It’s a Vibe – PPA Appears to Create Rival ‘Vibe Pickleball League’ to Compete with Major League Pickleball
It’s a vibe.
The PPA threatened to put together their own team event last year without any follow through. This time, it looks serious as late Friday evening, PPA Commissioner, Connor Pardoe, shared a story from a new account, Vibe Pickleball League. All it said last night was “Pickleball, with a whole new VIBE”. This morning, the Vibe Pickleball Instagram and Twitter accounts began sharing pictures of PPA contracted players who have “submitted his/her name for the 2023 Pickleball League Draft.”
It’s another clear shot across the bow from the PPA to MLP, who have been making waves over the past month with celebrity ownership groups hopping on the pickleball bandwagon. After the Tom Brady ownership group announcement, all of the information we had seemed to point to a truce on the horizon for the PPA and MLP that would allow PPA contracted players to participate in some capacity at MLP events in 2023.
It’s a common refrain these days to talk about how fast pickleball is changing and, yet again, we have another significant move in a matter of weeks. This time, at the hands of the PPA. As of the publishing of this article, the Vibe Pickleball League account has announced 7 players that have submitted their names to the Vibe draft – Ben Johns, Callie Smith, Catherine Parenteau, Lucy Kovalova, Tyler Loong, Riley Newman and Jay Devilliers. It is also in the bio of their Instagram account that there will be an announcement made on November 3, 2022.
Aside from the weirdness of the name itself and the cagey partial announcement of the new league, it is mostly speculation right now on our end in terms of what the league will be. The rumors are that there will be some owners, at least, from the Dallas area who run in PPA owner, Tom Dundon’s, circle – there is some pickleball Twitter speculation about Mark Cuban specifically.
Regardless of the rumors, it does not take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together with all the public information available. The PPA had their celebrity pro-am recently at their Round Up event in Texas featuring Tony Romo, Dirk Nowitzki, Scottie Scheffler, John Isner and Jordan Speith while we know that Mark Cuban’s name has been in the news regarding pickleball, including that he’s offered to help “a friend” with the business of running a professional pickleball organization. It is notable that the Vibe Instagram account has immediately followed Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowtizki, Tony Romo, LaMarcus Aldrige, John Isner, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Speith, Scottie Scheffler, Sugar Ray Leonard and Dr. Phil amongst a number of other celebrities. Mark Cuban also liked a Vibe Pickleball related tweet on Twitter.
Now that it looks to be a near certainty that the PPA has created its own league to compete with MLP, what does it all mean?
It’s hard to say right now because of how little information there is out there. We’ll have to see where the chips fall in the next couple of weeks surrounding this, but what it all means depends on so many factors. How will the players respond to this? Will Vibe be able to bring in all the top players to its league? What star power can they bring beyond the Dallas area?
It doesn’t matter who came up with the idea first, it will only matter who is able to execute all of this better. It’s great for the players in the short-term as the fractured nature of pro pickleball leads to more money being thrown around than there otherwise would be. The problem is whether any of this is sustainable long-term. If neither league can secure the top players, it’s going to mean that we continue to have this divide in pro pickleball where it is very rare to get all of the best players in one place. It potentially means a watered-down product across the board because these rich people can’t figure out how to play nice.
We think it is worthwhile to mention that two of the PPAs marquee players, Anna Leigh Waters and Tyson McGuffin, have not been included in the initial announcement today. If you recall, Tyson McGuffin spoke out recently against the PPA for restricting its players from playing MLP. It was the first public announcement of discontent from a PPA player despite it being fairly common knowledge that the PPA had indicated to its players they would be able to play MLP prior to them signing exclusive contracts at the beginning of the year.
Considering that it was only 3 weeks ago that the PPA and MLP were on their way to a truce of sorts and the half announcement this weekend about Vibe, it is obvious there has not been much time for this to come together for the PPA. It indicates to us that the PPA is still trying to sort things out for the new league while trying to ensure they can get this news out to the public as soon as possible.
On the heels of a weekend where the PPA spent two days replaying live streams of old tournaments presumably to mess with the APP’s Hilton Head live stream numbers, it feels 100% on brand that the PPA would also late Friday news dump their new copycat league. We’ll probably have a lot more to say on this topic at some point but the final thing we want to say for the time being is that this feels like it could be a big fat L for pickleball fans, which is exactly how we felt at the beginning of the year. What this looks like is the PPA wanting to do things their way and not wanting to allow any other entity to be the new sheriff in town.
It will still be some time before we see how this all comes out in the wash. However, it is quite evident we will not be seeing an armistice between the tours anytime in the near future.
