Categories
Sports

Major League Pickleball Brings the Game to Wall Street

As you know, pickleball is the sport of the future. It’s garnered the attention of everyday people, top athletes in other sports and even power players on Wall Street. In support of next week’s launch of the 2022 Major League Pickleball season, the MLP Founder, Steve Kuhn was invited to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The NYSE also hosted an exhibition pickleball match featuring four of the top players in the trending sport. This marked the first time in history that a sporting event was held in the New York Stock Exchange.

The historic event, which took place in front of a select group of spectators, was livestreamed on New York Stock Exchange’s YouTube channel.

With a 40% increase in interest in pickleball, the sport which has been around since the mid 1960s, is currently the fastest growing sport in America. An estimated 4 million+ people picked up paddles in 2021 alone.

The Major League Pickleball’s 2022 season officially kicks off June 3rd in Austin, Texas. The highly anticipated Finals match can be watched on CBS Sports Network on June 5th.

This Saturday (May 28th), the invitation-only live draft reveal show will take place in New York at the iconic USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. Check out MajorLeaguePickleball.net, as well as MLP’s YouTube and Facebook channels for highlights.

Stay locked in with ONE37pm for all of the most up to date information on all things pickleball.

Categories
Sports

Best Pickleball Paddles For Professionals

Pickleball paddles can be difficult to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you have to shop for one alone.

The sports’s rapid growth in the United States has been astounding over recent years.

With that growth, more and more players are working their way onto the professional circuits.

Big names like Ben Johns and Ana Leigh Waters have consistently found success on the men’s and women’s sides of the sport, respectively.

So today, we’re taking a look at which paddles players should look into if they want to take the next step in their careers.

ONE37pm examines the best pickleball paddles for professionals.

Paddletek Bantam
Kyle Yates/IG

The Paddletek Bantam is known of being a bit more lightweight than other paddles, which is ideal for quick-reacting players. That extra split second can make all the difference during a point.

Joola Ben Johns Hyperion CFS
Ben Johns/IG

Johns made the switch to upstart pickleball brand Joola in recent months after being the face of Franklin. Joola paddles are commonly known for having plenty of control and utilizing a carbon fiber frame capable of lasting for long periods.

Electrum
Ana Leigh Waters/IG

Many professional players use Electrum paddles and Waters is probably the most known player for doing so. These paddles have long reaches which allows players to retrieve balls near The Kitchen easier than some others.

Selkirk Amped Invikta Signature
Tyson McGuffin/IG

Tyson McGuffin is an extremely recognized talent on the men’s pickleball tour. Selkirk and its designs offer more power than many competing products. The paddle’s handle is also a bit longer and mimics that of a tennis racquet for players with bigger hands.

GAMMA
Riley Newman/IG

Gamma is becoming more of a common paddle in pickleball because of its long paddle face. It allows players to have extended reach both near The Kitchen and baseline.

Head Gravity
Steve Deakin/IG

Head is a traditional name in the tennis space and their involvement in pickleball continues to grow. These paddles have a smaller grip but they’re very compact and have a solid sweet spot in the center.

Categories
Sports

Guide To Pickleball Rankings

Playing a new sport is extremely exciting and with pickleball’s growth in the United States many players are picking it up.

Pickleball is one of the most accessible sports.

One question that can be difficult to answer though is where a new player would fall in the pickleball rankings.

[ MORE: Guide to Pickleball Terms ]

For that reason, there are various skill ratings systems in place to help new players establish where they stand.

Additionally, established professionals and other serious players can track their progress.

ONE37pm looks at some of the ways to track pickleball rankings and the differences between some of the levels.

USA Pickleball Skill Ratings

In pickleball, the vast majority of players fall under a pickleball ratings scale of 1.0 through 5.0.

Players can achieve higher than a 5.0 by competing and succeeding in high-level competitions.

1.0 players are considering beginners and often don’t have the necessary background to compete against top players.

YinYang

Players that rise to a 3.0 or higher are expected to be proficient serving and returning the ball.

Players should also know all the rules of pickleball, including important ones pertaining to The Kitchen.

5.0 players are advanced and can hold long rallies and control pickleball points with ease.

Players can win points with their forehand and backhand strokes, while also having strong net play.

How Do I Get A Rating?

Establishing a rating can be difficult early on as a player, especially when you don’t feel comfortable playing in tournaments.

There are simple solutions though.

Players can self rate themselves based on how they play against fellow players in a more relaxed environments.

It’s important to be accurate and honest when self rating because it only benefits the player.

