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.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

SwiftNet Portable Pickleball Net

Anybody have duct tape...

Is that a familiar refrain at your courts? The typical portable net system has lots of benefits but it is far from perfect. The center post wearing a hole through the top of the net is just the one problem I picked to open this post. But there are always folks looking to build a better mousetrap or, in this case, a better net. 

Pickleball, Inc. has developed a new net system they call the Swiftnet. It is lighter, faster to assemble, and more closely plays like a permanent. Sounds great. But be aware that improvements don't come cheap. This net will retail for $350, about 2-3 times more than traditional nets. Judge the net for yourself.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Land of the Sky - Invitation to Government Officials

It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos...

When the Land of the Sky tournament planning was in its infancy, I knew one of my objectives was to try to leverage its impact with local government officials. While tennis courts sit idle (and rotting) in every county park, pickleball players are constantly searching for places to play. I think that county officials are simply unaware of such a non-traditional sport and its support among constituents, especially in a retirement area like the NC Mountains. My plans always included inviting decision-makers to the tournament. That invitation is below. Let's hope it works.


Two hundred+ athletes will descend on Xcel Sportsplex in Fletcher, NC next weekend. But these athletes will be different than those normally seen at the home for youth volleyball and basketball. Instead, these athletes include a 15-year old and a 76-year old playing a sport in which they can compete together. They will be participants in the Land of the Sky Pickleball Tournament, the largest tournament to ever be held in the NC Mountains.

Pickleball is advertised as “the fastest growing sport in America”. It has about 3 million participants of all ages. Its appeal lies in four factors:

Pickleball is first and foremost FUN. It takes only as much time and effort as you want to expend in order to play at the level you choose. It is a very social sport with a small court allowing verbal interplay among the players. The short games allow players to gather on the sidelines while waiting their turns to play. These gatherings also provide opportunities for social interaction. 
Pickleball is active and healthy. It lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat, improves coordination and balance, and helps maintain mental acuity. While pickleball is an active sport, it is not overly strenuous due to the small court and short games.
Pickleball is easy to play and inexpensive to start. At its simplest, the game is batting a wiffleball over a net. The only equipment needed is a paddle and appropriate shoes.
Pickleball is competitive – at least as competitive as you choose. The etiquette of pickleball allows for both social play among those who choose to remain novice players as well as aggressive play for those who want to let their competitive juices flow.
Visitors to a pickleball tournament will immediately notice the noise. Fun, laughter, and verbal interplay are common among players and spectators. Families and friends travel with players to watch and participate in the fun. Tournaments allow followers to be completely immersed in a pickleball atmosphere for 2-3 days. The desire to participate causes many players and companions to travel to distant sites for extended stays.

I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to join us at the Land of the Sky Pickleball Tournament. Play will be throughout the day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Higher level play will be on the weekend. Saturday will be the most action-filled day with all players participating in mixed doubles. Come see why pickleball is growing so fast and learn the potential for expanding venue access in our area.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Volleys Defined

Know your options...

DJ Howard's tip this week is all about volleys.

DJ's weekly pickleball tip:

There are three main types of volleys: blocks, punches, and swings.

Before I go further, you must first understand the difference betweeen a "volley" and "rally". A volley is a shot hit out of the air, whereas a rally is a series of shots hit back and forth. Got it? I am talking about volleys, not rallies.

Use BLOCK volleys when:
  • The ball is coming toward you very fast
  • You are trying to control the ball
  • You are trying to hit a drop
  • You want to avoid popping the ball up to your opponent
  • You don't know what else to do - note, this should be rare!
A block volley is used more as a "reset" type of shot most of the time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

More Cooperation Between the USTA and the USAPA

The evolution continues...

We have talked a lot about how tennis clubs are viewing pickleball as a potential source of help for their prospects. Another step in the process is a recently announced test program for blended lines. It was discussed in Tennis Industry Magazine.

A Blended-Court Solution?

A cooperative pilot program using 60-foot courts for pickleball may offer opportunities for both
players and tennis facilities.

By Peter Francesconi

For tennis facilities, one of the more challenging aspects of accommodating the needs of pickleball players is how to handle the lines on the court. A pickleball court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, dimensions that don’t fit neatly into the lines of a standard 78-foot tennis 30 court, and aren’t quite  the same as lines for a 36- or 60-foot court. 

