Open play culture is broken

Crunch time for MLP Draft. The 15-minute rule.

Good Morning. Have you ever wanted to be the GM of your favorite sports team?

If only you could sit at the helm and decide how to build a championship-caliber team. Next week, you’ll have a chance to watch the process in real-time as Major League Pickleball conducts the MLP Draft. More on that below.

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In This Issue:

🚔 Call your lawyer before hitting this shot
🎤 A Draft like we’ve never seen before
⏱️ The 15-minute rule for open play

Let’s do this.

An automatic point ender

Ben Johns flawlessly executed a maneuver at the PPA DC Open that few players have ever seen, and there’s some question as to whether it was legal.

Spoiler: it was. 

An over-the-net put away. Brutal. But how do we know it was legal? Time to crack open the 2024 USA Pickleball rulebook.

Rule 11.I.1 reads "Exception: If the ball bounces into a receiving player’s court with enough backspin or wind aid to cause it to return to the other side of the net, the receiving player may cross the plane of the net (over, under or around the net post) to hit the ball."

The ball clearly crossed to Ben’s side of the court - and back over - before he reached over the net for the put away, so no fault there. Also, he did not make any visible contact with the net itself. So every part of this shot was clean.

The rule does include two unique scenarios. The words “under” and “around” suggest two other options for Ben.

Technically he could have reached his paddle under the net to contact the ball. He also could have gone around the net and contacted the ball from the side of the court. If you find yourself in the same scenario, end the point like Ben, then be ready to break out the rulebook.

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It’s crunch time for MLP teams

Last month it felt like the MLP Draft might never happen. Now the draft is less than a week away. Teams have six days to decide how to spend their allotted capital and construct a winning MLP team.

Luckily, fans will have a chance to watch the action live. The first two hours of the draft will be streamed on Pickleballtv and MLP’s YouTube channel.

Most expect Ben Johns to go first overall, but the bigger question is how much will the first draft pick cost? Teams will each be given $500K of allotted capital — basically “MLP bucks” — and can spend an additional $500K of their own capital that would be paid to MLP.

Teams will need a minimum of $10K for each bid, so that first overall pick could go for $970K. But that’s not all. If two or more teams land on the same amount, they will have a private bidding war outside of the normal draft that will not count against their salary cap.

That means if a team REALLY wants to land the world’s top player, they could be breaking open the piggy bank.

There are plenty of variables to consider. We’ve got some potential MLP Draft strategies here.

Meanwhile in Miami
There is one final chance for some players to improve their draft position before next week. MLP will host a three-day All-Star event this week as part of the ATP/WTA Miami Open.

The matches begin today and will be played on Butch Buchholz court at Hard Rock Stadium. Players participating include Anna Bright, Dylan Frazier, Federico Staksrud, Hurricane Tyra Black and more.

The 15-minute rule for open play

The battle for court time is one of pickleball’s biggest struggles. The paddle rack tradition has helped make pickleball a cultural phenomenon but left newcomers to the sport stymied and intimidated.

In tennis, most public courts are first come, first serve. There might be a time limit of an hour or even two if people are waiting. Basically, if the courts are full when you arrive, you’re out of luck. But in pickleball, that’s not the case.

A newcomer to the game took to Reddit to get a little clarity on court time.

“There is a park near my house with only 2 courts, and sometimes it could get pretty crowded. Me and my friends got there one day and played for about 20 mins. We are beginners and most of the time we just rally. If we do attempt to keep score, the game ends really fast.”

  • The official posted rule was similar to tennis, first come, first served, with an hour limit if people were waiting.

  • “After a while (they) started interrupting us and arguing with us that we needed to take turns when there’s somebody waiting.”

  • “We played for another 15 mins and left with them glaring and making comments at us.”

For any newcomers out there, the one-game and rotate or 15-minute rule are the most common open-play pickleball rules. Quite frankly, courts are too scarce and there are too many people wanting to play.

It’s not great for getting into a groove, having a competitive match or conducting a drill session, but it is great at bringing people together. Until court availability catches up with demand, share the courts or find a place where you can rent by the hour, like with our next partner.

Reply to this email and let us know if your courts follow suit or have local rules of their own.

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How Zane upset the #1 Johns Bros

On the latest episode of the PicklePod, Zane recaps a crazy weekend at the Austin Open and explains how the conditions were right for an upset of Ben and Collin Johns.

Pickleball United CEO Pranav Kohli stops by to explain the Pickleball World Series. The new international tour is set to kick off in 2025 and offers some of the largest prize pools in pickleball history.

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