Professional players have their rankings updated regularly when competing in tournaments.

That is something that many new pickleball players want to aspire towards in their careers.

DUPR Ratings

DUPR stands for Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating. It is the leading system used for player rankings.

This scale differs from traditional pickleball rankings. It ranges from 2.000 and 8.000.

The formula doesn’t change based on a player’s age, gender or skill.

DUPR uses a player’s last 30 singles matches and previous 60 doubles matches to establish a rating.

The system takes points won, winning and losing and match quality into account.

For example, sanctioned tournaments will earn players more clout than a recreational match.

Players can enter any result into DUPR to help progress their rankings.

DUPR traditionally updates its ratings on a weekly basis.

Categories
Sports

Guide To Pickleball Terms

Pickleball is sweeping the nation as one of the United States’ next big sports.

The sport is played by athletes of all ages and pickleball has recently received a huge boost from major celebrities.

NFL stars like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Rob Gronkowski have all hit the pickleball courts and enjoyed the sport.

Although there are many similarities to tennis and other racquet sports, some pickleball terms differ.

[ MORE: What Is The Professional Pickleball Association? ]

ONE37pm offers up some of the most important pickleball terms to you’ll need to know before hitting the courts.

The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) is one of the bodies that hosts both professional and amateur events.

The APP Tour is one of the leading tours in pickleball.

An Around-the-Post shot is one of the most exciting shots. Players wait for the right opportunity to hit the ball onto the other side around the post.

A Dead Ball occurs when a fault has happened and the ball isn’t in play any longer.

The Kitchen is the phrase used for the No Volley Zone. Players can only enter the area if the ball has bounced in it.

Volleys and overhead smashes aren’t permitted in The Kitchen.

Similar to tennis, pickleball has a variation of a drop shot known as a Dink.

Dinking occurs in or around The Kitchen and is designed for players to keep the ball as close to the net as possible.

The Double Bounce rule is similar to tennis. Players must return the ball over the net in one bounce or less.

An Erne is a shot in pickleball where a player strategically jumps from behind The Kitchen and lands out of bounds.

This shot is used to generate a surprise attack on an opponent and often finish a point off.

Faults can happen in when a ball isn’t returned over the net and if a serve isn’t put in play.

Faults are enforced if players volley inside The Kitchen as well.

A Game in pickleball is played to 11 points. A player must win by at least two points to secure a game.

Lets are different in pickleball than tennis and ping pong. A serve can hit the net and enter the court while being played.

However, when a ball hits the net cord and doesn’t go over it’s a fault.

No Man’s Land is when a player is stuck between the serving line and The Kitchen during a point.

The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) is another organization that hosts high-level tournaments across the U.S.

Passing shots occur when a player hits the ball down the line past their opponent.

Unlike tennis, Server Number is important in pickleball because in doubles each player serves when the ball is on their side of the court.

A Side Out occurs when a player or team loses a point. The serve goes over to the other side of the court.

Categories
Sports

Most Important Pickleball Rules

Pickleball’s presence in the United States is soaring and that means players across the country continue to dive deeper into the sport.

With courts and facilities popping up all over the U.S., pickleball is becoming a force in the American sports landscape.

The sport has a rising number of youth players. Pickleball has primarily been a game for adults, but that is quickly changing.

[ MORE: Meet Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka ]

On the surface, it may seem close to tennis, but there are plenty of nuances that differentiate pickleball from other sports.

ONE37pm looks at some of the most important pickleball rules that every player should know before they hit the courts.

Basic Rules of Pickleball

Pickleball is played in a singles or doubles manner.

The sport is played on the same size surface regardless of singles or doubles play.

The pickleball court is 20 feet in width by 44 feet in length.

Getty

‘The Kitchen,’ also known as the No Volley Zone, is seven feet long on both sides of the court and players can only enter when the ball bounces.

The ball must bounce on each side once after serving before a player or team can volley.

How Does Serving Work?

Unlike tennis, players cannot use an upward motion on their serve.

Pickleball requires players to utilize an underhand serve and make contact with the ball near waist level.

Play starts once the ball reaches the subsequent box.

Getty

Another difference from tennis is that there aren’t double faults. A player can only serve once before turning the ball over to the next server.

In doubles, both players on a team have the chance to serve when the ball is on their serve.

The only time this doesn’t apply is on the opening serve of the match.

Players continue to serve until they or their team don’t earn a point.

How Does Scoring Work?

Players or their team only earn points on their serve.

