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Major League Pickleball

An Exclusive Look Behind the Scenes of the St. Louis Shock, One of MLPs Elite Franchises

by Jason Flamm on

The St. Louis Shock is one of the top Premier Level teams in Major League Pickleball.

It is owned by the Chaifetz family, which has deep ties to St. Louis. You need only travel west from the city down Interstate 64 (known locally as Highway 40) to midtown to see their name prominently displayed on the Saint Louis University (SLU) Billikens arena.

Of course, there's also the Chaifetz School of Business and Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship at SLU, and numerous other technology and real estate investments in the St. Louis area.

Ross Chaifetz, son of Richard Chaifetz, is the co-owner and general manager of the St. Louis Shock and was kind enough to provide The Dink with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his exciting young team.

We asked about his experience so far of running and operating an MLP franchise, and what they hope to achieve within the city of St. Louis. We also discussed the MLP Draft and how the team was formed.

Left to right: Patriquin, Bright, Chaifetz, Fahey, and Tardio

In case you are unfamiliar with the St. Louis Shock:

Why did the Shock choose Anna Bright first?

Chaifetz: Anna’s team spirit, attitude, energy, and fight make her probably the most unique player in the game. Anna has ‘been there and done it’ in MLP and is a proven winner.

Complete Results From the 2024 MLP Premier Level Draft
Major League Pickleball held its Premier Level Draft Tuesday night. We’ve got your complete results:

We modeled almost 10 different draft scenarios, and in just about every scenario, the teams that started with Anna first looked the strongest on paper and the most balanced.

Anna Bright is built for MLP, plain and simple. We were ecstatic to draft her.

How was the dynamic bidding process?

Chaifetz: Because of the dynamic bidding process this year, there was no guarantee that a team could secure a specific player.

We spent upwards of 30 hours preparing for the draft and modeling our game theory around different draft scenarios. When draft night came around, we knew we wanted Anna in our top spot.

The question was, what would it cost to get her? I had allocated a certain draft dollar cap that I felt was the maximum I would spend to secure Anna and still have capital left over to round out the team with solid males and another female.

Fortunately, we were able to get Anna at No. 3 for significantly less than the maximum I was willing to spend. This paid dividends for us when you look at what we were able to spend to construct an incredible men's pairing with the top two teenagers (Hayden and Gabe) in the sport.

Tardio and Patriquin are two of the best teenagers in the sport.

Did Anna have a say in drafting the rest of the team?

Chaifetz: Absolutely.

Any smart GM wants the input of their top player. MLP is unique in the sense that the team requires arguably more chemistry than most other major sports teams. You’re drafting for camaraderie, on- and off-court partnership, culture, friendship, and more.

We were on the phone with Anna for the duration of draft night. We had our eye on Hayden, and Anna felt great about that. When it came to the back of the draft, Gabe was a no-brainer and Anna knew Kate Fahey was a rising star.

Anna Bright and Kate Fahey are both fiery competitors.

Surprisingly, more female talent remained on the board than we expected. When it came to our female pick, it became a risk-rewards analysis of ‘Okay, are we constructing a team to win day one or for the future?’

After selecting Anna, Hayden, and Gabe, we felt we had probably the best trio on the board at that point, we felt we were in great position to take a risk on a high-upside player like Kate.

It has paid off big time.

Meet Kate Fahey: A Fresh Face Ready to Shock Pro Pickleball
Kate Fahey was a dominant collegiate tennis player and only picked up a pickleball paddle last summer. Fast forward to now, and she’s a motivated member of MLP’s St. Louis Shock.

Kate has exceeded our expectations, and more than that, the culture fit is perfect. 

What's something interesting you've learned about the players?

Chaifetz: Anna’s determination and grit has far exceeded my expectations. Not just on the court. When Anna graduated college, she did a walk from Central Mexico up to Canada.

Thousands of miles.

I dont care who you are, your age, your athleticism – it’s an incredible feat.

Journeys like that aren't for the faint of heart. It's things like this that build grit, determination, and drive. It's a perfect reflection of who Anna is and the spirit she brings to our team.

Anna Bright, Andrei Daescu Pull Off Mixed Doubles Upset to Take Gold in Austin
Anna Bright and Andrei Daescu took down Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns in mixed doubles to win gold at the PPA Austin Open on Monday.

