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national junior pickleball

National Junior Pickleball -- Where Young Athletes Can Shine

by Jason Flamm on

"Kids need other kids to play against."

That was the driving force behind the creation of National Junior Pickleball (NJP), which Courtney Loughridge founded just a few years ago. This series of tournaments began locally in Las Vegas, Nevada, but has since grown into the largest series of junior tournaments nationwide.

This year, each tournament features over 100 kids aged 8-18 from all over the US and Canada.

Let’s get to know more about National Junior Pickleball.

What is the NJP?

So far this year, NJP has had three tournaments, each outdoing the previous one in attendance. Their latest was NJP Southwest, which featured 126 juniors competing in 478 matches over three days.

National Junior Pickleball, NJP Southwest featured over 126 juniors

Each event starts with pickleball clinics and a skills evaluation designed to help kids discover their competitive level and help players find partners. Then, they compete in events that include singles, doubles, and a four-player team competition. 

Currently, all events are co-ed, but Courtney hopes to offer more girls-only events in the future. 

The NJP is about inclusivity and opportunity

One of the struggles nationwide for junior pickleball players is finding competition their age, especially in tournaments where adults dominate registration. Besides competing, Courtney and her crew of volunteers helping her run the tournaments help these kids find camaraderie and build a community among themselves. 

Competing for the first time as a junior can be intimidating, so the goal is to take as much pressure off these kids as possible. Each tournament or clinic is very kid and parent friendly, focused on creating a great atmosphere rather than just on the competition.

"My girls played in their very first tournament and had the greatest time learning and growing with friends their age. It was awesome to see these girlies improve over just a couple days of play. This weekend definitely sparked a new love and focus for them to make pickleball training a priority alongside the other sports they play. To say we're excited for what's ahead in an understatement." - Emerald Polotu, Mother of AnaLia (10), Avei (9), and Lesila (8).

AnaLia (10), Avei (9), and Lesila (8) National Junior Pickleball

That’s not to say these kids aren’t competing at high levels. 

These kids can play

At the most recent event, the team competition featured Wil Shafer, Jace Morris, Jaden Lam, and Xavier NvCorchuk, with a team DUPR average of 4.95. These particular juniors frequently compete in pro-qualifier matches nationwide.

“This was by far the greatest juniors tournament I have ever been to! I remember when the most the juniors had was a handwritten round robin without medals and one bracket. But this one had everything. Thank you to everyone involved because this tournament was awesome!” - Wil Shaffer

Wil Shafer, Jace Morris, Jaden Lam, and Xavier NvCorchuk, gold medalists at NJP Southwest

Each tournament is powered by DUPR, and all matches are reported to help the kids grow their ratings. Even if juniors don’t have a DUPR account when registering, they are fully validated once they leave the tournament.

When is the next tournament?

The next National Junior Pickleball tournament is at the Missouri Pickleball Club in St. Louis, Missouri, from May 30th to June 2nd. 

If you want to register or support the event, please visit the National Junior Pickleball website.


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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.