I'm a title. Click here to edit me.
TMPR SPORTS: FIND YOUR SHAPE.
If you are new to pickleball and are overwhelmed by the number of paddle options on the market, don’t lose your temper, just go to TMPR Sports (tmprsports.com) online.
TMPR Sports was started by Doug and Diana and their son Taylor Clark, whose initial market research showed that most of the top pickleball players migrate to the sport from tennis or another racquet sport. With that knowledge in hand, the Clarks decided to focus on how to improve on the design of a paddle in a way that would feel more natural to these players. In the process they discovered how the shape of a paddle affects how it performs.
“We worked with a team of tennis teaching pros to create prototypes and tweaked those models with their feedback,” Doug Clark said. “To people used to tennis, our paddles are more comfortable and what you’d be used to. We found that pickleball is the only paddle sport that has either rectangular or square-shaped paddles by default, with a few exceptions. It’s not just the core that’s important, but the shape, which impacts how it performs.”
TMPR (pronounced “temper”) creates paddles that are slightly rounded, resulting in a smaller profile that provides more aerodynamic use and is more accurate than other paddles on the market.
“Traditional square-shaped paddles have a sweet spot that’s close to dead center, so if you hit the ball on the tip or the side, you often experience more vibration and a less controlled shot,” Clark said. “Our designs help decrease that vibration, which also minimizes arm fatigue.”
Within the TMPR product line are four distinct shapes and a fifth one that will be launched soon. The Tantrum is a longer paddle that offers more head weight to help players get more torque on drive shots. The Ascend is specifically designed for tennis players. With a 5.5-inch handle, the Ascend is a longer paddle with a smaller profile face. Designed for players with greater hand/eye coordination, the Ascend is an advanced and aerodynamic paddle for players who already have a developed skill set in racquet sports.
For beginners, Clark recommends the Oculus. “It’s inspired by the shape of a tennis racquet and is very forgiving,” he said. “Having said that, advanced players like it as well because it has a very balanced head and handle, offering less strain going from forehand to backhand.”
The Rave is a specialty paddle with an elongated head. The Rave exists mainly for the players who want an extended reach and the momentum it provides. The Rave’s sweet spot is elongated, offering an enhanced, extended high- performance area. The Expanse GXT, in contrast, is a widebody paddle scheduled to debut this year that is suited more to those who value defense over offense.
Each TMPR paddle comes in one of three different cores (3 series) and various handle options, so that players can customize their paddle experience from shock absorbing and finessed to driving and aggressive. The Luxe core absorbs more shock from striking the ball, providing more control for dinks and drop shots. The GXT series offers players a carbon fiber face, absorbing even more shock for added touch. Lastly, the XT series offers more pop and power.
TMPR offers a demo program where, for $20, you receive a selection of paddles to demo for two weeks. After your two weeks, return the ones you don’t want with the included return label and the $20 is deducted from the price of your paddle.
The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa expands its pickleball footprint with 17 professionally surfaced, world-class courts, including a Center Court with a 400-person capacity. And that’s not all!
With 17 state-of-the-art pickleball courts, including a spectacular Center Court, the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is bringing its A-game to Arizona’s newest pickleball paradise.
“Pickleball is an amenity that is every bit as important to us as our world-class spa, 36 holes of golf and beautiful pool environment—it fits right in,” says Steve Hart, General Manager and Area General Manager of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.
“We’re completely dedicated to promoting pickleball, but most importantly our guests thrive on their experiences here—families, couples or people who just want to get away. We have everything to offer, and pickleball is just another extraordinary opportunity to differentiate why you would stay here.”
Even the Four Diamond resort’s award-winning culinary team has caught the pickleball bug, offering pickle-themed catering menus tailored for private parties and special events including pickled fruits and vegetables, many of which are grown on the resort’s 20,000-square-foot Chef’s Garden.
In 2017, after attending the USA Pickleball National Championship in Casa Grande, Arizona, Hart was hooked on the sport. “We were flabbergasted by what we saw in terms of the number of people, the extraordinary courts, and vendors,” he recalls. “We fell into a trance watching everything that went on at this tournament.”
Hart also was struck by the wide range of players—of all ages. “The tournament was serious, but people were joyous as they played. It was festive and wonderful, and really brought to life what we needed to do here,” he says.
Serendipitously, in 2018, the resort was needing to resurface its tennis courts. But as a 950-room luxury resort, one or two pickleball courts didn’t fit the luxury brand. So it took three tennis courts out of service and converted them into 12 dedicated pickleball courts. “We’ve been having a ball with the sport ever since,” says Hart.
