Pickleball’s Historic Court Number One

POSTED: August 21, 2023  |  8/21/23    Authors: Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore

So … about Seattle. The last weekend of July held the first professional tour tournament in Washington State, hosted by the PPA. While certainly not even close to the first time a tournament has been held in Washington – there’s been tournaments in the Seattle area for more than 50 years – because, of course (in case you live under a rock), pickleball was invented near Seattle back in 1965, is Washington’s state sport, and tournaments started happening shortly thereafter.

But I digress. Many of the top-level pros played in the Seattle tournament, as expected. There were one or two notable upsets on the court which received a lot of attention, but otherwise, most everything else played out as per usual. At least on the tournament court …

There’s another court that also got quite a bit of attention. A very special court, not a part of any tournament, that has a historical marker next to it, court one. A court on Bainbridge Island; a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Yes, the court where Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and their families (including the Bill Bell family at the beginning) hashed out, over time, the foundation of a game that all ages, genders, and capabilities could love. Hashed out things like the paddle, size of the kitchen (known at the time as the “penalty zone”), and the height of the net. Details like the double bounce rule and how to keep score. Ways to make the game competitive and nuanced, yet easy, fun, and relatively level for all. You know, things that make pickleball, PICKLEBALL.

This incredibly historically significant court resides on PRIVATE property at the home of PRIVATE citizens. Private citizens who are part of one of the founding families. Up through the end of July, they remained respectful, and indeed generous, about the occasional visitors to the court because they understand the importance of the site to many people. Then things changed. People took advantage, and some went too far.

The saying “the few ruin it for the masses” rings very true here. Some decided it’s okay to run a business regularly taking their customers to the original court… without paying the court owners. Other individuals decided they just deserved access to this private property. Some went even further than that.

Near the end of July, before the PPA tournament, certain PPA professionals, employees, and media personnel (including an owner) thought it was okay to trespass on the property while filming everything. Their justification was that they would “be quiet” and “keep it on the down low”… as if repeating (bragging) about said trespassing on a podcast is keeping it on the down low!

This occurred despite monetizing (via social media) the visit to the original court with, again, no remuneration – or respect – to the sanctity of the owner’s home. Sure, there *may* have been a signed card with some chocolate chip cookies involved, but really? After trespassing, filming, and broadcasting the visit? Trespassing is not cool (or legal) anywhere, and it should not be advertised as such if it occurs. While it could be argued “no hurt was caused” it does have a direct impact on the privacy, safety, and peace of mind of the residents (did I mention it’s illegal?!)

One separate, particularly brash and embarrassing, visit that has directly contributed to the end of unwanted visitors occurred involving a top 5 men’s and mixed doubles sponsored PPA player and his sister. This was, at least, a visit that had been requested and granted to the player and his sister. They, however, made their visit while the owners were not home, created a video of the visit to showcase how big a deal the player is to get to play on the original court and showboat to all the players who aren’t special enough to go.

The shocking part was that these high profile big shot players could only muster a thank you in the form of a card with a 15% off coupon for his signature paddle; you can’t make this stuff up! Taking into consideration their intent to monetize the visit through building their brand and posting on social media, one would perhaps go above and beyond to show respect to the owners and to the sport, right? I guess the residents should really just be thankful he didn’t leave his “gift” at court one by keeping them up all night before peeing in a planter box – as he did at poor Donna’s.

And now, due to all that, there will basically be no more visitors to pickleball’s historic court number one. Unclear on the concept of “no visitors”, one unsolicited solution for the unwanted/unscheduled visitors was proposed: Have someone schedule limited days and times to visit the court, for a fee of course, with proceeds to go to the USAP Foundation (where the mastermind of this solution works).

To quote a rather new pickleball player with significant tennis fame, “You cannot be serious!”.

34 comments on “Pickleball’s Historic Court Number One”

  1. Bull. No matter what or how much good you do, doesn’t give a person the right to take advantage of others, let alone break the law.

    1. Hello Ron, it is not important who the pros were (those that showed up, braged about it on their podcast and more…), we are citing examples of “can you be serious!” actions from the top pros at the moment and them not doing the right thing, thus consequences for all.

  2. Can’t believe the disrespect those players and others showed for the history and a court we all revere. I never was able to go see it in person and now what is a pretty special occasion probably won’t ever happen again. Maybe we could have a respectful PHoFers visit requested in the future? Thanks for the article Jen.

  3. Thank you writing this article. You are always positive on your blog, but you were right to talk about these unfortunate visits. The owners have always been so cooperative, patient, and always willing to share their court.

