Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Updated Tournament Schedule 2016-2017

North Carolina Pickleball has updated the upcoming tournament schedule for players in the local area.

I have my eye on several, including the one in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: New Pickleball Terms

A clever post from Jeff Napier at Pickleball Strategy.

Some New Terminology

I posted a query about terminology in the forum section of, and got some interesting responses. I don’t know how legitimate or ‘universal’ these terms may be, but thought you’d enjoy them in any case.

Wrong Garage – A serve that goes into wrong service box

Erne Shot – Normally, you can’t be closer than seven feet from the net when hitting a ball unless it has bounced. However, if you have a ball that’s coming well to one side, you can step right up to the net, as long as you are outside the sideline, and hit the ball without it needing to bounce first. Here’s a video.

Pantry – The area outside the sideline near the center line very close to the net, but outside the kitchen. The area where the Erne shot takes place.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Boot Camp

The Suncoast Pickleball Boot Camp was held in the mountains of North Carolina several weeks ago. Many local players attended and all reports were that it was very successful. Below is an article from the Black Mountain News about the clinic. I have added several photos from Facebook posts with local players.

Nearly 100 people attend camp for fast-growing sport

(Photo: Fred McCormick)
The hollow sound of pickleballs bouncing off the courts at the Patricia Cornwell Tennis Center echoed through Montreat last week during the Suncoast Pickleball Boot Camp.

The event, which brought top professional instructors and players from the sport to the Montreat Conference Center, was a success according to organizer Russell Elefterion.

"This is a boot camp for players rated 3.5 and above," Elefterion said. "This is the first boot camp I've done, and it sold out in a month."

The camp attracted 84 players and seven pros, attesting to the sport's growing popularity.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Referee Certification

The last 3 posts have been about pickleball refereeing and why you should do it. This post will be last about refereeing for awhile. I promise. This post will discuss and highlight the USAPA program to train and certify referees. Anyone who wants to give refereeing a try would greatly benefit from getting certified or, at a minimum, reviewing the materials.

Rather than go through the certification process here, I will refer you to the USAPA website for information. Be forewarned that some of the materials require USAPA membership - yet another reason to join. The information can be found at by hovering over "Rules and Referees", then "Referee Materials" and selecting the appropriate topic. This post discusses "Referee Handbook", which opens with the following paragraph:

Introduction and Purpose 

Refereeing can be easy and fun! The more thoroughly you know the rules and the more matches you referee using the standardized, tried-and-tested techniques contained in this handbook, the easier it becomes. The USAPA/IFP Referee Handbook is intended as a guide for referees at all levels of officiated pickleball events, and encompasses both singles and doubles play. The procedures, techniques and tips in this Referee Handbook are based on the IFP Rules, as well as the experiences of seasoned referees who regularly officiate USAPA sanctioned tournaments. Accordingly, this handbook documents the USAPA officiating standards and procedures, and serves as the official resource for referee training and reference.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sarah on Referees

Continuing the discussion volunteering to be a referee, here is an article from the RV Picklers and Sarah Ansboury called Pickleball Volunteers.

Pickleball Volunteers

I really love to sit with people who have played pickleball for many years. Through them, I realize how incredibly quickly the sport has grown and the corresponding need for more and more pickleball volunteers.

Canadian Nationals

I recently returned from Kelowna, British Columbia where I participated in the Canadian Nationals. The tournament was extremely well run. You could feel the pride members had for their local pickleball club.

It is truly amazing how every tournament is run by an amazing set of volunteers. Some are from the local clubs, while others are traveling through to play or just watch. It is so much fun to see the name tags or club shirts from all over the country.

Volunteering to Referee

I stopped by the volunteer tent, in Canada, to offer to referee matches and they actually told me they had all the matches covered. That doesn’t happen a lot. If like me, you play in tournaments, you know that there are delays caused by not having enough refs and line judges to complete all the matches.

