Gold Card. Espionage. Record Numbers.
While you were crackin' the wishbone with grandma at the turkey table, the minds behind pro pickleball were busy forging the future of the sport. No biggie.
Newly wedded lovebirds, MLP & the PPA, released their joint schedule for 2023. The six-course feast of an announcement had all the fixings, too, including the introduction of 'tour cards.'
And that wasn't all, as a tennis behemoth officially announced their entry into the sport by way of an alliance with the APP Tour, paving the way for what is sure to reignite the cross-tour rivalry of days passed.
Hope you're still hungry, because in today's issue we're going to help you digest all of that and more.
Let's jump in.
When Rotation Turns on You
There are a million ways a dink can go wrong. As much as you'd like to, you can't always blame the paddle (we all know that person that glares at theirs after every mishit).
One of the most common, but subtle, causes is missing the paddle's sweet spot. Two problems arise when this happens:
1) Contact to the left or the right of the sweet spot causes the paddle to rotate in your hand and leads to errant dinks
If the paddle rotates during contact, both the pace and the direction of the dink changes. This leads players to look at their paddle as though they were betrayed.
2) The ball makes contact with a 'dead spot'
With some paddles, it's pretty obvious when you miss the sweet spot. The sound changes, the ball has less power, etc. But with others, you won't even be able to tell.
In either case, the solution is the same.
Watch the ball all the way to the point of contact. Make sure the ball connects with the center of the paddle face. Control the pace from your shoulder (Ben Johns likes to say 'hinge from the shoulder') and keep the elbow and wrist locked in place. Move through the ball in one fluid motion, do not stop at the point of contact.
Understanding what went wrong is crucial to preventing unforced errors. Stop blaming your paddle and start winning more points.
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Learn more about why the best in the sport are adding ProXR technology to their game at proxrpickleball.com!
MLP and PPA Tour Release 2023 Schedule and Structure
Did we just become best friends? Major League Pickleball and Pickleball Inc. entered a strategic partnership on Nov 9. Since then, the organizations have rapidly pieced together the look of professional pickleball in 2023.
Nearly three weeks of silence was broken with an avalanche of detail.
- 24 MLP teams will be divided into Premier and Challenger Leagues
- The Premier League will draft all of its 48 players before the Challenger League drafts
- Two seasons will be played in 2023 spread out over 6 events
- Combined prize pool increase to $8-10 million
- Players will be required to hold PPA-MLP Gold or Silver Player Cards
PPA-MLP Player Tour Card
The new Gold and Silver Cards outline a series of benefits and commitments for players. All MLP players will be required to commit to their team for two years. Select players will be invited to be Gold Card members while the rest will hold a Silver Card.
The most notable differences between the two are that Gold Card players:
- Receive 2X payouts in MLP and PPA events
- Are excluded from playing events outside of MLP and PPA (namely, APP Tour events)
- Required to play in 20 PPA events vs 5 for Silver Card players
The PPA-MLP Tour Card Committee will determine who receives the Gold Card based on past tournament performance and history, current PPA Ranking, DUPR, and overall player marketability.
Exclusivity and commitment were never calling cards for MLP, but the merger and the scare of losing top talent changed that policy. The league stresses the ability to market individual players and commitment as a huge factor in those efforts.
The Gold Card concept has been met with some resistance. There is fear that players have lost their ability to influence policy. 'Selected' pros will have the opportunity to earn 2x prize payouts and the trade-off is exclusivity.
Speaking of long term, this will be the first time that MLP seasons are not completed in a single weekend. Each season will be stretched out over 6 months, leaving plenty of room for drama in between events.
View the full schedule and announcement details here.
A New War
The MLP and PPA Tour alliance left the APP Tour in the cold. But reinforcements are coming from an unlikely place: tennis.
The APP Tour is expected to announced its partnership with Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) this week. UTR is a global system that rates players independent of age, gender, or location.
Does that sound like anyone else we know? Last week, we covered DUPR's partnership with Pickleball.com. Now it sounds like the APP Tour will be working with UTR's 16-point scale.
The APP held a players meeting with both APP and UTR execs to discuss the roll-out and implications of UTR's arrival. They also discussed the PPA & MLP's attempt to sign players to exclusive agreements and what choices the players have as pressure increases. The idea of a players union once again rose to the surface (we've heard that before).
At one point on the call, it was acknowledged that one of the participants' usernames bared a striking resemblance to the name of an MLP or PPA official, though we are not sure which, who was listening in. All of this in addition to the rumors of APP's mega broadcasting deal, which includes hundreds of hours of both streaming and linear broadcasting, seem to have reignited the original pickleball rivalry: PPA vs APP.
An interesting new clause on UTR's website is worth noting:
"In early 2023, Universal Tennis will offer one home for tennis and pickleball, beginning a new chapter by bringing pickleball rating and technology solutions to this fast growing racquet sport."
Just what pickle needed, another acronym. But with everyone wanting a piece of the pickleball pie, it's not unexpected as UTR seeks to apply its established systems to the sport that is moving at 100MPH.
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Our pickleball community loves Organifi's products and enjoys the performance benefits on the court.
Nationals Broke Records
Putting aside the pickle-drama, this year’s USA Pickleball National Championships boasted something truly memorable for the sport.
They’ve tallied the numbers: 5,522 fans piled into Indian Wells Tennis Garden at the peak of Championship Sunday. That marks the largest-ever pickleball event attendance.
Nearly 2,300 players competed in Nationals. Pro players set their eyes on a prize pool which totaled $150,000.
Other promising numbers: 4,159 total matches were played, or 3,455 hours of competition.
This year also marked the debut of Mixed Pro Split/Age, which Anna Bright and Dave Weinbach claimed.
Headlines & Quick Hits
- Pickleball popularity leads artist to new business venture
- Pickleball dispute ends with gun threat
- Your crew vs our crew, book it in the app
- MEDICAL INSIGHTS: Pickleball is a great sport for older adults
What did you think of today's newsletter?