February 2014  e-Newsletter 

In this issue...


From the Editors...

Tournament season is in full swing here in the Southwest and elsewhere in the Sunbelt. Tournaments are great fun, but can also be stressful, especially when injuries come into play. In this month’s Fitness column Barb Wintroub explains why we suffer pickleball injuries and provides tips for avoiding them. In E.D. Corner Justin Maloof  invites you to visit the new and improved USAPA website and President David Jordan shares his perspective on the association’s 2013 successes and where we are headed in the coming year. Of special mention in this issue, new player Ratings Chairman Chris Thomas answers questions regarding the often misunderstood skill rating system and explains why and how players are rated. In No Dumb Questions a USAPA member asks a thought provoking question about calling a no-volley-zone violation on yourself during refereed tournament play. The answer comes from several of the top players in the game; don’t miss it! And back after a year’s hiatus from our pages Dr. Michael Hess, President of the Spanish Pickleball Association, shares the results of his recently completed International Pickleball Survey. This is an exciting issue; don’t miss a word.
    Your Editors, Lynn & Linda Laymon, newsletter@usapa.org
 

Message from Your President...
By David Jordan, USAPA President

2013 was a banner year for USAPA and 2014 is shaping up to also bring about continued growth in the organization. Let’s look back for a moment to 2013 and see what happened.

Nationals V was the largest pickleball tournament ever held; 600 players showed up to participate in this annual event. We had almost double the amount of vendors than in previous years, which gave the players a much larger variety of pickleball supplies, food and free massages for them to enjoy. We saw our membership increase by about a thousand members to 5,077 and donations to the organization were at an all-time high with our acceptance as a 501(c)3 organization. The grant program distributed over $21,000 for new startup programs and we sold a total of 2,030 nets during the year.

In 2013 we also hired our first executive director, Justin Maloof. Justin has brought us a new logo and website, and a professionalism that equals other racket sports. He has also upgraded our store offerings with official USAPA items. His expertise in the sports world has enabled us to attract new sponsors and doubled the number of sponsorships at the National tournament. Along with Justin we have three additional paid staff. Dan Ellsworth, our bookkeeper, is responsible for paying bills, filing tax forms and keeping a daily account of the monies. As our membership specialist, Nikki Greene handles all of our membership related activities, including new memberships, renewals and shipping of membership t-shirts and information. Linda Gartlan, our business manager, handles the store and net orders, as well as a variety of accounts with PayPal. With a team like this to keep our volunteer board on the right tack we feel that USAPA can only continue to grow in a positive manner for the promotion and development of pickleball.

We were sad to lose some longtime board members as explained in last month’s newsletter, but the new year brings us new faces and new ideas to lead our organization going forward. As 2014 progresses we will keep you informed of new (and old) things to come. May happiness and good health be with you in the New Year.       
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E.D. Corner…
New USAPA Website Now Live
By Justin Maloof, USAPA Executive Director
 
During my first year with USAPA, I wrote many times about the importance of professional branding and image, and how important these elements are to any national governing body for attracting new players, members and sponsors. We made great strides last year in this area and I am pleased to announce that our long awaited new website has been unveiled! usapa.org
 
We conducted a soft launch on Monday, January 20, purposely with no big announcements or fanfare. This gave us an opportunity to flip the switch and conduct additional reviews while garnering initial feedback from users regarding items or links that may not be working as they should. For the most part, the transition to the new site was relatively painless. There were some issues relating primarily to back-end (administration) functionality and we did experience a software glitch on the first weekend that caused a number of pages to be inaccessible for most of a morning. The majority of these issues were identified and corrected in the first 7 to 10 days. However, with a site as large and complex as ours, I’m sure we will continue to experience some issues. Please be patient and know we and WSI Phoenix, our website developer, are working hard to address each as they become known.
 
