Drops and the New York Hustlers saw two former teammates turned rivals. Last season, BLQK won 2 of the 3 MLP tournaments behind the exceptional play of Rafa Hewett and Irina Tereschenko, so it was no surprise to see the two in the finals.

Anna Bright and Lacy Schneemann came out firing in the first game and gave the Hustlers a 1-0 lead. This was shocking to all viewers as the Mad Drops hadn’t even lost a game up to that point. Things were looking bleak for the Mad Drops, that was until Julian Arnold stepped on the court.

Going into the draft as one of the hottest players on tour, it was a shock to see Julian Arnold drop in the draft. He clearly used that as a chip on his shoulder and dominated Friday morning straight through Sunday night. He closed out the championship match appearing in two of the three sets that won the Mad Drops MLP Mesa.

This was an incredible start to the year for the Los Angeles Mad Drops. Tereschenko is distancing herself as maybe the greatest winner in MLP to date, taking home 3 of the last 4 tournaments. Only time will tell if Tereschenko will be lifting the Pritchard Cup again in Daytona Beach, Florida.

What was your highlight of MLP Mesa, Arizona? Shoot us a message on Twitter @137pm and let us know!


Get to Know the Major League Pickleball Owners

Who are the Major League Pickleball owners and why are they helping to grow the sport?

Pickleball has been on a meteoric rise since around 2020, and is showing no signs of slowing down. The popularity of pickleball is undeniable, as more courts are being built all across America and the fanbase grows daily.


A key reason for the explosive growth in such a short amount of time can be directly attributed to the ownership groups that make up Major League Pickleball. Sports and media moguls alike have tied their name to the league, buying in and helping to usher pickleball into an exciting new era.

Here are the owners that make up Major League Pickleball:

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1.) Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Team: The 5’s

Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and a leader in numerous spaces. Vaynerchuk bought into Major League Pickleball fairly early compared to other big names, acquiring a team in early 2022. He is currently one of the owners of The 5’s, who came a dreambreaker away from moving past the group stages of MLP Columbus.

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2.) James Blake and Marc Lasry
  • Team: The Lions

When looking at some of the greatest American tennis players of all-time, it’s hard to leave James Blake name out of the conversation. Blake appeared in 24 singles finals appearances over his career, winning 10 of them. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he would reach the semi-finals, a feat that required him to take down the legendary Roger Federer on the way.

Blake is joined by businessman Marc Lasry in his purchasing group. Lasry is the CEO of Avenue Capital Group and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

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3.) Molly Joseph, Travis Rettenmaier and Graham D’amico
  • Team: Florida Smash

What’s most interesting about this trio is that it includes the only current player-coach (Travis Rettenmaier) in Major League Pickleball. Rettenmaier is a former professional tennis player and reached world ranking No. 57 at one point.

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4.) Charles Attal, Charlie Walker, and Mellie Price
  • Team: Chimeras

Some important context around Major League Pickleball is that the league was for the most part founded in Austin, Texas. Charles Attal and Charlie Walker are co-founders of the concert promoter C3 Presents. Mellie Price is a highly experienced venture fund manager and angel investor. One thing this big three has in common is their love for pickleball.

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5.) David Kass and Doug Ulman
  • Team: The Bus

David Kass is the president of Continental Real Estate and comes from a tennis family. However, tennis has taken a backseat for Kass, as he has found a new love in pickleball.

Doug Ulman is the Chief Executive Officer for Pelotonia, a fundraiser that is held to help raise money for cancer research. He has also been a huge help in ensuring that more courts are being built across the United States so the masses can benefit from the great game of pickleball.

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6.) Drew Brees and Zubin Mehta
  • Team: Mad Drops Pickleball Club 

If you want to find an owner passionate about the sport of pickleball in general, look no further than Mad Drops Pickleball Club owner Zubin Mehta. Mehta is an Investor and Advisor as well as being the co-founder of UNION, a revolutionary charcuterie snack company.

Recently joining Mehta, Drew Brees officially signed his name as a co-owner. Brees is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and a first-ballot hall of fame candidate once he is eligible.

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7.) Mimi and David Mercado
  • Team: The Jackrabbits

The Jackrabbits are currently the third ranked team in Major League Pickleball, boasting a dynamic universal pickleball rating of 23.47. Although the Jackrabbits weren’t able to find success at MLP Columbus, they are looking to comeback with a vengeance this season. The Jackrabbits are currently owned by Mimi and David Mercado.

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8.) Rick Chan and Kevin Huang
  • Team: Hard Eights

If you are looking for a team with passionate owners, Team Hard Eights is the place for you. During every Hard Eights game at MLP Columbus, their owners were front and center boastfully cheering on their squad.

They are owned by Rick Chan and Kevin Huang. Chan is a managing director and portfolio manager for PIMCO. Huang is a fixed income portfolio manager at DRW who is also an avid pickleballer.

