As the sport of pickleball evolves—particularly, at the highest of levels with increasing prize money on the line—there will be growing pressure to improve performance. One way to improve performance is by using better equipment, which for pickleball means a better paddle.
There are hundreds of paddle manufacturers working to help pickleball players achieve this goal of better play by producing the “best” pickleball paddle. Paddle manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of the rules of pickleball (which include rules on size, material, surface, alterations, etc.) in an effort to outpace the fast-growing competition in the pickleball paddle industry. They are looking to in-depth research and development to get an edge over their competitors, and find a marketing angle in order to explain to the pickleball population why their paddle is the best. Even a 1% improvement could result in a few extra shots and a few extra points, which could be the difference between a win and a loss on the pickleball court for those competitive players.
With these growing pressures, there are similar pressures on enforcement of the rules, as all paddle manufacturers must design and create their pickleball paddles within the confines of the rules. This mounting pressure to police the hundreds of paddle manufacturers has resulted in the following joint statement amongst USA Pickleball, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), and Major League Pickleball (MLP):
Ahead of the MLP Daytona Beach event, however, a flurry of statements, actions, and tweets emphasized how much clearer and more transparent rules and testing are needed in the sport, after a CRBN Power (CRBN2) pickleball paddle was found to exceed the deflection specifications. Following the failed paddle test, the PPA implemented additional testing for the CRBN Power paddles, which would require testing on-site at the PPA event and would require pros to have their specific paddles tested after the event and risk losing all prize money and points if their specific paddle failed the deflection and other tests. Statements from CBRN itself, along with top pro Ben Johns, proclaim that CRBN is not the only company having issues with deflection.
Needless to say, the joint effort from USA Pickleball, the PPA, and the MLP will likely be a positive step forward for protecting the integrity of the rules in connection with paddle manufacturing. But, it will take time…
And, as pickleball continues to grow even further, new issues along these lines of enforcement and protecting the integrity of the game will arise—for instance, how will pickleball tackle performance-enhancing drugs or gambling (i.e., throwing matches related to bets and gambling). These issues are just the beginning for the burgeoning sport.