In the inaugural season of the National Pickleball League (NPL), Park City, Utah’s Maureen O’Malia has quickly made her mark. As a player in the six-team professional league exclusively for athletes aged 50 and above, O’Malia’s OKC (Oklahoma City) Punishers are currently tied for first place with the Austin Ignite.
An Impressive Six And Two
Having completed two weeks of the regular season, the Punishers have notched an impressive six match wins with only two losses. They hold a 10-point lead over the Ignite and the third-ranked Indy Drivers, determined by the overall points differential.
All matches in the NPL, including the championship weekend scheduled for October 13-15, are hosted at the rapidly expanding sports dining chain, Chicken N Pickle.
Challenging Noise Levels
The indoor, climate-controlled courts at Chicken N Pickle are immaculate, but O’Malia admits that managing the noise levels can be challenging. As a former Division 1 tennis player from Santa Clara University, she is used to handling crowds that can disrupt the usually reserved atmosphere of tennis matches. However, in pickleball, she faces the added task of staying focused amidst raucous teammates and fans.
Yet, the lure of the $100,000 cash prize for the winning team this season serves as a powerful inspiration, making it easier to regain focus and motivation when needed.
In a recent interview with Park Record, O’Malia notes that she has previous experience playing tennis but that hasn’t stopped her from picking up and loving pickleball too. While we are constantly reminded that there’s still contention between the communities, it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly okay to play both.
“I do have a tennis background, so it was pretty easy to pick up. I love both … I don’t see why there should be a rift (between players of either).”Maureen O’Malia
As a pickleball coach at the MARC, O’Malia holds great optimism for the future of the sport and the league’s growth. Initially hesitant about taking up pickleball, she embraced the game in 2018 after her mom encouraged her to give it a try. O’Malia firmly believes that more tennis players can and will adopt pickleball, thus contributing to the league’s expanding talent pool and securing its bright future.
Read all about how the National Pickleball League got started in this great article.
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