As the courts filled and the sport continued to grow, however, he wanted guests to be able to play pickleball at their convenience and on their own time frame. So, two more tennis courts were repurposed to create four additional dedicated pickleball courts. “Then we had a pickleball epiphany,” explains Hart. “To make the resort distinctively different, we created a center court. Whether we’re hosting a great tournament or our house guests or members are playing, it’s a way for them to say, ‘Maybe I didn’t win the championship, but I got to play Center Court!’”
In its 19th year, the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge blends everything it stands for with the capacity to play pickleball. “This wonderful sport is an incredible, natural fit for us,” says Hart. “It’s really fun, really dynamic, and it was taking advantage of space we had—bringing a whole new level of energy and enthusiasm.”
If you love to play pickleball or want to learn to play, the resort is the place to experience it, according to Hart: “We have all the equipment and amenities and delightful people who will coach you on the basic fundamentals. You won’t find a better opportunity to play within a luxury environment and with so many other options to enjoy your time at the resort.”
What’s next for pickleball at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge? Plans are underway to convert the three remaining tennis courts—under a pavilion. “If you’re staying with us during one
of the hottest times of year, you and your family can still play pickleball on a hot afternoon in the shade,” says Hart.
In a place that offers everything—from swimming pools and championship golf to mountain views and relaxing outdoor spaces—the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is a
bucket-list essential for the pickleball passionate.
The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa hosted the top 100 pickleball players in North America during Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) Foot Solutions Grand Slam, which took place Feb. 16-21. Simone Jardim and Ben Johns ended the week by capturing the triple crown—gold medals in every event! What an incredible six days of play! With an exciting winning purse of $70,000, the tournament featured the largest prize money payout in Arizona history and was an unforgettable experience for pickleball enthusiasts. The event allowed 300 participants to safely compete during the weeklong tournament for locals and visitors alike.
Deep Well Sports Park
Creating a Premier Multi-Sport Complex in Prescott, AZ
Deep Well Sports Park (DWSP) was formed for the purpose of creating a premier multi-sport complex situated on approximately 12.5 acres of the Deep Well Ranch property located in “Mile High” Prescott, Arizona. The indoor and outdoor sports complex includes high-performance athletic courts as well as dining,
a fitness center and more.
Included are 8 indoor pickleball courts, 12 outdoor pickleball courts, weight and fitness rooms, state-of-the-art yoga and hot yoga, 6 massage rooms and full-service shower, sauna and locker rooms.
The restaurant and bar will be unmatched in quality and ambiance and will boast magnificent indoor and patio seating for 200 guests. Additionally, there will be a pro shop with DWSP’s own privately labeled merchandise and a drive-thru coffee bistro.
Outdoors will be equally inviting with a park-like setting, including waterfalls and fire pits. The number of courts allows DWSP to handle the largest of tournaments. There will be plenty of other outdoor activities such as ping-pong, shuffleboard, bocce ball and more. DWSP will have a discovery center and day care for children while parents are dining or playing. Adjoining all of this will be DWSP’s state-of-the-art, 50-space RV Resort.
High Performance Pickleball will offer tournaments, leagues and camps at the facility and Pickleball Trips will offer getaways for facility members.
*Limited number of investor memberships are available. Deep Well Sports Park investor memberships include access to full-service RV slips, Court and Fitness Memberships, along with an investment return of 7% and profit-sharing with our “double your investment” structure which is IRA eligible!
Investor details at https://invest.deepwellsportspark.com.
Deep Well Sports Park will be the only multi- sport complex of its kind.
• 8 Indoor and 12 Outdoor High-Performance Pickleball Courts
• 50-Space RV Resort
• FULL-SIZE INDOOR BASKETBALL COURT
• 2 Volleyball courts
• weight and fitness rooms
• state-of-the-art yoga and hot yoga
California Sports Court Surfaces
Today, we are seeing an evolutionary movement toward professional designed and constructed facilities. And while the sport is attracting more and more players from the generations x and y, it is the baby boomers who are flocking to the courts in droves, and driving the fastest growing sport in America.
The days of pickleball players being satisfied with temporary lines taped on a gym floor at the local recreation center or lines hand-drawn or spray-painted
on a tennis court or playground in the local park are fading fast. More and more, communities are looking to build stand-alone pickleball facilities for their residents.