As you browse the site, you’ll undoubtedly notice the new user interface and navigation elements. While these are very different from our old site, we hope that with a little practice you will eventually find it easier to locate what you’re looking for. You will also notice that a number of page elements remain unchanged from the old site. This too is by design, as many of our data pages (membership, ambassador list, tournament software, places to play, partner search, etc.) are standalone pieces that fell outside the scope of a typical site build. These items have simply been integrated into the new site and will continue to look and function in the same manner as before. As we progress this year, we will look at some of these items and possibly upgrade their appearance. Other elements, however, are more complex and will require a complete redesign. We will prioritize these and tackle them a year or two down the road, as time and resources permit. On behalf of the board, we invite you to visit the new site and hope you enjoy all it has to offer.
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Player Skill Ratings...
By the Editors

The USAPA ratings system has long been the subject of ongoing discussion by players as well as the USAPA board of directors. We asked the new Ratings Chair, Chris Thomas, to clarify some issues and talk about plans to improve the current system.
 
Ed: Who qualifies for a USAPA/IFP skill level rating (i.e., 3.0, 3.5, etc.)?
 
Chris: Any person, whether or not they are a member of USAPA, can qualify for a skill rating.  Most ratings are of two types: “S” for self-rated; and “T” for tournament-rated. All of the current USAPA skill ratings have been defined in terms of what observable skills separate a 3.0, from let’s say, a 4.0. These skill level definitions and more detailed information can be viewed at http://ipickleball.org/ifp-rating-system/.
 
Ed: How and by whom are skill levels determined?
 
Chris: Concentrating on the “T” or tournament type skill rating, there are three major sources of input to determine skill levels. These sources are: ratings committees, Tournament Directors' (TDs) recommendations and tournament results. Ratings committees can be local, state or regional. There is a Western Region Ratings Committee for example that was formed in 2013 and is composed of experienced TDs from every state in USAPA’s West region that holds sanctioned tournaments. An example of a local committee is the one at Palm Creek Resort in Casa Grande, Ariz. Setting an initial “T” rating, or changing one, is a serious responsibility; that’s why input from various sources is beneficial.
 
Ed: We have been aware that a number of players with USAPA/IFP skill level ratings have had their ratings lowered one level when they turned 70 years old. Is this a USAPA policy?
 
Chris: There has never been such a policy. At any time players may appeal to have their rating lowered if they feel that, due to age, injury, etc., they are no longer competitive at their current skill level. Likewise, players who believe their current skill rating is too low, may request to have it raised on the basis of tournament performance or self-rating (T or S on the Rating list). Approval of the request is not automatic. Every appeal is judged on its own merits, on a case-by-case basis. To quote my predecessor, Mark Friedenberg, “The ratings philosophy [Ed: regarding lowering ratings] has always been that if you beat players in your skill level you will remain at that level.” 
 
Ed: What are the advantages of having an official skill level rating?
 
Chris: Skill levels serve two basic purposes in my opinion. The first is giving a player information as to where he or she is in skill development. The second is having skill-based events in tournaments, whereby the playing field is more equal in terms of the competition. As you know, in a tournament that uses age as the sole grouping element, a 4.5 player could play a 3.0 player in the same age group.
 
Ed: How often and when are ratings officially changed?
 
Chris: What we are doing now is having three primary times during the year that most changes are made: January 1, June 1 and September 1. That way, players and Tournament Directors can have a guideline as to when changes might occur. However, individual rating changes can take place at other times based on circumstances of the submission. In other words, there is flexibility.
 
Ed: What if a player registers for a tournament at his or her current skill level and that changes before the tournament?
 
Chris: As described in the ratings system documentation on the USAPA website, “It is the player’s responsibility to make sure they are entered in the events that correspond to their rating level or higher.” So, if a player has a rating change after previously registering for an upcoming tournament, the player needs to inform the Tournament Director of the change. In my interaction with various ratings committees, I emphasize that the player needs to be informed of any pending rating change, and when the change is to be effective. Communication is vital, so that players and TDs are aware in advance of a player’s current rating, prior to actually participating in an event.
 
Ed: What is the job of the newly formed Ratings Steering Committee?
 
