As they mature, most sports move towards more standardization in many areas. This is (IOHO) generally a good thing, and pickleball is no exception. The USAPA has recently been working to update our rules (again), The IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association), headed by Semour Rifkin, is well on its way to having a national program for Professional Pickleball Instructor certification. At the same time, the USAPA Teaching Development Committee has just released USAPA Guidelines for Teaching Pickleball and is in the process of completely revamping the Training & Court Info tab at usapa.org. All exciting developments.
On the pickleball officiating front, the USAPA Training Committee, headed by Training Directors Lynn and Linda Laymon, has now published and is beginning to implement the standardized process for creating certified referees. (You can find out more about this in a few days in Pickleball Magazine, which will feature an article about their work.)
As a good-sized and totally USAPA-focused club, the Bend Pickleball Club is pretty enthusiastic about all four of these initiatives, all of which have the potential to make our lives easier. Reviewing rules is a given; rules in any sport have to change as the sport itself develops-and pickleball is still a new and evolving sport. Teaching methodologies in pickleball have varied widely until this point and unfortunately they haven’t always been either consistent or good, and under Rifkin’s and USAPA’s guidance they may become both. And while many training programs for referees have existed for quite awhile, it’s clear that all of us who referee can learn from each other and even very good referees can get better with a little study and work, and a certification process like this new one can provide that platform.
When it comes to a referee going through the certification process, there were previously a few questions. Many folks, experienced referees themselves, wanted to know why they should go through a fairly involved process just to be allowed to continue to do something they were already doing, and asked, appropriately, why they should pay the fee ($95 at this writing) for the privilege? To partially allay their concerns the USAPA indicated that, over time, medal matches, especially at big-publicity tournaments like the Nationals, would only be refereed by certified refs. This as a selling point only applied to those folks going to those tournaments of course so the appeal was limited. Additionally this was a process that could only be implemented if there were sufficient certified referees to do those matches. Beyond that, there is a trend in tournaments to pay referees and paying a certified referee is a way of given back for their work.
With these various pushes and pulls, we in the Bend Pickleball Club had been standing a bit outside the ongoing process for formalizing pickleball referee certification – meaning we hadn’t really been involved – until recently, when we saw the first of our club members complete the process at our USAPA Regional Pacific Northwest tournament. Two Referee Certification Evaluators, John Grasso and Bob Barczak, came down and spent the three days of the tournament with us, refereeing many matches themselves – a real value-add by itself, given that they set the gold standard for refereeing. And of the five folks they were evaluating (utilizing a worksheet, observing their matches, comparing notes, giving feedback) they passed four and didn’t certify one, but even the one who did not make the cut came away feeling that he had received valuable input and could hope to do better next time.
Now, having seen the process now in action, Irene had an idea. Since it’s in the best interest of any club to have qualified referees on hand during tournaments, she observed, and since there could be no better qualified referee than a certified referee, why not make it a bit easier, at least financially, for people to go through the process? We discussed this with our board. Our conclusion was to make “scholarships” available for folks. Any of our club members who wanted to go through the referee certification process could, and we would pay for their certification. The USAPA, through Lynn and Linda Laymon, agreed and further said that if we prepaid for ten people they would charge us for nine, which we thought was very fair.
o we’re preceeding apace. Process-wise, the Bend Pickleball Club will prepay for ten scholarships in advance, and provide a list to the USAPA (to Lynn and Linda Laymon, specifically) of the people who have agreed to go through the process. We will also send a check in advance to cover the ten scholarships. Since we will provide a list of more than ten people who want to go through this, we can expect to get, at the end of the day, at least ten certified referees out of the deal.(We are willing to pay for more than ten, if it comes to that. That would be a great problem to have!)
We think this is a great way to support this new effort and are looking forward to continuing it and expanding it. We hope, of course, that other clubs will do similarly and, through all of our efforts together, believe the program will grow more quickly than it would otherwise. We’ll keep you apprised and if you want more information more quickly please feel free to contact the Laymons directly. Tell ’em we in Bend say “hey”. Or of course you can always contact us for more information as well.
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