THE SENIOR GAME
BACK PAIN AND PICKLEBALL
For the last eleven years, Barbara has played competitive tournaments, taught and coached Pickleball. Barbara has written a fitness blog for the last six years in the USAPA newsletter and was the first to offer a fitness article in the new Pickleball Magazine.
She introduced Pickleball at Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico. The oldest spa resort saw the value of having Pickleball permanently installed at this destination resort.
Barbara is a certified USPTA tennis teaching professional, so the transition to teaching Pickleball was not difficult. She teaches all over the Coachella Valley.
Barbara is also an active aging expert degreed in Kinesiology; a First Tier Pilates instructor certified by the PMA; Medical Exercise Specialist certified by AAHFRP; faculty with ACE; UCLA extension Personal Training Dept.; Balanced Body University; Educational Director Retrofit School of Pilates and speaker with American Bone Health.
Barbara's Pilates website
THE SENIOR GAME
BACK PAIN AND PICKLEBALL
Aging isn’t for sissies. Have you noticed, as you age, your body isn’t the same, the energy level isn’t the same, the pain factor isn’t the same and on and on? At 50 you notice this happening but at 70 this is a daily reminder. When you’re 70+ you can go to sleep healthy at night and awaken with a sprained ankle or shoulder. Yes, that’s a joke, but a true joke.
Pickleball is supposed to be easier on your body. In some cases it is and some it’s not. Hitting a ball that doesn’t bounce or doesn’t come to you makes you move quickly to the ball and bend your knees more. The game is best played at the No Volley Zone or the “kitchen” which means you spend much of the game time in a squat position. What you do after each game when you walk off the court contributes to your back pain. You usually slump in a soft chair and wait for the next game. Your sitting position locks down the muscles attached to your lower back called the PSOAS. (Google Psoas) Then you try to stand up to play the next game and your back hurts more each time you sit and stand. The PSOAS muscles are attached from T12 and all your Lumbar Vertebrae and discs in-between to the lesser trochanter nob of your femur (leg bone). We torture this muscle group when we dink, sit poorly, slump, ride a bike, etc. This muscle group is tired, overused and never stretched. This muscle group not only causes back pain, hip socket replacement, bursitis and much more.
Here are a few suggestions during playtime. After each game, don’t sit down immediately, try to stand up from your hips other words don’t walk like a gorilla off the court. Don’t slouch in your chair upon sitting. Stand up, move around, bring your knees to your chest before the next game. Go to the court warmup up not locked down. Movement is your friend. Stretching is your friend. Try to do more of both.
SURPRISE PICKLEBALL ASSOCIATION
Surprise, Arizona, 25 miles northwest of Phoenix is not only a big area for tennis but also the new hotbed for pickleball in the Southwest.
Surprise Pickleball Association is located at Surprise Community Park on West Tierra Buena Lane, a public facility with 16 outdoor pickleball courts.
Jeff Stone is the President of the Surprise Pickleball Association. He says, "We have 10 of the top 25 pickleball players in the country playing in Surprise."
Surprise Community Park has 8 older pickleball courts that were built in 2009 and 8 newer courts that were constructed in 2016.
Jeff, a former Basketball coach, and tennis player found pickleball when he moved to Surprise. "Tennis just wasn't attractive to me anymore. I found pickleball to be more competitive, more social, and more fun."
Jeff Stone is excited about the great group of people playing pickleball at his facility. "We do have between 1,000 and 2,000 players here."
Jeff is currently looking for investors to team up with him in building a new 48-court pickleball facility in Surprise.
PICKLEBALL AT A CROSSROADS
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
PICKLEBALL AT A CROSSROADS
The rapid growth of pickleball has brought interesting opportunities, difficult decisions, and distinctive personalities to the game. It is on the verge of becoming a business, a big business. In the next few columns I will cover some of these opportunities, decisions, and personalities in greater detail, but for now, here is a brief overview.