Having come from working at tennis matches I can tell you it is more difficult to referee a pickleball match than a tennis match. Watching for foot faults at the non-volley zone during a fast rally can be very challenging. I remember refereeing a 5.0 men’s match and I caught a foot fault going for an overhead about 20 seconds too late! I felt guilty, but we all make mistakes.I want to encourage folks to continue the tradition of volunteering at pickleball tournaments. Pickleball has survived and thrived because of people’s love for the game and the fact that they are willing to volunteer at pickleball matches. I understand that you might find refereeing intimidating. You might feel ill-equipped to referee an “open” match or get confused when teams are stacking. Perhaps you want to start by refereeing a singles match. Perhaps you can help as a line judge for a medal round. There are lots of things you can do to help your local tournaments. I want you to know that we very much appreciate all the pickleball volunteers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why you Should be a Referee

Yesterday, I talked about the need for more pickleball referees. Today, we'll talk about some good reasons why you should become a referee. We'll do this through an article from the RV Picklers called Top 5 Reasons You Want to be a Pickleball Referee.

Top 5 Reasons You Want to be a Pickleball Referee

The Palm Creek Resident’s Pickleball Tournament is wrapping up today. Denise left our motor home at 7:30am this morning to referee the early morning, chilly, matches. She will start playing at 11am, and I will begin my shift. Eighty Palm Creek residents and seasonal guests, such as ourselves, will volunteer to referee during this three-day tournament which will attract over 300 players. And so we give you the top 5 reasons you want to be a pickleball referee:

5. You have the Best Seat in the House: Though there are excellent facilities at Palm Creek, both to play and watch, no one can see the action as well as you can when you are refereeing. (Frankly, I wonder how well pickleball will “translate” when shown on TV. You probably know that some Final matches during the US Open are expected to be telecast on network TV. But I recall watching live matches at the USAPA Nationals and then watching the same matches on the internet and finding the taped version did not fully reflect the speed of many rallies.) I believe, you can only fully appreciate the speed of the ball during a volley rally at net when you referee.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Referee Clinic

Several months ago I mentioned that a referee clinic was to be held at Carolina Courts in October (We Need Referees - an Opportunity). About 30 of us attended that event on October 12. The clinic covered the classroom requirement for the referee certification program of the USAPA. It covered issues like referee positioning, scorecard management, difficult situations, etc. The clinic was set up by Bob Nibarger, USAPA Communications Chair and resident of the Charlotte area. It was run by Laura Patterson, a USAPA ambassador from Winston-Salem. Some photos from the event are below.

Laura Patterson

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pickleball at Lake Lure

I was fortunate to enjoy the last 11 days with family in an extended vacation. Part of that time was spent in the Lake Lure area, a great place to spend time outdoors hiking, canoeing, and, of course, playing pickleball. I spent one morning on the courts of Rumbling Bald Resort with Michele Puchala, the USAPA ambassador for Lake Lure, and a group of welcoming players. It was a great time and I only wish I could have spent more time on their beautiful lakeside courts. Here are a few photos to attempt to show the scenic location.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Dinghy Dave


Some people really love their pickleball.

One man, “Dinghy” Dave Pike, is navigating 6,000 miles between his Michigan home and Florida, stopping along the way to play the badminton-like sport with as many people as possible.

Dave “Dinghy Dave” Pike of Grand Haven, Michigan, plays a game of pickleball Wednesday at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau. Pike stopped here on his “Journey,” a rigid inflatable watercraft, on the Mississippi River en route to Key West, Florida.

He stopped in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday night to anchor his boat and camp, and by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday was working up a sweat with the local pickleball club at the Osage Centre.
Since his stop in Cape Girardeau marked the only one in Missouri, Mayor Harry Rediger proclaimed Wednesday as “Dave Pike Pickleball Day in the City of Cape Girardeau.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Right Paddle for the Job

In addition playing pickleball, I am also a home handyman. I live by the adage that there is a right tool for a job. Since we have spent time discussing the ball, maybe we should talk about the paddle - a topic I've barely mentioned in nearly a year. Let's start with an article from Prem Carnot called How to Pick the Right Pickleball Paddle So It Helps (Instead of Hurts) Your Game.

