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The Next Gen: A New Wave is Coming

by The Dink Media Team

The Punta Gorda Open a few weeks back yielded some impressive results for junior players Anna Leigh Waters (14) and Carson Klinger (14).

While Waters took gold in the women’s doubles with her mother by her side, Klinger walked away with the win in Men’s 5.0+ singles, prompting us to pose the question, “what are they feeding these kids young adults?”

While their diets remain a mystery, we did learn a bit more about this wave of younger players. Here’s what we know…

Let’s start with Waters, the Floridian 14-year-old is a phenom. Her mantra is “Rip Bang Win Cake”. Nope, that’s not an insight into what she eats, it’s “shorthand for mastering the third shot drop, winning the game, then celebrating.” Check out her full bio on the Paddletek website here

12 career golds. 5 US Open golds. 4 USAPA Nationals golds. I’m not intimidated, you are. 

Carson Klinger, or CJ as he’s known in the streets, is no stranger to coming out on top at 5.0+. He’s even competed in a few tournaments at the pro level. With a tennis and ping-pong background, CJ made the transition to pickle with his dad just over two years ago, and the pair is already collecting golds at the 5.0 level.

I picture CJ, who’s homeschooled, riding shotgun in the family RV with a social studies textbook in-hand as the family travels from tournament to tournament accumulating precious metals.

CJ takes gold at the Punta Gorda Open.

But are these kids anomalies, or should we expect to see more young guns rise through the ranks? Some recent developments in favor of the latter:

  • US Sports Camps announce the launch of Nike Pickleball Camps – a testament to the sport’s growth at the youth level.
  • More schools playing pickleball during a pandemic – fueling the next generation.
  • Imlay high school students learn finer points of pickleball.

Naturally, we reached out to youth ambassador and talented 5.0 player Wyatt Stone to get his take on the matter. We’ll be posting his full thoughts on our site in the near future, but for now, here’s the gist:

  • Organizations like the Utah Junior Players Organization and North Carolina Junior Pickleball are popping up all over.
  • The PPA will play host to junior tournaments throughout 2021 and beyond.
  • AAU Pickleball will hold its first Junior Olympics in Houston in August 2021.

However you look at it, pickleball is undoubtedly gaining steam at the youth level, and it’s a great thing for the sport. We’re looking forward to the day that pickleball completely sheds its reputation as the retirement sport. We’ve already come a long way.

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