2023 NPL Championship Tournament Recap: Indy Drivers Triumph

November 17, 2023 00:24:17
2023 NPL Championship Tournament Recap: Indy Drivers Triumph
Sleeve's SPR: People of Pickleball
2023 NPL Championship Tournament Recap: Indy Drivers Triumph

Nov 17 2023 | 00:24:17


Hosted By

Mike Sliwa

Show Notes

In this episode of Sleeves Senior Pickleball Report, host Mike “Sleeves” Sliwa is joined by Alex Simon from the Oklahoma City Punishers to delve into the thrilling conclusion of the 2023 NPL Championship Tournament in Glendale, Arizona. As the first season of the professional pickleball league comes to an end, the duo reflects on the highs and lows of the tournament, sharing their insights and takeaways. In addition, they discuss their predictions for the upcoming 2024 season.

Alex Simon

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Sleeve's senior Pickleball report is brought to you by TNC Network. Get ready for an exciting episode of People of Pickleball with Mike Sliva. We're about to dive deep into conversations with influential figures from the world of Pickleball. So let's get it going. [00:00:25] Speaker B: Okay, today we're going to talk with friend of the show, Alex Simon of the OKC Punishers of the National Pickleball League. And he's going to discuss the season, wrap up the championships that took place in Glendale, Arizona. So we'll talk to Alex. But before we do, if you like this content, consider subscribing to the Channel. Check out all the links below, including Alex's links. He's traveling all over the place, teaching Pickleball and all the discounts and our newsletter as well. Subscribe get your daily fix of Pickleball all right, folks, let's get to that conversation with Alex. Okay, we are here with Friend of the show, been on the show multiple times, giving up the wrap ups all season long. Alex Simon of the OKC Punishers and we spent together and a bunch of other people, obviously all six teams and owners and press and you name it, in Glendale, Arizona at Westgate. And it was quite a championship weekend, starting with bringing awareness to breast cancer and getting people out to play with the pros and everybody playing in their pink that Thursday evening. And then obviously the tournament starting Friday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, with the finals being slightly delayed because they were going to be on TV and we had some things to take care of with the cameras and all that Sunday evening. So Alex, lots going on, lots of drama, lots know, I would say upsets during the championship weekend. Just give me your initial thoughts of the event itself. First, obviously we can talk about the results coming up. But what did you think overall of the event? Because obviously this is the crown jewel of the inaugural season. So how do you think it went? [00:02:14] Speaker C: I thought the event was great. Sleazon, before I start, thanks for having me once again, always honored and happy to be here and doing these recaps with you. Event was great. Dink for Pink was amazing. I love when anybody does anything that involves a non property charity or doing good. So that was great. Great event. Everybody showed up. Everybody dressed in pink. Glendale, what a nice city. Just a growing place. Brand new Westgate, huge outdoor shopping centers, if that's what I should call it. Really nice place. Chicken and pickle, all the locations. And we've been all over the country, chicken and pickles playing at NPL. They're always so perfectly located near eating and movie theaters and hotels. It's so convenient. Plus, Chicken and pickle is amazing. Indoors. Restaurant is great. I mean, I just love it. I wish all tournaments could be at chicken and pickles, but yes, very well organized. More players, because this time for the finals, we had four different lines, playing four pods instead of three. So all the players of the team almost all got to play, but everybody showed up, lots of people, families, people brought friends. So crowded, great crowd. And yes, upsets. I wish I was on the plus side of the upsets. I was on the upset side of that. But event, overall, great. CBS Sports was there filming. We also did the All Star Game, which I was happy to have participated in. That was fun. So, yeah, it was all that I thought it would be and hoped it would be, other than the results. But event itself, great organization. Great. Once again, loved it. Great time. Right? [00:04:13] Speaker B: So let's talk. You mentioned it. Let's talk about going from playing three pods to four pods. Obviously, that changes the dynamic of a team and the way they approach the tournament. And when you're playing at the end here, single limb. Well, not single limb, but really single limb for the championship. Because you lose, you're no longer playing for the title. What are your thoughts about that, having the four pods? And I get it because you want to involve people that have been involved with your team all season long, whether they're subbing in or they're as moral support or whatever it happens to be, but it does change the team. [00:04:49] Speaker C: Yes, it does. And for the most part, NPL did a good job of making sure that the top players played in the top pods one and two, and then the other players played in three. And we only had four pods in the first weekend of NPL and then the championship weekend. But yes, that changes everything. Team depth becomes extremely important. How good are the guys that