When choosing a proper surface for pickleball there are a number of factors to consider. Player comfort, traction, color, safety, and ball bounce are a few that come to mind. To me, first and foremost is ball bounce. Unlike other paddle and racquet sports, the weight and rebound-effect of a pickleball is less than others. In fact, a pickleball weighs less than half of what a tennis ball weighs and the rebound-effect of the plastic ball is much less than rubber balls used in other sports. For the success of the sport, it
is imperative that court owners install surfacing systems that allow for the ball bounce heights needed to enjoy the game at a high level.
With more than 75% of the total players being over 55 years of age, the need for “softer” hard courts will be the next positive movement for the sport. Since its invention in 1968 by California Sports Surfaces, cushioned acrylic courts have become the desired surface in sports such as tennis, badminton, and basketball. In fact, both the U.S. Open and Australian Open play their national tennis championships on cushioned acrylic courts.
The real advantage of cushioned acrylic courts is felt by the players, and in particular, their lower back and legs after playing a few hours. Depending on the system you chose, cushioned acrylic systems can reduce the impact forces on a player’s body by 5 - 25% ... and having played 3 or 4 hours straight with pickleball players throughout the country, that added comfort is a blessing when you roll out of bed the next morning!
Cushioned acrylic courts are formed by mixing finely ground rubber granules with flexible binders and layering these mixtures onto the asphalt or concrete below. They are then topped with a wide variety of colors and line paint to form the surfacing system. Cushion systems can range in thickness from 1/8" to 1/2" depending on the type and amount of force reduction desired. Independent testing has shown that these systems provide a nearly identical ball bounce to courts without the cushioning systems. In fact, a few of the courts used at the 2015 USAPA National Championships in Casa Grande, AZ, were cushioned acrylic courts. The next time you are ready to resurface your existing courts, or if you are looking to build a new facility, the inclusion of cushion should be considered... and trust me, your players will thank you for investing in their comfort and longevity.
Pickleball MAGAZINE sat down with Josh Bechtel, Co-founder-Director of Product Development and Manufacturing for Players Pickleball, LLC, to talk about the company’s Mix & Match, Create-Your-Own approach to designing paddles.
How did you guys get your start?
JB: For several years, I worked in product development. Michael Bennett, Co-founder, and I had worked on a few projects previously and he approached me a few years ago about consulting for a pickleball company. It sounded intriguing so we met and I came on board. We started out making traditional paddles and, over the last few years, have made more than 55,000 paddles.
What’s your approach to development?
JB: Before we decided to launch our brand, we started testing paddles to see if we could prove other paddles were doing what their marketing claimed. From there, we kept working to try to figure out what factors most affected the perceived performance of the paddle and, before long, we felt we had something that could transcend the hype and traditional paddle constructions. However, as we talked with more and more players throughout the process, we learned there wasn’t a strong correlation between the mechanical properties data we were measuring and player feedback—it was all over the map! That’s really what set us down the path of our Mix & Match, Create-Your-Own approach to paddle making.
What’s different about the Players Pickleball paddle?
JB: Aside from the honeycomb core and wrapped grip, pretty much every other component is unique to our paddles. Instead of using the traditional flexible rubber edge guard and foam or balsa wood pieces to build out the handle, we integrated both elements into a single, structural and protective unit that’s really at the heart of our paddle design. We’re allowing players to select the core that best suits their preferences, then customize the cosmetics to best fit their style. There’s no single best paddle to be made, simply because players vary so much. You’ve got your dinkers, smashers, lobbers and everyone in between. We were sitting on a lot of data and our “a-ha” moment came when we realized the only way to make the best paddle for a customer was to put data into their hands and let them choose!
How can players create their own paddles?
JB: It’s a simple two-step process. Step one is about paddle performance—or selecting a core for your paddle—and step two is customizing the remaining paddle components any way you’d like.
How does the process work?
JB: Via our website. We have a 3D virtual paddle that you can view and edit with just a few clicks. It’s really a
matter of comparing cores, selecting the one you’d like, editing the color choices, then clicking “Add to Cart.”
What’s the long-term plan?
JB: For now, we’re just focused on the short term and making the best paddles we can for our customers while making smart decisions for our business. We’ll see how things unfold beyond that!
GAMMA Sports originally had an untraditional and unique start in tennis, and again in pickleball before enjoying the recognition it does today. The company was the idea of Harry Ferrari, a materials engineer with Westinghouse who was also a tennis enthusiast. Ferrari’s inspiration came during a local tennis tournament. During the match, his natural gut strings broke so he picked up an identical racquet strung with the best synthetic nylon strings available at the time. They performed so poorly that he went from winning to losing the match. He thought to himself, “There has to be a better way.”
