Sunil Valavalkar is regarded as the ‘Father of Indian Pickleball’ who first played Pickleball in the USA. An avid sportsman, Valavalkar was so much impressed with the game that he started promoting it in India. In 2008, he took the initiative to form the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA), the highest national governing body of Pickleball in India. In his recent visit to the USA, he met some of the best personalities associated with Pickleball USA and brought huge reference from them about how to further grow the game in India.
In this article, Sunil Valavalkar writes about his experience of meeting Pat Murphy, the President of International Pickleball Federation and having some amazing Pickleball sessions at PebbleCreek.
“Can you come in your Sports Attire? That was Mr Pat Murphy, the newly appointed President of International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) answering to my explorative question on whether I could meet him at Phoenix. I was guest of Keshav, my school friend at his swanky home in Scottsdale at Phoenix -Az and hence I was exploring the possibility of meeting the newly elected President of IFP.
And here was, on the other end of phone line, the new President who to my utter surprise was inviting me to play Pickleball!!!! It was more than what I was expecting; and without much to think about I gave an immediate “Yes” reply. Logically the next question was on how to reach his place? Keshav and his wife Swati voluntarily came with the solution that they would drive me till Glendale at Top Golf and from there Pat Murphy would take me to West Valley of Phoenix. As per the plan, on a Saturday morning, from east of Phoenix we reached to Top Golf where Pat was already waiting in his truck to receive us.
By thanking Keshav and Swati, Pat and me started conversation on our way to Robson Resort Community at Goodyear area of Phoenix. Before I started answering his volley of questions, the first thing for which Pat appreciated me was my sport gear. Instantly, we grew a liking for each other and within the first few minutes both of us became good friends like as if we knew each other since long.
During that 15 minutes drive, I narrated my story about where I first learned Pickleball and the subsequent 12-year old journey of AIPA. I took note that the New President of IFP is a player at his core and hence he is sure to take Pickleball to the next level globally.
Later throughout the day, while introducing me to players out there, Pat repeatedly reminded everyone that I knew this sport since 1999. In turn I told everybody that Mr. Pat Murphy is my leader and was there to seek guidance from him to take Pickleball to the next level.
I personally think there are more than one reason that Mr Pat Murphy is the right fit for the post of the President of IFP. Being an experienced trainer, he is instrumental in creating Training module for USAPA in his capacity as Training Chair. Also Mr Pat is President of the PebbleCreak Pickleball Club at Goodyear, AZ whose membership is soaring every year and it’s current membership stands at over 1500.
Pat aptly articulated his pride for this picturesque club when he told me “If there is a Pickleball heaven, we are living in it at PebbleCreek.” I was speechless when I saw 20 dedicated outdoor courts under one single complex with all modern amenities, including Ice Vending Machine. Since Arizona is a dessert state in the USA, hence, sometimes the Sun looks and feels closer but that does not deter the Pickleball players to practice on the courts. No wonder 500 players easily sign-in when there are tournaments at PebbleCreak.
After a gruelling session of 3 hours, it was kind of Pat to invite me to his cozy home so that I could get some rest. His equally charming wife welcomed us by offering Salmon sandwiches ‘n’ coffee. After having a short rest, both of us started discussing the future course of Pickleball internationally. During that meeting, my feeling got converted into firm belief that Pat Murphy is sincere in his efforts to take Pickleball on to the roads of Olympics. With a fixed plan in his mind, Pat is sure to put life into working of the International Federation of Pickleball. During the same meeting I introduced Pat to Janet Anderson over the phone who is taking Pickleball to Brazil, and thus a new member country got attached to IFP. Pat also shared his vision about Bainbridge Cup Tournament to be held in Germany in July and next year in London.
The three of us had spend the Saturday evening having supper at famous Red Lobster Restaurant by ordering Cedar Plank Lobster and Shrimp with its signature Chesapeake seasoning, At the dinner table Mrs Murphy described her husband as modern day saint- the view that I instantly endorsed.
Next day morning we two again went to courts and had some more challenging sessions. Back to back, we played 8 doubles matches in 4 hours under the hot sun. I was soaking and almost fainting but Pat was still bubbling with energy. There I got the lesson that Pickleball is to be played more with brains and less with power.
Straight from the courts we hit the table at famous Dennny’s for Traditional American breakfast of pancake, honey and eggs. It was a fascinating cultural experience for me. Over the breakfast Pat told me that very soon he would be opening up communication lines between member countries and IFP to accelerate the growth of Pickleball worldwide.
Come Sunday evening, my host Keshav was waiting for me at Scottsdale. It was nice and kind of Pat to drive me back from Goodyear to east of Phoenix carrying all the nice memories with me and a firm belief within me that the future of Pickleball is in safe hands with a leader like Pat Murphy at the helm.