are now playing pod four, the guys and the girls playing pod four? So that changes the dynamic of pairings. Who are you going to play with? Who? The matchups. And it did make a huge difference, especially for my team. We're coming in. I mean, going into the last day of the regular season, we were in first place, right, and going in the last day of the regular season, and then the wheels fell off and we lost the first wheel the last regular season weekend, and then the rest of the wheels fell off in the playoffs. And it is what it is. We finished. Dad last, had a dismal weekend, but I think, as per your point, depth played a part in it. Yeah. [00:06:12] Speaker B: And obviously, depth played a part in it, and losing mean arguably the best champion senior pro woman in the know. Jen Dawson might have something to say about that, a few others, but Beth definitely in the conversation, and she goes down, obviously, in the closing regular season week in San Antonio. Not only obviously, does that change pretty much every lineup that you may have potentially have, because it's a domino effect. And then obviously, you add another pod to that, let alone the emotional to the team. And I get it. People can gather around and you can do your best, but when those things happen and one of your leaders, not only on the court but off the court, goes down, talk about the impact of losing Beth and then having that kind of culminate in your result. Maybe, I don't know, for the championship. [00:07:10] Speaker C: Yeah. Losing Beth, obviously, when you have a player that is arguably the best player in the world, senior player in the world, female, she is irreplaceable. We use that word, but she is irreplaceable. There's nobody better than her, and they would not allow us to get a sub for championship. So everything, as you said, domino effect starts going down. But I cannot believe that one player can make a team from the best in the league to the worst team in the league. I mean, yes, she's irreplaceable, she's important, and obviously plays a factor, but I still think we had a strong enough team to contend better and more competitively. And ultimately, so many things I learned in this team format, right, which we don't usually seniors. This is the first time, the first season that NPL is doing thing. This is what I think needs to happen for you to have success. And this is where, you know, I'm going to talk about myself to Oklahoma City Punishers. And now that the playoffs are over and finishing where we finished, the first thing you need to look at, you need to look at the pairings, who's playing with who. When Beth went out, I mean, she used to play with Jaime on scenes, and they were a phenomenal team. I mean, I think they pretty much went unbeaten the entire season. Now he's got to play with somebody else. But nevertheless, it is the general managers and the owners'job to then come up with a solution. So you got to find pairings that work. You got to find the guys that work with guys and guys that work with the girls, girls that work with girls, and vice versa. Second, you need to have the right matchup. So you need to look at who are we playing, right? If I make this pairing, how will it go against indie drivers pairing, for example, which was the first team we played, and you got to do that for all the pods, right? So you got to do all the guys doubles, all the four guys doubles, all the four women's doubles, and then all the mixed. So then you got to do the matchups and ultimately execution right. You need to execute once all of that is done. But getting all those three things right is difficult, and I think that's where my team, the Punishers, fell short. I think the pairings weren't necessarily correct and partly because of losing Beth, that obviously affects it. But I think some of the pairings just weren't the right pairings. I think our matchups didn't really work against the other teams and ultimately execution. We didn't play great and it is what it is. Congrats to the other teams. Congrats to the indie drivers who were, I really thought, I mean, they finished the regular season in third place, but very strong team. We always had great matches against them. We lost them in the regular season. And I think going towards the end, I mean, the momentum that they had, they were my pick to win it and I think it was a just result. So congrats to them. Great team, complete team and a deep team. Very deep from top to bottom. Such great lines, great pairings. They pretty much had the same pairings, at least from the third weekend of the season. They already knew who meshed with who and kept those going and practicing, getting to know each other. And by the time the championship weekend came, I think they were awesome and they pretty much had a pretty easy time beating everybody. So hats off to them. [00:11:05] Speaker D: Are you looking to stay up to date on the latest pickleball news and tips? Look no further than the sleeve. Senior Pickleball Report Newsletter get the scoop on the sport, learn how to stay healthy while playing, and find out about upcoming tournaments. Subscribe now to get all the pickleball info you need. [00:11:24] Speaker E: Hey, if you're looking for very, very comfortable court shoes, in fact, the most comfortable court shoes I've ever worn, and I've worn a lot of them over the years playing different sports, try Fitville. We have a link in the description that gets you $20 off your purchase. [00:11:40] Speaker B: New paddle company Pickle PCKL Great paddle line, great price point. Anything you want, from starter paddle to intermediate to a pro Series high level paddle, check them out. Get 15% off using my discount code. Pickle, it's the future. Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned a couple of things that are pretty important. Obviously, I don't envy anybody that has to put some pairings together, let alone for a championship. But when you lose, obviously somebody like Beth, and then you got to readjust. That's tough. And to do it on really first time all season, again, tough, but right. You've met some great points about executing and it just wasn't the day, obviously, for Punishers. I watched Indy pretty close all day because I figured it was going to come down after a while. After about the first day, it was going to come down mainly to Indy and Austin. And Austin, obviously, at the end of the regular season, made that incredible run to get the regular season title from you guys and had a lot of momentum going. But when I was watching Indy, I noticed just the energy was just a different level than anybody there. And obviously Rick, being one of the founders of the league, really wanted it bad. And I watched a match between, it was Rich Lopez and Rick versus obviously Jose and Scott Crandall. What a match. India gets blown out, really first game and then second game goes to Rick and Rich. And then that third game in that play, what I call the play of the season to end the match where Lopez dives a let ball, basically into the kitchen and hits a ball that Derisi can't get over the net because it's so tight and it ends the match. They were down at that point in the overall standings, but a play like that in the building, erupting on TV, CBS, I would argue that was a big momentum shift in the match, in the matchup between Indy. And ultimately that momentum carried and Indy wins the title as the three seed, which I did not pick them. I felt Austin was deeper, but I think the emotional, I guess, presence going into the match and then a couple of things that went their way and including the dive, which bleeding. [00:14:28] Speaker C: How can you not win the championship after kidding. And I'm so happy for Reg. I mean, what a wonderful guy. We didn't win it, but watching him win on that point, on match point, kudos to hIm. [00:14:46] Speaker B: Arguably one of the best teams, if not the best men's team in the league. [00:14:49] Speaker C: Correct? And you were right. I mean, their energy the entire season was just the best as a team and cheering each other on the loudest crowd. Every time I played them, it was just them screaming the whole team. And that's what it takes. [00:15:08] Speaker B: It does. [00:15:09] Speaker C: It's support. And my team, we all loved each other and great, but maybe we're just not loud cheerleaders, myself included. I love and support them, but even my playing style is not I don't scream a lot. I am intense, but I'm just not a loud person and I'm not a loud cheer. But Indy and their family and their wives, unbeatable. So, yeah, very apropos that they won. Congratulations. They played great. Great team. Kudos to the drafting. They drafted a great team, good players, a deep team. Now next year, not sure what's going to happen. Nobody knows. Right. But yeah, this season was good. Good first season. I enjoyed. I enjoyed my time at NPL and hopefully they'll continue with the quality product that they offer. [00:16:10] Speaker B: This, you know, and Boca slides in there for the podium spot for third after all the hubbub and really in a way sort of salvages their season. So championships can do that. You can make up some ground or you can lose some ground, and obviously there's got to be winners and losers. But you're right, pretty cool season. This wasn't even a thing a year ago people were talking about. So we're only like 910 months into this and here we are talking about the inaugural season and obviously the success. I made it to two events and both of them were just blown away by what I was seeing, not only off the court, but on the court. And I can't wait for next year to see what they can do. Obviously we're talking about maybe some new teams. They're talking about multiple combines. There's a massive interest now in the league and we'll see if it's that chicken and pickle all the time or they expand, but I don't know. I only see it going up from here, considering all the mess that's going on in the MLP and the PPA and app. Refreshing to see a league that doesn't have so much internal drama and puts out a solid product and everybody at the end of the day seems to feel pretty good about it. [00:17:28] Speaker C: Yeah. A lot of leagues are taking notice, though. Sleeves, I hear, has noticed that team. [00:17:34] Speaker B: Yes, they have. [00:17:36] Speaker C: Is a thing. The senior pro tour, which is also fledgling, has also noticed that there is room for team play and it's fun. The team environment. Yes. There's some things like you don't get to pick your partner and it makes some people uneasy. [00:17:54] Speaker B: You don't get to pick. [00:17:57] Speaker C: Know. I talked to Rick. Rick, you got to add some singles. We're not doing singles, which is a shame. But that's so look for other senior team leagues popping up. I think the NPL has found something and they're the first one out there. But look for competition. [00:18:21] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. I