By Dick Barton USAPA Member
As a top professional in pickleball, Dave Weinbach, also known as The Badger, spreads the love for the game far and wide. At age 49, Weinbach competes in about 18 tournaments a year often against pros half his age and wins a lot! He also travels extensively to give clinics. I have taken two of his clinics and loved the experience.
His achievements on the court are many. He has 85 gold medals including those from six USAPA national championships and eight US Opens. How does he do it? Weinbach says by being very fit, eating healthy and practicing relentlessly his game of patience and consistency. As a real people person, Weinbach loves meeting and socializing with players all across the country during what he calls his “Spread the Love Tour”.
In his clinics, he preaches “Respect the Net”. He advises to worry less about the height that the ball goes over the net as long as two things happen. One, hit an unattackable shot and secondly put pressure on the opponent. “Make fewer unforced errors than your opponent and you’ll generally win,” he says. “No matter what keep the ball in play. Don’t get greedy and force shots.”
Weinbach is “all in” in other parts of pickleball. He has his own branded paddle, a Tempest made by Paddletek since 2017. Plus, he has a line of apparel and many instructional videos on You Tube and the Pickleball Channel.
As a lifelong tennis player who started at age 4 and later a top-rated table tennis athlete, Weinbach finds pickleball to be the perfect fit for his skills. He was first exposed to the game in 2007 when his parents moved to Surprise, Arizona. He was playing tennis one morning and heard “all this noise” from nearby courts. Upon investigation, he saw pickleball being played by maybe 100 people. Once he played, he was hooked for life.
The guy who put a paddle in his hand that day became his first coach. Pat Kane is a tall man with long arms. Kane made Weinbach practice his drop shots until he could get 80% or more in the kitchen. “Pat was tough to beat especially with those long arms,” he said. Weinbach is still one of the best in the pro game at third shot drops. He calls good dinks and drops the “great equalizers”. He adds, master those shots and you can play with anyone.
When not at his day job as a Certified Financial Planner running an investment management company in Madison, Wisconsin, he enjoys golf, tennis and being an official at local high school basketball games. His wife, Dina, and their three sons Jake, 19, Ryan, 17, and Sam, 13 all play pickleball. In a 2018 Rockford (IL), tournament all the Weinbach men won gold medals and Dina took a bronze. It’s no surprise that the family has its own court!
In his clinics, he teaches patience, consistency and discipline. These all relate to his approach to good shot selection based on a risk-versus-reward ratio. “It’s my passion to teach the game the right way,” he says. “About 90% of recreational players I see don’t play the right way because they never learned the proper fundamentals.”
So, he advises players at any level who want to get better to learn to love the soft game by being patient, being consistent, and staying disciplined. And, of course, practice as much as possible even if just 20 minutes before a match.
What’s in the future for Pickleball? Weinbach sees great growth worldwide and predicts there will be 10 million players by the end of 2019. With 10 million in the game, more TV coverage, bigger prize money, and major sponsors will follow. He also sees pickleball in the Olympics in the next 15 years. In the meantime, Weinbach will be on the road spreading the love.
About the author: Dick Barton is a USAPA member, Pickleball magazine author, and active participant in the Park Ridge (IL) Pickleball Club. He helped organize the inaugural Des Plaines Illinois Pickleball Tournament earlier this year and worked with several top professionals in putting together clinics in the Chicago area.