Chris: The purpose of this committee is to review and discuss potential changes to the ratings system as outlined at usapa.org, tournaments, player ratings. This committee will not be involved in the daily operational ratings work such as setting/changing a player’s rating or handling rating appeals. Rather, the committee will study any suggestions to improve the rating system, such as modifying skill level definitions, enhancing documentation, adding new skill levels, etc. The committee is composed of members from Ariz., Calif., Fla., Maine, Mich., La., Texas, Wash. and Canada. Any decisions this committee reaches that significantly impact the ratings system will be forwarded to the USAPA Board for consideration. Suggestions and ideas can be e-mailed to: ratingschair@usapa.org
 
Ed: What changes do you anticipate in the rating system?
 
Chris: I don’t have any crystal ball as to what changes will occur. As stated above, the Steering Committee will be the vehicle to review and decide on any possible changes.
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International Pickleball Survey Results Are In!
Submitted by Michael Hess, President, Spanish Pickleball Association

Pickleball is often described as “The Fastest Growing Sport in North America” and given its evolution over the past decade it’s hard to find another sport more deserving of the title. Along with the growth of pickleball is players’ growing attachment to the sport; it’s not uncommon to hear players describe the sport as “addicting.”
 
To gain a better understanding of pickleballers’ commitment to the sport we performed a survey in 2013 to explore the motives and barriers for participating. The findings of our survey, summarized below, are intended to help organizers of pickleball events, clubs, training and tournaments enhance players' experience and to attract new players to this great sport. 

Survey Participants
Nearly 600 pickleball players from the U.S., Canada and Ireland participated in this survey. Participants were evenly split between females and males with an average age of 66. The large majority of respondents (87%) live in the U.S., while 8% were from Ireland and 5% from Canada. All of the Irish players were new to the sport, having played for less than 3 months at the time of the survey. We introduced pickleball to Ireland in September 2012 by organizing a pickleball demonstration at the University College Dublin. A six-week pickleball introduction program was then set up and the participants took part in this survey upon completing the program.
 
Commitment to Pickleball Participation
Over 90% of the survey participants expressed a high level of commitment to pickleball (i.e., they are “determined” or “very determined” to continue playing), including over 75% of the “rookie” players from Ireland.
 
What Motivates People to Play Pickleball?
To help understand pickleballers’ motives, participants were asked to provide the three to five most important reasons they play pickleball. More than 2,000 motivation factors were given. Below is a ranking of the most important reason for playing for both males and females based on the frequency with which the reasons were expressed:
 
1st:   Health-related: exercise, fit, active, health, physical, workout, shape, body, cardio
2ndFun-related: fun, enjoy, doing something I’m good at, travel
3rdCompetition-related: competition/compete/competitive, challenge, win
4thSocial-related: social, friend[ship], people, meet, spouse, partner, family, team, camaraderie, fellowship
5thDevelopment-related: learn, improve, achieve, mental, mind, brain, alertness
 
Males and females expressed very similar reasons, though there were some slight differences. For example, “fun-related” factors were mentioned more frequently by females and “competition-related” factors were mentioned more frequently by males.
While the order in which respondents ranked the motivation factors is important, it should in no way undermine the importance of the lower-ranked reasons. For example, most respondents identified “personal development” as a very important motivator, which includes working on skills and techniques, learning from others, and setting and reaching performance goals. Competition is also a key motivator – nearly all respondents claimed that they are “determined competitors,” “enjoy trying to beat someone/a team they’ve never beaten before” and “try their hardest to win.” In addition, over two-thirds of all respondents stated that “winning is important.”
 
Factors that Limit or Prohibit Pickleball Participation
Participants expressed close to 1,000 prohibiting factors (only half the number of motivation factors expressed) and several respondents commented that “there are no barriers” to playing pickleball or simply left this question blank.
 
For both males and females, the most frequently mentioned barrier categories are:
1st:   Access/facility-related: court availability, weather (heat, rain, wind), distance, access
2ndHealth-related: health, illness, injury, ailment, physical, joints, arthritis, pain, age
3rdOther commitments-related: time, work, family, busy
4thPartner/opponent/skill-level-related: finding right level/opponent/partner
5thCost/expense-related
 
Take-Aways from the Survey Results
We hope that the survey findings, which further enable us to understand the increasing popularity of the sport, can help pickleball organizers to fine tune promotional efforts and generate new approaches to enhance the overall playing experience. These results can also assist all of us in attracting new players to the sport, whether in North America or in new countries such as Ireland, where virtually no one has ever heard of pickleball -- until now.
 
