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Real Estate’s Newest Bling

Real Estate’s Newest Bling

Forget home theaters and gyms, wine cellars and outdoor kitchens. The hottest home amenity in luxury residential developments is a pickleball court.

Pickleball enthusiast Mauricio Umansky, CEO and Founder of The Agency, a $57 billion global real estate empire, says pickleball is shaping the real estate industry as luxury developers race to keep up with the demand. “Pickleball is definitely a sought-after amenity in communities and new developments, and the demand is only growing as the sport becomes more widely known.”

Mauricio, whose business represents some of the world’s top developers and resort brands, has personally achieved nearly $4 billion in real estate sales and holds the distinction of selling the most homes in the country priced above $20 million. He has represented some of the world’s most noteworthy properties, including the Playboy Mansion (the first house in L.A. to sell above the $100 million mark), Walt Disney estate, and residences owned by Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Prince, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lady Gaga.

Pickleball Magazine caught up with Mauricio and his daughter Alexia as they played pickleball on their home court, which sits under a canopy of oak trees at their sprawling, lush estate in Encino, California. The secluded grounds surrounding the 10,000-square-foot home, previously owned by legendary Motown singer Smokey Robinson, are a peaceful outdoor oasis with a pool, putting green, vegetable garden, and multiple outdoor areas for entertaining.

Star of his own reality Netflix series “Buying Beverly Hills,” Mauricio is also a fan favorite on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (his wife is actress and RHOBH longtime cast member Kyle Richards). The couple, who have been married for 27 years, have four daughters—Farrah Brittany Aldjufrie, 34; Alexia Simone Umansky, 26; Sophia Kylie Umansky, 23; and Portia Umansky, 15. Farrah and Alexia, who work with their dad as real estate agents, also star on the series about The Agency and the inner workings of high-end real estate in posh California neighborhoods.

The number of people who play pickleball nationwide is more than 8 million and growing, and Mauricio doesn’t see the sport’s influence slowing down: “Pickleball courts are going to continue to be a primary amenity in new developments, which will ultimately lead to more players and general knowledge of the sport in our industry.”

Pickleball, he adds, can also be a sales tool for agents. “It’s another way for realtors to connect with clients, prospective clients, and other brokers—on the court.” In fact, many of his agents and staff at The Agency love pickleball. “If we’re traveling for a launch, we sometimes seek out an area with nearby courts so we can play as a group. It would be my dream to host an Agency pickleball tournament one day—maybe at our next global forum event!”

A skilled pickleball player, Mauricio’s toughest competition on the court are his partners at The Agency. “We host a weekly game that includes James Harris, Ben Belack, Billy Rose, and Peter Mac.”

Mauricio began playing pickleball a few years ago with his family at their home in California’s Coachella Valley. “I am very competitive and love being outdoors, so the game was a natural fit,” he explains. “Eventually, we decided to take it to the next level and build our own court at our home in Los Angeles. It’s the perfect amenity when hosting family and friends, and we can play year-round thanks to the warm climate.”

The sport is also a part of Mauricio’s regular health regimen. “I play pickleball at least once a week,” he says. “I wake up every morning, and the first thing I do is exercise to set the tone for my day both physically and mentally. I love that I can go outside, hit some balls on the court with my wife and kids, and not only spend time together but also produce some endorphins while we’re at it.”

Any fan of “Buying Beverly Hills” soon discovers not only the intrigue and drama of Mauricio’s real estate family and world, but his expertise in navigating multimillion-dollar deals.

More than a decade ago, he tackled the challenge of selling Michael Jackson’s 18,000-square-foot, French chateau-style Carolwood estate in L.A. The asking price: $23.9 million. With the deal came a sweet surprise. “Michael sang a cappella in his home for me, and it was incredible,” Mauricio recalls. “That was very special and something I will never forget.”

Now the business mogul is about to close a new deal in another industry—publishing! In April, his book “The Dealmaker” will be released. Each chapter is based on entrepreneurial wisdom and offers insightful takeaways, including “How to Play Hard and Work Harder,” “How to Find Your Professional and Personal Passions,” “How to Be an Innovator Not an Imitator,” “The Art of the Sell,” “The Benefits of Remaining Positive,” and “How to Achieve Balance.”

“I wanted to give my side of the story while imparting some of my wisdom to those who want to know more about how I got to where I am today,” says Mauricio. “It definitely was not an overnight success story.” •

Julie Talerico is editorial director of Pickleball Magazine.

Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing

Anaba Wines, named for Sonoma Valley’s upward-moving “anabatic” winds, is pickleball’s newest partner. The winery sits on a picturesque 16 acres, 35 minutes north of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In 2005, Proprietor John Sweazey knew he’d found his dream landscape, reminding him of the valuable time he spent in the Rhône Valley in France cultivating the love for his new enterprise after successful careers in computer sales for IBM and in commercial real estate.

“France was still considered the primary home of fine winemaking, so my travel focus was the numerous different French wine regions mostly to just develop a better understanding of their methods,” said Sweazey, a Chicago native and Stanford graduate who, along with his college buddies, was quite familiar with the wine country in and around Napa and Sonoma.

Beyond the vineyards and tasting gatherings at Anaba Wines, another aspect is gaining in popularity and earning rave reviews from its participants: pickleball. Can you think of a better way to sip your favorite Chardonnay or Pinot than while basking in the warm California sun on the pickleball court at Anaba Wines?

“Four years ago, during the development of our new hospitality facility, my son convinced me (we had always been a tennis-playing family) that we should build a paddle tennis court in addition to our bocce court, because that sport was really going to take off in Northern California, like it had in Southern California,” recalled Sweazey. “Well, we were half right that a small court sport was going to take off, but it turned out to be pickleball, not paddle tennis. Fortunately, all it took was a higher net and different lines to pretend we knew what we were doing all along!”

Someone who certainly knows what she is doing around a pickleball court is Krishna Raichura, owner of Pickleball Organized. Raichura contacted Anaba and offered the winery the idea of serving up pickleball while satisfying one’s palate with wine. Sweazey and company liked the idea, and Anaba Wines has quickly become a favorite spot for pickleball and wine enthusiasts.