But a potential solution, suggested by the USTA with the support of the USA Pickleball Association, may be at hand, and may offer advantages and opportunities for players and facilities. In a free pilot program, the USTA has offered to add the pickleball “non-volley” line (also called the “kitchen” line) to existing 60-foot courts (or to new blended-line applicants). The non-volley line is 7 feet from the net on each side. 

On 78- and 60-foot courts, the distance from service line to service line is 42 feet, and the width of the singles sidelines on a 60-foot court is 21 feet - both just slightly off from pickleball’s 44- by 20-foot court. But the USAPA has agreed that recreational pickleball, which accounts for the vast majority of play, can take place on a 60-foot tennis court. (The pickleball net height is different, too - 34 inches at the center and 36 inches at the posts, as opposed to a tennis net height of 36 and 42 inches. Temporary net adjusters are available to pull it down to pickleball height.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Johns' Backhand Roll

Specialty shots from the pros...

The Jordan Briones' video this week is a little different in that Jordan does not even make an appearance. Instead, the video shows Ben Johns demonstrating his technique for the backhand roll, a shot that was featured in Pickleball Magazine. The video is titled The Backhand Roll with Ben Johns. I usually try to enhance the video by taking some screenshots and explaining the concepts in text. But this video does a great job of slowing the action and analyzing the shot-making technique. I am at a loss for words.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Land of the Sky - New Flyer

Go big or go home...

I have not written about our tournament for a while. One reason is that the preparations are consuming my day. (That's the reason for a lack of original content blog posts recently, too.) My recent reply to questions about the tournament has been  "I am excited for it to get here but I will be elated when it is over". I was told today that sounds like an expectant mother. that sounded about right...except that I don't get the parking spot.

There are lots of details that I have been working on - volunteers, referees, budgets, etc. But, as the designated computer guru, I have mostly been working on the tournament brackets and promotions. I hope you saw all of the Carolina "Picklebalisms". They were a fun way to keep the word out about the tournament.

One of the important changes was to add the tournament webpage to this blog. Just below the header at the top is a link labeled Land of the Sky Pickleball Tournament 2018. That links a reader to everything you can imagine about the tournament (at least everything I can imagine). An important piece of information included there is a new flyer. It was changed to show the elimination of the pro divisions - a frustrating story for another day - and the addition of the BBQ in the Barn. Having said that, below is the new flyer.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Recycle Sunday - The 80% Rule

A blast from the past...

This week's Recycle Sunday article was originally published February 20, 2016.


As you might imagine, I watch a lot of pickleball. I watch videos of players of all levels. I watch live games while waiting for recreational play. I watch live games during tournaments. I watch to get ideas to write about. But mostly I watch to learn.

Many games have extended periods of dinking during which I have questioned why opportunities to make an aggressive play passed without avail. After reading the statistical analysis about Conversions, I wondered even more. The author wrote "that a team strong in offensively executed conversions would see a forced error in their opponent or score a point within two hits of their executed conversions". There is no more offensive conversion than turning a dink into an aggressive smash. So why wasn't it done?

Several weeks ago, I had my question answered in a conversation with Jerry Peterson, a multi-gold medal winner in national tournaments in 2015. Jerry told me that the best players do not jump on the first opportunity just because it may create a win. These players wait for an opportunity that presents an 80% chance for a winning shot.  They will not take the shot if it is 50/50 or even 75/25. They wait for a near certain winning shot.

Jerry Peterson

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Pickleball Performance Training - Warm Up Structure

It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained...

Let's follow up yesterday's post on the importance of warming up with an explanation of what elements form the foundation for an effective warm-up. This is the second post from Nate Littauer of Xcel, who has developed a pickleball performance training programs available to all players in the local area. Nate will also have a special presentation during the upcoming Land of the Sky pickleball tournament. Details will be forthcoming.


In my last post regarding Warm Ups for improving your Pickleball performance, I addressed the benefits of a proper Warm Up and how it decreases injury risk. But what is a proper Warm Up? What does it look like and how long does it take? These are common questions that many people have input have on and personal opinions. 

The difficulty lies in the fact that no single Warm Up routine is the right one. There are so many different Warm Ups that prove themselves to be highly effective for achieving a ready state for play, so no specific routine can be classified as "the best way." What we do know, is that there is a common pattern among Warm Ups that proves to be correct, or in opposite, Warm Ups that are not correct.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Pickleball Performance Training - Importance of Warming Up

It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained...

