Last year, I nominated the top five people who I felt had done the most to advance pickleball in Delaware as the 2017 Coastal Point Pickleball Worthies. For 2018, the award for Pickleball Worthies goes to two different groups of individuals.
The first are the various captains of the Coastal Communities Pickleball League, who continue to amaze me with their organization and positive influence on so many in their league. They reflect the true community spirit of pickleball.
The second group is the Delaware individuals who, at considerable personal expense, have repeatedly ventured out of their comfort zone to compete in pickleball tournaments across the country. They have conducted themselves with admirable skill, because Delaware turns heads when they show up. Rather than ask “Who was that masked man?” players sent to the bleachers ask “Where does that group of players come from?”
I cannot list all these Delaware players, but in 2019 I will draw your attention to their outstanding individual performances.
Many of these Delaware competitive players have improved their personal pickleball ratings, which pushes them onto a higher rung of tougher competition. Several told me they now sometimes play 18-year-old players who had great flexibility and speed of foot.
For the rest of us, these competitive warriors bring back experience, new competitive strategies, group self-confidence and knowledge that we are training properly. The recent December tournament near Dover reinforced this view. Although the field was smaller because of the competition with so many holiday social events, the quality of play was superb. Better players are coming here to field our events because of Delaware’s competitive reputation.
Last week, I asked you to do an inventory of your pickleball shots so you can develop your own personal improvement plan this year. Over 2019, I plan on writing about some advanced pickleball tips to help you improve.
Basically, because of the positive influence of the Coastal Communities Pickleball League play, there has been general playability improvement across the board by a large number of players, and each of them positively influence the newer players to the game. Therefore, I will turn up the level of instruction this season.
When I say I will turn it up, I really mean I will break it down into simple components. I will also periodically interject some of my experiences if I think they reinforce the story theme. I won’t be exposing a secret handshake that is sure to make you play better, but I will discuss the basics of racket sports that seem to get lost in the noise of pickleball.
I was fortunate in my business life to know some of the greatest tennis players to have played the game, and to have spent time discussing their training. I also befriended their coaches and had many dinner conversations discussing training and competitive match techniques. I won’t expose any of their personal techniques, but attempt to generalize their approaches into useful pragmatic tips.
Rick Bell has agreed to keep me informed on what he is doing to prepare for the National Senior Games, and then provide firsthand updates when he arrives and plays his matches. I trust this will give you a unique view into pickleball improvement. I also will ask some local professionals to explain how we might help improve ourselves for pickleball in stretching, physical training, yoga and diet.
Happy New Pickle Year!
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point