Raichura started playing pickleball during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and found that her passion for the game led her to become a Certified Pro Instructor: “I found people’s enthusiasm for pickleball matched my own, and this led me to start Pickleball Organized.”

Pickleball Organized recently partnered with the City of Sausalito and Cañon Swim & Tennis Club, along with Novato Park and Recreation—all in Marin County—to organize their pickleball programs starting in January 2023. Through the partnership with Pickleball Organized, Anaba Wines offers numerous “experiences” for patrons. “Our first experience includes an exclusive 90-minute pickleball lesson while enjoying a bottle of wine next to our Picpoul Vineyard. The second experience offers a 90-minute pickleball lesson followed by a wine educator, led wine tasting and a cheese board. Lastly, for guests seeking something more elevated, they can enjoy a 90-minute pickleball lesson and then finish the experience with a food and wine paired lunch,” said Lindsay Knox, Event Coordinator for Anaba Wines.

As the only wine and pickleball combo attraction in Wine Country, there most likely will be more vineyards and wineries taking Anaba’s lead, and Raichura firmly believes that the experience at Anaba will be unmatched. “Sonoma Valley, which is adjacent to Marin County, is world-renowned for its wine and vineyards. Sonoma Valley’s picturesque landscape and beauty attracts visitors from all over the world, and with pickleball now combined with this beautiful vineyard backdrop, [it] simply offers a breathtaking and unique experience,” she said.

Many guests who have experienced pickleball and wine at Anaba enthusiastically echo Raichura’s sentiments. “The setting is absolutely gorgeous, playing pickleball in the middle of vineyards, with views in all directions,” described Kirsten Neff of Novato, California. “Krishna’s clinics are highly instructive, but playful and joyful at the same time. Then we sat outside, wine tasting, talking pickleball and life, relaxing and laughing. The whole day was perfect.”

Introducing the sport of pickleball to his winery is still in the evolutionary phase for Sweazey, but he will be the first one to admit that more fun is on the way at his sprawling Sonoma property while still maintaining high quality and continued admiration from the wine industry: “Though our wines have won numerous awards, earning the respect of both the public and the wine reviewing industry is our ‘reward.’”

Anaba, a family-owned and operated winery, introduced its very first vintage in 2006, creating for John Sweazey a dream fully realized. The family opened a new state-of-the-art production facility in January 2019 and The Vintners House in October of 2019. “We’ve long desired to create a place for visitors to completely relax and escape. This is an extension of our family home, and we want everyone to feel that same warm and inviting atmosphere,” explained Sweazey. “We’re now able to offer a much richer tasting experience and create lasting memories for our guests.”

All the while during development and expanded services and programs for the ultimate tasting experience, Anaba Wines was always focused on the environment and how to create a more sustainable winery.

A little over a decade ago, Anaba Wines became the first Northern California winery to utilize wind power with the installation a 45-foot wind turbine that provides clean energy to handle operations on the estate. That was followed by a solar electric system whereby during the entire life of the overall system, nearly 172 metric tons of carbon dioxide generated by Anaba operations will be eliminated. “This impact is equivalent to removing air pollution produced by over 428,014 miles of driving annually, or the pollutants removed by 225 acres of trees in one year,” said Sweazey.

While everyone at Anaba takes the wine business seriously, there is still an underlying current of fun and frivolity that permeates the Sonoma Valley.

“It’s a lively environment that doesn’t falter when it comes to quality, but we like to have fun too,” said Taylor Clark, Brand Marketing Manager at Anaba Wines. “Most times, wineries are stuck in one category of being elegant, luxurious, moody, fun, unconventional, goofy, romantic, a destination, or a hobby. We like to think all these categories make up Anaba.”

For those who are wine connoisseurs, Anaba’s best-selling Chardonnay is a 2019 Sonoma Coast, while other popular offerings are a 2021 Turbine Rose of Grenache; 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast; 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, WestLands; and 2021 Turbine White, Rhône Blend.

Imbibing in beer and wine or even liquor may not be something new to the world of pickleball, but when you add the element of a picturesque setting and quality instruction, you have the ingredients for an unforgettable experience. “All players would benefit from the wine and pickleball experience. I tailor the classes to any experience level, from beginners to seasoned players. This experience is designed in mind to simply celebrate and get people together to enjoy the fun and thrill of pickleball and wine in one place, and Anaba Wines is like no other setting,” said Raichura.

“Those who are looking for a lively and unique experience benefit most from events at Anaba,” added Knox. “Aside from pickleball, we have a few activities available for our guests at events including bocce ball, cornhole, and wine blending, which gives everyone an opportunity to let loose and have fun. We are also one of the few wineries in the area that are kid and dog friendly. On top of that, our accommodating staff treats all our guests with amazing hospitality, which makes our guests feel welcome and will keep them coming back for more.”

Some of the most popular offerings at Anaba Wines have been the wine blending events along with private pickleball and wine tasting parties and—believe it or not—what Anaba likes to call its “Glazed and Confused” get-togethers that include donuts. Clearly, the staff wants guests to work off the extra calories on the pickleball court. “Who would have thought donuts would be a part of the mix, but those along with our dessert wine pairings with chocolate are a big hit with everyone,” said Sweazey.

At Anaba Wines, they truly love having a good time, especially, of course, if there’s wine involved. The family’s unending passion for high-quality, elegant wines has most definitely influenced those around them. They always like to say, “Why drink something good when you can drink something great?” And now, with the influx of pickleball enthusiasts to Sonoma County, a new vernacular will no doubt be introduced—“Why dink something good, when you can dink something great!”
For more information, visit •

Drew Wathey is a published author (“A Season With Hope”) and the first-ever director of communications for the PGA TOUR’s Phoenix Open. Wathey is owner of SportsLink, a Phoenix-based sports public relations and marketing company. He is also a national sports anchor for iHeart Radio. His family lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

In The Middle with Maren Morris

In The Middle with Maren Morris

Pickleball has reached mega-star status. Film and television icons, music artists, professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball legends, and billionaire power couples have fallen in love with the sport.