How to Pick the Right Pickleball Paddle So It Helps (Instead of Hurts) Your Game

If you’ve been playing pickleball for any length of time, you’ve probably asked yourself three questions:
  • Should I buy a new pickleball paddle?
  • What kind of paddle should I buy?
  • With so many options, how do I know which one is right for me?

Without going into a comprehensive analysis of the pros & cons of every pickleball paddle on the market, in this article, I’ll give you some guidelines to choose a paddle that works for you and your game in particular.

(By The Way: Have you heard that Wilson has recently entered the market with their own pickleball paddle?  The sport is definitely on the rise!)


Friday, October 21, 2016

Thoughts about the Ball

As discussed in yesterday's post, A Pickleball Controversy?, the introduction of the Onix Pure ball has created some controversy in the pickleball world. The relative bounciness of the new balls has changed the nature of the game for some players. The reality is that different balls are used all the time. Here is Sarah Ansboury's thoughts on the ball in an RV Pickleballers' article called The Pickleball Ball…Changes, Preferences and Practice.

The Pickleball Ball…Changes, Preferences and Practice

As I travel around the country, I find I have to play with a different pickleball ball. Is it tough? Yes, but is also part of the game.

Changing Pickleball Balls

Frankly, we had a close call at the US Open in Naples. We were originally told it was going to be a new Wilson ball. However, we found that after about 5 shots many of the balls would loose their “round”. Fortunately, the tournament directors switched back to the Dura prior to the actual event. Since many of us were introduced to outdoor pickleball using the Dura, we were very happy to see this move.

Pickleball Preferences

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Pickleball Controversy?

The introduction of the Onix Pure ball has created some controversy in the pickleball world. For many it is too bouncy and changes the nature of the game. For others, it is quiet, soft, and long-lasting. Keith Bing discusses the controversy in a blog post called Pickleball Bounce.

Pickleball Bounce

After 50 years of Pickleball, the first Pickleball ‘ball' controversy has arisen. Pickleball is growing fast and it was bound to happen that some communities would find themselves at the sharp end of neighborhood complaints about the ’sound’ coming from newly installed Pickleball courts. As the complaints have grown, more communities have looked for quieter balls and paddles which have lower decibel ratings. There are many ‘quiet’ paddles on the market but few ‘quiet’ balls, until now. The Onix Pickleball with a higher bounce, lower dB rating and a longer court life has become a competitor to the old reliable Dura. Unfortunately, the Onix, though quieter, changes the way the game has been played since its inception. Most of the controversy centers around the 3rd shot & dinking which are at the heart of Pickleball. Because the Onix bounces much higher than the Dura, the soft shot is no longer so soft and players are finding their opponents can smash their perfect third shot instead of having to reach down to dink it over the net.  

A few observations about the Dura and Onix pickleballs.

1. The Dura ball has been the gold standard when it comes to bounce for many years. 
2. The Onix ball has a significantly higher bounce and a longer lifespan than the Dura. Sound levels are lower. It should be noted that paddles are a greater source of high dB levels than pickleballs.
3. Players in the 3.0 range seem to favor the Onix ball. (They also tend to give up learning the 3rd shot & dinking)
5. Players 3.5 and above seem to favor the Dura Pickleball.
6. Using either the Dura or the Onix Pickleball will require different shots and strategies to be employed during play depending on which ball is being used.
7. It has even been suggested that if the Onix pickleball is being used the net should be raised to 38 inches at the posts and 36 inches in the middle. 
8. Maybe someone will come up with a ball that has the bounce of the Dura, the lower sound level and lifespan of an Onix and the cool green color of the briefly introduced and now vanished Wilson Pickleball.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where to Serve

We've been highlighting the serve this week and that will continue with an article from a new expert whose website I've recently discovered. Jeff Napier has had videos on line for some time but I was unaware that he had a blog until I stumbled across Pickleball Strategy. This article, called Where to Serve, comes from that blog.

