Column: The unsung heroes of pickleball

'Paddle Up'

There were about 250 pickleball players in the Prescott Quad City area in 2011 and by early 2017 some 2,500 players by my estimates.

For sure, Prescott and the surrounding area’s four mild climates, multiple recreational opportunities and the charming small-town atmosphere contributed.

Everybody’s Hometown indeed.

Among the five top locations in America for retirees to move to and those baby boomers are retiring at 10,000 per day has helped.

Perfect for pickleball.

For pickleball there was, and is, something else. They are the United States of America Pickleball Ambassadors who have really made the difference. There was one in 2011 and now there are 9. 

There mission is to promote the sport and lead the way by education, leadership, fundraising, and putting together volunteer teams of players to construct and run facilities and tournaments until other locals can take over. 

Those teams of others have done a wonderful job.

Ambassador Peggy Travers took on the challenge of working with the city of Prescott to raise basically private funds and build eight public courts at Pioneer Park and for the time being heads up the Prescott Pickleball Association which sponsors public play and tournaments.

Ambassador Jan Cradle is doing the same hard work in Prescott Valley to establish up to eight more courts in that locality.

Ambassador Danny Kadrtychok in Prescott Valley set up annual Snaps tournaments at the cities event center and works as a volunteer for the city recreational department.

Ambassador, Jerry Norwood the Yavapai Area Team Leader found a calling to establish  and teach the game to the youth at the Yavapai Juvenile Detention facility in Prescott. 

Ambassador Doug Seefeld a certified pickleball referee trains others in the sport.

Other ambassadors include Bill Sneen, Nelson Berberian, and Don Besse in our local area.

There are over a thousand of these ambassadors through the US and none of them get paid a dime.

All volunteers, few get to stand upon the podium to receive a gold medal, but in my view they receive a gold medal of the heart by their hard work and dedication to a sport they love to promote.

If you know one of them, reach out and say thank you. They are the real unsung heroes of pickleball. 

Bob Atherton is the Northern Arizona District Ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) a tier two Pickleball coach and credentialed teacher. You can contact Bob at bobca39@gmail.com or phone 928-499-2498.