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9.) Ritchie Tuazon
  • Team: BLQK

If you want winning, look no further than Team BLQK. They won two of the three events during the past years MLP circuit and they are owned by Ritchie Tuazon. Tuazon is a fixed income portfolio manager at Capital Group. He is also co-founder of BLQK coffee, a coffee brand that donates 25% of it’s profits to social justice issues.

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10.) Brené Brown and Charles Kiley
  • Team: ATX Pickle Baller 

Backing the ATX Pickle Ballers is the tandem of Brené Brown and Charles Kiley. Brown is an author and lecturer who went viral for her TED talks. She is a motivational speaker who has helped inspired millions to just try even when you can’t control the outcome. Kiley is a longtime friend of Brown and is now her chief financial officer. This is a fierce duo of owners that the whole MLP should be on the lookout for.

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11.) Bryan Sheffield and Tim Klitch
  • Team: The Ranchers

Heading The Ranchers are businessmen Bryan Sheffield and Tim Klitch. Sheffield is the founder of Parsley Energy, a hydrocarbon exploration company in the Permian Basin.

Klitch worked in banking for over 25 years before stepping into his passion of pickleball. Klitch developed the Austin Pickle Ranch and has been a key reason why we’ve seen pickleball become even more accessible. One thing is for sure, it’s impossible not to spot Klitch at MLP event’s wearing his iconic cowboy hat.

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12.) Wes Hurt, Tim Berry, Brad Beckworth, and Nav Sooch
  • Team: Clean Cause

Clean Cause has the backing of several major big names in the entrepreneurial and business front. Brad Beckworth is a prominent attorney and a small business owner, Wes Hurt is a serial entrepreneur, Tim Berry is the founder of Pennybacker Capital, and Nav Sooch is is the co-founder of Silicon Labs. Together they make a all-star squad of owners.

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13.) Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters
  • Team: TBD

Starting the batch of new owners in MLP are legendary quarterback Tom Brady and tennis legend Kim Clijsters. Brady and Clijsters acquired a team in the MLP mid-way through last season, so they will have to wait until next season to find out what franchise they will own. These are two of the fiercest competitors the world of sports has ever seen, don’t be surprised to see that intensity in the owners box.

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14.) LeBron James, Mav Carter, Draymond Green, Kevin Love
  • Team: TBD

Through LRMR ventures which has seen LeBron invest in a number of professional sports teams as well as his own media company, was announced to be apart of a purchasing group for an MLP team. The group is joined by notable NBA champions Draymond Green and Kevin Love. James longtime business partner and friend Mav Carter also joins the ownership group.

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15.) Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman
  • Team: TBD

It’s hard to rival the sports media empire that Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman built with their Boardroom brand, and they are adding another asset to that company with the purchasing of an MLP team. Durant has been seen on social media playing pickleball for fun and has admitted he’s an enthusiast of the sport. I can’t wait to hear what kind of trash-talking may ensue between Kevin Durant and LeBron James on the pickleball court.

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16.) Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, Rich Paul
  • Team: TBD

A team coming to Major League Pickleball next season with almost every flavor of the sports industry is headed by Patrick Mahomes. Joining Mahomes is tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, top–ranked mens tennis player Nick Kyrgios, and sports agent Rich Paul. There are some heavy hitters and frequent winners in this ownership group that should be more than competitive.

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17.) Anheuser-Busch
  • Team: TBD

The last ownership name to be tied to a team is the iconic brand Anheuser-Busch, who became the first Fortune 250 company to make a big investment into Major League Pickleball. This agreement will give Anheuser-Busch a founding partnership with the larger MLP league and control over one of the league’s expansion teams – with ownership over everything from who the team drafts to which sponsors they bring on to support.

18.) Richard Chaifetz
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Richard Chaifetz is the billionaire founder of the private investment firm The Chaifetz Group. He’s also one of the world’s top investors, licensed neuropsychologist and philanthropist. With a resume like that, one can only imagine how successful his St. Louis Shock franchise will be!

His son Ross Chaifetz will be involved in the day-to-day management of the team as they look to bring a professional sports championship back to their hometown. The Shock will start their season in the Premier Level.

19.) Ryan DeVos
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Ryan DeVos (son of Betsy and Dick DeVos – founders of Amway) is the Vice President of Shareholder Engagement for the NBA’s Orlando Magic as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Misfits Gaming, an Esports organization based in South Florida.

DeVos will own the Orlando Squeeze, who will start their season in the Challenger Level.

20.) Odell Beckham Jr.
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Odell Beckham Jr. is a three time NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, and is bringing his business acumen to professional pickleball as one of the owners of the Washington D.C. expansion team.

The ownership group–which also features Eva Longoria, Justin Verlander and Kate Upton–also purchased 50% of the Mexican soccer team Club Necaxa of Liga MX.


Major League Pickleball Teams: Introducing All 12!