Most recently, country pop artist Maren Morris has jumped on the pickleball train, making the sport a part of her team’s daily routine while they are on tour throughout the U.S.
Morris, 32, and German DJ-producer Zedd’s 2018 collaboration “The Middle” is a six-time platinum smash hit. In August, the duo released a new single titled “Make You Say.” Morris has a collection of music awards and accolades, including Female Artist of the Year, Song of the Year for her triple-platinum, Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” Best Country Solo and Best Country Song for “My Church” and many more. Morris’ third album “Humble Quest” released in March.

Recently, Pickleball Magazine caught up with her to talk about her love for the sport. We learned of Morris’ participation in June when she tweeted that the tour’s pickleball court was set up in a parking lot next to the tour bus.

“We played a couple of games before it was time to go do our show,” she recalls. “Even though in the photos I look like I’m dominating, I actually lost that game. I absolutely love pickleball, and it’s such a fun story as to how we were able to include the sport in our national tour this summer. 
“I was adamant about pickleball becoming a trend for my team while we were out on tour. I went on Amazon and bought a ton of equipment so we could set up a travel court at each venue throughout the duration of our tour! It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever played on a real pickleball court,” Morris laughed. “It would be so nice to get to play on a real court once the tour is over!”
And just like that, the great sport of pickleball caught on with Texas-born Morris and her team. The first travel court they created was at a tour stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Since I was still getting to know the crew members who were new to my team, pickleball was a great way to get the crew together and bond over a game that is entertaining and social in nature,” she says. “It was a great way to get to know each other!
“It’s just fun to walk past after a few hours and see the crew playing and they’ve picked up their own game. It makes me so happy it’s caught on and maybe they’ll go home and play during the week when they’re off the road.”
Morris, who has a 2-year-old son with musician husband Ryan Hurd, admits that at first she had no idea how to play. But she googled the basics and got some games going. At the beginning, it was mainly the band members who played. Since the crew is often busy setting up and tearing down the stage between cities, they join the fun once they get a break or their job is complete.

“My husband hasn’t played yet, but I know he’d pick it up so quickly,” Morris says. “I picked up tennis during the pandemic, which then bloomed into pickleball. I play tennis with Ryan often and I’m sure he would love pickleball.” 
With pickleball’s similarities to tennis, Morris was surprised by how different the two sports actually are. “I thought it would be more intuitive, similar to tennis,” she explains. “But the paddles are so big. You have to hit the balls really hard because they’re full of air. It takes a second to get your swing.”
Morris even designed custom paddles for her team: “A few weeks before the tour, we found a website that allows you to upload your own artwork to create custom paddles! We were able to upload our album artwork onto a paddle for our band and crew. The paddles arrived before the tour started and were great quality—and it was awesome they matched the rest of the tour’s branding!”

Will there be an official tour paddle available to the public? “While we don’t have plans to add our pickleball paddles to our merch shop yet,” she says, “that is definitely something we will consider in the future!”
Since her tour has taken her across the U.S., Morris has had the opportunity to play pickleball at some premier destinations. “Gilford, New Hampshire, was a spectacular area to set up a court backstage. Even without a pickleball setup it’s a magical backstage venue,” she says. “It sits right on the lake. When you travel to these incredible venues you can play pickleball anywhere! It’s such a dream.”
She adds, “I can see why the game has grown so quickly, especially these coastal regions where you have beautiful courts to play on. Some of the tennis courts are converting to pickleball, which makes it that much easier to pick up the sport!
“Pickleball is extremely easy to pick up. So, you don’t feel daunted about playing a new sport. You can learn at any age, and comfortably. It’s also highly addictive—you can work up a sweat or just chill and play at the net. You can play doubles or singles. The time flies by because you’re so in the zone.”
To follow Maren Morris on tour, visit where you can purchase tickets for a city near you!

NFL Legend Takes on Ownership Role in Major League Pickleball

NFL Legend Takes on Ownership Role in Major League Pickleball

For 20 years, Drew Brees flung the pigskin around NFL stadiums, amassing nearly 46 miles. This future Hall of Famer holds so many pro football records that the list would stretch the length of a downfield pass to one of his, if not his favorite, New Orleans Saints wide receivers, Marques Colston.

But, to toss you a few of his most impressive accomplishments, here they are: 80,358 total passing yards—Brees was the first NFL quarterback to throw for more than 80,000 yards, only to be eclipsed by the legendary Tom Brady this past NFL season. Brees passed for 4,000+ yards in 12 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in league history. He was also the first signal-caller with more than 7,000 completions (7,142) and tallied 571 passing touchdowns in his career, with perhaps the one record that may never be broken—54 straight games with at least one TD pass.

For all that Brees has accomplished on the field, finding that competitive outlet to spur those athletic juices off the gridiron may very well now come in the shape of the 20’ x 44’ pickleball court.

Recently, he joined the ownership group of the Mad Drops Pickleball Club of Major League Pickleball, a new upstart league that features 12 teams and has already attracted some of the top names in this ever-popular sport. JW Johnson, knocking on the heels of top-ranked men’s player Ben Johns, plays for the Florida Smash, Irina Tereschenko plays for Team BLQK, Wesley Gabrielson is a member of The Jackrabbits and Simone Jardim, an iconic figure on the women’s side, is on the 5S.

For Brees, MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, life away from football needed a sport where he didn’t have to worry about 300-pound defensive linemen trying to take his head off. “I am an avid pickleball player, fan and student of the game,” says Brees, who started his NFL career with the Chargers in 2001 after a stellar collegiate showing at Purdue. “The opportunity to be a part of the ownership group of the Mad Drops PC is something I’m extremely excited about, and I look forward to helping raise awareness around the incredible players and competitions in Major League Pickleball, helping grow the sport of pickleball and fostering overall fan engagement.”

As pickleball continues to evolve across the sports landscape, Major League Pickleball (MLP) is ratcheting up the game in an innovative and eye-catching experience for players and fans alike. With a team-based, co-ed format and inventive rules that highlight athletes’ and fans’ passion for the game, MLP’s goal is to elevate and grow the sport in everything it does.
“We are thrilled to welcome such a strong group of strategic investors and partners into the MLP family,” says founder Steve Kuhn. “MLP is the preeminent and most exciting brand in all of pickleball. The talented and passionate Mad Drops PC ownership group will further elevate our competition and athletes, which contributes to our goal of growing the game of pickleball into the world’s most exciting spectator sport.”