I wrote a post several months ago on a new pickleball performance training developed by Nate Littauer of Xcel. As the name implies, the training develops strength and balance related to the specific movements of pickleball play. We have a core group of local players that has gone through 13 weeks of the program. I feel certain that each of us strongly believe that the program has been very helpful.

Nate has offered to contribute an occasional post to this blog. I find that to be an exciting opportunity to develop a cutting-edge program for a growing sport. Today is Nate's first post with an important topic that most players completely ignore - the importance of warming up.


Like any other sport, the increased popularity of Pickleball has brought a new form of fitness and competition to a wide age range and demographic. According to USA Pickleball, the estimated participation increased more than 12% from 2016-2017! That is a huge increase for any sport. And like any sport that grows, the athletes that play need to be on their top game to perform.

In talking with some the local area players, one of the few things that was brought up as a concern was injury prevention. Pickleball is unique in that the playing population has a huge age range. The style of play allows players to play competitively far longer than most other sports, which is great for those with a desire to compete. With that increased age demographic, the types of injuries that could be sustained can result in issues such as knee replacements, hip replacements, and tendonitis. These were all concerns of area players.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Grace is always remembered...

DJ Howard's tip this week is something we all need to keep in mind. Grace never gets old.

DJ's weekly tip:

Show grace.

New players at your courts?

Be kind and include them. Show them the ropes of how you do things at your courts. Help them with the rules. Maybe gently offer some basic advice on how to play and where to move. Do not over-coach, but be willing to teach them what they need to know to want to stay with the game.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018 Connestee Falls Scholarship Pickleball Tournament

Take me to the mountains to play pickleball...

The 2018 Connestee Falls Pickleball Tournament flyer was recently released. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Setting up Erne

Getting the fundamentals right...

It is Tuesday and w all know what that means - it is Jordan Briones time! This week's video is an interesting one for me since it is about a shot I have never even tried - the Erne. Let's describe the Erne first. It is a shot that is hit by a player standing outside the court beside the net post. It is usually a surprise shot. I wrote 2 articles about it in June 2017 - The Erne Shot and More on the Erne Shot.

What was left unsaid in those articles was the specifics of setting up the Erne for success. Jordan does that in his video How To Setup The Erne In Pickleball.

The not-so-secret part of hitting the Erne is that it must be off a down-the-line shot. Otherwise, the ball would out of the reach of the player attempting the Erne. So the secret part is setting up the opponent to hit the ball down the line.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Erne Strategy

As you pounce on a mouse, I pounce on your dink...

The Erne shot fascinates me - probably because I have never done it. But I'm going to give a shot after writing the next 2 day's posts. I previously wrote about the Erne in The Erne Shot and More on the Erne Shot. But they did not go into the detail I needed to gather enough knowledge to try the shot. After tomorrow, I think I will.

But first, let's view a Mark Renneson video titled Pickleball Strategy: Erne in which Mark discusses the effectiveness of the shot.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Recycle Sunday - Pickleball Statistical Analysis - Honest Self-Awareness

A blast from the past...

This week's Recycle Sunday article was originally published February 16, 2016.


We have spent more than a week discussing the statistical analysis of pickleball play as performed by Noel White. Noel offered one last observation from his research and I will present it below without comment.  From Noel:

The Palm Creek pickleball players who know me, are aware that I spend my pickleball time, when not playing, observing the play of others and primarily asking these observed others how they think they just played. Another variation is asking other game watchers what they are seeing going on in the playing in front of them.

When I can be diplomatic, rather than nosy, I am soliciting people’s perceptions and estimates of what is and is not working for them. I compare what they tell me with what I have previously witnessed.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Practice the Mental Side

Plan to win...

The theme of this week's posts has turned out to be how to respond under pressure. The theme continues today with an article from Sarah Ansboury about developing the mental part of the game. Her thought is that pressure can be overcome by planning and practice...and not necessarily with a paddle. Excerpts from her article Pickleball Challenges: The Mental Side of the Game are shown below.

We often practice our shots…thinking that perfecting our strokes is the key to winning. But if we don’t control the mental side of the game we will often come up short. Today, we’ll focus on preparing yourself mentally before a tournament.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Play the Point, Not the Pressure

Stay on track...