Wondering who the 12 Major League Pickleball teams are and which one to root for? Get your paddles ready because the 2023 Major League Pickleball is about to be in full swing! MLP is set to kickoff its next season in Mesa, Arizona at the end of January. This is the most anticipated season of MLP to date because of the addition of several high-profile owners.

Related: The Pros Behind MLP: Meet Some of the Faces in Major League Pickleball

This season will start with 12 total teams who have already drafted all their rosters. What’s so significant about this season isn’t just the new owners, it’s the new players. A merger with VIBE, a competitor to MLP in the team pickleball space, added an influx of some of the best pickleball players in the world. Here are the 12 teams that will make up the first half of the Major League Pickleball season.

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1. New Jersey 5s
  • Team: Anna Leigh-Waters, James Ignatowich, Lea Jansen, Hayden Patriquin

The New Jersey 5s are one of MLP’s original franchises. They decided to go young in this years draft, selecting 15-year-old pickleball phenom Anna Leigh-Waters with the first overall pick. They have a great mix of dominant female players and talented male players that they should make some nice runs throughout the season.

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2. Seattle Pioneers
  • Team: Ben Johns, Etta Wright, Tyler Loong, Meghan Sheehan-Dizon

The Pioneers selected who many consider the GOAT of pickleball with the second overall pick, Ben Johns, who has won 22 majors, 70 PPA events, and helped team BLQK lift the Pritchard Cup at the inaugural MLP event. The Pioneers are stacked with top-20 talent and will surely be making deep runs at every event.

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3. ATX Pickle Baller
  • Team: JW Johnson, Jackie Kawamoto, Gabriel Tardio, Jade Kawamoto

Team ATX Pickle Ballers selected JW Johnson, the #1 ranked doubles male player in the world. Johnson had an exceptional year, reaching #1 in all three events this year. Joining JW are the Kawamoto twins Jade and Jackie as well as Gabriel Tardio who saw a big jump in his game last season.

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4. New York Hustlers
  • Team: Anna Bright, Tyson McGuffin, Lacy Schneemann, Rafa Hewett

There are few teams in MLP this season that will be able to compete with the intensity that the New York Hustlers bring. Anna Bright and Lacy Schneemann are absolute animals on the court, constantly attacking and winning firefights. McGuffin and Hewett are two of the most animated pickleball pros that exist and it is some of the most entertaining pickleball you will ever witness.

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5. Los Angeles Mad Drops
  • Team: Catherine Parenteau, Julian Arnold, Irina Tereschenko, Thomas Wilson

There are few, maybe no one that has the winning resumé that Irina Tereschenko has in Major League Pickleball. She has won three tournaments out of the four that MLP has had. Joining her is the #3 ranked female player in the world Catherine Patenteau and MLP veteran Julian Arnold.

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6. So-Cal Hard Eights
  • Team: Riley Newman, Lindsay Newman, AJ Koller, Mary Brascia

The Hard Eights started their draft by selecting the Newman sibling duo of Riley and Lindsay. Together they won multiple mixed double PPA events and have countless experience playing together. Joining them are MLP veterans Mary Brascia and AJ Koller. Brascia went viral last season for hitting an incredible behind the head shot.

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7. Cabo !Vamos!
  • Team: Jay Devilliers, Allyce Jones, Eric Lange, Simone Jardim

Team Cabo !Vamos! had an exceptional MLP draft, snagging multiple late-round sleepers. They chose Frenchman Jay Devilliers with their first round selection. After that they chose Simone Jardim, widely considered the GOAT of pickleball because of her longevity and history in the sport. Joining them are Eric Lange and Allyce Jones. One things for sure, if this team gets the ball rolling no one will want to stand in their way.

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8. Florida Smash
  • Team: Jessie Irvine, Jorja Johnson, Travis Rettenmaier, Collin Johns

Florida Smash started their draft out swinging, selecting #2 ranked doubles professional Jessie Irvine. Alongside her is Jorja Johnson, a 15-year-old phenom who took MLP by storm last year, helping lead the Hard Eights to a dreambreaker championship set at MLP Columbus. Joining them is Collin Johns and Florida Smash co-owner Travis Rettenmaier.

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9. Las Vegas Night Owls
  • Team: Vivienne David, Lauren Stratman, Dekel Bar, Kyle Yates

Building out the Las Vegas Night Owls roster are Vivenne David and Dekel Bar who train alongside each other throughout the year at Dreamland. Joining them is Lauren Stratman one of the best short accuracy players in the game. Kyle Yates also joins the Night Owls brining some veteran MLP knowledge to the team.

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10. California BLQK Bears
  • Team: Andrea Koop, Federico Staksrud, Dylan Frazier, Maggie Brascia

If there is one franchise to fear in Major League Pickleball it’s the BLQK Bears. Team BLQK won two of the three events last seasons as well as the inaugural MLP event two years ago. They have a stacked roster this season with all top-20 players. If they can replicate their winning ways, it may be time to label BLQK as the Boston Celtics of Major League Pickleball.