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86 thoughts on “It’s a Vibe – PPA Appears to Create Rival ‘Vibe Pickleball League’ to Compete with Major League Pickleball”
What do you know about the APP having new owners? Ken Herrmann still involved? This is per Dayne Gingerich
You mean Intersport? Don’t know a ton. Ken is still involved from what we know
As mentioned in the article the rivaling leagues could add to diluted events and deprive pickleball fans the equivalent of the Majors in Tennis. i’m sure pickleball will get it figured out eventually and have some ‘Majors’ type events. One idea would to structure the competing leagues like an AFC and NFC in the NFL and then have playoffs and a ‘Superbowl of Pickleball’ . I also think Pickleball needs to be careful they don’t burn fans out with too many events
Good on MLP, signing exclusive deals has consequences. Enjoy your good vibes for the next two years
It will be interesting
Said that PPA feels so threathen by APP I feel has the longevity of pickleball in mind.
Building a platform for the Pro’s they deserve it.
Go MLP & APP
It’s all good for pickleball. The more we get the sport in front of the world, the better.
That is quite possible
NML, can you guys publish a prize money list for 2022 for tournament winnings? It would be great value add for fans and should generate lots of traffic.
NML: If you have the $ amount given out, I will add a column to my spreadsheet to calculate the player winnings. APP does it based on level of tournament but I don’t know if PPA does it that way. And the only $ I’ve heard is $500 for the PPA bronze.
Kevin M: For PPA the $ given out for a podium is not the full story as more money is in the appearance salary.
Yes, appearance money in sports is generally excluded from money lists. I assumed that all tours, APP, PPA and MLP published amounts for gold silver and bronze.
Kevin M: Well, I still have a screenshot of what PPA originally published when they first got started. But when I realized they reneged on that pretty quickly and now are undependable about most anything, I quit paying attention. I could probably dig out what APP does but hoping NML or another friendly already knows.
I checked and APP lists all tournaments and payouts on its site. PPA is a multi step process as each level event has its own payout schedule. They also pay for each win in the winners brackets. MLP seems pretty well known. So, probably one or two days of work to pull it together 🙂
We’ll see if we can combine with Jan to do something
Don’t agree. What a lot of new people see is different rules for the same game. This player can’t play in this tournament. Negative rivalry. Very poor quality video on most tournaments. Completely different and confusing formats depending on the tournament tour. IMO, many people are turned off by all this.
PS. For all the tennis people moving into pickleball, they have to wonder why all the announcers constantly talk over live play, and basically say nothing.
The scariest thing is Mark Cuban being involved. He’s a game-changer IMHO.
The second scariest thing is Dr. Phil. Who could possibly be interested in anything he does.
I’m guessing at least one of these pros who put their name in the hat will also put their name in the hat for MLP. Then decide later. Just remember all the announcements PPA made about signings that they later had to retract or become mysteriously mum on so we were left wondering who was or was not signed (Wilson, Koller, e.g..)
Vibe is a strange name to use because PPA players don’t have a “vibe”. They don’t seem to like each other. They don’t seem to enjoy playing for the fun of it. They don’t seem to like the PPA. When you watch MLP and APP, you can see how much the players have fun with each other. With PPA, not so much.
MLP is bigger than just their pro players. They have plans for tiers of minor league from what the podcasts have put out there. So will VIBE also compete in the lower level leagues or create regional leagues? PPA would have to completely change their attitude because they are getting a very dirty reputation with how badly run their tournaments are for the amateurs. I don’t see Cuban tolerating anything that badly run so I wouldn’t be surprised if he insists on changes.
If you think PPA is cut-throat now with their competing ways (re-broadcasts or last minute thrown together tournaments/exhibitions), watch out when/if Cuban gets involved. He’ll make what they’ve done in the past seem like a friendly softball.
From a fan standpoint, I’m disappointed that we may not get some of the top tier into the 2023 MLP. And I don’t see watching both VIBE and PPA tournaments when it’s the same players unless the format is very unique in VIBE. Several of us already thought the last PPA (N2GRATE DC) was boring. So in a way VIBE might be competing more against themselves than MLP.
Interesting take on Cuban. Like all these people, how invested will he be?
Overall it seems like a loss because of the top tier players being spread out but who knows what it means long term
As far as the announcement scheduled for 11/03. Will it be as lame as the greatly hyped one on 10/6 for pickleball.com?
We’ll have to see…
11/03 makes sense being Singles day at the Texas Open. They’ll have all the players there and all the Texas investors.