And the engineer in him discovered that bombarding the nylon strings with gamma rays would result in a more elastic, more powerful, more natural-feeling string. The difference in play was dramatic, which also helped him turn around his court performance. The innovative GAMMA GUT string was the start of GAMMA Sports.
Today, Ferrari’s son, Matthew, runs the company and the history of innovation and experimentation continues. GAMMA Sports is not only a dominant player in the tennis realm, but a strong contender in the world of pickleball— bringing decades of product development experience to our sport.
“Our second product really got us into pickleball,” Matt Ferrari said. “We developed innovative overgrips and replacement grips for racquets using proprietary materials and inks. Our grips have 40 years of research and development in them to create the right combination of absorbency and tackiness that make them perfect for players.”
At first, GAMMA Sports’ grips were marketed to tennis players, but the company soon saw that the product was being used in a variety of ways.
“We realized we were selling grips to people who manufacture equipment for martial arts, for jumprope handles, hammers, or for anything with a handle,” Ferrari explained. “We saw this huge spike in pickleball manufacturers using our grips. We had been making tennis equipment for 35 years, so we applied that technology to pickleball paddles and came up with some interesting things.”
GAMMA Sports innovations include the edgeless, flush fit bumper, a recessed bumper that protects the edge of the racquet without affecting play.
“We focus on doing things nobody else is doing,” Ferrari said. “And the response has been great.
We’re making paddles right now in Pittsburgh, using tennis racquet technology and offering paddles for
every type of player. Our paddles are available on our website, gammasports.com, nationally in stores like DICK’S Sporting Goods, at Pickleball Central, as well as internationally. We have used our connections in Europe and elsewhere to help grow the sport abroad.”
Ferrari became the president of GAMMA Sports in 2004, after starting with the company out of college in the 1990s. While his father was a “classic” tennis player, Ferrari is more of a pickleball player.
“I’m more social, more gregarious, so I like the closer quarters of the pickleball court,” he said. “It’s not as oppositional as tennis. It’s a more communal sport, which fits with my personality.”
In that vein, it’s not unusual to see GAMMA Sports sponsoring a whole host of programs and events in
the pickleball world, from Rock N Roll Pickleball to the Pittsburgh Pickleball Classic for Parkinson’s, US Open and other national tournaments.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GAMMA SPORTS, GO TO THE WEBSITE AT GAMMASPORTS.COM.
Dinkers and Bangers
Whether a dinker or a banger, a poacher or an addict – Dinkers & Bangers Pickleball Shop offers classy and cleverly themed apparel and gear, allowing players to express their personal style. The unique images and slogans applied to shirts, caps and even notecards double as great recruiting tools. Wearing a shirt that says “It’s a Dinking Game” is undoubtedly a conversation starter.
Established in April, almost a month after co-owner Katie Jennett Caska welcomed her third child into the world, the concept for the business had been percolating for over a year.
“The first time I stepped foot on a court, three years ago, I was like a kid in a candy shop,” effused Mary Ann Castine Sorrell, co-owner. “I couldn’t wait for the instruction to end so that I could see if I could feel the pop of the ball for myself. There was no real ‘pickleball style’ that I could see, and I found myself looking a lot. I also started tracking the fun terms used and found myself coining my own, filing ideas as I was playing.”
At the twilight of their lives, the Sorrells are raising three adopted children. What was once a decent retirement income was slipping away much sooner than anticipated.
“I kind of have to blame my grown kids for kicking this idea into fruition,” she laughs. “When Mother’s Day rolled around after I had become a full-fledged pickleball addict, they were looking for pickleball gifts for me. I received a sleeve of Onix outdoor balls and complaints from my kids that there just wasn’t anything else out there I’d like.”
Were other people looking for a way to express their passion for the sport – on and off the court? Sorrell started doing research and seeing who was out there, what they were doing, and identifying a niche that seemed to grow larger as she left her home court and ventured to tournaments.
“I knew early on that I wanted my former employee, Katie, to partner with me on this. I dragged her pregnant self down to our courts last summer and made my pitch,” added Sorrell.
Caska is a graphic designer with a very strong art background, a degree in graphic design and a huge amount of common sense.