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11. Milwaukee Mashers
  • Team: Callie Jo Smith, Andrei Daescu, Lucia Kovalova, DJ Young

The Mashers were able to secure the female doubles tandem of Callie Jo Smith and Lucia Kovalova. Smith is a top-5 ranked female player and has immense experience playing alongside Kovalova. Young and Daescu have both played in MLP championship games, giving the Mashers invaluable experience when it matters most.

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12. Frisco Clean Cause
  • Team: Zane Navratil, Lina Padegimaite, Matt Wright, Yana Grechkina

Clean Cause took the safe route and selected two-time Pritchard Cup winner Zane Navratil with their first round pick. They would follow that choice up with top-5 ranked male doubles player Matt Wright and top-ranked female player Yana Grechkina. Lina Padegimaite and Navratil add great MLP expertise to this squad.

Which of these 12 Major League Pickleball teams will you be cheering on throughput the season? Let us know on Twitter @137pm !


Anna Leigh Waters: First Overall Pick in MLP Draft

With the first pick in the MLP Draft, the 5’s select… Anna Leigh Waters!

Major League Pickleball is about to get a whole lot more exciting. This past week, the owners and general managers for the teams that make up Major League Pickleball met in Las Vegas to draft their rosters for the upcoming season. This is the first draft since the VIBE and MLP merger, meaning that the pool of players nearly doubled, with some notable names joining the league.


The 5’s, owned by Gary Vaynerchuk and Ryan Harwood (who also serves as GM), were tasked with making the first selection in this years draft. They chose fifteen year old pickleball phenom Anna Leigh Waters. Here is everything you need to know about Waters.

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Anna Leigh Waters

With the choice of any male or female pickleball player in the draft pool, The 5’s chose Anna Leigh Waters, a fifteen year old phenom from Florida who started playing pickleball in 2017.

She has triple crowned at seven different PPA events, won six US Open gold medals, and six USAPA Nationals gold medals. According to PPA’s records, Waters is the top ranked single and doubles female player in the world. She boasts a singles ranking of 9,900 points, nearly 3,000 more points than that of second.

In mixed doubles rankings, one of the most important aspects of Major League Pickleballs format, Waters again ranks first overall. Waters and Ben Johns are the only two mixed doubles players to have reached a score of above 8,000 points.

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Q&A with the 5’s General Manager Ryan Harwood

I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Harwood and talk about the MLP draft, Anna Leigh Waters and why YOU should be a fan of the 5’s!. Here’s what he had to say:

ONE37pm: Tell me a little bit about how excited you were when you found out the 5’s had the 1st pick in the draft? 

Ryan Harwood: When I found out I had the number one pick in the draft in the newly merged league, I was ecstatic! It was pretty clear there was a dominant female player and a dominant male player and I had my pick of those. It was just incredibly exciting to be able to build the team around one of those personalities and players. 

ONE37pm: With your choice of every available player, you selected Anna Leigh Waters. Tell me what it was about her–besides her obvious talent–that led you to select her 1st overall. 

Ryan Harwood: I selected Anna Leigh Waters for a number of reasons. Number one, she’s by far the most dominant female. She triple crowns almost every single time and when I looked at the field of the women’s vs. the men’s side there’s a pretty big drop-off. There was more depth on the men’s side. A wise man once told me “you’re only as good as your weakest link”, so if Anna Leigh Waters is playing the left hand side with a strong male, the sky’s the limit. I don’t see them getting beat. It was a no brainer to shore up the female side of the lineup. Also she’s fifteen years old, she has an incredible personality and a great head on her shoulders. Even as dominant as she is now, she has that much more potential for growth. 

ONE37pm: How cool is it that pickleball is such an inclusive sport, in all age ranges and genders, that a 15-year-old female was selected with the top pick?!

Ryan Harwood: It’s pretty spectacular that a fifteen year old girl can be selected with the number one pick and then you also have someone in their forties being selected in the top ten. All sizes, genders, races, ages, demographics, it’s such an inclusive sport and the fact they can all compete together is awesome. 

ONE37pm: Was the experience in this year’s draft more exciting than last year, with a larger pool of players due to the merger with Vibe/PPA? 

Ryan Harwood: The experience in this year’s draft was more exciting than last year for a couple reasons. One is I had a year under my belt. Now I understood the sport better and also understood a lot of the players and the dynamics. Who I thought subjectively was underrated vs overrated and that’s fun. I equate this to fantasy football where you get really excited to do that draft, except in this instance there’s table stakes involved. Yes, the larger pool of players made it that much more interesting to see how strong the teams are. Every single team is strong because you had the top half of the strongest MLP players and the top half of the strongest PPA players and now all of the sudden every team feels like a super team. It’s gonna be fun and competitive and I can’t wait to see. 

ONE37pm: Tell us a bit more about your full roster including the other players you drafted after Waters. 

