Pro pickleball has had its fair share of controversies this year. From the alleged collapse of MLP’s board of directors following founder Steve Kuhn’s resignation to the sloppy merger of the PPA and MLP that made the whole pro pickleball world uneasy, we’ve grown used to the high-drama atmosphere.
However, one issue always seems to rise above the rest: paddle testing. We’ve personally done some digging into the process of having your paddle become USAP-approved, and it seems like it should be easy enough for pro pickleball associations to uphold the norms underlined in USAP’s regulations, right? WRONG.
65% of paddles tested at MLP Atlanta failed USA Pickleball's Surface Roughness(Grit) limits of 40Rt/30Rz.— br00ksie.eth (@Brooksasaurus) October 25, 2023
MLP used guidelines of +20%- 48Rt/35Rz, due to margins of error with the testing equipment. 15 Paddles (30%) that failed were removed from play for the entire event. 🧵
The Commissioner of the MLP, Brooks Wiley, posted a full thread on Twitter about how 65% of paddles failed USAP surface roughness limits after testing and that 15 paddles were removed from play because of the issue. Wiley’s transparency with the issue makes it clear to us that the MLP is attempting to uphold their end of the equipment testing standards that were put in place and agreed upon by the MLP, PPA, and USA Pickleball earlier this year.
However, another paddle testing issue occurred following last month’s PPA Las Vegas Championships, setting off a new “Paddlegate 2.0” discussion. Irina Tereschenko’s paddle was brought into question following her match against Jill Braverman and Tyra Black. Braverman challenged the legality of Tereschenko’s paddle after losing the match, but apparently, it passed PPA’s on-site testing.
Braverman wasn’t going to let it stop there and pushed to have the paddle tested at an off-site facility, which we’ve heard takes about a week to process in the lab. According to her latest podcast episode titled “Exposed: Moral Bankruptcy of PB’s Leadership,” Braverman gave the PPA a grace period of about 13 days before she reached out to Carl Schmits, the Managing Director of Equipment Standards and Facility Development at USA Pickleball, about the results.
Schmits responded to Braverman, stating that he was told by Connor Pardoe, the CEO of the PPA Tour, that he wasn’t allowed to speak with her about the issue. That same day, Braverman reached out to her pro-player liaisons at the PPA and heard nothing back. A week later, she reached out directly to Pardoe asking about the testing results and still heard nothing.
Pardoe and Braverman went back and forth, with Pardoe never really responding to Braverman’s question about the specific incident with Tereschenko’s paddle, instead suggesting that the PPA and MLP were working on establishing some sort of committee for equipment regulations.
After weeks of not getting any answers, Schmits revealed in a group message with Braverman and Pardoe that Irina didn’t yield her paddle to USA Pickleball. This has massive implications for the rigidity of the testing regulations in place: If players can simply refuse to give their paddle for testing without any sort of repercussions or penalization, there are serious issues with the integrity of the testing system itself.
Schmits’s message naturally caused the PPA to panic, and they suddenly became eager to meet with Lea Jansen and Jill Braverman on the issue. In Braverman’s podcast, she released snippets of the conversations that she and Jansen had with Don Stanley, the Head of Referees for the PPA, and Conner Ogden, the PPA’s Chief Operating Officer.
To quickly summarize what happened in Las Vegas, Stanley went to retrieve Tereschenko’s paddle for testing, but she declined due to there not being any rules about taking paddles during events for off-site testing. Then, the PPA never ended up following through with acquiring Tereschenko’s paddle for off-site testing.
Ogden reiterated Pardoe’s point that, due to this incident, the PPA is “now making a new policy that’s going to allow us to do essentially what we were trying to do with Irina – that’s going to allow us to revoke paddles, take them, and send them off-site for additional testing.”
Jansen then stepped into the conversation, asking why the people who challenged the paddle, her, Braverman, Bright, and Black, were never contacted about the issue despite repeated attempts to figure out what happened with the testing. Jansen spoke to the levels of unprofessionalism in which the PPA handled the issue.
“That is so unprofessional what you guys just did. I’m not talking about the revokement, I think you guys need to start writing down some rules, that’s pretty obvious, but why were Jill and I, and Anna Bright, and Tyra Black not contacted?”Lea Jansen
Jill reiterates this point, stating that she spent three weeks reaching out to multiple points of contact within the PPA organization and was consistently ignored by the PPA regarding her inquiries. To this, Ogden, the PPA’s Chief Operating Officer, a position typically involved with tasks concerning big-picture business operations and functionality within a company (let’s say, communicating with the professional athletes that allow your company to exist), simply said, “I mean, guys, I really do not have an answer for you.”
Shortly after this response, Ogden mentions that the PPA team involved with paddle testing issues knew that the paddle wasn’t taken, to which Braverman states that Pardoe made an opposite claim of “100%, yes,” to her question of whether the paddle was confiscated and tested.
Lea and Jill conclude their conversation with Ogden by pointing to the PPA’s outright refusal to openly communicate with their players and inability to amend their internal systemic failures. Braverman’s final statement to Ogden really outlines what pro pickleball fans should start to grow more concerned with, simply out of respect for the pros they love.
“I do agree with Conner that we’re going around in circles. I do think it’s unfortunate that Connor Pardoe is able to say one thing that’s a bold-faced lie, dump the situation on you and Dawn to be the clean-up crew of, and then you get to get on a phone call and say, ‘I can’t speak to any of that.’ This is a moral bankruptcy at a fundamental level of your organization, and it’s going to catch up with you guys.”Jill Braverman
Regardless of the specific incident with Tereschenko’s paddle and whether or not you personally believe that paddle testing is a big issue right now, you can’t deny how concerning this inside look into the PPA’s approach to handling player relations is. Braverman and Jansen reflected on the Ogden call later in the podcast, and both hope that they will continue to bear the torch and make an impact for not just themselves but also for other pro players who have experienced similar issues.
“I couldn’t really believe how this situation was handled. It’s just crazy, and they’ve obviously gotten away with it before,” said Jansen.
Braverman responded, “Yeah, it’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s indicative of a systemic issue that they have and the culture of that company that’s just sweeping things under the rug and telling the story they want to tell. Like you said, you were in accounting, we both have professional careers – To be able to just hide behind your employee, put your head in the sand, and go, “Oh, go talk to someone else about this. I don’t know about this.” That’s just not okay; that’s not how you do business.”
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