  4. I have found there is always two sides of every story. I do know the two pro players you are talking about and I can tell you personally that they give more to charities than most people I have ever meet.
    From doing food drives to giving paddles for local charities to giving free lessons I also know they are the few pros that if they show up to a court that will play with local players vs saying they are to good to play with lower level players
    No one is perfect and before you shame anyone look at the mirror and ask yourselfs have much have you given back to the community. How many lessons have you gives for free or donated time or give free paddles?
    I found the article nothing more high school gossip and found the responses from people that work for USAP to high profile players sad to read since they are taking one side of the story.

    1. Yes, Donna, two sides to all stories…. And as you noted free paddles are frequently given. (Certainly not in this instance tho!) When freebies are from pros, the paddles/gear cost the pros literally nothing and is in fact encouraged by their sponsors. And let’s not forget – pickleball’s original growth came via free lessons and playing with lower level players. And much of it continues today. This post is not about just one or two people – don’t skip the parts where other PPA people acted regrettably, as well as other non-public figures.

    2. Hi Donna,

      I’m just reading this blog post now, and saw one of the pros and part of his family at Nationals in Dallas this past week. He was friendly to everyone and we didn’t talk about this. I hope he apologized to the appropriate people since this unfortunate incident.

      I just had to chuckle when I read your question to Jennifer Lucore about “looking in the mirror” and how much she has given back, done free lessons, donated stuff. So you do know that she is in the PICKLEBALL HALL OF FAME, right? She’s been playing and giving to the pickleball community probably longer than these pros have been alive, or for sure at least playing. She was not shaming them at all, and if they were shamed, well they should have been. I would definitely not be one to try and shame a PHOF, so in case you didn’t know that, I thought you should know.

  5. Jen,
    The sport that we love is changing. The lack of appreciation for those who helped develop this sport so that those today have the money and sponsorships just boggles my mind.

  6. Jennifer, this makes me so sad! There is certainly a lack of respect amongst the pros, but also in amateur tournaments and even in everyday rec games. I am so happy that I got into the sport some 16/17 years ago when you could go to any court anywhere and a hand would be extended and you would be invited to play. I remember when John Gullo put up the first prize money, I stated that “the game would never be the same”! While the exposure and the growth has been wonderful, the disrespect for the game, the history and other players is appalling. Thank you, your mom & dad & Alex for being great examples for everyone!

  7. If the brother and sister got permission to be at the court I’m confused how they are the problem? I agree their thank you gift was not great but I’m having a hard time seeing why you are attacking them?

  8. Jennifer, this is very sad indeed…..how rude, brash, selfish and egotistical these individuals behaved…they disrespected a sacred place for future pickleball enthusiasts. I had just heard the Donna story the other day…this individual, and we know who he is, thinks he is entitled….he is not!
    We stopped cheering for him a long time ago…..his attitude is obvious on and off the court..
    Thank you for sharing such a well written article…you are not only an extraordinary pickleball player but a kind and caring human being. Thank You

      1. Hi Jennifer, thank you for posting this article how shameful this is —-on another note your book regarding Pickleball 50 Year history is fantastic definitely not like any other pickleball book that has been written —-I have recommended this book you wrote with your mother Beverly ! God bless Jennifer I’m honored to know you, you’re a wonderful ambassador for Pickleball

  9. What a sad commentary on the PPA and on the pros involved, who I’m assuming were the —. How entitled and awful of them. I feel really fortunate that I was able to visit the courts a few years ago. I am a USA Pball Ambassador, who was visiting from Oakland, along with Seattle Ambassador Theresa Haynie. The fellow who organizes Founders Courts brought us over. We knew it was a very big deal and were extremely appreciative of the opportunity. It’s such a shame that a few have to ruin it for the many, and to attempt to monetize it really really blows. Hope you are doing well Jennifer. Come back to NorCal, we miss you here.

  10. Y’all are being a bit dramatic here. If he requested it and it was granted, what’s the big deal that he didn’t give a gift? Im sure he was limited on time too since he had a tournament that weekend.

    1. Hello J, it was not that he did not give a gift, I am sure many vistors over the years have not given gifts. It was the 15% off coupon and more. Thus “you can not be serious!” May have been the last straw …

    2. I assume you didn’t see the part that said that the people were not home? I don’t know who raised you, but if I show up at a person’s house, and they are not there, regardless of the invitation, I do not enter their property. It is, illegal, rude, etc.

  11. Ernie Medina, Jr.

    Hi Jen,

    Wow, now I know why “no more visitors”. Just a few weeks ago, my friend who lives on the island texted me that no more visitor tours were being done, and that we were fortunate to get to visit last Sept. Was curious why, and now I know. Thanks for sharing light on this–yes, this needs to be spread out there!

