Pickleball Rocks Players Of The Year: Zane Navratil and the Certified Referees

During the year, people throughout Pickleball Nation email us or use our NominateAPlayer.com website to tell us about their favorite players. They tell us about players who have dominated in tournament play, but many times they also tell us about players who have had tremendous impacts on their communities or towns or even the game of pickleball overall.  (We really like those.)

Throughout the year we may recognize a player, club or community of the month, or we may give a simple Facebook shout out. They are all deserving.  But once a year, we pull together all the nominations and feedback, to finally determine who is most deserving to be called the Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year.     It’s certainly not an easy task.

Past winners include amazing people such as Riley and Lindsey Newman, Stephanie Lane, Ben Johns, Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters, Enrique Ruiz, Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, Daniel Moore and Scott Moore, Aspen Kern, Simone Jardim, Dick Johnson and more.
You’ll notice all our past winners are definitely great players, but you will also immediately recognize they all are very giving of their time and talents to “help pickleball grow”, which of course is the foundation of our Pickleball Rocks mission.

This first player hit us from both angles. Not only has hard work and
perseverance paid off big time in his game, his impact on the actual
game itself is undeniable.

Many of us even named a shot after him. The “Zanesaw” serve has been
tried by legions of pickleball players, some as young as our 9 year old
grandson all the way to some of the top names in the sport of
pickleball. Though the two handed spin serve has now been eliminated
from the official rules, Zane’s creativeness and ability to push the
boundaries brought many great, meaningful conversations to our sport in
2021. These conversations are important because they help people
recognize how fast the sport is growing and understand how decisions made now will
impact the way pickleball looks in the future. So whether you like the
chainsaw serve or not, Zane created a point in time that will help shape
the future of pickleball.

But beyond the zany serves, Zane embodies everything we look for in our
Pickleball Rocks Players of the Year.
Of course he is one of the top professional players in both singles and
doubles. Just check the brackets in any tournament he enters and his
name is always around the top. But also the demand for Zane the coach
is second to none. We received almost as many votes for Zane because of
his clinics and lessons as we did for his playing ability. People just
love learning from Zane.  If there are still any doubts about his 2021 credentials, just check out this graphic below.
And yes, it did not hurt that he puts family (Jenny) ahead of winning a National Championship.  A man of character too.

So we are proud to name Zane Navratil our 2021 Pickleball Rocks Player
of the Year.

Yes it has been an unusual year and having an unusual selection for our next Player of the Year just makes sense right now. We believe a lot of players, especially new ones entering the sport likely don’t understand the importance of this choice.

In 2016 the USAPA had the vision to create the national certified referee certification program. Two people, Lynn and Lynda Laymon, were tasked with creating the guidelines and steps that a person would go through to be awarded the title of Certified Referee. Those original steps and tasks were daunting to say the least. Many people who wanted to become a certified referee could not make it through the gauntlet. But thankfully there were individuals out there who had the desire,
perseverance and even the willingness to fail, who made it through the program and became the seed group that created this great national organization of today. Today the certified referee program is headed up by Mark Peifer and the program is growing like wild.

Yes it it still the toughest certification of any kind to obtain in the sport of pickleball. But the Certified Referees bring that much needed element of professionalism that will see our sport continue to grow and be admired by players and non-players alike in the future. It is a first class organization of individuals who are dedicated and extremely good at officiating a pickleball match.  We have been long time supporters of referees at all levels and believe they are a key to any good tournament.  We are certainly thankful this organization exists and are proud to recognize all the Certified Referees as our
Pickleball Rocks Players of the Year.

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Originally Published on PickleballRocks.com

Rodney “Rocket” Grubbs is a USAPA Legacy rated 5.0 player and has been playing pickleball for over 10 years, and has medaled in many sanctioned tournaments including Gold medals in the 2017 Spanish Open, the 2018 Italian Open, The Duel in the Desert in Casa Grande, The Happy Trails Classic, The Pebble Creek Classic and numerous USAPA Regional tournaments.

Rocket is the USAPA Ambassador for Southeast Indiana, but travels the country promoting the growth of pickleball through his family’s company and world famous apparel brand, Pickleball Rocks (www.PickleballRocks.com).

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