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Remember When Pickleball….

Memories are wonderful things, especially when it comes to pickleball.
We remember important milestones in the growth of the sport and we remember personal events that continue to make us smile (or sometimes cry).
I remember playing my first USAPA Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona.
As a new 16 year old, just getting my feet wet, I won the Mens Singles 5.0 Open division and pocketed my first pickleball paycheck of $1,000.  Wait, maybe that is just a fantasy.
But I do actually remember that first nationals for me.  It was in Buckeye, and I did manage to play in a big men’s singles bracket and come in 4th in my first singles tournament.  And I remember that almost every court at that nationals used a standard portable net on a taped tennis court. I also remember how hard it was to buy a paddle 13 years ago. Today we think it’s tough to buy a paddle because there are thousands of paddles to choose from.  I remember that I could only find three companies online who sold paddles, ProLite Sports, Pickleball Inc and Fran Meyer’s Pickleball Stuff.  I also remember that if you liked one of the paddles they sold, you couldn’t buy it on their website and pay for it with a credit card.  You had to mail them a check, and when your check cleared, they shipped your paddle. That was only 13 years ago.I remember that only 13 years ago, that clearly the best player on the planet was a guy by the name of Pat Kane.  I couldn’t find anyone to argue that, and Pat was in his early 60’s at that time. He simply won everything against everybody.

I remember living in southeast Indiana only 13 years ago and not being able to find any pickleball courts in Cincinnati (except suburb Middletown) or Indianapolis or Dayton.  Some volunteers in our tiny town of Brookville built 2 nice ones so we could play.  Those two courts became the seeds that spawned many midwest communities, towns and cities.

I remember that 13 years ago, seemingly nobody had ever heard of the sport of pickleball.  “What’s that?”  You spent a lot of time telling the pickleball story, especially the dog part. 🙂

I remember when every tournament treated players the same, no matter what level or age they were. We all shared a nice hospitality area and everyone pitched in to make sure everyone had a good time.I remember the joy on people’s faces when they would show up at our courts for the first time and they were welcomed with open arms to come out and play.  No paddle?  No problem, here’s one of mine. That culture by the way has never changed at our courts. Sad that some places don’t create the same experience for those new players. But that’s for another article.

I remember when there was no money prizes to play for and I remember when a tournament didn’t really need big corporate sponsors to be able to hold a good event.

The local grocer donated the bananas and the local insurance agent furnished the bottled water for the players.

Your memories of course are different from mine.
The key point about my memories is that they are from only the last 13 years.  It is amazing how the sport has changed and continues to change.  But it has seen all this change in only the last 10-13 years.   With recreational players and amateur tournament players growing in record numbers, it is a fun time to be a part of this great sport.  It continues to make memories for me, my family and all my friends who will soon be playing.
All good memories indeed.
While you play pickleball today, make yourself some memories and help someone else make some good ones too.
So Let’s Play,

Originally Published on

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 (

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