    It seems as the sport grows, those who are just coming in don’t quite respect the history and background of the sport. Just looking at how they can capitalize and make money on the sport because they see it exploding and want to get on that gravy train early. Some pros are even trying to do away with certain time-honored traditions like the “paddle tap” after a game…because it lowers their competitive drive during a match??? They are really that weak mentally??? But I digress.

    Will be sharing this post to my groups and so sorry to see this happen. Please convey my thanks for letting visitors come by all these 58 years till now. I will always treasure our visit there with my mom, Fran, and Erne Perry! (And of course, my Bainbridge Island friends Diana K., who arranged our visit and play at Founder’s Park.)

    Ernie

  12. That is just embarrassing for the pro. It totally irks me that they are so disrespect. I miss the old days and many of the “famous” players that actually gave a damn! Thanks for sharing the article. I was just telling Fran Myer that I wish I could visit since I’ve never been there and I think I’ve had a positive impact on the sport. Now, I guess that visit won’t happen. 🤬 Dang those dumb pros acting stupid. There, I said it!

    1. Hey Hall of Fame Steve, yes very interesting isn’t it. Keep doing the good things you do for pickleball, you are A+!

    2. Ernie Medina, Jr.

      Oh man, Steve, I can’t believe you have never been, after all these years!!! A good friend of my who lives on the island was able to arrange for us a visit to the court almost a year ago, last Sept. We got to visit it with Fran and Erne Perry, where I got him to Erne me on the original court! Fran, Erne, my mom, and myself played a few points on the court. It was a very special visit, and was nice to visit with the owners as well.

      Then I heard from my friend there that they weren’t letting visitors stop by anymore….and now I just read this and realize the extent of it all. That is so sad that this had to happen. So dis-repectful of someone’s private home. Hey, maybe we should go to those pros who did this and visit their house and play on their pball court, if they have one!

      Thanks for all you’ve done, and continue to do for the sport. You’re a true Hall of Famer!!!

      Ernie Medina, Jr.
      USAP Ambassador – Loma Linda, CA

      1. I love this idea! It’s too bad that’s actually illegal. I wonder if their story would change if a bunch of people trespassed on their private court and tried to monetize it. Probably not. I have been around too many entitled people to realize that they never think they do anything wrong, but if someone else does the same thing, they can’t see their own hypocrisy when they blame & shame the other person.

    3. Hi Steve, we met at the Hall of Fame dinner, Oct 2021. I started following you, Jen and Alex as soon as there was internet. Y’all are truly the back bone of pb. I played my first game on a home court on Vashon Island, Wa 1990 and I was hooked. A lot has changed since those days.
      Jamie Elliott
      USAP Ambassador

  13. Being unaware of all this I made multiple requests to see Court One prior to our cruise out of Seattle. I made a very respectful request but was denied on all fronts. Now I understand why. Shameful behaviour by some have ruined it for everyone.

    1. Hello Ron, yes a typical scenario of us as excited players to get to “mecca” the beauty of the island is that their is now Founders Courts. The magic is there and you can even get some games in with the locals. #priceless

  14. Jennifer, this is a great post that needed to be posted. It is sad indeed how many of our new generation of young players players are treating the history of the sport. Thanks for being the light that shines on this type of behavior. Keep up the great work on and off the court. -Rocket

    1. Hello Rocket, great to hear from you. Yes, recently Alex and I were over at BI visiting friends and were reminded it was time to share. As with anything most players/visitors/situations no problem at all but its the few that are only thinking of themselves and not the whole picture.

  15. Thanks for sharing this. Long term, perhaps the property could be purchased and designated as an historic park or landmark. A small, tasteful museum with the original paddles, photos, and memorabilia and well-regulated access to the.original court could be good for pickleball and the local economy, if done right. There are many models for such museums around the country. Creative minds with pickleball hearts should be able to figure this out. Dave Brigham, Tellico Village,TN

  16. Great plaque. Such a shame that some don’t respect the sport except for the financial rewards it can bring to them. I hope PPA takes actions against those involved.

    1. From what I recall seeing around the time of the Seattle PPA tournament (and watching various podcasts) it seems like the PPA actually sent their staff and some players to the courts in one of the instances (this was on Anna Bright’s podcast). Otherwise I saw Riley Newman post a video at the original court, so he’s probably who Alex and Jennifer are referring to…

    2. Hello David, nothing for PPA to do, like anything people just need to be respectful and help the sport and others.

  17. Hello Jennifer. You purposefully left out names if brother and sister duo. How cheesy and disrespectful of them, whoever they are. 😳

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