1. The worst team in the Vibe league will be better than the best team in MLP. This is just natural due to the size of the leagues and the exclusion of many top players from MLP.
2. Some of the top non-PPA players will join the Vibe league along with MLP.
3. Vibe will average more viewers on YouTube – by a large margin.
4. Vibe will eventually change its dumb name.
1. The PPA top players are some of the best in the world but unless they only have 4 teams, no way their worst team is better than MLPs best team. The PPA is not as strong as they would have you believe, as top APP players often podium when they play in PPA tournaments. And that is after getting shafted by PPAs awful seeding.
2. Unknown whether non PPAers come onboard until money details are announced. It will need to be very lucrative to the non PPA players who will already have a busy year with 6 MLP tournaments and all the other APPs.
I agree on 3. MLP does an awful job with their promotions. Many people said they watched the last minute PPA Texas Round-Up event because they knew nothing about the Columbus MLP the same week-end. Also, it turns a few viewers off that they can’t see the final championship match aired only on a premium channel. Thirdly, it’s been hard to follow the teams. MLP got better each event but still a lot of clicks to get the full picture. PPA will do 200% better job in all respects here that will bring eyes to them plus spend massive $$$ on advertising and youtube promotions if that is what is needed.
MLP continues to have to work on their promotion. PPA has a big edge there
Agree. But then when you watch PPA, you have to endure horrible video quality and poor camera locations. Don’t get me started on PPA announcers; ie. Dave Weinbach.
Agreed on promotion leading up to events. PPA feels more slick and gets the word out there much better than MLP
Event coverage on both sides needs work. PPA for their large events (e.g. DC Open) has the same issue with final matches being broadcast on premium/traditional channels and not on YouTube. While in Columbus, MLP was raving about their “new” line cameras when in reality it was 2 average quality cameras pointed down the line of one side of the net – leading to obscured views of the other side. I realize tennis hawk eye would be too expensive – but there has to be a middle ground that is better than two grainy cameras.
MLP is a much more interesting format to watch imo, so it will be interesting to see what Vibe does with it.
Disagree with #1.
I could not disagree more. This vibe thing seems like a desperate thrown together copycat. I am assuming those announced for the draft are all on 3 year deals and have no choice.
JW and Dylan defect, looks like I was wrong here!
It’s not a defection, just a reflection of pros wanting to play for the highest purses. Very interesting to see whether Vibe goes with a full team approach (like OG MLP) or does a hybrid team/individual approach like MLP has announced for 2023. Change is coming fast.
I’m not real surprised about Dylan because he didn’t do that well in either season of MLP. He’s also been playing a bit more of the PPA than JW. JW may feel like he needs to start playing against Riley and Ben more to grow/improve in a format where he doesn’t have to worry about the seeding.
Agree. I’m on record as loving the MLP format but cringing at some of the mediocre pro play, so whether it was an PPA-MLP partnership or this, it’s great news for viewers.
It’s doesn’t solve a thing if Vibe looks like the Selkirk Labs Showdown. Same problem so we’ll see
I don’t know what that is, so don’t know if I agree or not! 😂
1 and 2 -That may not be true if Vibe cannot get any of the upper-mid to mid tier pros to play
3. That is very possible. It will be curious to see depending where it is streamed
4. Probably lol
I just can’t imagine them not being able to get some extra players to join. This would be appealing if you’re a top player and want other strong teammates, or if you’re very good but not quite good enough to regularly medal. This could potentially provide a bigger expected payout than a normal tournament.
You were right
By sticking with 6 teams, they’re guaranteeing that all teams will be really strong. It may now limit the number of non-PPA players who want to come on over because it looks like they’re not allowed to play both Vibe and MLP, and there may not be a guarantee that you’d be drafted.
You can NOT guarantee anything in the future… Nothing. All you can do is speculate.
Let’s check back in a year. At least 3 of these will have come true.
2 have already come true, for anyone keeping track. #3 will easily come true, but we won’t see for sure until the spring.
You are right on track
Cuban’s involvement will make a bigger difference than Labron, Brady, Garnet combined. If it’s true he’s involved, all of the smart money should be on the PPA.
For the record. Pickleball is a stupid name. So is Major League Pickleball. So is Vibe. The. Name isn’t going to matter. The execution and product will.
so what name do you propose instead of pickleball?
