For national champion Dave Weinbach, pickleball has become a family affair.

Weinbach’s introduction to the sport came while he was visiting his parents who had moved to Surprise, Arizona, from their native Wisconsin. While playing tennis with his dad, he witnessed a gathering of people on the nearby courts. Curious, he asked what sport the group was playing. After a quick introduction, one of the players asked Weinbach if he wanted to give pickleball a try.

After just a few minutes on the court, he was hooked.

“Not only is it terrific exercise, but it’s also extremely fun. It’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends,” says Weinbach, 46, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s very addictive.”

Soon, Weinbach’s entire family was playing the sport, including his wife Dina and his three boys: Jake, 16, Ryan, 15, and Sam, 11. As a testament to their family’s love for the sport, the Weinbachs built their very own pickleball court on the side of their house last summer.

“The boys enjoy playing against each other and with their friends,” says Weinbach, who is the CEO of his own firm, Weinbach Investment Management, LLC. “Now we can play whenever we want.”

It’s safe to say that Weinbach’s self- described obsession with the sport has paid off. He’s quickly become a fierce competitor on the national pickleball circuit, racking up an impressive collection of gold medals.

In 2014, at his first tournament in Rockfield, Illinois, he took home the gold in both Men’s Doubles and Men’s Singles. He then moved on to the 2014 USAPA Nationals in Arizona, where he won gold in Men’s Singles 35+. In the Grand Canyon State Games in February 2015, he won gold in both the Open Men’s Doubles and Ages Doubles with partner Justin Rodgers.

In June, at the SoCal Classic in Oceanside, California, he won gold in Open Men’s Doubles alongside partner Kyle Yates and also took gold with Jennifer Lucore in Mixed Doubles. He then went on to win gold in Men’s Doubles with partner Bill Ritchie at the Regional Midwest tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In August, at the USAPA Regionals in Fort Wayne, Weinbach earned two gold medals: one with Yates in Men’s Doubles, and another with partner Stephanie Lane in Mixed Doubles. At the Fall Brawl in St. George, Utah, in October, he earned silver in Men’s Doubles with partner Brian Ashworth and then claimed another national title with gold in Men’s Doubles 35+ at the USAPA Nationals in November.

At the Grand Canyon State Games this past February, Weinbach earned yet another gold medal in the Men’s Doubles 19+ division with partner Scott Moore, who is 53.

]“Our combined ages were almost 100, and we won the gold over two great young players, Kyle Yates and Wes Gabrielson, who are good friends of mine,” says Weinbach.

Weinbach, who also enjoys platform tennis, golf, basketball and fishing, says that part of the beauty of the game is that it takes him to locations that he never would have explored otherwise. It’s also allowed him to form solid friendships with players from all over the U.S.

“Even though we compete against each other on the court, we all become friends off the court,” he adds.

One of his goals is to help grow the game both locally and nationwide, and says that younger people shouldn’t be discouraged by the misconception that pickleball is a sport just for seniors.

Weinbach also helped form, along with Seymour Rifkind, the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA), whose purpose is to certify and elevate the standard of the pickleball teaching profession.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and the reason is that anyone can play — it doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 100,” he says. “It’s an exciting form of exercise and a great way to meet new people in your community and form new friendships.

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