Posted: April 5, 2023 | 4/5/2023
The National Pickleball League (NPL) made history by holding its inaugural combine in search of athletes 50 years of age or older. This combine was the first ever, not just for pickleball, but for ANY 50+ sport. I love it! The combine provided a venue for high-level 50+ pickleball players to show their skills in front of NPL team owners and recruiters. Many of the current, ranked Senior Pro champions had already earned draft positions.
What is the NPL?
The National Pickleball League is a nationwide team competition for Champions Division (50+) professional pickleball players. To be launched this month, team owners will select a city in which their team will represent, as well as building their team through a live player draft that will include the biggest 50+ stars from current competition. It’s awesome that NPL supports senior champions, after all, seniors represent the majority of all players and are the ones who have grown our sport the first 40 years. If it weren’t for seniors, pickleball would not have survived through the decades.
You might be asking yourself, what in the heck is a “combine”?
An event that combines tests of athletic skills including speed, power, strength, and agility to identify the top players for a particular sport. Combines are most commonly known in the football world for collegiate athletes hoping to be recruited to the National Football League (NFL). But other sports have combines including basketball – NBA Draft Combine, and soccer. But for pickleball seniors (50+) history was made in this first-ever combine for pickleball players.
The NPL Combine was held in Oklahoma City at Chicken N Pickle, an indoor/outdoor entertainment complex. The two-day event included round-robin doubles competition with multiple partners. There were 40 men and 40 women competing from ages 50 – 73 with all players hoping to increase their chances of being drafted by an NPL team. All the players did great and all were excited about making the trek from all over the USA and Singapore. Yes, the combine had 4 players from Singapore attend, 3 women and one man.
I was fortunate to be in attendance, scouting players for Bob Strommen, owner of the team NAPLES JBB UNITED, one of the 6 NPL teams. It did seem strange for me to not be playing and competing, but it was fun to be watching and scouting.
One player shared with me: “If I don’t win a spot into this year’s draft, I already feel like a winner by having this awesome experience of playing good pickleball with people my age, meeting the NPL co-founders and team owners, but most of all, making new friends for life!” That is what pickleball is all about – friendships and fun!
Best of luck to all players, you never know what’s going to happen during the NPL draft … stay tuned!
If you are reading this, then you can enter to win a FREE NPL hat. Just reply below in the comments and share you’d like to win a hat, and you’ll be entered into a random drawing on April 15th. 3 winners will be announced in the comments below – GOOD LUCK!