DJ Howard's tip this week kind of ties into the Reset and Rescue Shot posts of the last 2 days. His post discusses play when under pressure. This could include play when under attack or out of position.

DJ's weekly tip:

Play the point, not the pressure.

Utilize high percentage plays. Don't take unnecessary risks. Exploit your opponent's weaknesses. Angles create angles. All good advice here. But if you forget all this good advice when under pressure, guess what? You lose.

You cannot afford to alter your game so much that you fail to simply play smart pickleball. If you succumb to the pressure of the situation, you will likely fail to play quality points consistently. And that gets you beat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Rescue Shots

Get me out of this mess...

We have all been there - out of position, on the defensive, fighting to keep the point alive. We talked about one situation in yesterday's post about resetting the point after a bad third shot puts you under attack. But there are other game scenarios where we need to find a "rescue" shot, i.e., a shot to get us out of trouble. Sarah Ansboury has article at the RV Picklers' site titled What Should I do When I’m Out of Position on the Pickleball Court in which she gives us some advice. An excerpt is shown below.

Don’t Panic

Often players find themselves in a defensive position and panic. Out of panic, players try to go straight from defense to offense.  This is the equivalent to a pickleball hail Mary…it only works one out of 100 times.  Instead, your goal should be to move from a defensive to a neutral position.  To do that, consider these three things.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Getting the fundamentals right...

After all of the equipment talk, let's get back to some play with Tuesday's regular featured Jordan Briones' video. This week, Jordan has Daniel Moore discussing the how to reset the point when the opponents are on the attack and you are back away from the NVZ line. The video is titled How To Hit A Reset Shot with Daniel Moore.

The reset shot is a cross between a "staying alive" shot and a defensive shot to gain a neutral position. It usually results from a poor third-shot drop that allows the opponents to attack from their NVZ line while you are stuck well behind it. As they attack, you are forced to take hard low shots and try to get them back. A reset shot takes it to the next step by dropping it into the NVZ and allowing you to get to the net. One of the most important points Daniel makes is that this shot is hard and it may take multiple attempts before success.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Prospects of Equipment Sales

The growth of the game continues...

I really wanted to end the theme of pickleball equipment with Saturday's post. Then the USAPA sent an interesting article discussing the future prospects for equipment sales. The article shows the boom continues. The article is titled Prospects of Pickleball Equipment Market Continue to be Optimistic, Growth Remains Consolidated in North America & Europe and was based on a study done by Fact.MR.

A new Fact.MR study foresees the pickleball equipment market to record an impressive 8.9% value CAGR between the forecast period 2018 and 2028.

Rockville, MD, June 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Prospects of the pickleball equipment market will continue to be optimistic, as the sport witnessed continued rise in popularity among the aging demographic, slates a recent Fact.MR report. The report envisages an august 8.9% value CAGR for the pickleball equipment market over the period of forecast, 2018 to 2028. In light of pickleball sport’s uptake of popularity, several parks and recreational departments have been integrating the sport into their programs, which in turn is influencing participation and associated-equipment sales.

Facile and uncomplicated rules of pickleball have attracted more enthusiasts toward the sport. Pickleball participants range from beginners to seasoned players, all craving the thrill for competitive play. Compact size of pickleball’s court has made the gameplay to involve meaningful conversations, as participants are required to play in close proximity. This has driven the pickleball’s popularity as a great social activity, which in turn has been furthering participation in the sport.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Recycle Sunday - Pickleball Statistical Analysis - Conversions

A blast from the past...

This week's Recycle Sunday article was originally published February 14, 2016.


Noel White analyzed 5 areas of pickleball as listed in my post Pickleball Statistical Analysis. We have covered the first four of those areas over the past week and will now discuss the last area of his work. The subject is conversions, a term with which I was not previously familiar. Before we define it, let's see how important it was found to be. The conclusion (Results Nutshell) reached by Noel was:
90% of the time winning teams have the most total number of successful conversions. I have some rough estimates that teams using the most offensive type conversions win a high % of the time and teams that have the most defensive type of conversion shots lose a majority of their games
A 90% factor in winning seems to be pretty important, at least important enough to understand how to use it to our advantage.

Noel has described a conversion as "any change-up in hitting or playing the game that breaks the previous pattern of hitting or play. For example, a lob out of a dinking pattern, soft hitting to hard hitting, a cross-court shot during a pattern of straight line volleying….)"

