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Major League Pickleball & PPA Tour Announce USA Pickleball Competitor, New Governing Body

by Jason Flamm on

Since 1984, USA Pickleball has reigned as the sole governing body of pickleball in the U.S., providing players, organizations, manufacturers and referees with official rules, equipment standards, tournament sanctioning and more.

Today, the United Pickleball Association (UPA) announced that it will replace USA Pickleball as its governing body with the newly formed UPA of America (UPA-A).

Statement via Instagram:

"UPA of America (UPA-A) Announced as Global Pickleball Governing Body Under the United Pickleball Association to Protect, Grow and Champion the Sport at all Levels" reads the press release published this morning.

More from the release:

Pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport by far, with a 52% increase in participants from 2022-2023 - 33 percentage points more than the next-fastest growing sport (Source: Sports and Fitness Industry Association). With the rapid growth of the sport and all of its related factors and industries - across integrity, professional play, equipment manufacturers, rules and regulations and more - the need for a nimble, forward-thinking and proactive governing body has arisen to protect, grow and champion the sport of pickleball globally.
The UPA of America (UPA-A) has been formed to be this governing body, working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure the integrity of pickleball, while still being able to innovate with the quickly evolving sport. With a multitude of voices in the industry, UPA-A is dedicated to moving forward in a way that not only listens to, but also takes action based on the feedback of the sport’s most passionate advocates.

UPA plans to bring paddle companies together

The UPA-A's first urgent task appears to be working closely with two stakeholder committees to decide on and enforce new paddle regulations.

According to the announcement, the Equipment Manufacturer Advisory Board will be comprised of representatives from:

  • Franklin
  • Gearbox
  • Onix
  • Paddletek
  • Selkirk
  • Vulcan
  • and Brian Levine - a current Board member of the UPA

The Equipment Player Advisory Board will be comprised of:

  • Ben Johns
  • Julie Johnson
  • Brian Levine
  • Altaf Merchant
  • Catherine Parenteau
  • Leigh Waters
  • Thomas Wilson

Presumably, the committees' first task will be to tackle the emerging 'paddle crisis.'

Is Pickleball Paddle Manufacturing Facing a Potential Crisis?
The latest wave of pickleball paddles to hit the market are causing quite a stir, mostly because of the increase in power they provide. We shed light on the hottest topic in the sport.

Upcoming changes to onsite testing at MLP and PPA Tour events

The statement reads: "For on-site testing at Major League Pickleball and Carvana PPA Tour events, UPA has been working with and will continue to work with Pickle Pro Labs (PPL), who are an independent third party seeking to protect the integrity of the game and eliminate the potential for product-related issues from having a negative impact on the growing market."

While this doesn't say what tests will change or which updates will be made to testing, we can assume new or better testing (something many pro players, including Ben Johns, have asked for) will be announced at some point.

What this means for pickleballers

This new regulation doesn't mean much for rec leaguers, organized players, and paddle stack regulars. You might have the occasional mix-up of rules. For example, when the PPA instituted new service rules earlier this year, some questioned whether everyone had to follow them (you don’t). 

But, for the most part, nothing changes in your regular, everyday games. At least for now.

If you play in tournaments, especially those sanctioned by the UPA, you will likely have to follow its specific rules and equipment approvals. While, if you play tournaments sanctioned by USA Pickleball or the APP, for example, you’ll have other rules and regulations to follow.

Are Pickleball Paddles Too Powerful?
The Dink recently interviewed Chris Olson, the widely-accepted authority on pickleball paddle reviews, to get his perspective on whether paddles are becoming too powerful.

Amateurs will need to check with tournament organizers to understand which set of rules, regulations, and standards are relevant. This could become particularly tricky when it comes to paddle specifications, especially in the wake of the calls for more regulation after the emergence of overly powerful paddles.

The biggest change with all of this will be in pro pickleball. 

What this means for pro pickleball

Last week, the APP Tour released a statement in support of USA Pickleball as an independent governing body “Free from the conflicts of interest that are presented by a single commercial entity attempting to “own” our sport.”

You can see the post here: 

It appears the APP may have known this announcement of the UPA-A was coming and decided to be proactive with their reaction.

For the better part of a year, professional pickleball players have been the rope in an ongoing tug-of-war between the major pickleball organizations. Once the UPA was formed, that rope became even more taut, and the line in the sand was made even deeper.

With the UPA with the UPA-A on one side and the APP with USAP on the other, players must abide by the rules of whichever organization they are either signed exclusively to or choose to compete in.

This is not the first battle of sports organizations in history

Though this is new to pickleball, two major entities battling it out for "ownership" of a sport has happened before. In the early days of pro football, the NFL and the AFL fought each other by signing players to higher and higher contracts and each setting their own rules and standards. 

Their merger in 1966 ended that division, creating what we know as the NFL today.

We don’t know precisely what the future holds for pickleball. Perhaps both organizations will remain viable in the pickleball space, or one will eventually win out. As players and fans of pro pickleball, we can only hope that whatever happens – or whoever “wins” will do right by the 50 million pickleball players (and growing) worldwide. 

Is this good for pickleball?

While division can seem scary – especially for a sport whose popularity is still in its infancy, it can also mean opportunity and healthy competition. Having rules and regulations in place, especially ones that improve the safety and quality of the equipment we use, is a good thing. 

Professional players being paid more money and becoming more well-known also seems like a good thing.

#1 Pickleball Pro Makes over $2.5 million per year
Ben Johns recently told CNBC what his expected pickleball income will be in 2024. The figure may surprise you.

So, right now, all we can do is hope that those making these decisions have all of the pickleball world’s best interests in mind.

If that's the case, we could all be winners, and the sport we all love will continue its meteoric growth.


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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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