Where to Serve

At the beginning stages, most of us are happy just to get the ball in the court. With practice, you can place your serves with a degree of accuracy. Since you have the opportunity to place serves where you want, you might as well know where the recipients will have the most trouble.

First, almost all good serves land far back, close to the baseline. If your serve is short, the opponents can approach the kitchen right away, and in many cases, return a diagonal ball into your kitchen that you’re not ready for. Instead, you want to keep them away from the kitchen as long as possible.

Therefore, you may be amused to discover that when you’re serving from the right half, a serve that’s as diagonal as you can manage, into your opponent’s forward right corner, just behind the kitchen line is ridiculously difficult to return. This serve violates the notion that all serves should be close to the baseline. The recipients have to stand behind the baseline in case you serve deep and direct, so serving into the front right corner will make them run forward, putting them at a disadvantage. You don’t generally want a high, slow serve into the front right corner, because that will give the opponent time to respond with a diagonal into your kitchen or maybe even a dink that will put your team on the defensive. The interesting thing about this serve is that it is to the forehand of right-handed players – 89.9% of the population, and so you’d think it is not hard to return. Oddly, serving from the left court to the very diagonal left corner does not have the same effect on a right-hander. They are more easily able to return that as a backhand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Serve Variations from Sarah

We saw a variety of service motions in the Pickleball Channel video yesterday. Today, we will look at a Sarah Ansboury article called Adding Variety to Your Pickleball Serves. This is not at all about the service motion but about strategies related to placement, spin, and other variations.

Adding Variety to Your Pickleball Serves

I’ve written before about the pickleball serve. If you missed that post or are having difficulty with serving consistently, you will want to read it here. Today, we focus on adding variety to your pickleball serves.

Why Serves are Important

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Variety of Serves

Every potential point starts with a serve. Therefore, the serve is a very important shot. Anybody who has played the game for awhile has seen lots of styles that work, An interesting video from Pickleball Channel called A Special Look at Serves in Slow Motion from the Huntsman World Senior Games was just released that shows a wide variety close up and in slow motion.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Pickleball Retiree Communities

These are the best communities to retire in if you love
Retirement is the best time to explore your favorite hobby or sport. With more retirees wanting to stay active throughout their Golden Years, more 55+ communities are adding sports courts to their list of amenities. One of those popular amenities is pickleball, which is all the rage at many retirement communities and has become one of the fastest growing sports in America. Pickleball was invented about 50 years ago and has swept the Baby Boomer generation because it’s fun, quick to learn, and easy on the body. Unlike tennis, pickleball is less strenuous due to its smaller court and lighter paddles, making it easy and accessible for more retirees to hit the court and enjoy this low impact sport.

Active adult communities have also taken notice of this growing trend and have added more courts as well as converted existing tennis courts for pickleball use. So if you’re ready to play, then grab your paddle and check out some of the best communities for pickleball enthusiasts.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Places to Play - Hendersonville

I am a daily reader of the local Hendersonville newspaper, the Times-News. Recently, the following photo caught my eye.

It was accompanied by a headline and story that further got my attention.

Work has started on the Boyd Park renovation project in downtown Hendersonville.

The park improvement project includes removing the existing fence, asphalt, lighting and a few trees in order to rebuild the two tennis courts.

New fencing and lights will be installed after the courts are repaved and resurfaced.

A handicapped-accessible ramp will be installed along the Bearcat Boulevard side of the park. New lights will also be installed around the Laura E. Corn Mini Golf Course.

