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If you, or anyone you know, ever goes on social media or reads emails or listens to podcasts, you are aware that the pickleball professionals have been involved in a changing landscape lately. And if this is the first time you’re hearing about the “tour wars”, then I’m surprised you’re reading my blog!
But for starters, we already had drama in the tour world – drama between and within the owners and players of the PPA, APP, MLP, NPL and probably others! So I thought I’d stay away from the “which tour model is better” aspect, and just give some food-for-thought.
The PPA touts their having the Best Players in the World! Which has a lot of truth to it for sure. It’s so fun to see the likes of Ben Johns, Anna Leigh Waters, and Vulcan’s own Jay Devilliers and Tyler Loong battle it out – especially if you get to see it in person. But the PPA tour has its detriments if you’re not one of those top 25 or so players in the world. The cost of playing in PPA tournaments is very high, the treatment (i.e. amenities, court quality, draw format and times, etc.) of lower-level pros, and particularly amateurs, is not stellar. And there’s no double elimination!
Not that everything is always rosy over on the APP tour! There is definitely great competitive play by their professionals, but it’s true you’re not seeing the best of the best. And their streaming production is really great – when you’re able to find it – not streaming the first couple days of a tournament is a decision I’ll never understand. As well as putting what you do stream on pay-to-view only sites.
But enough about typical tournaments. The team event, MLP, is super fun to watch, particularly in person. But there’s so few of them and they use rally scoring, which doesn’t really align with the intent and design of the sport. Plus watching on TV (YouTube, whatever) can be disjointed because you don’t necessarily get the full experience of following a team’s progression.
NPL is very cool as it’s a different format and sized team event, and it’s for the over-50 crowd which is more relatable to so many people. But they certainly have a long way to go in the video production and viewing world. And likely in the “being known” world – did you even know the National Pickleball League was a thing?
The dust settled and PPA and MLP merged back together, but the turmoil remains. Are these issues good for pickleball or not? There’s a lot of money being thrown around, that’s for sure. The player agents are likely the big winners of it all since they get up to 20% of the contract and never even have to hit a ball. And isn’t this all truly just a bunch of First World problems? Let’s all just go have fun, be nice, and play pickleball!