“Mary Ann and I have been in business together, in one way or another, for over 10 years and when she has this much passion for something, I know to buckle down, hold on tight and plan for something great!” Caska said.
The women hope to one day share a court. In the meantime, their dreams are coming true because of the tremendous response the pickleball community has shown to their shop. “We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us, given us a chance, put in a good word, or shared their happiness at discovering our shop,” said Sorrell.
Check out what Dinkers & Bangers has to offer at www.dinkersandbangers.com.
If you’ve ever registered for or organized a pickleball tournament, chances are you’re familiar with pickleballtournaments.com. And, like most websites that you use daily, you probably don’t think about who’s behind the website that brings players together year-round in an orderly and organized manner.
Melissa McCurley and Greg Thompson are the brother and sister team behind the site. The duo took over the site in 2014 and have cultivated it from a small, free service assisting about 90 tournaments nationwide, to a modern tournament-tracking behemoth and adding a complete package of tournament-orchestrating services to the menu of offerings for tournaments directors.
“We revamped the front-end experience, the home page, to make things more modern. We added advertising, incorporated tournaments more prominently in the design and implemented a state-of-the-art communication system to easily contact over 25k players,” Thompson said. “We now have texting notifications for players and are slowly rolling that out, and we have a new support portal rolling out, which will be a self-serve, modern ‘wiki’ of solutions that you’re used to seeing on other sites. Community forums will be on there soon, so players can talk to one another, and we’ve added new charts and formats to satisfy the needs of the tournament directors, like triple elimination charts.”
Part of the success of pickleballtournaments.com has come from the fact that McCurley and Thompson not only implement features to the site that keep it current and functional, they actively seek out feedback from pickleball players on a regular basis to see what new features they can add to the site to satisfy every pickleball need.
This feedback comes by way of McCurley and Thompson’s own personal passion for the sport, but also professional through McCurley’s global travels to run tournaments for clients worldwide.
“We have premium services that are much higher in demand than either one of us could have guessed,” McCurley said. “Tournaments bring us on board to manage their entire event, registrations, payments, schedules, brackets, coming on site with our equipment to run the tournament, every last detail. We have 30 of those this year, where we’re in the trenches with players, tournament directors, volunteers, spectators, vendors and staff. We travel to multiple states and different countries, so when we’re in the field, we hear the voice of the players, not just from players in one area or region. We’ve trained over 200 tournaments and partner with the USAPA to help sanctioned tournaments meet USAPA sanction requirements as well as train them on the standard processes, procedures and tools to run their tournament. And it’s interesting to see the different stages of pickleball in different places that we go. We’re not just a software service company; we live in this world 24 hours a day loving this game right along with our fellow competitive pickleball family!”
Keeping the company true to its original mission— which is to be a useful service to pickleball players and tournament directors first and foremost—has been the linchpin of pickleballtournaments.com’s growth and success. Thompson said that when they took over the company, they did so with eyes and ears wide open and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.
“I have a strong sports background and corporate experience, but, when we came in, we let the experienced people show us the ropes,” he said. “That process that was ingrained into us then is crucial to us now and we bring everyone that we work with into that process and culture. It’s not just signing up for a tournament; it’s refining, training, teaching everyone the pickleballtournaments.com way that has been tested and proven to run very efficient events. It really is a package deal—when you work with our site, you work with all of us.”
And the number of people working with pickleballtournaments.com is going to be growing exponentially in the near future. The online portion of the business is scalable to tournaments of any size and user base. McCurley is partnering with other companies in the southeast and northwest United States to teach them how to organize and run successful tournaments. The team has a dozen independent contractors working on the business, but Thompson said the volunteers who have learned how to run tournaments and have become power users of the site are the true backbone of the company’s success. Internationally, pickleballtournaments.com’s administration of tournaments in Madrid for the past three years has laid the groundwork for global expansion, bridging the gaps between languages and culture that are necessary to grow their business and the sport.
They’ve already received glowing accolades from a delegation of tournament organizers from the UK who came to see the pickleballtournaments.com team in action firsthand.
“The tool of pickleballtournaments.com isn’t useful without the processes behind it that the original team developed 12-15 years ago,” McCurley said. “The UK team watched us in action at the US Open, keeping up with 1,300 players, 3,000 matches over 7 days. They were blown away and said that it ‘looked like we were inside a surgery room executing the tournament with clinical precision.’ It’s a nice compliment to get from another country.”
For now, pickleballtournaments.com will remain the reliable, indispensable service that tournament organizers have always known, but the day may come when players will recognize their system and processes no matter where they play in the world.