The project should be complete by mid-November to early December. For more information, call the Hendersonville Public Works Department at 828-697-3084.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Better Target

Mark Renneson has a new video, Pickleball Strategy -- Win More Net Points, in which he explains where to hit the ball when given a high ball at the kitchen line.

Mark's concept is a simple one - hit the ball at the closest opponent when you are in an offensive position. This means hitting at the opponent directly in front of you when both are at the kitchen line or hitting at the crosscourt opponent when his down-the-line partner has retreated from the kitchen line. 

The idea is that the closest opponent has less time to react to the shot. This aligns with the Joe Baker videos in which he discussed the need to make the first shot of the fast game count. If the shot isn't a winner or fails to force the opponent to make an unbalanced return, the odds of the offensive team winning the rally fall dramatically.

Of course, the strategy changes if you are not in an offensive position. Then, the return should be made to the opponent off the kitchen line to keep him back.

For those in western NC who know Marcus Luke and Tommy Boyette, they are shown in several sequences in the video.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Local (Concord) Tournament

MAJOR INDOOR TOURNAMENTS ANNOUNCED - Carolina Courts recently announced a series of major indoor pickleball tournaments. The first tournament will be held on Saturday February 4, 2017. Future indoor tournaments are already set for November 2017, and January and March of 2018 when the format will change to a two day tournament. Registration for the Super bowl Slam (February 4th 2017) opens on November 1st at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Instructor Certification

I have mentioned that I am in the process of becoming a certified instructor through the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). The certification process includes 4 steps:
  1. Application
  2. Written Exam - An online test of rules, strategies, skills, and other information about pickleball in which at least 40 of 50 questions must be correctly answered in a 20-minute period.
  3. Skills Test - An on-court test of shot-making in which at least 8 shots of 10 attempts for each of 23 shots must be successful.
  4. Observed Teaching Lesson - Another on-court exercise where a one-hour lesson is given by the applicant and observed by the training director to ensure specific criteria are met.
I have accomplished the first three steps so far. I got 46 of 50 correct on the written exam and passed the skills test relatively easily. The closest I came to a problem was a backhand crosscourt drop shot from the baseline - probably the hardest shot in pickleball. I did get the minimum of 8 shots in the target area, though.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2016 High Point Pickleball Tournament Results

The High Point Pickleball Tournament was played at Deep River Recreation Center this past weekend. Several local players participated and their results are shown below. Be aware that there is no official results site that I can find. The following results were pieced together from Facebook posts. I apologize if they are inaccurate or if some results are omitted.

Dee Ezrol of Xcel and Dennis Brennen in the Mixed Doubles 4.0 50+
Did not medal.

Rick Ezrol and Deb Richter, both of Xcel, in the Mixed Doubles 4.5 50+

Rick and Deb win the bronze medal. Congratulations!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Most Important Shot

What would you answer if I asked you what the most important shot in pickleball is? Would it be the third-shot drop? The serve? While I have no scientific survey to tell me what the predominant answer would be, I would guess (with some admitted self-projection) that the results would be something like this.

Frankly, no answer is wrong - depending on your perspective. But this post is intended to change your perspective...because I have recently gained a new perspective on the question. 

But before I give away my answer, let's quickly review the series of posts from last week. Those three posts focused on controlling the controllable, being balanced when making a shot, and being relaxed on every shot, respectively. 

I read or viewed the expert's advice in those posts after working with Marcus Luke during his recent visit to Cummings Cove. I watched how Marcus explained (during lessons) to players about controlling the point by focusing on the current shot. Then, I had my IPTPA skills test with Marcus.  Upon completion, he commented on my calm and relaxed mental and physical demeanor during the test and that I needed to incorporate those elements into my play. 

All of that combined to make something click in my brain. I figured out that the most important shot in pickleball isn't a specific skill shot but is...the next shot, regardless of what it is.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: A Pickleball Community

A fantastic story of how pickleballers set the standard for a caring community. This story comes from another blog called The Accidental Texan.


