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    This story is sponsored by Franklin Pickleball. Home of the X-40 - The Official Ball of USA Pickleball.

    The start of Major League Pickleball’s 2023 season is right around the corner.

    As excitement continues to build, MLP teams across the nation are starting to develop on-court chemistry and team camaraderie.

    The first MLP Season 1 event, MLP Mesa, will be hosted at the Legacy Sports USA venue in Mesa, AZ. MLP Mesa will consist of four full days of non-stop pickleball from January 26th-29th, with all 24 Premier and Challenger Level teams competing in the event.

    MLP 2023 Season Locations
    2023 MLP Season Locations

    One of the new Challenger Level teams that is eager to prove themselves in this inaugural tournament is the DC Pickleball Team. The team recently gathered for their first-ever training session in the DMV area to prepare for the event.

    DC Pickleball Team Roster & Leadership

    The 2023 team consists of Shelby Bates, Monica Paolicelli, Sam Querrey, and Stefan Auvergne.

    These athletes have rich backgrounds in many competitive sports and are eager to combine their talents on the pickleball court in the sport’s newest and most exciting professional league.

    Their first practice was held at the Dill Dinkers Pickleball facility in Columbia, MD, on January 7th. The team ran pickleball drills and played games together for the first time. The event was open to the public, allowing the team to connect with DC’s pickleball community.

    Team manager Daniel J Howard believes in the team chemistry of the DC Pickleball Team, and feels that each player brings something unique to the team that is vital to the team’s overall success.

    During their first team practice, Howard saw a unified team that came together and worked to understand each others’ play styles better.

    “We’ve got a fiery team, but we also have a very smart and intelligent team who’s going to make good decisions out there. I think you’re going to see a team who can adjust to whatever style is across from them on the other side of the net.”

    Daniel J Howard, DC Pickleball Team Manager

    Leading As Founding General Manager

    One of the greatest challenges that MLP team organizations have to overcome is that the players still live all over the country, making it difficult for teams to come together and practice as a unit.

    Howard believes creating opportunities to come together and practice as a team is essential for building the chemistry needed to succeed in the MLP.

    “We have a diverse group of players from all over the country. We’ve got near Washington DC, Florida, Texas, and we have California. So it’s really essential that we get together and practice and get to know each other … We have different styles of play, which means we need to get together and practice and see how those styles mesh, and create that chemistry on the court.”

    Daniel J Howard, DC Pickleball Team Manager

    When asked where he draws inspiration from other professional sports managers, Howard mentioned how the legendary NCAA basketball coach Dean Smith impacted his management styles and philosophy. Smith’s fundamental focus on chemistry within his University of North Carolina basketball program has inspired Howard to bring that to the DC Pickleball Team.

    “We’re creating chemistry on and off the court. We’re creating a team unit that has one mind and one vision, and that’s to win the Challenger League of MLP,” said Howard. “I don’t think you’re going to see a more united team at MLP.”

    Using these philosophies of building team chemistry, Howard believes his position as an MLP team manager is to be a leader for the team whose primary focus is to bring them together. Building a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among athletes who live all over the nation is difficult for a manager to handle.

    This may be difficult for teams like Anheuser-Busch’s Atlanta Bouncers, who currently have no General Manager to lead them or lean on during these important weeks before Mesa.

    Howard, though, is confident that his team will be able to unify as one and accomplish something great within the MLP Challenger Level.

    “I’ve been promoting pickleball for years now, but MLP brings a new flavor. It brings more energy, it brings a contagious enthusiasm for the game and I think people really get into it … It’s a beautiful thing and I really think as people watch this from their homes, more people are going to become involved watching pickleball and they’re going to want to get out on the court and play pickleball. I really see this thing blowing up and really increasing over the next number of years.”

    Daniel J Howard, DC Pickleball Team Manager

    This first team meeting and practice has clearly added fuel to the fire for DC Pickleball Team’s confidence leading into their first competitive event at MLP Mesa. Stay tuned for more information regarding the 2023 MLP Season.

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    leland orfield

    From growing up playing baseball as a kid to the weekly ritual of watching the Minnesota Vikings play on Sunday, Leland has always valued sports as both a means of fitness and entertainment. Many of his fondest memories are associated with throwing a football during the fall or swinging a golf club in the heat of summer. He first discovered pickleball in high school and has been hooked on the game ever since.