“We’ll be doing work with the UK, in Europe and we’re in early discussions with organizers in India as well as other countries,” Thompson said. “We have five countries coming in for a host training session to help them run tournaments. We’re taking tiny steps, but we’re getting there.”
IS SPANNING A RANGE OF INNOVATION IN PICKLEBALL
When it comes to small family businesses, the Barnes family of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, could be the archetypical model. Founded by brothers Rob and Mike Barnes, their father Jim, and Rob’s father-in-law, Russell Heistuman, Selkirk is an example of what a few entrepreneurs can do when their hearts are in the game.
Named after the Selkirk mountain range that stretches from the Barnes’ native Idaho into Canada, the company is the result of the family discovering pickleball, falling
in love with it, and then deciding they could make things better for everyone by building better paddles. Heistuman, a professional designer and marketer, came up with the Selkirk name, and the family went to work.
“We’ve been playing pickleball for almost eight years,” Rob said. “When we started, there wasn’t anything that you would call a brand in the space. Stuff didn’t last very long. Mike and I previously owned a business for another sport we founded when younger, so we discussed it with my father-in-law and decided we could build a lifestyle brand within the sport and offer players a more reliable, better- performing product.”
Jim Barnes had a construction business, became a fire fighter and then retired before coming out of retirement to serve as the production manager for the new business. As a supporter of his sons from the very beginning with their first sporting goods venture, started when they were just in their teens, Barnes figured out how to manufacture and distribute the Selkirk equipment to the market.
Today, Selkirk continues to manufacture its lines out of Hayden, Idaho, and is ready to face any uptick in the market that would result in a higher demand for its products.
“Pickleball is a very fast-growing sport and we’ve set ourselves up to be scalable,” Mike said. “We try to make sure that players can get our paddles from wherever they can, but, at the same time, we focus on aiming distribution toward the smaller outlets where you find people involved in community — instructors teaching lessons, bag dealers, pro shops that support their local communities.”
By being a whisper away from their market, Selkirk can actively straddle the demands of making high-end paddles for pros as well as entry-level products for beginners by focusing on the needs of both.
“We’re always pushing the limits for the highest performance and quality,” Mike said. “We were the very first company to come out with a lifetime warranty on our products, which was unprecedented at the time. Some of the unique things we did along the way to meet pro demand was design low-profile edgeguards that are lightweight and extremely durable. And we created a line of $30 polymer honeycomb paddles to grow the sport for novices. Everyone agrees that beginners using wood paddles does not set them up for success in the game and that polymer honeycomb performs better. Our entry-level, made- in-the-USA paddles should help new players better break into the sport.”
It doesn’t hurt with sales that Selkirk also has a growing stable of top-tier professional players using signature brand Selkirk paddles including Enrique Ruiz, Glen Peterson, Morgan Evans, Tyson McGuffin, Tonja Major, Miok Lee, Tony Tollenaar, Tyler Dawson, Lynn Syler, Kurtis Campbell, and Kim Jagd.
And while Selkirk is growing by leaps and bounds to meet the demands of the sport, that doesn’t mean the Barnes family is on Easy Street. The young brothers both have growing families—Rob with a 3-year-old and a 10-month- old, and Mike with a 2-month-old—manage to put in 60 to 70 hours a week and still find time for church and ultimate frisbee. Their pickleball play has been pared back to mainly tournaments, but they try to get out into the community to play when they can. They attribute their ability to keep everything in balance to a shared love of large volumes of coffee.
Despite the late hours and the unending challenges of creating paddles that meet all aspects of player demands, the Barnes family says they are loving their role in the growth of the sport.
“When we develop a paddle, we look at who are we developing for, get pro player input and then the prototyping, design... everything after that is geared toward the pros. If they like it, everyone will,” Rob said. “This is all we do. As pickleball keeps growing, it’s going to great places as it hits mass market, and the innovation over the next 10 years will be incredible. And we’ll be working hard to stay in there.”
In the world of pickleball, you find people from all walks of life on the court. And, if you play in Arizona or Wyoming, you may have already met Jerry Doerr, owner of Amish Origins, a company based in Wyoming that makes natural pain relief ointments and creams that are perfect for pickleball aches and pains.