The pros have begun to make an appearance. Two organizations have been formed to put on pro tours. There is not a player organization similar to the ATP in tennis. Not yet. The two pro organizations are run by promoters interested in getting tour sponsorship. What will happen when the lower-ranked tennis players decide to cross over and collect some of that prize money?
At the Margaritaville USAPA Nationals in Indian Wells, CA, the pros were allowed to play in both the pro divisions and in the skill-age divisions. This created a great deal of resentment from the amateur players. Experienced leadership is sorely needed in running the Margaritaville event.
There are numerous national championships in pickleball. For seniors, the most representative and competitive nationals are the National Senior Games Association Nationals held every two years. Players come from all over the US and they must qualify in a state tournament. There is also the State Games of America Nationals which requires qualification and the US National Indoor Championships.
Having the Margaritaville Nationals at Indian Wells piggybacks on the success of tennis, but the profits are then shared with tennis. Pickleball needs a facility of its own if it wants to become a recognized sport. Indian Wells is a great spectator facility for tennis, but pickleball players play all day and there is very little shade, very few benches on the lower 25 courts, very few available snacks, few toilets that can be reached in the ten minutes between matches, and lots of baking concrete. It is not pickleball player-friendly.
Furthermore, seniors are scheduled in the heat, and I do mean heat (95 degrees) of the day. My division started playing at 1:30 pm and finished at 9 pm. If Margaritaville wants to keep seniors in the game, they need to address this issue. Why are seniors needed in the game? Well over 50% of the players are seniors. Only one certified referee is not a senior. At this point in the game, seniors are an integral part of pickleball. SSIPA was formed three years ago to advocate for super seniors, but it has become ineffectual. Tournament directors do as they wish.
Pickleball also needs to address the variety of balls used indoors and outdoors and the wide range of quality. So many balls are out of round. I doubt that tennis players can relate to this issue.
Tennis players would also have difficulty understanding how one qualifies to play in the Margaritaville Nationals. This year you had to play in a regional championship to be eligible for acceptance. You must win your division to have a direct entry. For seniors, this was problematic because many were unable to play in their age divisions. Many had to play in a younger division. In one of the qualifiers next year, my age division is not even offered! One of the large regionals coming up has entry by lottery. Imagine the Kentucky Derby or Wimbledon being based on a lottery! How crazy is it when the people who practice, take lessons, play tournaments, improve their games get beaten out in a lottery by someone who signs up on a whim? And, the USAPA talks about being in the Olympics!
Why are there no rankings in pickleball? Seeding matters. I won't even go into the rating system where a secret algorithm based on chess is used to rate an individual based on his or her doubles play. I'm not making this up. A ranking system would help make entry into tournaments a fair process.
It is unlikely that the volunteer model can be sustained. Pickleball takes so many referees, check-in and food service people. Double elimination causes players to play all day long. How long will these volunteers work for free when they see tournament directors raking in large sums of money in entry fees and sponsorship? Referees are paid $5-$7 per match. That might cover a hotel room if they work all day, but it won't include food and transportation. Eventually, referees will organize and want a minimum wage or more.
Electronic equipment is on the horizon. Pencils, clipboards, and clothespins may be replaced. A beam could highlight the kitchen line. Scoreboards would help spectators. There is money to be made in this area of pickleball.
Money and sponsors change the landscape. The USAPA is changing its structure to an advisory board and hiring professionals. Kudos to those hard-working volunteers who have served on past boards. But, as Penn, HEAD, Franklin, Pro Kennex, Wilson, etc., get into pickleball and pro tours arise, as more and more indoor and outdoor facilities arise in Bend, Oregon, Opalika and Foley, Alabama, Tucson, Arizona, Kansas City and a hundred other cities across the country, the direction of pickleball needs guidance. A vision, a 5-year plan, and a 10-year plan are needed to embrace recreational players, school programs, tournament players, seniors, pros and a growing interest overseas. We are lucky that we are in a very interesting time to be playing pickleball. We are at a crossroads and the opportunities abound.