As pickleball fever continues to spread throughout our area, the country and the world moreover, Long Island Tennis Magazine will be bringing readers the latest news, including features, profiles, product reviews and more, on one of the fastest-growing sports here in our community. Each edition we will bring you more content covering pickleball on Long Island.
Pickleball Plus Launches LI’s First Junior Pickleball Program
Pickleball, for some, still carries with it a stigma that it is for older people; a sport you play when you can no longer play tennis or other activities. But as the sport continues to grow here on Long Island, that has proven not to be the case.
And helping to shake that stigma and usher in the next generation of pickleball players is Pickleball Plus, Long Island’s largest dedicated pickleball facility, which launched the area’s first-ever junior program for pickleball back in September.
The program is headed up by Mike Kazin, a tennis player of 30 years who coached varsity high school tennis and began playing pickleball in 2019. Kazin knew the sport existed from his time in graduate school studying to become a physical education teacher, but only started playing himself after seeing courts at his local gym.
“Once I tried it and started playing, I took a liking to it right away,” said Kazin. “People told me it was like a combination of tennis and ping-pong, which I love, so it was perfect for me. I quickly became an avid player.”
Since then, he has become a high-level player who plays in competitive tournaments, and is bringing his love for the sport and experience as a teacher to lead the junior program at Pickleball Plus.
“It’s an amazing facility with so much to offer, and adding the junior program in September only bolstered that,” said Kazin. “We have programming for players ranging from 3-years-old through 17-years-old, so we have beginners who are playing for the first time, but also teenagers who you can tell are tennis players because they have those same skills that translate to both sports. We have a wide range of skill level, and groups in between, and we’re hoping to keep building on it and continue to make it bigger.”
When Pickleball Plus first opened, it consisted of eight pickleball courts, but owner Dr. Harry Kent converted an existing turf field into four more courts, expanding the club’s ability to host more programming. That has resulted in the groups continuing to grow and expand, with Kazin seeing new faces picking the sport up.
The importance of having a junior program cannot be overstated, especially for a sport such as pickleball. The fastest growing sport in the country has plenty of adults playing it, and even young adults who are tennis players are beginning to play, but to be able to take a new generation and create a grassroots movement for the sport is essential for its sustained growth.
“We have talked about the importance of this since the beginning,” explains Kazin. “Of course you are going to get kids coming over from tennis, but to be able to start fresh with some of these young kids is imperative. You can see how much they love it, the smaller court, the smaller paddle and a slower ball, it’s much easier for them to learn it. To get these kids coming in that don’t have a tennis background, in a lot of ways I enjoy that more, you can see them building on skills like dinking, and to see those skills develop is awesome.”
So as we head into 2023 and beyond, the sport of pickleball seems to be continuing its upward trajectory, and junior programs such as the one at Pickleball Plus will become more of the norm. There are more and more tournaments available to junior players as well where they can take those skills they learn and apply them to match play, and truly get a sense of how fun and rewarding the sport can be.
“I am extremely excited about what’s to come,” said Kazin. “I tell the kids to look online and see that there are more tournaments available and I hope that continues. Some juniors can compete with older groups and the higher levels, but they would benefit greatly from there being junior-dedicated tournaments and events, just like they do for tennis. We want more kids playing, and to demonstrate that this isn’t a sport for your grandparents only, but that it is an incredibly interactive game that provides an amazing workout. I am looking forward to seeing more kids join our program here, but also seeing them pick it up all over Long Island to further grow this great game.”
David Radisch to Head Up SPORTIME Pickleball Programming
Over the last several years, David Radisch has become a fixture of the pickleball scene here on Long Island, dedicating much of his time, away from his full-time career, to help grow the sport in our community, while working, part-time, as a tournament director and instructor. In the fall of 2022, Radisch decided it was time to turn his passion into his career, when he became the first Director of Pickleball at Sportime.
“It is rare to have a chance to turn the sport you love into your career, so I was extremely excited about the opportunity,” he said. “Sportime’s leaders and I share a vision of what pickleball programming should look like, including multi-level clinics, level-based open play, unique tournaments and events and more. And Sportime is a world-leader in junior training programs, which will definitely be part of the future of pickleball. We have been able to hire some of the most highly skilled and committed instructors on Long Island – people with great enthusiasm for the sport, who will bring that positivity and commitment to our club and our programs.”
When Sportime Clubs began managing the Port Washington Tennis Academy last year, part of its plan was to convert some of the club’s tennis court capacity to welcome pickleball. And since Sportime always seeks to provide players with the very best in sports programming, skilled staff was needed.
“I started spreading the word that we were looking for a pickleball director, and David’s name was the one that kept coming up,” said Joe Siegel, Sportime Partner and Senior Managing Director. “He and I met several times and we hit it off – David was the perfect fit. Coming to Sportime full-time has allowed David to apply his previous experience at a much larger venue, where programs include clinics, tournaments, parties and more. David brought a ton of energy and creativity to our new courts at Port Washington. We have a great calendar of events coming up this winter and plan to grow from there.”