“I spend the winters in Arizona, which is where I picked up the game about five years ago. I have golfer’s elbow that’s painful enough to wake me up at night,” Doerr said. “I was introduced to the product in 2000, tried it, and within less than a minute, my pain was gone. I couldn’t believe it, ‘What is this stuff?’ I asked myself. My brother-in-law in Utah plays about three times a week. He has a sore knee and he tried some and now it’s the only thing that keeps him going. It worked so well for us that I ended up buying the company.”
The formula for the Amish Origins products has remained unchanged for more than 80 years, however, the formula was strengthened in 2002 and includes natural essential oils including camphor, pine needle oil, wintergreen, eucalyptus and menthol. While some of those ingredients can only be sourced overseas where they grow, everything that can be sourced in the US is and the product is entirely American made. While the original product has a petrolatum base, the company came up with a greaseless cream version especially for athletes that also includes aloe vera.
"We needed something for people who play sports that wasn't slippery, "You don't want to put some on for an arthritis flare up or sore spot and then have your paddle. slip out of your hand while you’re playing. Our greaseless cream formula is perfect for players in all sports because it goes on and relieves the pain without creating a mess.” The company also offers users a liquid spray version. They also produce a draw salve for sores, splinters and stings, and chickweed salve for cuts, burns and rashes. Everything in their inventory is based on the original formula of natural essential oils developed in Amish country back in the 1930’s.
In addition to their pain relief creams and ointments, Amish Origins also came up with a lip balm which was also designed around the blend of essential oils, called Lip Doc, that heals painful chapped and cracked lips while also protecting wearers from the harmful rays of the sun. It’s SPF 15 UV protection will shield your lips from damaging UV rays all year round while you’re outside on the court. There is no other Lip Balm like it because of the blend of essential oils included in the formula.
While you won’t find it in major chain stores, Amish Origins is carried in plenty of independent stores in every state throughout the country. It is even distributed in Canada. If you can’t find it near you, you can order it directly from their website at www.amishorigins.com or by calling 888.530.7643.
No matter where you purchase Amish Origins, the company has a 30-day money back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose except your aches and pains.
When Neil Friedenberg was a young boy, playing pickleball in the fitness center at his dad’s place
of work, he never knew that the composite paddles with the large lightning bolt logos mounted on the wall would become an integral part of his future.
Today, as owner and president of ProLite, two things have been constant: Friedenberg’s passion for the game of pickleball and his strong perception of the lightning bolt logo signifying American quality and innovation.
“When I was younger, everything seemed to feel better with those paddles, from power and weight, to touch,” Friedenberg said. Originally, they were made by the Ultra- Lite Paddle Company, which originated in 1984 by Boeing engineer Arlen Paranto and his son, Steve. They focused on introducing a lighter-weight paddle while still maintaining its strength. This is when the first composite paddle was born, composed of a nomex honeycomb core and fiberglass facing. The innovation has become a mainstay in the pickleball paddle industry and is used by all major paddle manufacturers. In April of 2011, Friedenberg took over the company and never looked back.
Today, ProLite’s range of products includes everything from a wide variety of paddle models designed for all players’ backgrounds, to pickleball apparel and accessories such as the very first pickleball dedicated pro touring bag. However, the emphasis continues to be on the paddles, especially when it comes to introducing the game to new players and pickleball transplants.
“We’re never complacent. We look to utilize the best technology to create a new, more advanced paddle. Right now, ProLite is gearing up for 2018, but we’re also making sure we’re set for the snowbird migration from October through April, which is the heavy season. We’re always visualizing to improve specific components of our paddles, production, and especially customization. “When new prototypes arrive, I’m basically a kid in a candy store. I am sure it’s amusing to our employees when they see me sprinting across the production floor to start building new models. It might as well be my birthday. My dad would tell me as a young boy, “If not now, when? If not you, then who? Be a leader, not a follower.” This has stuck with me throughout my adulthood. It drives me, creates accountability, creativity, and aspiration.”
Based on numerous customer surveys, ProLite has responded by creating paddles that not only reflect a player’s skill set, but personality as well.
The Crush paddle uses a custom screening and printing process to generate graphics that appeal to younger players. The Black Diamond Series paddles (Supernova and Titan Pro) cater to high-level tennis players crossing over into pickleball by recreating the feel of hitting the ball with a stringed racquet.
“What we try to do is find advances in materials that improve one’s game, skills and confidence in the product,” Friedenberg said. “A lot of it’s mental, because if you’re
set on your paddle, you’re not thinking about your paddle while playing. So, we’re always entertaining new ideas, structures, and components to reach different backgrounds and ages. If you can make a product that creates a smooth transition from another sport into pickleball, it’s a natural fit.”