Thanks
We thank all who participated in the survey as well as those who helped recruit participants. We hope you find it interesting to compare your own motives and/or barriers with those of other pickleball players and we hope that your commitment to pickleball continues to strengthen over time.
 
Michael Hess, PhD, is a Professor of Sport Management and President of the Spanish Pickleball Association (www.pickleballspain.org). He conducted the survey together with David Scally, Sports Administrator of the Westmeath Sports Partnership in Ireland (www.westmeathsports.ie). 
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The Mind Game…
Pickleball Moms and Pops...
By Harry Carpenter

Children from birth to around eight or ten years of age have an extraordinary capacity for learning. During this period, they acquire a myriad of life skills, including motor development, emotional control, vision, social attachment, vocabulary, math and logic. Consider motor skills. Children learn to crawl, walk, run, stand straight, drink a glass of milk without spilling, on and on -- all complex programs. During this time, children also create software that they will need later for developing advanced skills.

There is a window of learning, after which, the ability to create this software closes. The window of developing motor skills closes around age five. Thus, the more a child is exposed to games and a variety of physical activities before age five, the more software he or she develops for later in life. If this software is not acquired within the window, attaining a high level of competence is difficult to impossible at any age. Andre Agassi’s father, I’ve read, hung a rubber ball on a string over Andre’s crib. As soon as he was able to hold an object, Andre was given a paddle to play with. As a result, Andre developed abundant motor software early on. As an adult, Andre honed this software into extraordinary hand/eye coordination and world-class athletic abilities.

So, pickleball moms and dads, hang a ball over your baby’s crib; give your baby a tiny paddle to hold and swing, and play with them on the floor; roll a ball back and forth. These baby activities create the software that your child will use when he or she is older and ready to become a pickleball champion. But beware, there is a price -- when they grow up, they will trounce you at your favorite game.  
 
Editors’ Note: This is a continuing series of articles on the mental side of pickleball: what you should be thinking about – and not thinking about – during play, and more. Harry W Carpenter is author of a new eBook, Pickleball; The Mental Side, as well as The Genie Within: Your Subconscious Mind – How It Works and How to Use It. Harry welcomes reader comments at mailto:thegeniewithin@roadrunner.com.













Bits and Pieces…

Ambidextrous Pickleball…
Submitted by Hubert Townsend, USAPA Member
 
To the skilled players who don't want to play with the newbies and to the ambassadors teaching newbies: if these situations make playing a chore, do yourself a favor and learn to  play with your opposite hand. This will strongly instill in you the fundamentals, since playing opposite handed seems so weird. And then, when you go back to playing with your dominate hand the fundamentals will be that much more instilled in you. This technique has improved my game while keeping me from being bored playing those that are not at the same level as myself. Try it. You will find it not only helps your game, but will make for a more fun time for your opponents/students.
 


Portable Net Fix?
Submitted by Dick Larson, USAPA Ambassador, North Chicago Land Suburbs

I want to pose a question regarding portable nets. The pocket at the top of the scabbard that the plastic staff nests in is a very high wear point. In no time at all a hole develops there and the staff protrudes through the hole. Consequently, the center of the net loses support.

The question is, “Does anyone know of a remedy or simple repair for this area?” My thought is to reinforce the pocket with a heavy duty material like canvas or, something. I look forward to hearing your solutions. Please reply to: dteeitup@sbcglobal.net.
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Places to Play…

Submitted by Bob Ziegler, Las Vegas, Nevada
 
Sun City Aliante in North Las Vegas recently announced that they are refurbishing their four temporary courts, converting them to permanent courts and adding four additional permanent courts for a total of eight permanent state-of-the-art courts. They will be lighted and available to residents and residents’ guests, typically from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. Completion is scheduled for March 2014. For information contact Bob Ziegler, bob.ripbc@gmail.com.


 











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No Dumb Questions…
Randy Jones, USAPA member

Should you call a no-volley-zone violation on yourself during tournament play?
 
