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The APP Makes It Clear: "We Support USA Pickleball"

by Jason Flamm on

On May 9th, the APP Tour released a statement on its social media channels supporting USA Pickleball (USAP).

It seemingly came out of nowhere, but the word on the street is that another statement is coming soon from another high-profile pickleball organization. So, this may have been a preemptive move by the APP.

The statement can be seen from X here:

What is the statement about?

We can only assume that the "single commercial entity" mentioned in the statement is the UPA (the combined organization between the MLP and PPA). Over the last several months, the UPA has been signing players to exclusive contracts and seemingly trying to separate themselves from USAP.

For those who don't know, USA Pickleball has been considered the governing body of pickleball since 1984.

Rumors are swirling

We can't say for certain, but there are rumblings that the UPA seeks to replace USAP as the sport's national governing body.

If this is the case, then this statement makes a ton of sense, as the APP has been less inclined to participate in previous "Tour Wars" or sign players to exclusive contracts.

Tom Webb, the APP's Chief Marketing Officer, said as much in a PicklePod episode earlier this year.

"We don't believe we're in competition with anybody," Webb said, before explaining how the APP focuses its efforts to ensure that they are sound from a business standpoint and that it is doing everything to "service the best interest of players of all ability."

You can watch that section of the podcast here:

What this statement means for players

If the UPA releases its own set of standards, there may become two "governing bodies" of pickleball. When you look at your pickleball paddle, you'll see a stamp that says, "USA Pickleball Approved."

While in rec games, you can pretty much play with whatever you want – try a frying pan sometimes, it's fun – in tournaments, you often have to abide by whatever "rulebook" that tournament uses.

For example, if you play a particular tournament, they may say that your paddle must be on the USAP-approved list.

In the future, there may very well be another list or even a different set of play rules that some tournaments might use instead. That remains to be seen and we don't actually know what those guidelines or standards will be yet.

Could this cause some confusion among your every day pickleball player Sure.

However, there are other recreational sports that have dual governing bodies. Take slow-pitch softball, for example. Most softball bats are stamped by either the NSA, ASA, or the USSSA.

So, having more than one set of standards and rules is not entirely unheard of. Having to have multiple paddles on you going into a tournament, just in case yours is "illegal" is annoying, but not a large obstacle.

Should someone "own" pickleball?

The bigger question is this idea of "owning" pickleball.

And, in many ways, this APP statement is a shot in the direction of the UPA ahead of whatever decisions or announcements they are (or aren't) going to make. Some, even outside of the APP and USAP, speculate that this is precisely what the UPA is trying to do. Of course, that intention remains to be seen and we would just be speculating just to speculate at this point.

What is absolutely true however, is that the UPA has signed players to exclusive deals that only allows them to play in UPA-sanctioned leagues and tournaments, and the UPA tends to have a different set of play rules at tournaments than the APP does.

Where will this go?

We don't know. There is a lot of uncertainty in our sport right now. But, at the end of the day, players just want to play. And hopefully, whatever comes of this makes playing easier, not more difficult.


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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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