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ball Wars: Why Choose the Dura

A wiffleball by any other name...

Let's keep the equipment theme going for one more day, but switch the topic away from paddles and to balls. There is a never-ending debate among players about different balls' pluses and minuses and which ball is best. I will not go through those arguments here. Instead, I want to show one person's view of why the Dura Fast 40 ball is the best ball for outdoor play. Glen Peterson is a top player and offers his thoughts in the video below.

Before viewing the video, here is a quick review of Glen's reasons for his choice:
  • Lower bounce
  • Allows more creativity 
  • Harder ball
  • Makes your skill level improve
  • Longer rallies in the kitchen
  • Spins like it should 
  • It’s the ball pros use 
  • It’s used in all major tournaments
  • The drilled holes

Friday, June 8, 2018

Quiet Paddles

The right tool for the job...

Let's further continue this week's paddle discussion with another element that has entered the market. Some venues, especially those in residential communities, have noise ordinances. As we players are well aware, the game can be loud. Some of that is the laughter and banter from players but that appears to be less irritating to some than the constant "pop, pop, pop" from the paddle whacking the ball. Paddle manufacturers have looked to that as a niche market and started to make "quiet" paddles. Pickleball Portal did a good write-up on the topic. I will include an excerpt below, but the entire article is worth reading since it also includes a list of subject paddles. The article was titled Quiet Pickleball Paddles | Green Zone Approved Paddle List.

Quiet Pickleball Paddle: How To Choose?

Some people have asked me...."What's the best quiet pickleball paddle that is on the approved list"? ​ But I think that's just such a hard question to answer!  First of all there are a LOT of paddles on the list (over 100 the last time I counted!). 

Secondly the list includes paddles from every price range, material (wood paddles, composite and  graphite paddles), edgeless paddles and those with edge guards.  Virtually every paddle shape (wide-body, elongated, etc.) grip size and core material (polymer core, aluminum core, Nomex) are represented on the list. 

Because of this, it's really too hard to declare any one paddle  or short list as "The Best Quiet Pickleball Paddle"​.  I think the principal to finding a good paddle has not changed and noise, although definitely a priority if you live in a "Green Zone" community,  should NOT be the number one deciding factor. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Paddle Try-Out

The right tool for the job...

This week, DJ adds to the theme about paddles.

DJ's weekly tip:

Try out several paddles before making a final decision about what to purchase. 
(Unless, of course, you have money to burn and are willing to purchase many paddles. You know who you are and it's ok- go ahead and do your thing.)

It's ok to get suggestions from a friend, a high level player you admire, a local coach, or even a nationally known coach, HOWEVER, please make sure they have your best interest in mind.

There are lots of great paddles and great paddle companies out there and you would be unwise to select the very first paddle the "expert" recommends you try because it is, after all, the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Many top players and coaches are sponsored by paddle companies and it stands to reason they will market and promote that brand. Therefore, it can be difficult sometimes to sort out fact from fiction when someone endorses or promotes a particular paddle. Is this paddle REALLY the greatest new product on the market?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Lead Tape

The right tool for the job...

Let's continue Monday's paddle discussion with a new trend that allows a player to adjust the feel of the paddle - lead tape. Sarah Ansboury wrote an article for the RV Picklers' blog titled Should You Add Lead Tape to Your Pickleball Paddle? in which she discussed the topic. Excerpts from Sarah's article are below. She includes some other important points in the full article.

Pickleball Paddles: A Weighty Issue

So now that we know we can, let’s ask the question “why”. Just as in tennis, yes some tennis players add lead tape to their tennis rackets, lead tape alters the weight and balance of the paddle. A four-inch strip of the 1/2 inch tape weighs two grams. The Head Extreme Pro paddle I use is 7.6 ounces. If I add 4″ of tape to the edge of the paddle, my 7.6-ounce paddle becomes 7.74-ounces. That may not seem like a big difference to you…but paddles are pretty light so a few ounces can mean a lot.

More importantly, it alters the balance of the paddle….by this I mean the relative weight of the handle versus the face of the paddle. Many times a player will pick up two paddles thinking one weighs more than the other. However, if you placed the two paddles on a scale they weigh exactly the same. The player perceives the one paddle as heavier because more of the weight is distributed outside of the handle. I can feel the two grams referenced above.