Games are normally played to 11 points.

In doubles, players on the right side of the court serve when their score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.).

When the serving team has an odd score (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.) they serve from the left side of the court.

What is ‘The Kitchen?’

Players can only enter ‘The Kitchen’ when the ball bounces once.

Players are able to smash the ball anywhere else on the court other than in ‘The Kitchen.’

However, players cannot have their momentum carry them into ‘The Kitchen’ even after the ball has left their paddle.

Categories
Sports

Meet Lee Whitwell, Major League Pickleball’s Fun-Loving, Beer-Drinking MVP

Proof of pickleball’s steady march towards world domination is evident just about anywhere you look. Leonardo DiCaprio has a pickleball court in his house; Stephen Colbert is hosting a primetime pickleball special; billionaires like Tom Dundon and Marc Lasry have thrown their financial heft behind professional pickleball circuits the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Major League Pickleball (MLP). But beyond the celebrity pickleball glitterati, the truest representation of the sport’s scope and reach is Lee Whitwell, the Gibraltarian reigning MLP MVP. 

Born in Gibraltar (a small British territory at the southern tip of the iberian Peninsula), Whitwell grew up playing tennis and became a Division II national champion, capturing consecutive doubles titles in 1993 and 1994 at Francis Marion University in South Carolina. After graduating in 1996, Whitwell briefly played professional tennis on the ITF tour before returning to the college ranks as an assistant coach at Alliant International University in San Diego. For the next 20 years, tennis served as one of the major orienting forces in Whitwell’s life, functioning as both a passion and an occupation. 

Then, in 2017, Whitwell picked up a pickleball paddle for the first time. Bribed by a friend with a case of beer, Whitwell reluctantly participated in her first pickleball tournament. And she won! And she loved it!

Since then, Whitwell dove deeper into the broader pickleball world, eventually becoming one of the top players on the women’s tour. Last season, Whitwell achieved the apotheosis of her budding career, winning the MLP MVP despite being the last pick in the league’s draft. Now, she’s looking to run it back.

Last week, Whitwell sat down with ONE37pm to talk about her pickleball career, her favorite beer and how novice pickleballers can improve their game.

ONE37pm: How did you start playing pickleball? 

Lee Whitwell: A few years ago, a friend signed me up to play in a pickleball tournament with her because she knew my tennis background. Initially, I had no interest—I’m not going to play something that my grandma could play. I thought pickleball was an old person’s game and I don’t fall into that category just yet. The name just sounds silly So we went back and forth about whether I would play until like 30 minutes before the start of the tournament when she offered to get me a case of Coors Light if I played. That convinced me. I didn’t know any of the rules yet, but we won the tournament and I had the time of my life, which is a rare thing in a competitive setting. 

ONE37pm: Was it hard getting over the name “pickleball” even after you started playing?

Lee Whitwell: It’s an interesting name, but I guess a lot of the other sports names have been taken, so we’re stuck with pickleball. I did a demo in Gibraltar a couple of years ago. And everybody loves it. And one of my friends came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, this is a great game and I can see how you love it, but you’ve got to change the name.” I didn’t invent the sport. I don’t have that much power, but thank you for thinking that. The sport is gaining in popularity and it’s so much fun, so I just wish that more people would be open to it and not have the stigma that it’s for retirees.  

ONE37pm: How has pickleball changed since you started playing?

Lee Whitwell: Oh my god, it’s insane. Men’s singles is my favorite thing to watch in the world. It’s so athletic, and what they’re doing is absolutely ridiculous. It’s just fast paced and, you know, essentially mini tennis with pickleball components thrown in. And the way the guys move on the court is absolutely phenomenal and beautiful to watch. The game definitely is speeding up—technology is changing so people are able to do more things with the ball and can to rip it while also putting more slice on their shots, which you couldn’t do on the older wooden paddles. People are adding more strategies to their attacks because the technology helps you shape the ball more, which gives you more options. 

ONE37pm: What’s your advice for new pickleball players?

Lee Whitwell: Less is more. People tend to try to take this huge backswing to generate pace and power, but the court isn’t that big. The closer you get to the net, the more you want to keep the paddle in front of you. A pickleball swing is more of a pushing motion than a hitting motion, if that makes sense. Imagine that you’re shutting a cupboard on your volleys and dinks and shutting a drawer on your serve. If you pull your paddle all the back and hit the ball hard with an upward motion, you’re creating a pendulum and the ball is gonna sail up and you won’t have as much control over where it goes..