Aside from Drew Brees, another recognizable name on the MLP ownership front is former pro tennis player James Blake. A winner of 10 singles titles during his 14-year career, and reaching the quarterfinals at the 2005 and 2006 US Opens and 2008 Australian Open, Blake’s world ranking was as high as fourth in the world in 2006. Later, in 2008, he was awarded another honor by the ATP, Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year. Blake also helped Team USA win the Davis Cup in 2007.
“I decided to invest in Major League Pickleball because I see the growth of the sport is incredible. I picked it up and learned it from my mom,” says Blake, who is co-owner of the Lions of MLP. “I see that excitement and I know it’s going to spill over into the pro game and the viewership, and I see the excitement with other owners and other investors. It’s a passion for so many people and I just love the sport and love the people involved with MLP.” 

Back in early June, Major League Pickleball unveiled its season-opening event in Austin, Texas. Its second team competition was staged in early August in Newport Beach, California, and boasted the largest purse in pickleball history, $319,000, with the winning team cashing a check for $100,000. Next up on the MLP playing calendar is Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 14-16.
Team matches are comprised of four games (women’s and men’s doubles and two mixed doubles) and a Dreambreaker singles tiebreaker. “Pickleball is the fastest-growing and most accessible sport in America, and MLP has created a uniquely compelling team-based professional league that will continue to drive its growth,” says Zubin Mehta, general manager of Mad Drops Pickleball Club. “We are excited to partner with a terrific group of strategic investors as owners of Mad Drops PC and look forward to supporting MLP’s mission to be the premier provider of pickleball content.”

Another member of the Mad Drops ownership group is Ryan Serhant. You may know him as one of the high-end New York City realtors and a reality TV star on the popular Bravo series “Million Dollar Listing New York” and its spin-off, “Sell it Like Serhant.” Jim Buss, part-owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, has also offered his financial support of the Mad Drops.
Brees adds, “As a longtime professional athlete and competitor myself, I look forward to working with the Mad Drops PC team in our relentless quest to win many championships in the years to come.”

But unquestionably, it is Drew Brees—whose bronze sculpted bust will soon be a full-time resident in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio—who has further elevated the stature and notoriety of Major League Pickleball.

As pickleball continues its meteoric rise across all demographics, it is the game’s recognition and attraction of world-class athletes like Brees and Blake, and soon other notable figures, that highlights it as a sport that can cater to all levels of fitness and talent. Their journeys are just the beginning of what many consider an eventual stop at a future Olympic Games and beyond.

Inside the Pickleball Boom

Inside the Pickleball Boom

The great sport of pickleball has been growing and evolving since its establishment in 1965, when three dads decided to create a backyard game to entertain their children during summer break. And it was a mom who named the game! All the world’s greatest ideas were developed through an entrepreneurial spirit, and this sport is no exception.

Meet just some of the talented and influential female entrepreneurs leading the way in the business of pickleball.

How did you get started in the pickleball space? 

Melissa McCurley, Founder of 
In 2014, I was gainfully employed as the director of data and voice infrastructure at American Express. At the time, pickleball found me and I wasn’t looking for a new career. My mom asked me to play in a pickleball tournament because her regular partner was on a cruise. I didn’t really play pickleball but said yes. When I came out to play, one of the women, Jettye Lanius, told me her husband, Bob (who is in the PHOF), developed Jettye knew my brother and I worked in IT and asked if we’d be interested in looking at the system. We agreed, and a few weeks later found ourselves in Southern California at the SoCal Classic helping run the tournament that they were hosting on We continued to evaluate the software for another three months before we made the decision to purchase the system in that year. The rest, as they say, is history!

Stacie Townsend, Founder of The Pickler 
I am a partner at a full-service law firm in Florida. I practice business law, which stems from my legal training and love for business. I fell into law school after my softball career, which ended in 2012 when softball was taken out of the 2012 London Olympics. Quite soon after, my mother introduced me to pickleball. She started playing after retiring from Corporate America and encouraged me to play as a stress-relief activity (particularly since I was a former softball athlete). I was instantly hooked. The Pickler started soon after that because my mother wanted a shirt to play pickleball that didn’t have pickles on it. So, The Pickler was born, and has since evolved to be a pickleball content and media company.

What or who inspired you to start your business?    

Blake Renaud, Founder of the PicklePlay app 
We were going to build an app for a different sport, but after falling in love with pickleball and seeing how it brings together people of all demographics, ages, and stages—and experiencing a lot of frustration on where we play, who do we play, how do we keep track of who is playing—we knew it was time to shift our entire focus to pickleball. 

Hannah Johns, Media & Content Director for the PPA Tour 
Now that the PPA has expanded so much, the on-camera work is only a small part of what I do. I run our PR department, direct content and media distribution, organize broadcast and on-air talent, and act as the pro player liaison for our touring pros. Our team members are all bouncing around doing a lot of things, but we enjoy the dynamic responsibilities and ever-evolving landscape in the sport. It keeps us on our toes.

Rachel Simon, Author of “Pickleball for All” 
I wrote my first pickleball article for the New York Times in May 2020, after realizing pickleball made for an excellent pandemic activity—since you could social distance easily and it was simple and inexpensive to set up. The article garnered a lot of interest, and I decided to keep writing about the sport’s growth and popularity, which I was honored turned into an opportunity of a lifetime to author a book published by Harper Collins, “Pickleball for All.” 

What does it mean to you to be a woman entrepreneur in the pickleball community?

Aubri Steele, Owner and Founder of Civile Apparel 
Being a female entrepreneur in this space has been an honor and an incredible experience. The entire pickleball community is so warm and welcoming. In addition, I find that people react very positively to me being a female entrepreneur—many of them offering support or wanting to get involved. It’s truly a humbling experience. 

