The Pickleball Federation of the Northern Mariana Islands recently became the 19th member of the Northern Marianas Sports Association and the newest sport in the islands appreciates the umbrella sports organization for welcoming them in the fold.
“We have about 40 players now. Joining the NMSA gives our group a sense of legitimacy. We are now a paying member of the sports association and contributing to the growth and presence of sports on Saipan,” said PFNMI president Dr. Nelson Krum.
NMSA president Jerry Tan acknowledged Krum and his fledgling group during the 2021 NMSA Sports Banquet last April.
“We officially have 19 sports as NMSA recently admitted pickleball as an associate member. NMSA’s mission is to promote all the sports as once you become a member, our job is to work closely with you and support you.”
The NMSA chief apologized for not doing much the past couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic though.
“Unfortunately, we are not able to do much during the COVID period I guess the last two years. But I can assure you that the board, although we are quite busy with the Pacific Mini Games preparations, we continue to talk about matters outside the Mini Games. So we want you to know that we don’t only focus on the Mini Games, but we also talk about the other 10 sports and see how we can continue to support you,” he said.
Krum thanked Tan for acknowledging the pickleball group during the sports banquet and said was very impressed how the yearend event celebrated the CNMI’s top sportsmen and sportswomen for 2021.
“It was great to be recognized at the awards banquet as the newest member of NMSA. I was really impressed with the banquet!” he said.
As for upcoming activities, Krum said PFNMI will ramp up its events calendar following the Mini Games. It will start with a pickleball tournament at the American Memorial Park tennis courts.
“We have an upcoming event on July 2nd to introduce the four new courts at American Memorial Park and are promoting an inter-island league competition with Guam with the Pickleball Federation of the Northern Mariana Islands hosting Guam on Sept. 3rd. I just wrote to the governor hoping that he will become involved in our inter-island play with some friendly competition with the governor of Guam.”
The tournament against Guam is in line with Tan and NMSA’s call to conduct competitions against the neighboring U.S. territory to keep athletes training all year round.
“We are calling the inter-island competition the Marianas Cup, and like the Stanley Cup, the winning island will possess the trophy between the events. We are envisioning a semi-annual competition alternating between the two islands,” said Krum.
Krum founded PFNMI with his wife Donna as Paradise Pickleball Club of Saipan in August 2020 after a hip replacement surgery forced him to switch from tennis to pickleball.
Last year also saw the sports organization become the 67th member of the International Pickleball Federation. It held its first-ever tournament at the Capitol Hill tennis courts last Oct. 30 with Donn Dunlop and Leith Poole topping a field of 16 players after accumulating a perfect 105 points each in a round-robin format.
Nearly two years since its birth, PFNMI has grown from five regular players to 40. It also now has three courts at the Church of Latter-day Saints along Middle Road and four courts on Capitol Hill and will soon be adding the AMP tennis courts as its regular venue.
With over three million players, pickleball is arguably the fastest growing sport in the U.S. and its popularity has spread all over the world as pickleball—with the recent recognition of the CNMI—is currently played in 67 countries.