Categories
Sports Strength

Meet The 5s, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Major League Pickleball Team

On Wednesday, April 6, serial entrepreneur and pickleball big wig Gary Vaynerchuk revealed the name of his new Major League Pickleball team that will make its debut this season: the 5s. Named after Vaynerchuk’s favorite number, The 5s will feature Competitive Clown, a recently unveiled VeeFriends Series 2 character, as their logo.

“5 means the world to me in the context of sports as it was the first jersey number I received and wore when I came to the US.,” said Vaynerchuk. “My mom knitted that jersey for me, and the number 5 has always been my favorite ever since. Now it’s on our Major League Pickleball team and in our logo, alongside Competitive Clown, and I couldn’t be more proud to have that number, that means so much to me, as our team name.”

Major League Pickleball

With The 5s remaining more of a concept than an actual flesh-and-blood team until the Major League Pickleball Draft on May 28, general manager Ryan Harwood will work to construct the roster and shepherd the team through its inaugural season over the summer. A former tennis player at the University of Pennsylvania, Harwood has worked closely with Vaynerchuk for years, serving as the CEO of Gallery Media Group and the founder of PureWow and ONE37pm; in other words, he’s my boss and he’s tremendously handsome and strong. 

“I think every sports fan as a kid dreams of being a GM or owner of a team,” Harwood told ONE37pm, “so I’m very pumped to flex those muscles and see what it takes.”

Drawing on his experience as an elite tennis player, Harwood hopes that his wealth of paddle-sports and management knowledge will translate to pickleball.  

“I’m not the most avid pickleball player now,” said Harwood, “but I will become one. It’s really exciting to have the chance to learn about all the players and assemble the best team possible and create a culture the same way that we’ve done in the business world.”

For Vaynerchuk, The 5s represent the acme of an interest in the sport that’s been percolating for years. Like millions of other Americans, Vaynerchuk has fallen in love with pickleball, a passion that was born when he first picked up a paddle and teamed up with Andy Roddick to beat Harwood and Andre Agassi at a charity event four years ago. Unsurprisingly, Vaynerchuk plans on being an innovative and involved owner.

“I feel like I’m going to build strategies and help execute the growth of the sport through my ownership; I plan on being an active owner, not a passive one. It’s my job to put up the dollars and help draft the team, but also to be an ambassador for the sport. Pickleball now is where the NFL and NBA were in the 1950s and ‘60s.”

But beyond growing the sport and understanding the business of, in his words, “underpriced attention,” Vaynerchuk has a single, orienting goal: “I want to win championships.”

Categories
Sports Strength

Gary Vaynerchuk Joins Major League Pickleball As Team Owner

On Tuesday, March 29th, serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk announced that he would become one of four new team owners in Major League Pickleball, an Austin, Texas-based elite pickleball league. Established in 2021, Major League Pickleball (MLP) will expand from eight to 12 teams for the 2022 season and feature 48 of the best men’s and women’s pickleball players in the world. 

By adding Vaynerchuk to a roster of owners that already featured Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and American tennis legend James Blake, MLP has demonstrated that pickleball is not just the sport of the future, but that it’s increasingly becoming the sport of the present as well. 

“MLP is the most exciting brand in pickleball, a sport that I’m very excited to be coming into at such an important stage of its development,” Vaynerchuk said in a press release. “I’ve been watching the growth of the sport over the last couple of years, and waiting for the right opportunity to jump in.

“What MLP is creating is precisely what I think pickleball needs – innovation, equality, great competition, and a central focus on the social community that this sport creates.”

On May 28, the league  will hold its annual draft at Flushing Meadows’ USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where teams will build out their four-player roster for the upcoming season. The event will be livestreamed on on MLP channels including MajorLeaguePickleball.net, MLP YouTube and Facebook. 

The regular season will begin the next weekend, with the first event of the year scheduled for June 3-5 at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, Texas. Excitingly, the finals of this event will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, giving MLP exposure to a broad audience of potential fans. 

Vaynerchuk has often said that his ultimate dream is to own the New York Jets and joining MLP is a promising step in that direction. 

For more information on the upcoming MLP campaign, check out the league’s official website.

Categories
Sports Strength

Ben Johns is the Present (and Future) of Pickleball

Ben Johns, the top-ranked pickleball player in the world and one of the most accomplished athletes in the world, is a materials science major at the University of Maryland. By weekday, he studies advanced crystals and other monomeric soft matter materials; by weekend, he hoists trophies alongside his older brother, Collin, on the Professional Pickleball Assocation. This is an incredibly specific, smaller-scale Hannah Montana story, a thrilling double life, albeit one without the high-sheen Disney Channel packaging. 