During a recent tournament there was a situation where I volleyed a winner, and after hitting the ball I saw that my toe was on the no-volley-zone (kitchen) line and called the violation on myself. No one, including the referee, saw the infraction, since everyone was watching to see if the ball I volleyed stayed in play. My partner disagreed with my decision to call the violation on myself. It is his opinion that during tournament play it is the responsibility of the game referee to call kitchen violations, not the player. The game referee did inform us prior to the start of the match that she would be watching for and calling service line and kitchen line violations.

What would you consider appropriate pickleball tournament behavior in this situation?  Call the violation on yourself or not call it and leave it up to the referee.
 
Answer: Your partner is correct is saying that, “During tournament play it is the responsibility of the game referee to call kitchen violations.” However, there is another side to the story. To get the complete answer we queried the opinions of several of the top players in the sport. Following is a summary of their answers.

Although a few said that if the referee didn’t catch the violation they would not mention it, the general consensus was that, even though this scenario isn’t directly addressed, the pickleball code of ethics conveys the message that yes, you should call the violation on yourself. One player was adamant that even a toe tip touching the line should be called on one’s self; however, he added, “If the score was 9 – 10 I might have to think about it.” A well-known medal winner put it the best of all, “It’s a little thing called sportsmanship. Some people have it and can live with calling the infraction on themselves. Others need to win at all costs, but lose in the end because the word gets out about these players. This is commandment #12 in the 12 Commandments of Pickleball.” You just have to decide for yourself and do what’s right within your own value system.

 
Sound Off…
Reader Feedback


Thank you for your wonderful efforts in constructing the USAPA e-Newsletter each month. We at The Villages look forward to each issue, enjoying anything pickleball put into print. It's very rewarding to see the game evolving to all parts of the country!
 
Stu Rivchin, The Village of Hadley, The Villages, Florida












 
 

 
 







 
 









Qualifying Begins for NSGA 2015 National Event…
Submitted by David Jordan, USAPA President
 
It doesn’t seem possible, but it is time to qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games Association National Tournament, which will be held in the tri-cities of Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. You can qualify in any State Senior Game held January through December, 2014. Go to http://www.nsga.com/state-games.aspx to check out all the state games for this year. Also, you can visit the USAPA website under FAQ for the National Senior Games for more information. 
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Rules Review...
Maintaining Possession of the Paddle…
By Dennis Dacey, USAPA Rules Chair
 
We have a new rule in place this month. Although there are sections in the IFP Rules that may cover this, the decision was made to make this more definitive in the rulebook.
 
Rule 12.N. Paddle Possession. A player must have possession of the paddle when it makes contact with the ball.
 
The purpose of this rule is to prevent a player from throwing the paddle at a ball in an effort to hit the ball over the net.

 
 
USAPA Facebook Page Update...
https://www.facebook.com/usapickleballassociation

If you like to read interesting pickleball stories and see photos and videos of what your fellow members (and non-members) are up to, the USAPA Facebook page is the place to visit. Our page continues to grow and we now have over 1,100 pickleball players who ‘like’ our page. This is up from around 300 at the beginning of 2013. Joining is easy; just click the ‘Like’ button and check it out.


 

Member Benefits...


Want an Official USAPA/IFP Rulebook and a discount when registering for tournaments? Or how about an association t-shirt with the new USAPA logo? Visit  http://www.usapa.org/membership-discounts to learn more about all the benefits of renewing your membership today. Plus, all USAPA members have access to the Working Advantage discount network, which can save you up to 60% on ticketed events, online shopping and much more!
 
Disclaimer: Working Advantage is an independent gateway for USAPA's members to access voluntary benefits, discounts and special services offered by vendors and other companies affiliated with Working Advantage. USAPA does not promote or endorse and is not responsible for any of these products or services.
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Fitness…
Why Do Pickleball Players Get Injured?
By Barbara Wintroub
 
This question was asked by a new ambassador at a captains’ meeting in Palm Desert recently. Thirteen captains put on their thinking caps to come up with answers. Swinging incorrectly, not bending from the knees only the waist, running forward, running backward, coming to the game with body issues already in place, were some of the answers. Yes, all those things are some of the reasons pickleball players get injured, but let's look behind the game. If a person hasn't played a sport in years, if they have been a couch potato or tomato, if they haven't exercised since their hair was its original color, they are an accident waiting to happen even if they choose gardening. "Use it or lose it" is an important mantra after 50. You oil your car every 3000 miles or so, change the filters, cables and tires regularly, but what do you do for your body in preparation for pickleball? How about nothing?