As a former health and physical education teacher, Friedenberg doesn’t just speak as a business owner looking to sell a popular product — he also “walks the walk” by conducting clinics and camps for players of all ages.
“This game has taught me the importance of lifelong health and fitness, learning and working with others towards a goal. I went from an 11-year-old who thought he was better than he really was, and only wanted to beat his dad at a sport, to watching tendencies, being patient, and taking opportunities to attack,” he said. “Today, my biggest struggle, as far as being a player goes, is balancing free time with that of being a husband and father. I have an 8-, 6- and 3-year-old, and they’re starting to become involved in more activities. I’m a family man and I’m not going to miss those special moments.”
Friedenberg added that pickleball is the “ultimate lifelong sport,” one that will grow with his family and help him instill the importance of lifelong fitness into his kids.
“Pickleball is a sport that bridges all generations together,” he said. “I taught a clinic at a local school with students ranging from ages 5 to 12, and they absolutely loved it. They may not understand the complexity of the scoring right away, but then they play and get it. The sport is changing, becoming more sophisticated and reaching younger generations. And that’s something we always pay close attention to at ProLite. That’s what we want.”
In keeping with giving back to the pickleball community, ProLite also supports Cure ALZ, an Alzheimer’s disease research foundation, as well as charities that work with veterans with traumatic brain injuries. It makes sure that the pros representing the company put character first and maintain a level of modicum befitting the sport. “We work hard to make sure we create a family culture among our Pro Team players.”
THE DRIVE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS FOR PLAYERS AND NOT JUST FEED THE BOTTOM LINE HAS BEEN THE KEY TO PADDLETEK’S SUCCESS SINCE THE BEGINNING.
Curtis Smith’s introduction to pickleball was a reluctant one. An advertising and marketing executive who worked for a large department store, he’d never played the game that his brother, Cody, was so passionate about. But, like many family business stories, when one family member has an overwhelming drive, the others tend to follow.
“Cody kept asking me to work with him, and I said no because I had no idea what pickleball was, and it wasn’t my primary business,” Curtis explains. “Then, Cody needed help making 60 paddles for a coffee demo event, and he couldn’t go because of his day job, so I helped him out. I thought maybe 30 people would show up.” Curtis never made it to his vendor’s table that day. “There were more than 200 people at the event. I was swarmed with people pulling paddles out of the boxes for two hours,” he says. “I went home and told Cody that if he gave me half the company, I’d run it.”
Paddletek’s polymer paddle was revolutionary at the time. Now used by 80 percent of the market, polymer designs were the solution to a problem pickleball players had been facing for years—finding a durable paddle that responded to the needs of the player. “It changed the sport. Old Nomex paddles wore out and aluminum paddles dented over time,” Curtis recalls. “Polymer paddles were intuitive. They change in response to the situation. They were meant for pickleball.”
Since those early days, Paddletek has remained committed to its designs. Where some companies focus on trends and “latest and greatest,” Paddletek is focused on durability and the needs of the player. “Rather than us change our recipe, we want to simplify the message for consumers,” Curtis says. “We could make a paddle an ounce lighter, but when you change the weight by more than half an ounce, you dramatically change the way it plays. We’d rather say, ‘This is the shape and material; you choose your weight,’ and then explain to players how that will perform. Our Bantam EX-L, for example, is popular with tennis players because of its weighted balance and response, whereas our Bantam TS-5 is really light.”
Always thinking about the players, Paddletek’s also looking at increasing durability in pickleball paddles, creating legacy pieces that can be handed down to the next generation. “Right now, we’re looking at everything as if we had to start from scratch and saying, ‘How do we make this longer lasting?’ How do you make a five- or 10-year paddle,” Curtis explains. “When you buy a good tennis racquet, you can just get it restrung. What plays as well as polymer but will still be good eight years from now? We put more energy into that than changing the spec a bit and claiming innovation. If I’m spending $150 on a new paddle, I want to be able to give it to my grandkids.”
That drive to solve problems for the players and not just feed the bottom line has been the key to Paddletek’s success since the beginning. And while the company’s grown and changed since its reluctant start, so has Curtis, who is now a pickleball player who plays mostly with his family and coaches his son. He’s even played in his local regional tournament, where he won silver—an accomplishment he likes to joke about. “There were only two of us in the match,” he notes. “So I came in second, but I also came in last.”
For more information on Paddletek, visit paddletek.com.