For the uninitiated, pickleball is essentially a miniaturized version of tennis—the court is confined roughly to the size of a tennis court’s deuce and ad boxes; the ball is a modified wiffle ball; the players use paddles rather than racquets. Invented by former Washington congressman Joe Pritchard in 1965 as a impromptu family-friendly activity, pickleball has become America’s fastest growing sport, increasing its player base by 39.3 percent over the course of the pandemic; as of 2021, USA Pickleball estimated that about 4.8 million Americans play the game at least once a year.

As the national champion, Johns has become the de facto ambassador for pickleball. Like seemingly all great athletes nowadays, Johns is a serial entrepreneur with a growing portfolio of ventures ranging from Pickleball Getaways (a travel agency that runs pickleball-centric beach vacations) to a cryptocurrency index fund. But really, his primary extracurricular focus seems to be on promoting and amplifying the reach of the game; recently, he launched a Pickleball 360, instructional video company, and co-hosts The Freestyle Boys, the world’s preeminent pickleball podcast.

If the fame and attention that goes along with being the face of an increasingly major sport is going to Johns’ head, you’d never be able to tell. Even as he wins six-figure purses on the PPA and has a signature line of gear at Franklin Sports, Johns is endearingly regular; he’s a normal, nice, patient guy who just happens to be exceptionally good at this one thing. 

Last week, ONE37pm sat down with Johns to talk about balancing school with pickleball, his career, and the future of the sport at large. 

ONE37pm: How did you start playing pickleball?

Ben Johns: I first got into it when I was a junior in high school. It was around 2016 and I was in Naples, Florida, which was one of the first hotspots for the sport at the time. My brother was on the pro tennis tour at the time and I played tennis too, so I was his hitting partner. There were pickleball courts right by where we practiced, so I decided to just give it a go one day because it seemed like a fun game and I liked it enough that I kept coming back. You could say more that the game really found me. 

ONE37pm: At what point did you realize that you were abnormally good at this?

Ben Johns: During that first year that I was playing at home, I noticed that I was good, just results-wise. But I think the bigger thing was less about realizing that I was good and more about seeing the trajectory of the game itself and what was possible. 2019 was really when I started talking it seriously as a professional sport.

ONE37pm: Was there any specific moment when it first hit you that you were going to become a pro pickleball player?

Ben Johns: It hit me how big pickleball could be when I signed a contract with Franklin Sports in 2019. So once I saw that a very large sporting goods company was invested in pickleball and specifically me at the time, it opened my eyes to where the sport could potentially go down the line. Around the time I signed the deal, I kinda realized that I probably wasn’t going to become a material scientist [laughs].

ONE37pm: What do your friends and professors and other students think about your pickleball career?

Ben Johns: To be honest, I don’t really bring it up. If a competition interferes with an assignment or class or something, I’ll tell my professor that I’ll be out of town for a sporting event, but everybody has been very accommodating. My friends definitely know about it and think it’s cool, but I don’t think most people know much about it besides that I’m absent from class sometimes. 

ONE37pm: Why do you think pickleball has grown so much?

Ben Johns: The biggest thing is simply that the game is fun and accessible—you can play it without too much prior experience and be able to have rallies and play competitive points with your friends. Also, you can see yourself improving naturally as you play more and that’s very rewarding. 

Beyond that, there’s a really great, diverse community. Even just on the Pickleball Getaway trips, you see so many different people and different kinds of people and they’re all brought together because they love pickleball. Lots of older people have played pickleball for a while, but a lot of the recent growth has come from younger people. 

ONE37pm: How has the growth of the sport changed it?

Ben Johns: Competitively, there’s a lot more depth—there are more people playing at a high level and trying new things. The cool thing about pickleball is that we’re all still figuring it out—it’s only become big over the last few years, so everybody is still trying to discover the best way to play. 

Recently, there have been former tennis players from the ATP joining the PPA and they have introduced different strokes and ways of playing. For example, more and more guys are using a two-handed backhand, which is surprisingly a very effective shot, even if it wouldn’t seem like it should work on a small court with a light ball. 

ONE37pm: What do you think is the future of pickleball?

Ben Johns: When I first started playing, I never would’ve guessed that it would get to this level. Looking five or 10 or 15 years down the line, with the investment in the future of the sport, I can’t say for sure I know what it’ll look like, but I’m excited to find out.