Poulomi Kundu, editor of Sportsavor, in conversation with Jan Papi, the founder of Pickleball Global- the organisation associated with Pickleball sport technologically.
Since its inception in 1965 at Bainbridge Island by three American gentlemen, Pickleball has travelled far and wide. The sport is now played in several countries across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Pickleball is a highly social sport that can be played by person of all ages, even by those having no active sporting background. If you have a Pickleball paddle and some balls then you can start it on any hard surface; may be at your backyard or in a playground, at a local club or in a stadium. Thus, there is a minimal infrastructural requirement for playing this sport.
However, as players increased across countries and continents, more tournaments and leagues are initiated. Players have come up with amazing skills, matches have become exciting and ‘competition’ has found its way in this very ‘social’ sport.
There are some efficient world bodies and regional organizations that are perpetuating the development and growth of Pickleball throughout the world. These governing bodies provide strong technical and technological support to the players and the organized tournaments.
Pickleball Global stepped into the world Pickleball scenario some 8 years ago to provide a technological base to the development of the sport. The organization has introduced ranking system for Pickleball players, provide software support to tournaments and organize tournaments and leagues. Pickleball Global’s newest venture is its association with Asia Federation of Pickleball (AFP) where Mr Jan Papi, the head of Pickleball Global, has been appointed as the Technological Director. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Mr Jan Papi, the founder of Pickleball Global with Poulomi Kundu, editor of Sportsavor.
Development of a concept-
Jan Papi: “For the last 15 years we have a Tennis store. It was 8 years ago that we shifted to this new location at Bonita Springs. We were approached by a community at that time to carry Pickleball paddles in our store. I had no clue initially about what they were talking about. But eventually I found out that it was a growing sport. So we started keeping Pickleball paddles and balls in our store. My interest grew; I looked around, further communicated with those people and found out that might be there was something missing. It was because there was a community but there was no platform to bring people together. So that is where it all started. I wanted to create that platform where Pickleball players could come, connect and communicate.
Pickleball Global- the platform to connect
Jan Papi: It is a portal where Pickleball players can meet, they can connect; not only they can connect but running the tournaments, running the league and all other things basically leading into the rankings.
Jan Papi: Pickleball Global ranks players as per their result in the best 12 events in one year. Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles, Mixed Men and Mixed Women’s are the categories in which they are divided. But it was not that easy when I started. In America, Pickleball players opposed ranking system as they thought that they would lose their uniqueness. Ranking would lead them to Tennis-like atmosphere. But gradually they understood that it was needed and that they had to perform to keep their uniqueness intact.
Jan Papi: Yes, we provide software support to organizers for tournament entries, creating leagues, live scores and other technological help needed by them. I have travelled to different countries for smooth working of Pickleball Global during tournaments. I travelled to India twice- for Indian Open Season 2 and Season 3. I love the country, it really has amazing Pickleball players. They are so talented and skillful and I can undoubtedly say that India will definitely climb to the top of Pickleball ranking very soon.
Tournaments and Leagues-
Jan Papi: Pickleball Global started organizing tournaments in America but gradually moved on to European countries like Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium. We also ran a few tournaments in Australia as we are in a partnership with Pickleball Association of Australia. We have other tournaments lined up; we are waiting for the pandemic to end in order to start organizing and playing tournaments.
From America to Europe and now in Asia-
Jan Papi: I have been offered by Asia Federation of Pickleball to become a part of the organization. I am immensely excited for being a part of this organization because I really feel that the model of this project is to be followed. This organization has started operating from the bottom. There are clear distinctive departments to operate in different fields. Pickleball Global will look after the technological part.
Association with AFP-
Jan Papi: We would like to help the Federation to run the tournament meaningfully and bring everything into the ranking. Pickleball is growing in Asia, there will be more players, there will be more tournaments and that requires some structure. The structure needs to be in place before you start playing continent-based tournaments. That is where, I humbly want to say, we want to be beneficial- the tournaments will be played, the rankings will be produced and based on that we will see the best players in Asia. So the structure which is not so much present anywhere in the world will be seen in Asia right away.
Mutual benefits of Pickleball Global and AFP-
Jan Papi: Our association with AFP is an opportunity for us. When we go for a hiking or a biking, we see the mountain. There’s one point of view from there, but if we go around a mountain then there’s another point of view. So same is with our lives. As we go through the lives, we find new opportunities. Now we will try to add new features to the website that will be beneficial both for us and AFP. We are open to ideas from AFP because collective effort always brings out the best.