Ryan Harwood: After Anna Leigh I had the 24th and 25th pick. I selected James Ignatowich. I watched James play a few times last year at MLP and I thought he was incredibly exciting as a personality and a talent. Word on the street is that the kid just continues to improve every single day. He works his ass off. I think he’s a tremendous talent. I also know he plays well with Anna Leigh, they practice together and having that chemistry and friendship is important. Lea Jansen, I think she dropped way too far in the draft. She’s a top ranked female player in the PPA and I was thrilled to get her at the 25th pick. The final pick was super interesting. I had the 48th pick and ultimately I had to do what I thought was best and really listen to the players. I gathered as much information as possible and my players were very bullish on drafting Hayden. He’s 17 years old and he’s improving on the daily. He had a great run at the end of 2022 medaling at several tournaments. I think we’re only on the up and up. 

ONE37pm: What would you say to a new pickleball fan who is trying to figure out which team to root for? Give us your quick pitch on why the 5’s should be that team. 

Ryan Harwood: My pitch on why you shoot root for The 5’s is that we have the best owners in the sport, we have the most exciting players in the sport, we have the best social media and content output in the sport, and we care. If you take a look and go to these tournaments, the competitive clowns, from the VeeFriends side of things, come out and cheer. We are building a real brand around The 5’s. We get rowdy, we get live, we like to have fun, so come join us. 

Team Results Post Draft
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ATX Pickleballers
  • JW Johnson
  • Jackie Kawamoto
  • Jade Kawamoto
  • Gabriel Tardio
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Cabo ¡Vamos!
  • Jay Devilliers
  • Simone Jardim
  • Allyce Jones
  • Erik Lange
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California BLQK Bears
  • Andrea Koop
  • Dylan Frazier
  • Federico Staksrud
  • Maggie Brascia
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Florida Smash
  • Jessie Irvine
  • Jorja Johnson
  • Travis Rettenmaier
  • Collin Johns
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Frisco Clean Cause
  • Zane Navratil
  • Matt Wright
  • Lina Padegimaite
  • Yana Grechkina
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Las Vegas Night Owls
  • Vivienne David
  • Dekel Bar
  • Lauren Stratman
  • Kyle Yates
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Los Angeles Mad Drops
  • Catherine Parenteau
  • Irina Tereschenko
  • Julian Arnold
  • Thomas Wilson
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Milwaukee Mashers
  • Callie Jo Smith
  • Lucia Kovalova
  • Andrei Daescu
  • DJ Young
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New Jersey 5s
  • Anna Leigh Waters
  • James Ignatowich
  • Lea Jansen
  • Hayden Patriquin
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NY Hustlers
  • Anna Bright
  • Tyson McGuffin
  • Rafa Hewett
  • Lacy Schneemann
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Seattle Pioneers
  • Ben Johns
  • Etta Wright
  • Tyler Loong
  • Meghan Sheehan-Dizon
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SoCal Hard Eights
  • Riley Newman
  • AJ Koller
  • Mary Brascia
  • Lindsay Newman

Is Pickleball A College Sport?

Is pickleball a college sport? Before I answer that question, let’s first discuss the fastest growing sport in the United States!

The sport of pickleball continues to grow everyday, and the game is not slowing down. After the Covid-19 pandemic began to come to an end and people ventured outside again, a new sport began to grab our attention. Pickleball.

We have seen professional pickleball leagues like Major League Pickleball establish themselves as powerhouses with a number of high profile owners.


As the infrastructure of the sport continues to be built the question becomes, where do we go next? The obvious answer is schools. The key to building pickleball into an even bigger staple in American sports is by getting paddles into kids hands at a young age at school. Currently there is no pickleball in college, but there are efforts to get there one day.

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Pickleball At The Collegiate Level

Currently, pickleball is not recognized as a collegiate sport. This means that schools do not actively organize pickleball games or tournaments. As the sport is still relatively young, it hasn’t been established enough to where there would be a big enough pool of players. The next step in building pickleball up into an even bigger game is getting it into schools.

Building the infrastructure to have pickleball in schools is a crucial part of Steve Kuhn, founder of Major League Pickleball, plan to grow the game he loves even more. After meeting with the mayor of Columbus, Kuhn told us: “We were fortunate enough to meet the mayor of Columbus, and had a long conversation with him about how it would be incredibly easy to implement pickleball in the schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools… This will be a sport that every kid will enjoy. But there will be some kids that this could be their thing. That would be the thing that would really help them be happier during a very difficult time for some kids.”

There is no official announcement about when or how pickleball will be introduced to the collegiate level but without a doubt it is a main goal for proponents of pickleball. At MLP Columbus, the last event of the year for the professional pickleball tour, held a game before the championship matchup between four students at two different colleges. This is as far as we know the first collegiate pickleball game ever recorded. 

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Professional Pickleball

Major League Pickleball, the premier professional pickleball league for team competitions, was first founded in 2021. The league runs team competitions throughout the year with a prize purse given away at each event. Last season the MLP traveled to three separate destinations to put on their events. 

