Alice Tym

  • Played all the tennis majors. Ranked #13 in the world

  • Florida Gator

  • Intercollegiate Hall of Fame, U Florida Hall of Fame, USPTA Coach of the Year

  • Coached U of TN at Chattanooga women to two national titles

  • Coached Yale women to top 20 and Ivy Championship

  • Taught geology and geography for 40 years at UT Chattanooga

  • Won NSGA badminton singles and table tennis singles and doubles

  • Won pickleball titles including Huntsman and USAPA Nationals and SSIPA Worlds

  • Founder and board member of SSIPA

  • IFP board member and originator of the Bainbridge Cup

  • Most importantly: 3 great kids and 7 great grandkids

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GROWING PAINS IN PROFESSIONAL PICKLEBALL

By Alice Tym

Pickleball’s surge in popularity began with retirees in the RV communities of Arizona. The USAPA (now USA Pickleball) did not foresee the emergence of professional tours and did not establish guidelines or give guidance. Two tour groups emerged on their own, the PPA and the APP. The former is focused on the West Coast and Rockies; the latter more so on the Midwest and East Coast. They are outside the realm of USA Pickleball and now the race for dominance is on.

 

The PPA has decided to offer players contracts demanding exclusivity. Players must play only PPA tournaments plus four other tournaments which include the US Open and the USA Pickleball nationals. Four top tier players sign for $2,000. The four fourth tier players for $100, hardly worth forgoing the chance to win money wherever they can.

PPA Las Vegas 2020

Mixed Doubles teams - L to R Jennifer Dawson,

Tyler Loong, Jesse Irvine, Matt Wright, Irina Tereschenko, Dane Gingrich

Irina Tereschenko

The controversy is whether this is good for pickleball. Could one tour showcase the premier players and the other be a satellite tour of sorts to train up and coming players or feature older players on the downswing of their careers? Could one tour be West and the other East? Will one gain more sponsorship and thus more prize money so it can swallow up the other tour and eliminate the competition like Rockefeller did as head of Standard Oil?

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The players don’t really have a union. There is nothing comparable to the ATP in tennis. So, their voices go unheard. They have no real way of demanding upgrades, changes, and better conditions. The interesting comparison to tennis is that the prize money comes from entry fees. An event will take in $4,600 in entry fees (30 players at $150 per player) and payout $2,100 in prize money. Weaker players are subsidizing the better players and the tournament itself. But, pickleball players want to play tournaments and better players want professional tournaments and a professional tour. So, they fly around the country deciding whether it is worth signing an exclusive contract for $2,000, $1,000, $500, or $100 for the year.

 

Many of the players are former tennis players and the play is of high quality. Irina Tereschenko played tennis for Texas Tech and now lives in Tucson. She recently came in second in WS and in WD and 5th in MXD in the PPA tournament in Las Vegas. She was “in the money” and enjoys the opportunity to play professionally.

 

Perhaps two professional tours will produce more exposure for pickleball as well as more sponsorship and greater opportunities for young players to enter the game at a higher level. Can the game support two professional tours? Innovative tour directors and smart players could make that happen.

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