“I tried to get through your text without crying but it didn’t work,” George’s daughter Melissa texted me.

Pickle ball has changed my life. After back surgery for a herniated disk, my husband was worried I’d not be able to play tennis again and he found this new sport for me. Pickle ball is played in a gym on a badminton size court with a whiffle ball and a paddle and it’s a game of mixed doubles. Men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages all play together. It is a fast, aggressive game combining tennis with badminton and some people say Ping-Pong. I don’t see the Ping-Pong part of it. It’s an incredible work out but also an amazingly fun and addictive sport. I now play between 5 and 6 days a week for between 2 to 3 hours. It’s like my job, that and speaking about Gorillas and Chimps at the Dallas zoo 2 days a week. Lucky me. My recovery from the surgery was so excellent, I could easily play tennis, but I have no desire! My new love is Pickle ball.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Right Focus

Posts for the past couple of days have been about control - focusing on the controllable and focusing on balance. Today's post continues the same general theme with an another article from Sarah Ansboury called My Pickleball Mantra: Balance, Breathe, Believe. Sarah talks about something she executes with every single shot. I point this out because Monday's post will wrap these 3 posts up and put a bow on them. Be sure to check back on Monday.

My Pickleball Mantra: Balance, Breathe, Believe

I am often asked how I am able to appear so relaxed when I am playing competitive pickleball. For me, the key is my pickleball mantra…

Competing with Your Mind

Friday, October 7, 2016


Yesterday's post was an article from Sarah Ansboury discussing how to overcome the stress of tough playing situations. One phrase she used was "balance is the key to hitting a ball squarely on the paddle face". Today's post adds to that specific point with a video from Mark Renneson called Balance at the Kitchen.

Mark emphasizes that one of the most basic needs of good pickleball play is balance - because a balanced position allows a player to more easily put away a winner. But he breaks balance into 2 types. The first is static balance which simply means being balanced while stationary, such as when at the kitchen line. The second is dynamic balance which means being balanced while on the move for a shot.

Since balance is so important, there must be things that a player can do to improve and Mark provides some exercises to do just that. I'll have some more ideas over the next several days.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Focus on the Controllable

In tough situations, the natural tendency is to become tense, both mentally and physically. One reason for that reaction is uncertainty about the outcome. But a more important factor is related to how one's own actions contribute to the ultimate outcome. Tension often creates over-exertion and - in pickleball - unforced errors. Sarah Ansboury addresses how to minimize this reaction in How Can I Keep the Ball Low.

How Can I Keep the Ball Low

One of the questions I often get from students is, “How can I keep the ball low when I am on the run.”  The fact is we often try to do too much. Less is more.

Less is More

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When to use Time-Outs

Tournament play normally brings several issues into play that don't arise in recreational play. One of these issues is the choice of taking the side or the first serve, as discussed in my post Side or Serve?. Another issue is the use of time-outs. Tournament directors will establish time-out rules - typically something like 2 time-outs per game for one minute each.

My experience has been that time-outs are rarely used. That is likely due to their non-existence in recreational play or practice. Another reason might be that the players want to save them with the expectation that they will be used when a rest is needed. The reality is that rest breaks are normally unneeded in doubles play. Instead, time-outs are used by top players for strategic purposes. This is the topic of Sarah Ansboury's video Quick tip about time outs!.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Return the Serve Down the Middle, Right?

Many pros and instructors state that best strategy for returning a serve is to hit it deep down the middle. This return has several benefits including:
  • drawing both opponents to the middle and opening the sidelines to passing shots
  • potentially causing confusion and allowing the ball to pass unhit
  • hitting to the backhand of an opponent
Those reasons are enough for me to endorse this strategy and I have done so in this blog.

But Mark Renneson is a bit of a contrarian when it comes to conventional strategies. His latest quick tip presents an alternative view.

Quick Tip: Don't Return Down the Middle!