This year MLP will be having a massive expansion in teams and ownerships. People like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Kim Clijsters, and even the beer brand Anheuser-Busch have bought into MLP. Next year it is rumored that MLP will be expanding it’s team competition play to at least six events that will see them traveling to new states and locations. With the rapid growth that pickleball is seeing, there is a real shot that we see the sport introduced into the college level. 

The first step in ushering in pickleball to the college level would be building it out in earlier school systems first. It is such a cheap and accessible sport there is no reason every gym class in America should have the opportunity to play pickleball. The next step would be to ensure that there is a big enough player pool for collegiate pickleball to happen. If every school can create a pickleball team or program alongside an already established tennis program, the process would be seamless. 

So is pickleball a college sport? Only time will tell. There is one thing for sure, pickleball is on a meteoric rise and is not looking to slow down. With the innovation and passion of Steve Kuhn at Major League Pickleball, there is a real possibility that we even see the sport in the Olympics one day. If your school offered pickleball lessons or courts to play, would you grab a paddle and try out the sport? Let us know on twitter @137pm.


Rob Gronkowski Calls Tom Brady ‘Trash’ in Pickleball: Challenges Him

Rob Gronkowski calls Tom Brady ‘Trash’ in pickleball… Once brothers, now enemies?

For over a decade Gronk and Brady tortured opposing defenses in the NFL, scoring countless touchdowns and winning four Super Bowls. Now as Gronk enjoys his days of retirement and Brady tries to extend his legacy in the NFL, the sprout of a beef between the two longtime friends is beginning to bloom. Gronk has called out Brady in the most unlikely of domains: The pickleball court!

Related: LeBron James Owns Major League Pickleball Team

That’s right, one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history has issued a challenge to his former quarterback:

Bros vs. Pros

On December 3rd, the Gronkowski brothers got together to put on their Bros vs. Pros pickleball fundraiser event. The event was to help raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of America. Throughout the event we saw a number of memorable matchups, but it was what Rob Gronkowski said in an exclusive interview with ONE37pm’s Tara Bernstein after the game that caught our attention. 

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Tara: “I know Tom Brady is also into the pickleball game and he’s your guy, one on one who’s winning?

Gronk: “He’s trash too, those quarterbacks have no skill other than throwing the ball. Let’s call him right now, let’s play.” 

Gronk vs. Brady

Pretty bold words about the guy who throws you all your touchdown passes. Is Gronk biting off a little more than he can chew? We know Tom Brady is heavily involved in pickleball, as he’s an owner of a Major League Pickleball team.

I think a key question here is would the footwork of a tight end or a quarterback be suited better for the pickleball court? We know Gronk would be smashing dinks, but Brady has incredible footwork and control as a quarterback. I guess we’ll have to hope these two take it to the court one day to find out!

So even though Rob Gronkowski calls Tom Brady ‘Trash’ in pickleball, who would win that match? Gronk or the GOAT?!


Pickleball Under One Roof: Major League Pickleball and VIBE Merger Announced 

In the early days of basketball and football in the United States, there was tight competition between leagues of the same sports. It wasn’t until the NFL and NBA rose to such prominence that the AFL and ABA would merge. Instead of going back and forth for years about who is the premier league, Major League Pickleball and VIBE have agreed upon a merger that will satisfy both leagues. Here is everything you need to know about the most significant moment in professional pickleball to date. 


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The Professional Pickleball Association, known as PPA, created VIBE in order to establish a league with team competitions. The PPA currently has some of the best pickleball players in the world including Ben Johns and Tyson McGuffin among others. The league was slated to start this year with a draft in December, but now the league will be merged with the already established Major League Pickleball. MLP will continue to live under the “Major League Pickleball” brand name and format.

Major League Pickleball, or MLP, has been at the forefront of professional team pickleball competitions. Last season the MLP put together three tournaments throughout the year, with a $100,000 prize for each winning team. MLP only showcases team competitions, with the occasional overtime ‘Dreambreaker’ that pits singles against each other in a four point rally.

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What Does This Mean?

The agreed upon merger will give MLP the exclusive rights to team competitions, and PPA will have the exclusive rights to singles play. This is more than great news for both leagues, as now we get to see the best pickleball players in the world all play in the same competitions. This also allows for two leagues to be successful in the pickleball world, which will hopefully lead to even more interest in the sport. So far MLP has made all the right moves, only time will tell how big the league might get. 

MLP will now officially be expanding to 24 teams for the 2023 season, with more owners to be announced in the near future. The MLP will host a draft similar to what they did last year, which means every team should have a new roster next season. There will be six tournaments across the season that will see MLP and its pro’s travel the United States, bringing pickleball from sea to shining sea.


Anheuser-Busch Buys Into Major League Pickleball

Major League Pickleball has done it again. The professional pickleball league that has seen the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, Tom Brady, Kim Clijster, and Drew Brees has just added another big player to its ever growing list of owners, Anheuser-Busch. 