When you decide to play pickleball you need to decide how much stretching and strength training is needed to protect yourself from injuries. You need to work out before you get on the court and stretch after the day’s play. Pickleball, like gardening, causes stress on the muscles and joints. If you don't want injuries, then do some of the exercises in my articles or invent your own; just do something. Oh yes, have a good pickleball teacher show you how to play the game correctly.

Part Two:
If you are playing in a group and the group plays two hours straight without a break, should they stretch or stop play briefly to rest? I am a proponent of stretching and if it’s necessary to do it between games, do it even if no one else wants to. Playing two straight hours is a lot of pickleball for the average player. Think about taking a break after one hour. If you don't want to stiffen up just stand up during the break.

Ed. Note: Fitness guru Barbara Wintroub is the author of Fighting Gravity
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Pickleball Poem of the Month…
Submitted by Jeff McQuinn

 

Pickle Passion

 

When I was first touched by the brined-cucumber's call,

I laughed out loud, "What the heck is pickleball?"

I then a steadfast USTA tenniser,

A no-nonsense serve-and-volley menacer,

Knew nothing of pickleball's zooming fame.

Couldn't imagine playing such a silly-named game.

But once I heard that smile-hatching moniker again,

I played, was smitten, declared myself, "All in!"

 

Like some of you, I was hooked from the beginning.

Pickleball's 'bout fun-filled workouts, not just winning!

Its kitchen line rallies are tops and so are its vibes,

With "Good shot!" mixed-in 'tween humorous jibes.

Pickleball has all my other pastimes replaced.

It now consumes me; 'tis my main passion embraced.

Pre-pickleball, my thoughts meandered their own way.

Now even when I sleep, my mind's rewinding my play.

 

Here are a few "must-do's" pickleballers might want to use

Since failure to do them can cause you to lose.

Get your serve in deep to push your opponents back.

Softing your third shot can squelch their put-a-way whack.

Hit returns deep and high down the middle

Gives you time to run to the kitchen line; don't fiddle.

Always push to the kitchen if you like to win.

Hugging the baseline's a proven point-losing sin.

 

The most critical shot to master is not what you think:

It's not the serve, return or volley; it's the dink.

To the unschooled, hardest-hit shots would seem best,

But for top players, perfect dinks are their quest.

Great dinks keep your opponents playing defense,

And give them no chance their attack to commence.

So practice dinks; then repeat them in games and wait

For your foes' impatient mistakes to seal their own fate.

 

Not many ridicule pickleball as a game,

But much fun is made of its oddball name.

It's told pickleball is named after the game founder's pup,

But it might be named for where, while playing, we end-up.

Pickleball's full of chances taken and attacks denied;

Players constantly face pressure to act and decide

How to beat the challenges we must if we're to win.

And escape the endless pickles we find ourselves in.
 


USAPA Online Store...
 
Need an official pickleball net system, USAPA logo apparel, instructional DVDs, the official USAPA-IFP Tournament Rulebook, window stickers and more? Find it all at the USAPA online store  -- http://www.usapa.org/usapa-retail
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e-Newsletter Submission and Editorial Guidelines…
 
If you have articles, news items, questions or photos that you would like to submit for publication in the e-Newsletter please send them to newsletter@usapa.org. The USAPA Editorial Guidelines are available for viewing at http://www.usapa.org/usapa-newsletter/. 
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Do Not Forward...