Catherine Baxter, Founder of Nettie Pickleball 
The pickleball entrepreneurial community is amazing. As the game grows, it’s definitely a competitive landscape out there, which could lead to infighting and toxicity. But in my experience, other leaders and founders recognize that the pie is big as the game grows. I think the fact that there are so many women founding companies in pickleball has contributed to the collaborative spirit that I have experienced. There are so many great brands and leaders—Varsity Pickleball, The Pickler, Pickleball Magazine, Civile, Recess, Georgie & Lou, just to name a few—and I can’t wait to see what launches next! 

Jill Braverman, CEO of DUPR 
It means being comfortable that your insides don’t always match your outsides. With that said, being a female entrepreneur in pickleball means waving your contradiction flag high and freely. It means showing the world that life isn’t a mutually exclusive hierarchical system. It means not taking crap from anyone, but doing it graciously with a smile—using a “velvet hammer,” as my mentor Anne Worcester, former CEO of the women’s WTO Tour, is famous for. It’s remembering that it’s hard to be something you’ve never seen, which is why women have a fiduciary duty to young women everywhere to show what it means to be strong and female in sports. 

Lori Manzer and Mimi Kuchman, Georgie & Lou
We feel proud to be part of a group that is still small enough that we are all trying to help each other to succeed. We have had some great all-female owned collaborations. Our company is founded and run by an all-female team. We are looking forward to spending more time at tournaments talking to the people who carry our bags and collaborate with Georgie & Lou. 

What are you most looking forward to in the next year as you continue to grow your brand within the pickleball community?

Kim Bastien, Head of Partnerships at The Dink 
I look forward to growing The Dink and introducing more brands to the pickleball community. I have a personal goal to attend a pro event to meet some of the pro players that we cover on a daily basis. In addition, we are working on a grassroots campaign to add more value to the pickleball locations throughout the U.S. I would say if a location were interested in hearing more, please give me a shout-out.

Lori Bosch and Jodi Wujkowski, Founders of JoJo + Lo
We can’t wait to continue to take our pop-up shop to exciting new pickleball tournament destinations. We are also planning to launch a new jojo+lo collection for kids! We want to do more wholesaling to pickleball stores around the country and potentially sell through a third-party distributor, and possibly Amazon. We are partnering with professional pickleball players and pickleball social media influencers who want to represent our brand and earn commissions from their sales. We want to continue to create and help change the image of pickleball—one graphic tee at a time. Jojo and I are passionate about our fashions and giving the sport of pickleball a makeover, while keeping our promise to our customers: no dancing pickles, no pickleballs with smiley faces and no fluorescent green!

Elise Ivy, Founder of ROKNE  
From a ROKNE business perspective, I am most looking forward to our 2023 collaborations. We are elated to expand upon our partnership with Saks 5th Avenue and Verb Technologies, a market livestreaming platform. In addition, I’m eager to announce some new collaborations/partnerships that will continue to prove the point that pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport and not stopping any time soon. 

From a player perspective, I am most looking forward to witnessing the positive impact that pickleball has on its communities at the local level. It’s exciting to see entire families out on the courts bonding over a sport so many of us have fallen in love with. 

Laura Gainor, Founder of and 
As I’ve been fortunate to work in marketing throughout my career, this game is truly unique in the opportunities it will bring to brands and professionals targeting the ever-growing audience demographics. Pickleball in the Sun is a huge passion of mine that will continue to evolve as I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue to collaborate with other entrepreneurs with the same mindset to help grow the game. The brand speaks to the power that pickleball is helping families see the world, particularly by traveling to various destinations that have dedicated pickleball facilities. By getting families or friends together to share their love for pickleball across the country, the hope is to continue to grow the sport and help players experience new destinations for play and truly make the sport a part of their own lifestyle. 

Pickleball Pro Catherine Parenteau Provides her Top 5 Training Tips for Crossover Professional Athletes

Pickleball Pro Catherine Parenteau Provides her Top 5 Training Tips for Crossover Professional Athletes

On Friday, January 28, top Olympic medalist swimmer, Michael Phelps, joined the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals former football wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, in a series of exhibition games playing pickleball against some of the top pros in the game, at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa for the Carvana Desert Ridge Open, the first stop of the 2022 Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour.

Fitzgerald quickly made himself comfortable in front of a sold-out spectator crowd on championship court, keeping up with the seasoned pickleball pros and winning some impressive points that had the crowd fired up.

Phelps walked onto the court as fans were excited with anticipation to see how his Olympic strength would translate onto the pickleball court. He looked to be having a great time, but the pro teammates quickly stepped in to teach him the rules of the game and try to get him up to the kitchen.

This isn’t new to hear of a professional athlete to pick up a pickleball paddle to see how their skills translate on the court of America’s fastest growing sport. I caught up with the top-rated pickleball pro, Catherine Parenteau, who got the chance to play on Fitzgerald’s team against Lucy Kovalova and Phelps, to get her top 5 training tips on how professional athletes can get started and work their way to calling themselves a multi-sport professional athlete.

1. The Rules
• Remember the double bounce rule, serve and return must always bounce
• Remember the kitchen rules, you cannot make contact with the ball from inside the kitchen or on the kitchen line
• Remember to “serve and stay”, “return and run forward”
2. Speed & Agility
• Try to practice footwork exercises that enhance your ability to do quick lateral movements, this is key on a pickleball court
3. Strength
• At the kitchen line your legs do a lot of the work as you are dinking, strength in your hamstrings, quads, and calf muscles is key
4. Working as a team
• Communication is key in pickleball, you want to make sure you are on the same page as your partner when it comes to movement on the court and the game plan
5. Drilling vs. playtime
• Pro athletes know this already, but drilling is how you get better faster. You will get better just playing points, but the process is much slower. Repetition is key!

Both Phelps and Fitzgerald have pickleball courts at their homes, so we look forward to seeing how they continue to improve their skills and see them competing at a future pickleball tournament.

For other pickleball training tips and to follow Parenteau’s tournament schedule, follow @CatherineParenteau.pb on Instagram and

Laura Vossberg Gainor is the founder of @VossbergGainor, a pickleball marketing agency working with some of the nation’s leading pickleball brands. In addition, she is the founder of @PickleballintheSun, your source for the best pickleball destinations and experiences.