RELATED: The Pros Behind MLP: Meet Some of the Faces in Major League Pickleball

AB InBev, the parent company of brewing company Anheuser-Busch, has announced the purchase of a team in Major League Pickleball. Anheuser-Busch becomes the first Fortune 250 company to make a big investment into Major League Pickleball. This agreement will give Anheuser-Busch a founding partnership with the larger MLP league and control over one of the league’s expansion teams – with ownership over everything from who the team drafts to which sponsors they bring on to support.

“Anheuser-Busch is one of the most impactful professional sport sponsors in the US, to have them join as an ownership partner is an incredible opportunity for Major League Pickleball,” said MLP Founder and CEO Steve Kuhn. “They have a unique ability in understanding the needs of fans, bringing them closer to the sport and brands they love. I can’t wait to see how this partnership will elevate both the MLP and the sport of Pickleball in the years to come.” 

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Major League Pickleball

It seems as though the sky’s the limit for Major League Pickleball with the influx of sponsorship and business savvy investors. With a firm infrastructure being built, the MLP will need to find new ways to gain a broader audience and fanbase. As of now, there are twelve teams in the MLP, with each owner drafting a new roster out of available pros before each season. With the league being so young, there is still room for major changes to the framework. One thing some players on the tour made clear was that they would like to see franchises tied to cities. 

Major League Pickleball just finished out its 2022 season in Columbus—the third overall event for the year. Next year, MLP will be hosting an expanded six tournaments that will see the league travel across the country, bringing pickleball action from coast to coast. There is no official announcement of where and when those events will take place, but to stay up to date with the latest in Major League Pickleball, make sure to follow ONE37pm across socials. 


The Pros Behind MLP: Meet Some of the Faces in Major League Pickleball

It was 1965, and Joel Pritchard was at his home with his kids near Seattle, Washington. Out of boredom, he decided to create a game for the family to enjoy. That game has now become the fastest growing sport in the United States: pickleball. The great game of pickleball has reached impressive heights in the last few years, and it’s just getting started. 


Major League Pickleball has dominated headlines in the pickleball and the sports world in general because of its current and new high-profile owners. Names like Lebron James, Tom Brady, and Kevin Durant have all bought into the league. These names all have one thing in common, they make good investments. James, Brady, and Durant have built media empires through their brand and excellent play in their sport. 

What has gone under-the-radar are the actual faces of MLP, the best pickleball players in the world. While the headlines have been dominated with big names, a question still remains, is the hype real? After spending the weekend at MLP Columbus, I learned that it is more than real. What isn’t conveyed on a livestream or T.V. broadcast is the intensity and pride these pro-pickleball players carry themselves with.

After a weekend of exploring MLP Columbus, watching entertaining match after entertaining match, and interacting with a number of players, my perspective on pickleball will be forever changed. Here are some of the elite athletes that make up Major League Pickleball.

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Jorja Johnson

Jorja Johnson is from Boynton Beach, Florida and is one of the youngest professional pickleball players at 16 years old. The Johnson family tree is one of the most elite in pickleball. Her brother, J.W., is one of the top ranked players in the world and her mom, Julie, is one of the most decorated senior pro pickleball players. Her team faced off against J.W.’s during MLP Columbus which saw an epic five set dreambreaker. Jorja and the Hard Eights were able to pull it out after an improbable comeback.

Jorja Johnson: “We had a couple of bad breaks with some net chords and just unlucky shots where it hit the tape and didn’t quite roll over for us. I think we just had to really stay in it mentally, and you know, eventually, that doesn’t work forever, and the tides will turn in your direction. So you just have to remember that. Any luck can turn around in just a second.”

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Simone Jardim

While many players, even on the pro-tour, are relatively new to the game of pickleball, Simone Jardim has been around the game since 2016. After coming to the United States from Brazil on a tennis scholarship, Jardim coached at Michigan State. She was convinced one day to play and after that the rest was history. She is one of the most decorated professional pickleball players with 17 PPA Tour titles. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to commit for a whole season due to injuries, but after the first MLP event of the year that fire started burning again.

Simone Jardim: “The first event, when I went, it brought back memories of being on a team which is my foundation. I came to America to be on a team to play college tennis and then I coached for many years. So it brought back all of that and more because pickleball is different, it’s unique. The format is unique, so all of it was just like a different feeling. It made me fall in love with pickleball over again.”

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Rafa Hewett

Rafa Hewett is from Idaho and played collegiate tennis. After getting a pickleball paddle as a birthday gift, he decided to give the game a try. Despite not knowing any of the rules, Hewett took gold at his first tournament and decided to dedicate his time to going pro. It proved to be a good decision, with his team winning two of the three tournaments this past MLP season. It wasn’t just the winning that helped Hewett fall in love with pickleball, but it was the game itself.

