July 2023

A Message from the Commissioner

Hello APPL enthusiasts! Welcome to APPL’s first newsletter. There is a lot going on in the pickleball universe, and we feel it important to step up our communication with you. In this and future newsletters, we’ll try to touch on subjects relevant to our league, whether they be internal particulars such as changes occurring within the league or pickleball developments unfolding in general. 
My role with the newsletter will be to give you a brief snapshot of what follows below. So, let’s get started…  

In this edition we’ll wrap up our Winter 2023 Season with a few stats. We’ll also touch on several initiatives we are focusing on to continuously evolve APPL as we grow. Along with that, we’ll share some of the key changes in the league for Season 2024. Key dates will be noted, and we’ll close with some final tidbits.  

On behalf of our team of dedicated volunteers, I want to thank you for your interest in APPL. We truly are doing this for you and, to quote a captain from the Southern Region, because “…we believe it is the future of pickleball for the masses.” Happy reading and have a safe summer! 

Greg Mather

Newsletter Highlights

Winter 2023 Season Wrap-Up

A recap of the season including State Championships and APPL evolution…
Key 2024 League Changes

Some of the key changes in the league divisions and flights for Winter 2024…
Season 2024 Key Dates

Put these dates on your calendar!

Winter 2023 Season Wrap-Up

We had a great winter season with 373 teams and over 4700 players participating. Our State Championships weathered some windy conditions but went flawlessly, thanks to a great group of volunteers.  Eighty-five regional champion teams from our four regions throughout the state met at Casa Grande’s Dave White Regional Park to compete for the title of APPL State Champion. Twenty-eight teams averaging 12 players per team took home a State Champion banner, and the team players were awarded championship hats or visors. 
The competition was excellent and many of the players and volunteers won over $4000 worth of donated raffle prizes. We are now actively planning for Season 2024.  In the meantime, our White Mountain summer league has kicked off its second season with 25 teams and over 250 players enjoying the cool summer conditions.


Still Room for Growth

Our league has enjoyed considerable growth over the past several years as illustrated by the slide below. APPL is now as large as the USTA tennis league in Arizona and is the largest team-based pickleball league in the country! We hope to add a Northern Arizona region in the near future.  We have also started a national initiative and are working with folks from Utah, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Texas, Oregon, and Ohio to bring our format of team-based league pickleball into their regions. Planning is about to begin for an interstate competition in 2024. We are all looking forward to an eventual team-based Nationals competition.

“Growth is never by mere chance, it is the result of forces working together.”
– James Cash Penney

Key 2024 League Changes

Every season we look for ways to improve the player experience and operational aspects of the league. We appreciate and take very seriously the feedback you provide. That feedback has often been the impetus for the changes we make. Here are a few of the more significant changes.  

For more details, please refer to the APPL website at https://arizonapickleballplayersleague.org
Age Groups

We will have three age-group leagues offered in each region: 18+, 50+ and 65+ with Women’s, Men’s, and Mixed divisions in each. To provide for a reasonable number of matches, some flights with fewer teams may be merged with others, but that will be on an exception basis and avoided if possible.

Flights now offered will be 2.5 (East Valley & West Valley Regions only), 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 and Open. As you can see, the previous 4.5/5.0 flight will be divided. The main motivation for this change is to provide a better concentration of competition by reducing the span of skill levels in the advanced flights. The Open flight is still to be defined and may be a variation of the APPL match-day format.
­­Player Ratings Sources

The only rating sources to be used when registering as a player will be National, Captain’s and Appealed. We have eliminated the Clinician’s Rating and the Club Rating as rating sources in registration, but they can be very good sources of information in support of a Captain’s rating. We are requiring all player rating appeals to be addressed and ruled on prior to player registration.

I was playing pickleball before it was cool!

APPL Rules Changes

The APPL rules have undergone a considerable rewrite since last season. They have been posted on both the regional webpages and on the APPL main website. Both captains and players are required to read and become familiar with the rules. Some of the more noteworthy changes are summarized as follows. APPL Rules may be viewed here.
Paddles & Balls

Paddles and balls must be USAP approved. Balls have an additional requirement to be of a color enhanced for visibility. Pink will not be allowed.

Team Members

The maximum number of players on a team with a rating 0.5 less than the flight skill level has been reduced to three players (it was previously 50%).

Roster Addition Deadline

The last date captains may add players to their roster has been pulled in to 1/31/24. 

The Drop Serve

Have you tried the Drop Serve? Unlike the Volley Serve, this serve allows you to contact the ball above your waist. The paddle head does not need to be below your wrist, and your arm does not need to move in an upward arc.  

The only requirements are that you must drop the ball with one hand (or your paddle face) and without any downward or upward force. Also, you must let the ball bounce before hitting it. The ball may bounce anywhere on the court and may bounce more than once. 

None of the other restrictions of a Volley Serve mentioned above apply, but your position on the court and placement of your feet rules must still be followed.

If you haven’t already, try it out. It takes a little practice to get under the ball and place it well. However, the Drop Serve may serve YOU well in the months to come.

In Closing

We’re looking forward to working with you as our new season gets underway. THANK YOU for adding your talent and positive energy to our dynamic pickleball community. Let’s close for now with another pickleball thought for the day. 

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”  (and pickleball paddles!)

Doug Larson, Columnist & Editor