Drive Up Your Metabolism in and out of the Kitchen

Drive Up Your Metabolism in and out of the Kitchen

Oh, metabolism. We dink that term around almost as much as Anna Leigh Waters wins, but what is metabolism, really? Can we blame “slow” metabolism on weight gain? If so, how can we drive it up to burn more calories?

The truth is scientists still have a lot to learn about metabolism. It seems to be as unique to individuals as their pickleball serve. Here’s some general information about what we do know, and a few tips that may keep yours at its best.

What is Metabolism? Simply put, metabolism is the process of converting the food we eat into energy. Through a series of complex chemical reactions, humans can metabolize energy from carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. If we take in too many calories, our bodies store them as fat. If we don’t get enough calories, we break down our own stored fat or muscle tissue to meet energy needs.

Our bodies burn energy, even while we’re resting; 24 hours a day, our hearts pump, our lungs breathe, and our cells repair themselves. The energy we use during these basic survival functions is called resting energy expenditure (REE) or basal metabolic rate (BMR). Beyond BMR, the energy we use is more individualized depending on the physical activities we choose. For example, an hour of tournament singles will expend more energy than an hour of dinking drills.

What is “Slow” or “Fast” Metabolism? Some people burn more calories during rest than others, which is sometimes called “fast” or “high” metabolism. Some factors that might cause someone’s metabolism to be higher include: • Genetics – Certain genetics predispose people to burn more or fewer calories. • Size – Larger people have higher energy needs. • Muscle mass and body composition – Muscle cells require more energy than fat cells. • Gender – Men tend to have a higher muscle mass and lower body fat than women, causing them to burn more calories at rest.

We used to think our metabolic rate slowly declined as we got older. A large study in 2021 revealed that metabolic rates remain steady from about age 20 through age 60, and then begin to slow. What, then, might be causing unwanted weight gain as we get older, and how can we boost our metabolism?

Boosting BMR out of the Kitchen While genetics do play a role in metabolic rates and body type, the ball is in your court when it comes to lifestyle choices. With the exercise we get playing pickleball, we’re all on the right track. But there may be even more you can do to boost your metabolism and your game.

• Weightlifting or Resistance Training: Muscle tissue cells require a lot of energy to function and stay healthy, even during rest. Consider adding resistance exercises to your workouts that build large muscle groups. For example, squats build your quadriceps, glutes, and calf muscles, all of which will help you get low at the net.

• High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by low-intensity exercise, repeating this pattern several times. Several studies have linked HIIT with burning energy long after the workout is complete.

• Manage Stress: Too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, may influence weight gain and cause disruptions in metabolism. You can help manage stress with simple things like deep breathing, and with enjoyable activities like pickleball.

• Rest Well: Having poor sleep habits has been linked to negative effects on metabolism. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Boosting BMR in the Kitchen Some foods and eating habits have been linked to faster BMR. While they may only make small differences in calorie burning, over time these differences can add up to pounds. • Drink coffee: Scientists have noticed links between coffee drinkers and slightly lower obesity rates. They suspect it may be related to caffeine’s metabolism-boosting effects.

• Add ice to your water bottle: On its own, drinking plain water can increase your metabolic rate, but adding ice to your water may raise it even more.

• Turn up the heat: Some studies show that eating capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that makes them spicy-hot, may help boost metabolism. Most studies involved capsaicin supplements, not the peppers themselves.

• Eat during the day: Some research shows that our metabolic health is at its best when we follow a normal circadian rhythm, eating during the daylight hours and avoiding late-night calories.

While we can’t fight genetics or time, we can control some things when it comes to our metabolic rate. By following these metabolism-boosting tips, you can help keep yourself lean and court-ready for years to come!

Behind the Scenes with Pro Zane Navratil

Behind the Scenes with Pro Zane Navratil

Age: 26
Hometown: Racine, Wisconsin
Current Residence: Brookfield, Wisconsin
Marital Status: Single
Profession: Pickleball playing and teaching professional as of
July 2020, formerly an auditor/CPA for Deloitte
Pickleball Ranking: WPR #2 in the world
Favorite Performance: The first pro title at the APP Punta Gorda Open in
January 2021 and the APP Chicago Open Men’s
Doubles with Altaf Merchant

What is your greatest asset? My ability to remove my ego to see objectively what is going on in a match. My CPA training gives me an opportunity to look at the game in an accountability way, by the numbers, percentage pickleball. There is risk, reward, and return on investment.

You are known for your chainsaw serve. What was your inspiration and how did you develop that serve? My friend John Cincola and I were hitting topspin groundstrokes. The spin on the ball given to you has an impact on what you can return. We experimented on spinning the toss and found it to be effective. There are three ways to add spin off the toss. The first is off the paddle; this was the original chainsaw. The second is off the paddle hand, holding the paddle in the right hand and the ball in the right hand. The third is spinning the ball with the non-paddle hand.

What would you like to see happen in pickleball? Pickleball is different from tennis. I would like to see people go nuts whenever they want to during a point, not just applaud at the end of a point. I would like it to be more like basketball and football, more fan involvement. The Big 12 Conference has the best tennis attendance because they encourage fan participation. I would like to see that in pickleball.

What is your sports background? I played high school tennis and college tennis at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.

What person was the most influential in your life? My high school tennis coach, Harold Swanson, taught me to learn things myself. He never gave me the answers. He taught me how to learn the game.

Where does your name come from? My parents just liked the name Zane. My father’s last name is Czech, and my mother is from India.

What three famous people would you invite to dinner? Joe Rogan, Novak Djokovic, and Elon Musk.

What is your favorite national park? Zion. Angel’s Landing was the coolest hike.

Who is your favorite celebrity? Joe Rogan. I love to listen to his podcast.

What book influenced you the most? “The Inner Game of Tennis” by W. Timothy Gallwey.

In what period of history would you choose to live? I would choose to live 10 years ago, 10 years younger so that I could be better at pickleball in the present. In 2005, there was less social media and phones; there was more interaction and I like that.

What kind of music do you listen to? Classical—Mozart, Bach, and Tchaikovsky.

What three items would you take to a deserted island? A smartphone, pickleball equipment, and Legos.

If you could send a message in a bottle to your younger self, what would it say? “Fear regret not failure.” Failure is a stepping-stone to success. You learn more from your losses than from your wins.