Rafa Hewett: “Where can you find a sport where you can have four generations on the court? I can have my grandmother, my mother, and my seven-year-old daughter, and myself all on the same court at the same time. I can’t do that with any other sport. That’s what’s so great to me, I’m gonna be able to play this sport pretty much till the day I die.”

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Irina Tereschenko

Irina Tereschenko is from Moscow, Russia, but has been living in the United States for over 20 years. Tereschenko played collegiate tennis at Texas Tech before transitioning into a coaching career. She helped propel team BLQK to two tournament victories this MLP season, most recently at MLP Columbus. She is a veteran of the game of pickleball, first picking up a paddle in 2013 and sees pickleball as a game for the masses.

Irina Tereschenko: “From a broader perspective for people who don’t have a tennis background, this game is absolutely unique because the way the rules and the equipment are designed. It really blurs the boundaries between age and gender and the learning curve is very short. I think the world has never seen a sport like this, it’s been around for awhile but, I’m glad it’s having a resurgence right now.”

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Gabriel Tardio

Gabriel Tardio is a 17-year-old professional pickleball player who currently lives in Florida. After his grandfather fell in love with the game of pickleball, he built two courts in their home country of Bolivia, which exposed Gabriel to the game for the first time. He immediately was drawn to the sport and has quickly climbed the professional ranks. There is no doubt the future is bright for the young pickleballer in the MLP.

Gabriel Tardio: “What I love about pickleball is it’s such a fast sport, but at the same time you have to be patient. It’s fast and patient. It’s also such a new sport, it’s great.”

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Lina Padegimaite

Lina Padegimaite is a professional pickleball player originally from Lithuania. She originally came to the United States on a tennis scholarship and  obtained a degree in exercise science, as well as a doctorate in physical therapy. She began playing pickleball in 2020, but fully started dedicating herself to the game in 2021. She see’s pickleball growing into an international game.

Lina Padegimaite: “I’m Lithuanian, and we just started Lithuania’s pickleball federation this year and we’re going to host the first tournament in November. So I think it’s just going to start kind of branching out into other communities, which I think is huge because the more countries playing the sport then you can start being considered for Olympics at some point”

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Federico Staksrud

Federico Staksrud is from Argentina and currently ranks as the fifth best mens single pickleball player in the world. Staksrud originally came to the United States for collegiate tennis. He started playing pickleball in 2021 and immediately was addicted.

Federico Staksrud: “I just really like that you can have fun playing with all different levels. I play pro but I can have fun playing with amateur players, kids, older people, I really like that aspect of the game.

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Lee Whitwell

Without a doubt a fan-favorite at MLP Columbus was the great Lee Whitwell from Gibraltar. Whitwell came to the United States in “the late 1900’s” (her words not mine) on a tennis scholarship. She enjoyed an illustrious collegiate career and played professional tennis before reverting into a coaching/directing role. A friend finally convinced her to participate in a pickleball tournament in 2017, and the rest would be history.

Lee Whitwell: “My friend of mine asked me to play in a tournament and at first I was reluctant. I always knew I had a price. I always knew I could be bought, but I thought my price was high. Come to find out, my price is a case of Coors Light. We actually won, but more-so than the win was the fun I had on the court. It was the most fun thing I’d ever done, I could never imagine having that much fun at a competition.”

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Ben Newell

Ben Newell is from Topeka, Kansas, and has a deep tennis background. He first picked up the paddle around 2019 playing in tournaments and local leagues. At heart, Newell is a competitor, and MLP gives him the opportunity to express that on a big stage. However, he wants to see the MLP experience evolve for the fans.

Ben Newell: “The thing I would change would be anything for the fans. Can they connect with us more, can we connect with them more, it would be so fun to throw stuff to the crowd. Have more of an introduction about who the players are so we can find some local fans in the crowd. Anything to connect with the fanbase because we’re playing for them.”

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Mary Brascia

Mary Brascia is a 22-year-old professional pickleball player from California. She had a background in tennis but during the pandemic she was nudged by her parents to try the sport. Once she started playing she was hooked right away, falling in love with the sport and community surrounding it. Brascia went viral during MLP Columbus for an absurd behind the back shot she returned during a rally. She told us what was going through her head when she made the return.

Mary Brascia: “I actually do hit that shot in practice, in the moment, it’s just kind of a reflex. The fact I did it in a match wasn’t really a shock to me but to everyone else it was like, “what?!” It’s just a weird thing I have haha.”

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Rob Nunnery

If you want to know what dedication looks like, just look to Rob Nunnery. Nunnery currently resides in Hawaii, but travels in-land for MLP tournaments and other events. He currently hosts a pickleball podcast with fellow pro-player Adam Stone on-top of playing. Nunnery has a clear vision of the potential MLP has and expressed that passionately.

Rob Nunnery: I think the big question is how friendly will it be viewership wise on television. I think another big piece is will sports betting be involved in pickleball. I think when that happens the sport will have to be regulated a lot more, but it’s gonna get a ton more eyeballs on it. I think that’s where the pro aspect of pickleball really takes off.”