Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
2015 USAPA Nationals VII – Gold – Men’s 70+ Doubles with Jerry Peterson
2015 USAPA Nationals VII – Silver – Mixed Doubles 70+ with Alice Tym
2015 USAPA Nationals VII – Bronze – Singles 70+
2015 Huntsman World Senior Games – Gold Men’s 70+ Doubles with Jerry Peterson
2015 Huntsman World Senior Games– Silver – Mixed Doubles 70+ with Alice Tym
2015 Huntsman World Senior Games– Silver – Singles 70+
2015 Huntsman World Senior Games – Bronze – Men’s 65+ Doubles with Mike Crabtree
2015 Great Plains Regional – Gold – Men’s Doubles 4.5 – with Rodney Grubbs
2015 Great Plains Regional – Gold – Mixed 65+ - 4.5 – with Sherrie Farris
2015 Fun & Sun – Bronze – Mixed Doubles 70+ - with Mary Ortmann
2014 Huntsman World Senior Games – Gold – Singles 70+
2013 Cleveland Senior Olympic Games – Silver – Singles 70+
What paddle do you play with and why?
There are lots of paddles to choose from and you need to try them out and find one that fits your game. Technology continues to change also. I started with the Z5, Zen, and Encore but I like the feel, balance and control with the Paddletek Bantam EX-L.
What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I started playing in November of 2011 when Ted Pritchett started the program at The Ridge Recreation Center in Littleton, a suburb of Denver. My background was all racquet sports, tennis, squash and I had been playing racquetball at the Ridge. A few months into playing, I was able to hit with Steve Wong at his clinic - I was hooked and have been playing ever since. Early on, Lonnie Krantz was a great influence and teacher in improving my game. My wife Peg and I started competing in local and state games in age and this motivated me to try playing at the National level.
What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
I played indoors the first two years as we didn’t have many outdoor courts in the Denver area. Plus most of the tournaments were indoors. “Pickleball Ken” Marquardt and the city of Arvada then built a great 16 court complex and now we have a great venue where we can play almost all year outside. Now I prefer being outside and playing in the elements and adapting to the conditions of wind and sun. Plus it is easier to get a court outside at different times of the day.
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
At age 72, I really prefer doubles play as it is easier on the body. In singles, I don’t have a big ground stroke game and I am more of a retriever just keeping the ball in play. This works for a while until you run into the power players that are just too good. While I enjoy this exercise, I need to think about the long term impact and longevity in playing the sport. I enjoy the problem solving, strategy and team work in doubles in addition to the camaraderie and fun of playing with four people on the court.
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
Traveling to Huntsman and to Nationals are at the top of the list due to the weather and the quality of play. I find it helpful to watch the better players compete and see if I can pickup some tips that would fit into my style of play. My favorite place would be any location where we can get 4 or 5 strong players together for a couple of hours. We have a solid group of national level players in Denver/Colorado Springs and often get visitors to the area join us.
What’s your ”secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
As a relative newcomer to the sport, I continue to search for the “sauce”. There is nothing like playing with people of your ability or better and playing against different style players. I have been on both sides of the strong/weak player in a doubles partnership and neither is fun. You are either getting every ball and getting beat or you never get to play the ball – both are frustrating. This last year I was fortunate to play with a variety of quality, competitive, fun people who are also good pickleball players and who brought out the best in me. Thanks to all my partners this last year. Playing Tip: Try to find strong partners who you like and are fun to play with – you can’t go wrong.
What’s your day job?
I retired from the Air Force after 22 years as a pilot. I also flew for 15 years with American Airlines and retired 12 years ago. Besides pickleball, I keep busy organizing a yearly Military Appreciation Day golf outing in Denver, cycling, playing a little golf and enjoying grandkids and family.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
According to my wife, too many! Last year I would play 3-4 times a week for about 3 hours each time. That didn’t include 30-40 minutes driving time each way. It was easy to find time to play, because I was addicted to pickleball and I thoroughly enjoyed the people that I played with. I injured a tendon in the Senior Open Mixed, the last day of play at Nationals, and I am currently on the mend.
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
I pretty much met and exceeded all my goals this last year at Huntsman and Nationals.
In the past I was playing just to play – the more the better. This year I hope to balance my play with more drills - working on return of serve, third shot dink, and minimize errors during the dink rally. I hope to play some tournaments again this year but will be selective on location as we also like to travel and see different parts of the country.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
Regardless of your current skill level, I think everyone’s game should be viewed as a work in progress! I enjoy playing with and against all ages. Here are a few resources I use to not only improve my game but to keep up to speed as an Ambassador representing this great sport:
- USAPA.org (Videos, referee test, newsletter, etc)
- Pickleballtournaments.com (Tournament listings – Player lookup to find partners and their results)
- Pickleballrocks.com (Rocket Grubbs has some great blogs and articles about growing pickleball & building programs at the local level)
- Pickleballcentral.com (Other great resources for tips and training videos)
I am grateful to my network of friends (you know who you are) who have influenced and motivated me with their play and they have introduced me to their friends from different parts of the country. I feel blessed to have met so many interesting and fun people and to play a sport where your can be competitive within age and skill level. Pickleball is truly a lifetime sport and I look forward to many more years of play and competition.
Marc Rinehart, USAPA Ambassador, Denver West