Junior PPA participants at The Masters.

Junior PPA opens campaign in style: 'The energy was just so amazing'

PALM SPRINGS, CA – The Junior PPA launched its 2024 season at The Masters to rave reviews. 

“The energy was just so amazing,” said Daniella Eisman, the mother of 11-year-old 2.5 player Bennett Miller. “It was so cool to see all these high-level kids out there playing their hearts out. It was inspiring to see where the sport of pickleball is going to go. It’s just getting better and stronger.”

A group of youngsters even watched World No. 1 Anna Leigh Waters play courtside on Humana Championship Court.

It was a perfect opportunity to see the best in the business in action and learn a few valuable tricks of the trade, too.

“It was so fun seeing all the kids out there,” said Waters. “I felt a little nervous when they all were watching me play, but it was really fun. They all brought so much energy on the court.”

Players enjoying the atmosphere at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs.
Players enjoying the atmosphere at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs. PPA Tour

“The kids always bring the energy,” praised Erika Paman-Mercado, mother of 14-year-old 3.5 player Alexander “Lex” Mercado and 17-year-old 5.3 player Lauren Mercado.

“With these kids, it’s not even about winning. These kids just want an arena where they can express themselves and just play with each other,” continued Paman-Mercado. “One of the things that’s frustrating as a parent and for junior players is when you see matchups against 19-year-olds. Some of these kids play at a 4.0 or 4.5 level, but they have to play at 3.0 or 3.5 because they’re tiny. You see the adults overpower them and just get outlobbed or outpowered. With this platform, they’re actually able to showcase their skills. You’ll see dinking, strategic lobbing, you’ll see speed-ups, and they’re all at the right level and the same age. It’s just so fun to watch.”

As parents watch their kids compete, they see nothing but growth and positive community involvement for the Junior PPA moving forward.

“Pickleball is considered to be such an old people’s game, you know? That’s what you always hear. But, the fact that the juniors are so into it and they’re thriving, it’s the coolest thing ever,” said Eisman.

Bottom line, the Junior PPA is all about good vibes and helping youngsters reach new heights.

“The community that we’ve gathered with both the kids and adults, it’s the most amazing group of people I’ve ever had in my life. I’m just so grateful for the sport,” shared Eisman. “My favorite thing is just being outdoors nd keeping the kids off their devices. All his friends are just on screens all day long, so as a mom, getting him off the screen and into something physical and positive, I love to see that.”

It was a memorable week for the youngsters in Palm Springs.
It was a memorable week for the youngsters in Palm Springs. PPA Tour

Mercado and her family have traveled to their fair share of tournaments.

She predicts we’ll see some fierce pickleball battles that rival those on the professional circuit.

“Last year, my son played in mixed doubles. It was a 3.5 game, but it felt like watching a version of Anna Leigh and Ben Johns versus Anna Bright and James Ignatowich, but at the junior level. It was such high-energy, high-level pickleball, and seeing them featured on [Humana] Championship Court, it’s only going to inspire a lot more kids to get into the sport.”

Click here to find the Junior PPA tournament nearest you.