‘2022 was the real deal for pickleball’

Posted on Jan 20 2023

Team NMI players Marivic Dunlop, back right, and Mimi Zhang, back left, go up against Pickleball Guam Association players during the Inaugural Marianas Cup Pickleball Tournament last November at the American Memorial Park courts, in which team NMI won. (LEIGH GASES)

Starting off as just a parking lot past-time, the new, yet ever-growing sport of pickleball has exploded in popularity and became the real deal in 2022 after joining the Northern Marianas Sports Association and moving the main play to the pickleball striped American Memorial Park tennis courts.

With that, Pickleball Federation of the Northern Mariana Islands president Dr. Nelson Krum said that “2022 was a fun year for us!”

After being recognized by NMSA, it was only up from there for the then-fledgling group, as soon after, AMP court No. 4 was permanently striped for pickleball—which made gameplay more accessible and consistent for players. 

PFNMI held an inaugural event last July to break in the new courts which included a crazy eights game and potluck barbecue.

“We now have four semi-permanent nets for those courts at AMP. So, we have courts with a nice surface, good nets, and great lights!” said Krum about the location.

Growing rapidly in number of players to over 150 from less than 40 players since its inception back in August 2020 by Krum and his wife, Donna, with the group first known as Paradise Pickleball Club of Saipan, their biggest highlight of 2022 was winning the Inaugural Marianas Cup against Guam last November.

“My big highlight for 2022 was the Marianas Cup where Saipan won 11 out of 12 events against Guam. We are in possession of the Marianas Cup for the year!” he said.

The PFNMI team defeated Pickleball Guam Association, 11-1, after 12 matches in a best-two-out-of-three format, with NMI winning 23 games out of 29 games played.

As for what lies ahead in 2023, Krum said that they plan to do more outreach in schools and other venues. He said “the library is interested in a pickleball court, along with Isla Montessori School and others.” 

PFNMI successfully introduced pickleball to Hopwood Middle School with the help of PE teacher and pickleball player Chang Whan Jang last November.

Along with that, PFNMI is planning to host four events—one per quarter, with the first event being a three day training on March 8, 9, and 10 with Daniel Moore who is a trainer, coach, and recipient of gold medals in pickleball over the years. 

Krum said their next tournament is in April but the format of play is still undecided. “We do not have a sports calendar for the year, yet, but the board will form an events committee that will arrange dates and times for the year.” And that “the board’s major project is the development of a dedicated pickleball facility on the island.”

“The year 2023 will be a fun year for us as we watch the membership grow and continue to develop the sport on Saipan,” said Krum.

For those who don’t know what pickleball is, it is a cross between tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. You can watch to learn more or join their daily night games at the AMP.

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at leigh_gases@saipantribune.com.
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