A PLEA TO THE NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES
Some players feel the only real National Pickleball tournament in the country is the National Senior Games (NSGA) run every two years in a different city in the US. You must qualify in one of the specified events in 50 cities nationwide. Pickleball was introduced in Houston and achieved a place with 20+ other sports in Cleveland 10 years ago. Like the other 20+ sports in the games, Pickleball has been age only. On the international sports stage, real Senior competitions are still age only like triathlon, tennis, softball, volleyball, swimming, etc.
Last year in Albuquerque there were 63 mixed doubles teams in 70-74 age division and there were players in 90-94 singles, doubles and mixed doubles. If you offer age groups, the players will come.
This year is a qualifying year for Florida in 2021 but this year Pickleball has decided to have skill only qualifying tournaments. Based on a USAPA (Pickleball association governing body)rating system, players will not compete in their age division they will compete as they are rated. That means an 85-year-old might come to a qualifying tournament and told they must compete in the 65 or 70 division. Also, if they lose out (which most likely they will) they could be unable to qualify for the games. The tournament director has the choice to let them qualify or not. Can you just imagine telling a 90-year-old hammer thrower they cannot qualify because of their rating instead of honoring their age and let them compete as usual? Pickleball in The National Senior Games is not sanctioned by the USAPA so why are they using their rating system and declaring the event skill only? None of the other 20+ sports in the games is changing from age only. They continue to honor the older better players and they understand age matters.
As we age, staying competitive and wanting to compete in our later years is a gift. All national and international competitive sports are age only-may the best players win. Why is Pickleball the only sport going to skill, causing most of the older better players to quit since they can no longer compete 5,10,15 years younger?
Please NSGA, don’t ruin Pickleball. Keep it age only.
PICKLEBALL'S VISIONARY: SEYMOUR RIFKIND
Pickleball's rapid growth is no accident. Key innovative people are spreading, directing, and creating new avenues for the game. Illinois's Seymour Rifkind is a pickleball visionary. He is the Founder of the Pickleball Hall of Fame, Founder and President of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA), and Founder of the World Pickleball Federation (WPF). He works 20 hours a day and travels constantly to spread pickleball around the globe.
The IPTPA was the first professional teaching organization in the sport of pickleball. Rifkind described and documented the skill levels and developed the teaching standard. The IPTPA now has certified instructors in 17 countries and 47 states and is a partner of the USAPA.
Seymour Rifkind in Australia
Rifkind's background is in gymnastics and he has aspirations of getting pickleball into the Olympics.
Director Mike Newell at the new IPTPA Testing/Training Center in Beenleigh, Australia
Rifkind knows that governing bodies are needed worldwide to get a sport considered for inclusion in the Olympics. He began visiting countries to find out what support they needed. In February of 2019, he founded the WPF. "Our board is a true world governing body". Five countries other that the US are represented on our board; each has tremendous business experience in addition to the desire to grow the sport. Each country has unique needs. WPFs first question to a member country is, "How can we assist you?" There are currently 14 member countries representing 5 continents with several others preparing to sign, explained Rifkind.
Seymour Rifkind leading a presentation at the Chinese Government Sports Bureau
In Brazil, Rifkind learned there was a need for paddles and balls. So, he went to Brazil, certified 15 teachers to help with fundamentals and provided balls and paddles.
He visited Australia three times. First, he went to certify instructors and meet with board member Gabi Plumm. On his next visit, he brought pickleball pro Joey Farias to give exhibitions at a number of tennis facilities and to attract new players. On the third visit, he was able to have teleconferences with the CEO of Tennis Australia and meet with executive members of Tennis Australia. They discussed how pickleball and tennis could work together and the benefits each sport could derive when working together. Tennis Australia is now implementing a program to introduce pickleball in 300 tennis clubs across Australia. Rifkind certified 9 Level II IPTPA instructors and 50 Level 1 instructors. It's estimated that a minimum of 50,000 new players are expected as a result of these efforts. Additionally, a potential WPF facility of 50 courts may be built Down Under.
WPF was the first pickleball organization to ever meet with the Chinese government. Rifkind and fellow WPF board member, Qingmin Wang are working with the Guangzhou Government Sports Bureau to promote pickleball and to add pickleball to the proposed "Sports City facility". The meeting was so well received that WPF has been granted permission to meet with other government officials in Shanghai and several other cities in 2020.
Six New Level II Instructors in Australia
WPF was a major sponsor of the highly successful 2019 English Open, the 2019 International Pickleball NPRP Tournament in Taiwan, and the first International Junior Tournament in Mexico. "We are interested in the quality of tournaments. We want them to be spectator friendly, to use new technology and new products. We're not interested in just adding new tournaments. We want them to have a higher level of professionalism," explained Rifkind.
"The game is growing. We're in the process of identifying key areas of improvement that tournaments will be required to follow to get WPF sanctioning. In December of 2020, we will sponsor the first WPF Asian Open on a 22 court facility with a 1,200 person stadium capacity," Rifkind projected.
One element that Rifkind is beta testing is rally scoring because it makes scheduling easier and is better for television programming. "It is an easier method of scoring for both players and spectators," explained Rifkind. “When past tournaments were examined using rally scoring, winners still won, but the matches were closer. It does not change the result."
The WPF provides much-needed world rankings. Over the past two years, WPF selected tournaments meeting certain criteria, along with a formula of points based on player results from those tournaments to determine year-end rankings. In 2020, two pro tours are being introduced. It will be interesting to see how these compare to the current tier I tournaments WPF has identified for its world rankings namely: Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships, US Open Pickleball Championships, and Pickleball Tournament of Champions. The WPF will introduce its own series. Rifkind also believes there is too much variance in the ball and he wants better standardization. There is a lot on his plate!
There is a physical headquarters for the WPF in the works where teams can train. And, yes, there will be teams--Rifkind is hard at work on the format. The WPF Delegates are spreading the sport in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. No one works harder than Seymour Rifkind and his ideas for pickleball require the worldwide team he is building.