In just the few months since Radisch joined Sportime, more than 200 players have participated in Sportime pickleball programs, which include clinics, group play, lessons and more. One of the most popular aspects of pickleball is how social the game is, and Radisch considers that fun and social vibe to be his specialty. He gets to know his clientele well and tries to create uniquely fun events that combine the sport’s physical activity with a lively and welcoming atmosphere.
His next special event will be a Pickleball Rocks party in mid-January.
“Sportime management is supporting this event that I have wanted to do for more than four years,” said Radisch. “On Saturday, January 14, we will be hosting the first-ever pickleball open- play party with a live rock band. I guess it could be a disaster, but we got a great band and it should be awesome – and if you don’t push the envelope, then you will never know.”
Siegel explained that when he was going through the hiring process, Radisch’s creativity really stood out, “And having pickleball at multiple locations will also let Sportime brings things to another level. This winter, we will be hosting a tournament series that includes our pickleball programs at Port Washington and at our Kings Park location, where the program is led by Michelle Stoerback.” Said Siegel, “One weekend we’ll have a holiday party and tournament at the Port Washington location, and then, on a different weekend, we will be hosting similar events but at Kings Park or at our facility in Bethpage. So, our pickleball players will have many chances to take advantage of these great social and competitive opportunities and to do so at clubs that are most convenient for them.”
In just a few short months, Radisch has helped create a foundation for Sportime’s pickleball programs and events, which will continue to expand in 2023. And the not too distant future will include a full junior program, based on Sportime’s existing and successful junior tennis programs.
“I see how amazing the Sportime junior tennis programs are,” explains Radisch, “and I am very excited to try and match that model with our future pickleball programs for kids.” Radisch added, “Over the past couple of years, the excitement around and growth of pickleball has meant that that municipalities along with public and private facilities, like Sportime, cannot meet the demand for court-time and events. The uniqueness of pickleball is that it is so much fun, and leads to great friendships between people of all ages and backgrounds. It is easy to get started playing, and the pickleball community is very welcoming of new players. Pickleball is here to stay - to play pickleball is to love it!”
Q&A with Bethpage Park’s Andrew LaCorte
Last fall, Bethpage Park Tennis Center brought in Andrew LaCorte to run its pickleball program. LongIsland Tennis Magazine sat down with LaCorte to discuss his background, the state of pickleball on LI, and what he is bringing to Bethpage Park.
Can you tell me about your background? What were you doing before you took over at Bethpage Park Tennis Center?
I played tennis in high school and in college, but my sport and passion originally was track cycling. I was a 36 time district champion, a five-time U.S. National Champion and rode for the United States in England and Australia; I started playing pickleball 2.5 years ago and have not looked back yet. I still have a full-time job in Information Technology, but loving the opportunity I have here at Bethpage Park.
Do you provide beginner programs only, or are there more advanced programs/lessons available at Bethpage Park?
I have introduced some new clinics for beginners, our latest and sold out event was for beginners for couples. Our planned clinics coming up are for advanced beginners, tricks and tips, and tournament and game preparation. I am also teaching a few women groups. We also brought open play for 3.0 to.3.5 and 3.5 to 4.0 players on Friday night and Sunday nights respectively. We have advanced 4.0 to 4.5 on Tuesday and Saturdays and 4.5+ on Sunday mornings.
Do you plan on hosting tournaments/events as well? If so, can you talk to me a little bit more about the events?
We will be doing a couple of tournaments after the new year along with some charity events/tournaments to raise awareness for a few causes such as suicide awareness. the US Coast Guard Foundation, dementia, and women’s breast cancer, so we are really excited to be able to use pickleball as a way to give back to worthy causes and organizations.
How have you seen Pickleball grow here on Long Island over the last couple of years? Where do you see the sport going as we move into 2023?
Pickleball has grown tremendously. I think we're up 36.2 percent from lastyear and the sport remains the fastest growing sport in the United States. Parks with pickleball courts are popping up all over the place and when it is warm out there is still a waiting group eager to get on the court to play. Now you have Major League Pickleball making its name with pro athletes purchasing teams. Its fantastic to see the sport evolve.
Padel Product Review: adidas Adipower ATTK
The adidas Adipower ATTK is the latest pickleball paddle that will helpyou bring out the best parts of your game. If you want your shots to be decisive, this is the paddle for you. Its composition is carbon aluminized and it’s high-density polypropylene honeycomb core will make your shots carry the necessary power to make you unstoppable. The Spin Blade technology will allow you to generate effects in the most demanding shots. This is the same paddle used by pickleball professional William Sobek.
►Dimensions: 16 1/2 x 7 1/2
►Weight: 7.7 - 8.2 oz
►Thickness: 14.28 mm
►Grip Size: 4 1/8
►Grip Length: 4 3/4