New Tournament Series Focuses on Next Generation of Pickleball Players

New Tournament Series Focuses on Next Generation of Pickleball Players

Buoyed by a new tournament series that is focused on a younger age bracket, the next generation of pickleball players is shattering the myth that pickleball is a seniors-only sport.

The tournament series, which the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) launched in 2021, is the first of its kind. It is primarily focused on developing champion pickleball players in the 16-23 age range. Aptly named the APP Next Gen Series, the tournament’s mission is to create a platform for America’s top young pickleball players to compete and receive coaching from senior professionals.

“The mission for APP Next Gen is to develop America’s next champions,” said Ken Herrmann, CEO and creative founder of the series. “This is done not only through match play, but by educating both the player and parents about the road their child is taking if considering a career in professional pickleball.”

The APP Tour is the Official Pro Partner Tour of USA Pickleball and has been endorsed by both the Senior Pro and Super Senior Pro councils. Herrmann said he launched the APP Tour in June of 2019 after he spent time developing a vision for all players, ranging from amateur to professional.

Part of that vision was focusing on young players. “This current generation of players is the future of the sport,” Herrmann explained. “If we are able to get this sport into the Olympics, then it is this group of players who will be wearing those Olympic jackets walking into the stadium. Next Gen is not only an inspiration for those players currently here in America, but also for the thousands of international prodigies who have grown to love the game.”

Next Gen has partnered with Chicken N Pickle restaurant/ entertainment centers for the entire series. Each stop on the tour is a three-day tournament held at Chicken N Pickle locations in Oklahoma, Kansas, or Texas.

A tournament held Nov. 19-21, 2021, in San Antonio welcomed 48 players competing for $15,000 in total prize money, with equal prize money for the men’s and women’s divisions. The series also pays out the top five players for each division, based on the cumulative standings for singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events.

As part of the Next Gen Series, players receive mentoring from senior players, which continues after the tournament. This mentoring program prepares young adults to represent the United States in future international and APP Tour professional competitions.

John Sperling and Julie Johnson, two of the highest-ranked seniors in the sport, were the first two senior pro mentors, said Herrmann. Mentors provide seminars on topics like training, media interviews, creating schedules that balance family and tournament time, the mental aspects of the game, off-court training, nutrition, and fitness programs to improve quickness and skill sets. Following the tournament, the senior pro mentors also make themselves available for players who might need extra help planning tournament schedules, discussing sponsorships, or “just being a sounding board for the player and family,” Herrmann added.

Herrmann added. “From tournament play, to on-court drilling and then seminars with the senior pro mentoring program, each player left with guidance and direction to improve their games,” he continued. “The senior pros provide an educational element that is not being done anywhere in the sport and is unique to the Next Gen Series.”

Players must have a USA Pickleball Tournament Player Rating (UTPR) of 4.0 to compete in the Next Gen Series. A select number of wildcards are available for those under the age of 16 who meet the UTPR criteria. A committee formed by the senior mentoring program determines the wildcards, and potential wildcard players are asked to submit an essay explaining why they should be considered for one of the open spots.

Currently, eligible players are placed in a single open division with all ages combined. The tournament is held Friday-Sunday and consists of singles, doubles, and mixed doubles matches. Players are encouraged to play all three days of the tournament, as total cumulative points determine the top two finishers—and who wins

the prize money—at the end of Sunday’s play. The top two finishers also receive paid wildcard entries into a Tier 1 APP Pro Tournament that is assigned to each Next Gen Series event.

There were three different types of players who attended Next Gen San Antonio, each with different objectives, but the same goal,” said Herrmann. “That goal was to leave the event a better player, and I think everyone achieved that. The players who attended had aspirations of either performing well and winning the $15,000 prize purse, having the opportunity to train alongside some of the most talented younger players on the APP tour, or developing friendships that could last a lifetime through pickleball.”

In November’s San Antonio event, former Division I tennis player Yana Grechkina, 23, took home gold in the women’s division. Breakout teen JW Johnson, 19, took the gold in the men’s division.

“Winning Next Gen was pretty special to me,” said Johnson. “It’s one thing to win when you’re the underdog and a young kid, but it’s completely different to win when you’re with a group of your peers. The thing I loved most about it was the whole atmosphere at Chicken N Pickle. It is like a giant party all the time with everything going on, and I thought it was one of the best atmospheres for pickleball.”

Hermann agrees, stating that he was impressed with the crowd size at the tournament, both in person and via the livestream.

“We’re pleased with how engrossed the public was with these young players, by making comments during the livestreamed matches,” he added. “The crowd was filled with excitement and supported the three-day event generously.”

In 2022, the Next Gen Series has tournaments scheduled in Oklahoma City (Feb. 4-6); Wichita, Kansas (March 18-20); and San Antonio (July 8-10). Although the general format will stay the same, with singles, doubles and mixed doubles tournaments, some tweaks may be made for the upcoming tournament in Oklahoma City. For the latest news or to register for the APP Next Gen Series, visit

What Does USA Pickleball Certified Actually Mean?

What Does USA Pickleball Certified Actually Mean?

The mechanics of the process are driven by USA Pickleball's Equipment Evaluation Committee, which was formed in 2016, with the support of National Testing Systems--USA Pickleball's independent third-party lab and testing facility in Baltimore, Maryland.

By Carl Schmits

If you've been involved in the sport of pickleball over the past six years, you have witnessed both growth and evolution rarely seen in any industry. Besides the visibility of new and converted venues, the increase in the number of tournaments including two organized Pro Am tours the recently announced Major League Pickleball team format, and USA Pickleball's new National Championship series leading to the world-class Margaritaville USA Pickleball Nationals Championship event--is simply amazing

Subsequently, this growth has been greatly reflected within the equipment industry as well. We've seen more new paddle introductions and manufacturers in the last 18 months than the previous five years, Including some of the largest brands in sporting goods delivering newly designed paddles and competition balls.