What interested your family about owning a Major League Pickleball team?

Chaifetz: Pickleball isn’t slowing down. So when our family decided to bid on an MLP team, we had a very candid conversation with one another.

We are not the type of family that does things just to take a ride.

The conversation I had with my father, Rich, made it clear that if we were going to do this, we wanted to do it big. We are doing whatever it takes to build a championship, winning culture.

We are building the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York Yankees of pickleball.

Our goal is to be regarded as a class above everyone else. We embody this on the court, in the community, and behind the scenes.

It’s not cheap, it’s not easy.

We are investing in extra practice and training for our players, flying private with our team to give them a world-class experience, spending on convenience and fun, and investing in the experience for everyone who touches our organization.

No commercial flights for Big H and Gabe these days.

We are providing the most unique player and front office experience in MLP. We are spending the money, investing the time, and building the relationships we need to establish a championship culture and stack trophies – we are building the North Star of MLP. 

How does owning an MLP team compare to your other investments?

Chaifetz: MLP is very unique for us. It tucked in nicely into the Chaifetz Group portfolio of sports holdings alongside Alpine Formula One, Team Liquid Gaming, and more.

But what’s unique is that this is a start-up franchise within the sports space. It was a fascinating opportunity to build our own brand, culture, and player and fan experience from day one – crafting it just how we wanted to with tons of creativity in a sport with no upper bound.

I would be lying if I said I knew it would be this difficult and time-intensive. But we are thoughtful in every decision we make. To be the best, you have to be ahead of the curve. You have to create the trend, not follow it, and you must have foresight.

MLP and the Shock is our opportunity to create a culture and brand unlike any other in professional pickleball.

How did the players feel about being drafted by the St. Louis Shock?

Hayden: My reaction to being drafted by the Shock was 'so stoked.' I was super hyped to play with Anna. She is such a dawg in MLP!

I also knew the owners, Rich and Ross, were sick, so that’s just a huge bonus.

I never had any ties with St. Louis, but I just visited for the first time right before MLP Washington, and it was amazing! 

Anna: I was honestly quite surprised to be drafted by the Shock - I think I had spoken to eight teams in the week leading up to the draft, and St. Louis wasn’t one of them until Ross Chaifetz called me about two hours before the actual live draft started.

I honestly didn’t think much of it as it was so last minute; I thought they were more covering their bases by talking to me. But it was a great conversation, and I was super excited when I got the call.

I was really excited to be drafted to a team with a smaller ownership group really looking to grow their organization within their local community that I knew would listen to my draft input.

Everything has worked out so much better than I could have expected.

I honestly had no ties to the city of St. Louis, but I had been there once before for a pickleball tournament a few years ago. The tournament was held at Missouri Pickleball Club, where we just played in the first home/home exhibition series with the Chicago Slice in front of a completely sold-out home crowd.

I really like the city, and it’s so cool to have been drafted into such a sports-focused community where pickleball is really being embraced, championed, and celebrated.

There’s such excitement there for pickleball and all things Shock-related, and I’m really excited about the future and what the Chaifetz and their team can make happen in the city. 

What does the future look like for the St. Louis Shock and MLP?

Chaifetz: It’s fascinating to step back and absorb what we’ve accomplished in just 15 months of owning the Shock.

We’ve gone from an expansion franchise with no brand to the top of the standings with the best fans in MLP.

But our plans for the next two years will far exceed anyone’s expectations.

We are going the extra mile – establishing a home-and-home series in the market and spending time with other local teams such as the SLU Billikens, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, and more to tie into the local sports culture.

Very shortly, you’ll see huge plans for us to build a physical presence in the community where pickleball fans – beginners and advanced alike – can practice, train, compete, and more alongside the STL Shock.

Every day, we hear how much the community is salivating for more integration with the Shock. STL is the No. 6 pickleball market in the country, so we must bring the game to the fans right in their backyard.

How to keep up with the St. Louis Shock

The St. Louis Shock plays in MLP events all year long. The next event is the Beer City Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's a Mid-Season MLP tournament that runs July 10th-14th.

You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

Or check out their website.

A huge thank you to Ross Chaifetz and Andrew Haines, COO, for this exclusive look behind the scenes at their very talented team.

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Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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