The growth of pickleball is phenomenal. And for good reason. I’ve found that the pickleball community is welcoming and supportive. We want new players to learn the game. We want everyone to get better and we encourage one another. Today I write about just a few of the people that have contributed to its success.
Pickleball Fanatics from Coast to Coast
The following is certainly not an exhaustive list but includes some of the many people that have contributed to the growth of pickleball:
- I probably would not have played this game if it wasn’t for Mike Wolfe. Mike, an older gentleman, kept bugging me to play. I was lucky to learn pickleball in the Pacific Northwest as it has an incredibly supportive pickleball community.
- Early on I met Steve Parento whose contributions to the sport and paddle technology qualify him for a Pickleball Hall of Fame.
- Stephanie McDonald is from a small town in Colorado and became a USAPA Ambassador. Her efforts in her local community have definitely contributed to the growth of the game.
- Each year The Villages Pickleball Club, headed by Jeff Shank, run a “pro exhibition”. I went last year for the first time and was just one of 16 players that wanted to give back to the game. It was a blast. Not only does The Villages have over 200 dedicated pickleball courts, but literally thousands of players anxious to improve their play. I love nothing more than teaching people who WANT to learn.
- John Gullo had the vision to make the first professional pickleball event called the Tournament of Champions. With the help of Kyle and Trudee Klein, this tournament is held on some of the most beautiful courts in the country in Brigham City Utah. They also promote and organize play in local schools.
- In Delaware, I met Georgia Billger, a woman in her 70s, who organizes pickleball for anyone who wants to play. If they haven’t learned the sport yet, or are having difficulties, she will tell them to get there early (5am) and she will help them.
- Deb Harrison’s name is probably more familiar to you because she has been posting YouTube videos for a long time. These videos provide instruction for folks all around the world.
- Seymore Rifkin put together the IPTPA so that instruction can be more professional, and instructors can get the insurance that is required by many facilities and clubs.
- The Laymen’s, the Freso’s, Wayne Muggli and the army of USAPA and tournament volunteers that make tournaments
possible. In addition, I wish I could list the name of every referee that volunteered at the ever growing list of tournaments across the country.
- Chris Allen brought pickleball to the world of podcasting. He is really spreading the word. As are the dozens of pickleball bloggers that bring quality information to readers for free.
- Cody Wolford and Yolie Martinez show up to support all the players on practice days!
- Ken and Miok Lee put a huge effort into organizing the biggest indoor tournament in the country.
- Bob and Bev Youngren have had a huge impact on this sport since before many of us found it.
- Marc Friedenburg and Gigi Lemaster go anywhere in Arizona giving clinics at schools ensuring the next generation of pickleball players is learning the right way.
People and the Growth of Pickleball
I could go on and on about the many players, spectators, and volunteers I have met in the last couple of years. Though there are many, many others these folks have impacted me personally and professionally. There are so many people on the court and behind the scenes, and I am definitely missing many on this list.
However, if you know some of these people don’t forget to thank them for their efforts the next time you see them. And please share in the comment section below the names of those people contributing to the growth of pickleball in your community.