A question often heard is. What does it mean to be USA Pickleball Certified?" In a nutshell, the certification process ensures that paddles and balls are manufactured to specifications that support one of the USA Pickleball board's objectives of maintaining the integrity of the sport. The mechanics of this process are driven by USA Pickleball's Equipment Evaluation Committee (EEC), formed in 2016, with the support of National Testing Systems (NTS)-USA Pickleball's independent third-party lab and testing facility in Baltimore, Maryland.

The EEC is a data-driven group that works closely with the rules committee and the manufacturing community with an objective of ensuring a level playing field for both manufacturers and athletes. Primary areas of concern on paddle performance are spin-inducing friction and power-enhancing attributes with a focus on preventing unfair competitive advantages in a sport that has an extremely wide range of playing types and skill levels. For balls, dimensional consistency and rebound characteristics drive most of the tests.

Over time, our rules, specifications, standards and means of testing have evolved in response to or in anticipation of, innovations in technology, manufacturing/testing processes, and/or policy Interpretation. we’ve learned much in observing the evolution of other racket and paddle sports, and now changes in materials and those sports, thus aiding in our decision-making.

It is an ongoing process to research more representative and comprehensive methodologies of testing for critical performance characteristics using
Industry-standard ASTM test methods to evaluate surface friction, ball rebound, material behavior, etc. Benefits of Implementing these industry-standard protocols include increasing reproducibility by the manufacturers while reducing variation in testing. In 2016, a testing method was put in place to measure the material hardness of tournament balls, with the goal of ensuring consistent play ability and rebound characteristics. As part of our goal to Improve the relevance, accuracy, and consistency of our testing procedures, and as a logical transition from the first phase of testing for those performance characteristics, we implemented an industry-standard ASTM compression test method that is the norm in the sports industry.

Also in 2016, a test was devised to limit extreme friction-inducing characteristics that were a result of surface irregularities common in that period’s paddle.

structural materials and finishing graphics. In addition, articles 2.E.2.a and 2.E.6 were put in place to address applied surfaces and finishes that increased friction. Since then, there has been a significant trend in materials, both in construction material and finishes, that required re-evaluating both the means of testing as well as what the acceptable threshold should be. As a result, the EEC implemented an AST test using coefficient of friction that evaluates that attribute regardless of the surface material or cosmetic finish.

Most recently, new paddle configurations have started to emerge, e.g., "open throat. In response to that, the EEC has developed a test to assess a paddle's overall flexibility to ensure that it falls within an acceptable performance range. In addition to the above advancements in testing. this year the EEC has formally launched a Compliance program to better ensure that paddles and balls continue to be manufactured to original specification throughout their life cycle. This is modeled after similar programs in other racket and paddle sports.

Leadership: Pickleball's Greatest Asset

Leadership: Pickleball's Greatest Asset

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America, and probably around the world. It is becoming quite popular in some countries but is still unknown in most. So how do we replicate the tremendous success in some nations to other regions of the world? The answer is: vision, perseverance. resilience and overall leadership.

There are several challenges that we are confronting to expand the sport in Mexico. For starters, the name itself becomes a barrier. The word pickleball is difficult just to pronounce for people whose native language is something other than English. Furthermore, it doesn't have any suggestion of being a racket sport.

That doesn't mean it can't be sold; it just means that we must be very creative. After all, soccer, tennis, baseball, and ping-pong are names with different language origins. Another challenge has to do with the accessibility of the sport

Pickleball has grown tremendously in Canada and the USA because racket sports are highly accessible in public areas. You can find public tennis courts, or basketball courts, in just about any small town or big city. In some countries like ours, however, racket sports are mostly located in private clubs. Therefore, they are perceived as elitist sports.

It is believed that because soccer is the most popular sport in our country, it is highly accessible. I refute that. The results in international competition support my argument. European countries like Germany, France, Italy and Spain have an infrastructure that makes soccer very accessible to everyone. Obviously, there are other factors for their international success, but this is the very bottom layer of their success. Although soccer is played wide in our country, well-designed and built installations are limited for a country of approximately 135 million people.

High demographic growth of our cities for the past 40 years has made the cost of land very expensive. Large areas required for soccer fields inside large cities become very difficult to sustain.

One other challenge we are confronting is the idiosyncrasy of our nation. As I mentioned before. racket sports are perceived as elitist, only played inside private clubs. Soccer success around the world, on the other hand, is based on how it has been positioned since the very beginning as a sport of the people. Male people, I might add. Until very recently, women's soccer and most sports now highly practiced by women did not have the support that they are beginning to have. So, racket sports have remained niche or specialized sports mainly played at private clubs and mostly practiced by a male population.

The incredible thing about pickleball is that it has the ingredients to overcome these and other challenges. It is easy to learn and inexpensive to play. It is fun and it is great exercise. It is highly inclusive. The nature of the rules allows for a wide diversity of population to practice it.

In Mexico we will have a very exciting calendar of events for 2022. We will start the year hosting two APP tournaments in February, one in Guadalajara and the other in Cancun. Come join us to play awesome pickleball, meet new international players, and visit our beautiful country.

Point Length Comparison

Point Length Comparison

Let’s compare pickleball point length and actual play time to tennis. Buckle your seat belt, as the facts are quite stunning! Statistic #1: What is the average length of a point in tennis versus pickleball?

Despite the fact that we remember the extra-long points in both sports, the average point length in tennis is only three shots. That includes the serve and return of serve, making those two shots disproportionately important. How does this tennis point

length compare to pickleball? The average point length in pickleball is three times longer than tennis, at nine ball strikes per point! How is this possible? Two primary reasons: first, the serve is far less dominant in pickleball than tennis; and second, the rules in pickleball encourage touch shots due to the kitchen line rule being an important part of the sport.

Statistic #2: What is the average amount of time per hour that the ball is in play in tennis versus pickleball?

Now let’s take that a step further. Considering the breaks between points, we have analyzed how much time is spent playing versus waiting in both sports. In every hour of tennis, the ball is in play just 11-12 minutes! It may sound crazy, but this is an accurate statistic. How about pickleball? In every hour of pickleball, the ball is in play much longer... a total of 26-28 minutes!

Armed with this information, pickleball players can now discuss the benefits of pickleball over tennis much more clearly than ever before. Pickleball offers more cardiovascular exercise and fitness than tennis. The truth is in the statistics!

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