Please do not forward this newsletter. It is a benefit of USAPA membership. If one of your forwarded recipients clicks the unsubscribe link it automatically will unsubscribe you from the newsletter and all future USAPA communications. Forwarders beware. If you forward the newsletter to someone and they click 'unsubscribe' it will be your e-mail address that is unsubscribed. Prior newsletters are available in the newsletter section at usapa.org one month after they have been e-mailed to members. 
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The Final Word…
By Jennifer Lucore, Publisher, USAPA e-Newsletter

Nationals V, let's keep the good times rolling. As mentioned last month, the words of wisdom and insights continue. A big thank you to Mike Gates, Steve Wong, Luba Zhekhovskaya, Enrique Ruiz and Wes Gabrielsen for sharing:
 
How did it feel to compete in the Open Mixed Doubles Finals?
Mike Gates: It was very rewarding to get to the finals after persevering through lots of tough matches against talented adversaries. Development of a finals strategy that, if executed well, could result in a victory was essential, and in our case did not require any adjustments during the match. Playing aggressive for the most part and keeping the unforced errors to a minimum was effective in keeping the pressure on our opponents. It certainly was exhilarating after the match was over given the great comeback from Steve and Heidi in the last game.
 
Luba Zhekhovskaya: The entire day was really, really stressful, but the hardest thing for me was overcoming the feeling of the emotional accomplishment after winning the semifinal and refocusing back to the game mode in the final, which started in about 15 minutes. It took me almost half of the first game to refocus and make myself believe that it is possible to win the finals.
 
Steve Wong: I really enjoyed playing in the finals. We didn't pull off gold against Mike and Luba, but it was a great battle that I was proud to be a part of. My partner, Heidi Hancock, and I played our hearts out all day. There is always a positive and a negative to winning the winners bracket. The bad thing is that your team gets cold before playing in the finals; conditions change and possibly momentum shifts. However, we came out battling and the games were great.
 
How did it feel to compete in the Open Singles Finals:
Enrique Ruiz: This year's Nationals was extra special, mainly because it was the biggest tournament yet. Each year it seems that more and more so very talented players take part. Therefore, anytime one can make it into a medal match, especially in an open event, that's a huge accomplishment. The feeling of being out there playing under the lights is a feeling unlike any other. It's an amazing feeling and just knowing one is playing against the top competition in the world is an experience unlike any other.
 
Wes Gabrielsen: It felt great to compete in the finals of singles. I had been working hard on drills and fitness to get to that point and it’s always a fun challenge to play Enrique. He and I play against each other all the time in tournaments in the northwest, so I felt prepared to compete against him. I gave it my all, but he was just too good that day.
 
Jennifer Lucore: Awesome! To reach the finals for the third year in a row felt amazing. I couldn't believe I had arrived and survived the day both physically and mentally (after all, this was the 6th day of play). Then I have to play against Alex, my doubles partner, one of my best friends, on and on. We both agree that it was very hard to play each other for a lot of reasons, and many times had to visually block out that person on the other side. After it was all over, awards given out, and parking lot emptied, we just stopped and gave each other a big hug. Thank God it was over! We did the best we could every day and survived another Nationals, having tons of fun along the way.
 
Now that the video of your play is up, how did you look?
Mike Gates: Deceptively fast. At first, I was wondering who the young yellow pickleball monster playing with Luba was! Actually, watching the video validated what our strategy was for playing the match -- keep the errors down and try to match the aggressiveness of our opponents. I also was able to see Luba's mental focus and toughness throughout the match, whether ahead or not. I think the commentators were very entertaining and, if I could afford it, would have them edit some of my other matches so I could show them to my future grandchildren.
 
Luba Zhekhovskaya: I enjoyed watching it as it was filmed in a very professional manner and provided different viewpoints of the matches. The only limitation of the video is that it might have struggled to provide the entire atmosphere of the match, the energy and the emotions. And, in contrast to the other players, I looked a bit bored and not-interested (even though I was totally not).
 
Steve Wong: I haven't seen much of the video on the Internet, but I clearly remember the final [tie-breaker] game and being down 14-7 before we staged a serious comeback. We didn't pull it off, but I'm proud we made it exciting for the crowd before losing 17-15.
 
Wes Gabrielsen: USAPA and the commentators did an outstanding job with the video of the matches for the tournament. I have watched the video and enjoyed seeing things that went well for me, but have also been able to point out flaws in my game that I need to fix. I found watching the video to be a great teaching tool for me as I continue to look for ways to improve my game.
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