can't imagine there won't be some competition, but they set a pretty high bar. So those who are thinking about doing it, obviously there's a lot to live up to. Well, before we go, you got some stuff coming up, obviously, some major things, some major travel, some major teaching. So give us a little insight of what's going to happen with you in the next couple of months here. [00:18:42] Speaker C: In a couple of days, I leave for Kenya. Yeah, that's going to be fun. I'm going to teach some pickleball clinics. Some of the best players in Africa are actually coming to Kenya to train with me. So I'm going to be showing them what's what in Pickleball. And then we're also going to do some volunteer work and introducing pickleball to orphanages around Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. So we're going to introduce pickleball and bring paddles, nets, balls, some funds. It's going to be, you know, it's all positivity, and I want to bring through my fund, which is now official two fund. It's officially a 501. And our goal is to promote pickleball and introduce Pickleball to inner city children all over the world, the United States, and across the oceans. So look for more information on, you know, that's where I'm finding myself going, is not just playing professional pickleball, but bringing it to people that don't yet just know it and could benefit from it, and especially people that don't have access to the equipment. And I'll be there and I'll bring it. So I'll be going to Kenya for a week for that. Come back straight to nationals in Dallas. Yeah, man. Good luck. Singles and doubles. I'll be playing senior pro in both. [00:20:16] Speaker B: Who are you playing doubles with? [00:20:17] Speaker C: I'm playing doubles with Bill Muno, who is a fellow OKC Punisher teammate who was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to play doubles, and I couldn't say no to the guy. He's a great player. He's been around forever. He's been playing for years. Very high level, very consistent play, very consistent player. So I'm looking forward to that. And then start prepping next year's schedule and see what's happening. I should be playing the tour full time. More clinics, more travels. So pickleball has been good to me. And by the way, this week has been my one year anniversary of playing pickleball. Wow, that's quite a year. It's been quite a year. It's been an unbelievable journey. I got to meet so many fantastic people, yourself included. I had no idea where this adventure would take me 365 days ago, but it's been phenomenal and I'm all in on pickleball and I think it's going to be my future for the next many years is going to include this game, which is so fun and so good for everyone. [00:21:28] Speaker B: So how do you like the. Real quick, before we go, how do you like the thrive paddle, man? [00:21:33] Speaker C: I love it. Of course, I'm decked out and thrive head to toe, which I'm playing with the 13 millimeter. The rush. I was playing with the 16 last NTL 13. Mm. [00:21:46] Speaker B: You got the paddles? Yeah, I put some lead tape on them today. I played the 13 and put a little on the bottom. I'm going to keep moving it up, I guess. I talked to Scott and you said you put about five, five and a half inch of tape on the side to expand the sweet spot a little. [00:21:59] Speaker C: What do you think I do right here? I love it. I'm really happy with this paddle. I mean, you saw me this past weekend. I played amazing. Lots of pop. I actually found the control on it, which is what some people prefer, the 16, because it has more control. I was able to tame this baby and I'm loving it. Lots of spin. I mean, the spin is just incredible. My serves are so good, my drives. I don't know if you were there for the All Star Game that we played, which we didn't even talk about, which is going to be on CBS Sports, I hear sometime in December we played the super tight, the All Star dream breaker and boy, I was hitting some drives that felt so good. Serious, I love it. Serious, Deb. I mean, there's so much grit on this paddle and that's what creates the spin and the ball just goes right over the net. So I'm loving it and I hope you give us your feedback once you get some play with it. But yeah, so far so good. [00:23:00] Speaker B: I hit both today and yeah, I'm going to add more lead to the 13 mil like you did. I'm going to go up, I just put the little bars at the bottom, but I think I'm going to go up to a little further. But yeah, so far so good. A ton of spin. You're right. I can hit some serious, I can rip some surge with those things. Yeah. Kudos to Scott and thrive pickleball. All right, all the information you need about Alex is below if you want to find and connect with him and go to clinics and learn from one of the best singles players in the world. Find Alex on his Instagram and all those other places. So thank you for your time all season. Very generous of you. And hopefully connect again soon, brother. [00:23:46] Speaker C: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. It's always a pleasure. You've been a great supporter of myself and NPL. [00:23:52] Speaker B: Well, that was an exciting season of National Pickleball League action. The 50 plus crew can really rock it. We'll see what happens next year. Should be really cool because they're amping it up a bit. All right, folks, until next time. Hey, let's pickle.

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