Players talk PPA, MLP reunification

Players talk PPA, MLP reunification

No matter which side of the pickleball debate you’re on - if you like the team concept, or maybe you prefer the more traditional, side-out scoring, ultimately what’s happened in this sport during the past few months has been a good thing.

Perhaps it might not have seemed like it was going to end this way, but it did. And now both the PPA Tour and Major League Pickleball should thrive in the near future and beyond.

“The fracture seemed to happen so suddenly,” said PPA Tour player Collin Shick. “It was definitely a big shock. Fast decisions and changes were constantly taking place. It made for a crazy couple of weeks.”

On Sept. 13, the two tours announced an agreement to merge under a unified company. PPA Tour owner Tom Dundon as well as others, including several team owners of MLP franchises backed the decision.

The new organization provides players and fans, as well as sponsors, with the benefit of an organized schedule. Both the MLP and PPA will be supported moving forward.

“I think the players knew there was tension between the two organizations,” said PPA Tour pro, Maggie Brascia. “I’m hoping this has cleared the air and things will be less tense moving forward.”

Having a single, unifying agreement will certainly help, although several players - both on the MLP and PPA side - refused to comment when asked about the merger.

The good news is that the two tours, along with 150 of the sport’s top players, have agreed to coexist. 

“Over the past few years, we have seen ever-increasing interest from investors, fans and players who understand the immense value in the future of professional pickleball,” Dundon said in a press release issued by the PPA last month."

MLP is a team-based league format like basketball or football. The PPA Tour is the more traditional, individually-based competition, tour format like tennis or golf.

“My feelings and interactions with the players have been very positive,” said Shick. “We all love pickleball and what’s best for each other and the sport. I think all the players love playing the highest level of pickleball, which happens when everyone is competing in the same events.”

For a while, when the two sides fractured, players were forced to choose sides and go their separate ways. 

“I honestly don’t think it’s an issue,” Brascia said. “I played with two players who signed with MLP [JW Johnson and Meghan Dizon] at the MLP event in Atlanta and we got along great. I’m sure there are some players who are frustrated with how things turned out, but it is what it is. You just have to move forward.”

And moving forward seems to be the best thing for the game.

“I think everyone wants the best for the future of pickleball,” Shick said. “[That] means producing the best product, which means having all the best players in the world compete against each other in various events. I think that is what the PPA and MLP accomplished this year in 2023, and I think they will continue to accomplish that for many years to come.”

When things were at their most confusing when the tours looked like they were going separate ways and the players were left scrambling, not knowing what might happen, Shick and Brascia both said the players were still professional to each other, still cordial and respectful.

The players might have chosen sides, for the time being, but they were always together.

“All my interactions with players have been positive,” Shick said. “Even when people chose sides and everything was split during the Cincinnati PPA (Tour event), it still felt like all the players continued the positive relationships on and off the court."

Brascia agreed.

“I think it will be better for the growth of the professional game. No matter which side the players chose. I think we need to unite for the good of the professional game. It will be much easier for pro pickleball to thrive with a united PPA and MLP.”