Meet Pickleball Ambassador Brent Waiwaiole
Good Guys Finish First
What Makes Brent Waiwaiole a Pickleball Ambassador?
Reason #1—Pickleball Ability
Reason #2—A Selfless Pickleball Competitor
A Very Quick Pickleball Primer
Having Played in Both Professional Leagues, Brent Is Especially Excited About the NPL
Brent Is About Family, His Business and Pickleball
Good Guys Finish First
To start, let’s get this out of the way. Telling the story of Brent Waiwaiole and his pickleball journey was not Brent’s idea. The last person to blow his own horn, Brent is content to live his life with his beautiful wife in Minnesota, where together they raised three children, growing his building and remodeling construction business, and satisfying the sporting passion left over from his tennis-playing college days by playing professional pickleball—out of the limelight.
But there are a couple of reasons it’s difficult for Brent to stay “under the radar.”
For one thing, there’s Brent’s talent at pickleball. He’s good at it. He picked up the nuances of the game quickly and he puts in the work to make himself better. The Minnesota native showed an aptitude for pickleball pretty much from the first moment he ventured onto a pickleball court, with a pickleball paddle in hand—at the insistence of this brother Joel. Joel continually sang the praises of the game until he finally got brother Brent to try it during a visit to Joel’s home in Texas.
Like a duck to water, Brent took to the game immediately—undoubtedly assisted to some degree by his experience playing tennis on his Northwestern College (Roseville, MN) team, which provided a foundation that contributed to an immediate affinity for this fast-growing game. From the start, Brent was determined to improve his talent at pickleball, and didn’t hesitate to put in the effort, averaging 15 hours of practice a week. Not always an easy thing since, as native gopher state residents are fond of saying, his home state has five to seven months of winter every year.
“Finding time to practice and play isn’t a chore because I love the game. Living in Minnesota, playing on an outdoor court isn’t always possible, but there are a number of options that are out of the elements. During covid, I got together with some friends of mine, and we created a couple of indoor pickleball courts in a warehouse so we could continue to get our practice,” he said.
Brent began playing the game recreationally, and won the U.S. Open as an amateur, partnered with brother Joel. He began playing professionally in 2019, and has won several tournaments since.
But beyond his talent and dedication to the game, what impresses many of the pickleballers that play with and against Brent, is his natural inclination to mentor other players, to selflessly guide, tutor, advise and support younger, less experienced players who are just discovering the sport. Brent has a well-deserved reputation for enthusiastically helping “newbies” get a grasp on the subtleties of the game, and improve their abilities on the court. In a nutshell, he serves as an unofficial pickleball ambassador. Because that’s his nature.
Fellow pickleballers are quick to recognize Brent’s attitude because it can be rarely seen in this rapidly growing sport—that is often characterized by elitist attitudes exhibited by many top pickleball players who refuse to “play down” by competing or practicing against less experienced players.
“My attitude is—don’t hoard it,” he says. “Spread it around. Play with the aspiring players. Show them, mentor them, set a good example. I often find that it helps me improve my abilities and command of the game as much as it helps them. Plus, it’s gratifying to see the improvement as they grow in both their skills and enjoyment of the game.”
Pickleball has been around since the mid-1960s, when a father imagined a game that was a cross between tennis, ping pong and badminton to keep his children occupied. The first tournament was held in 1976 in Tukwila, Washington, and the USAPA (United States Amateur Pickleball Association) was formed in 1984. Since the game’s introduction, the number of players has grown every year, and for the last three years, pickleball has been recognized as the fastest growing sport in the U.S. by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, with an estimated 5 million players nationwide.
Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, between two or four players who hit a pickleball ball. Other pickleball equipment consists of pickleball racquets, more accurately described as a pickleball paddles. A standard pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, about two-thirds smaller, and is about the size of a doubles badminton court. Two (singles) or four (doubles) players volley a perforated hollow plastic pickle ball over a 36-inch high pickleball net until one side commits an infraction. Most games in pickleball are played to 11 points (win by 2), although some pickleball games in tournament settings may be played to 15 points (win by 2) or 21 points (win by 2). Points are scored in a pickleball game only when a team is serving.
Brent has played in tournaments under the auspices of both of the current major national pickleball tours, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP). But his excitement for the recently formed National Pickleball League (NPL), with its team-based format, is through the roof. The League is in the process of forming six teams that will each consist of 20 Champions Division Pro (age 50+) pickleball players, ten men and ten women. The first live player draft will be held in April, then teams will have an opportunity to form and ready themselves for the six already announced tournaments that begin in June 2023, where players will compete for $100,000 in prize money.
“I’m very excited about the National Pickleball League,” Brent said. “It’s a cool format, a team competition consisting of men’s and women’s doubles, and two mixed doubles matches on both days of the weekend tournament, with teams made up of players from around the country—including many of the top-ranked pickleball players.”
Brent has been married to Linda, his lovely wife of 35 years since their wedding in 1987. Their three children, two sons, Jordan and Noah, and a daughter, Bethany, and three grandchildren, Ezekiel, Joanna and Eden, live in California. Brent has introduced each member of his family to pickleball, and the game has become a Waiwaiole family affair.
Brent has owned and run JBN Building and Remodeling, located in Minneapolis, since the business’ founding in 2010, offering a wide range of construction and construction repair services that have led to a large number of satisfied clients. He serves as the V.P. of Player Development for the North Star Pickleball Association, which is how he made the acquaintance of the owner of Countrywide Tire and Rubber/Treadworld.com, Chad Issacs, also an avid pickleball player.
Brent didn’t set out to be a Minnesota pickleball ambassador, it just kind of happened during his efforts to be involved and help forge the pickleball culture in the state.
“I think pickleball in Minnesota is in much better shape than in many other states, and I’m proud of the small part I’ve played in making it that way. The game is definitely in a growth mode, nationwide and here in Minnesota, with more and more places to play opening all the time, and more and more clubs springing up. I do feel like I’ve contributed to the development of the culture here, in a way that is conducive to growing the sport, and welcoming everyone who wants to enjoy the game.”
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