All comes down to his investment
APP players do podium sometimes, but only when top players are paired together. If JW Johnson and Dekel Bar pair up, or maybe JW with Dylan Frazier, they can pull off a bronze at a PPA. The problem for MLP is that these guys obviously couldn’t be on the same team. JW will be paired with the #32 male player. Dekel will be paired with the #31 male. The female players on their teams will be draft picks in the mid-teens. We’ve seen in this past year’s MLP that neither ever had strong female players on their teams, and it’s just going to get worse by adding 8 more women and 8 more men.
The only way the Vibe teams could be worse is if they have no defectors from the APP, and they have so many teams that they’re forced to include players that weren’t good enough for MLP.
If they’re smart (which perhaps they’re not), they’ll throw out enough money to get some strong APP players to join, and they’ll be able to frame this as the premier league with all players being top 20-25 in the world.
(sorry – meant as a reply to CBrent)
How many teams will Vibe be? Still no Waters or McGuffin announcements as of today. They only have a handful of plyers that are better? The female gap is closing fast and they only have 4 men that are clearly better
Seems like they’re spreading out the announcements on purpose. Maybe they don’t get every single PPA player, but they already have 14 announced and that’s sure to grow. I’d think 6-8 teams of 4 players could be ideal.
McGuffin is in
Ya they definitely could be waiting. If AL is announced, that is a big win for them
Anna Leigh and her mom are in. Now they’ve got all the 3 year contract PPA pros listed except Lea Jansen, Matt Wright, and Lindsey Newman – and likely those will be announced soon.
The big coup would be if they announce Parris Todd, Dekel Bar, or some other top APP players.
ABC: You make a good case of why MLP owners should hire NML to advise them with the draft. Sure there are “balancing” rules but good strategy/analysis by someone who has made an unpaid 2nd job of it can get the owner a strong team.
And you think the 32nd best PPA male and 2 mid teen PPA females are better than those who are playing MLP?
We will see if they can attract top non-PPA talent.
FWIW: my main issue with the PPA is that they want to give the appearance that they are the premier pickleball league and use dubious means toward those ends (i.e., always giving their signed players favorable seeds in their tournaments). I also severely dislike how they nickel and dime the amateurs who play in their tournaments.
If Vibe went with 64 players, then yes they’d have a problem too. I think MLP is making a mistake having such a big player pool. It eliminates the chances of elite players playing together. In the original MLP, one of the teams had Tyson McGuffin, Vivienne David, Zane Navratil, and Lea Jansen. They didn’t even make the finals. The worst team in the league had JW Johnson, Dylan Frazier, and Jessie Irvine. Basically all the teams were stacked.
Then, the PPA took about 15-20 players from MLP, and at the same time they expanded MLP to 12 teams, which means they had to add around 30 players that weren’t good enough to make it into the original league. The quality of play dropped, and only a couple teams were able to pair solid players together due to finding a late round draft gem. Now they’re going to add 16 more players who weren’t even good enough previously. It just spreads the talent too thin and makes for a worse league.
The Vibe league will be somewhat boring if it’s only PPA athletes, though the quality of play will be high. If they decide to have a bigger league but can’t get anyone from MLP, then they’ll have some of the same problems that MLP has had. They’ll just be stuck with borderline pro players who will be targeted incessantly. If the Vibe league can pull around 10-12 of the better players from the MLP group who want to play both, then it could be quite successful.
All it will take to pull non PPA pros to Vibe will be good payout $$$$. It’s the same thing that pulls non PPA pros to their other tournaments.
We had concerns about the quick expansiom and that may be doing them in now. Vibe announced only 6 teams today while MLP is stuck at 16 and more player adds surely to come
Based on your last men’s doubles top 10, Vibe now has 8 of the top 10 men, just missing Koller and Bar.
With 6 teams in the league, and assuming two men per team with no more switching, 8 of the 12 men in the Vibe league would be top 10 players, and 2 of the 32 men in MLP.
The 6 teams is smart. It will be a significant disparity in talent gap particularly with 16 teams in MLP
They are only going 6 teams so it shouldn’t be watered down once they get more non PPA contracted players
I never understand all the hand-wringing about “copying”. If an organization is so easily copied, it hasn’t worked to create any competitive advantage for itself.
PPA dominating coverage again. Your Vibe post has 30+ comments already and the APP tournament thread has 3. PPA has the major sponsors, TV contracts and the inside track on gambling. APP still looks to me to eventually run events for Senior Pros, amateurs and juniors. It’s what they excel at and should focus on.
Vibe could just be a bargaining tactic used by the PPA to cut a deal with MLP. MLP won’t want competing team events and may agree to limit their event numbers if Vibe is canceled. For sure, Steve Kuhn and the APP won’t want to restrict player freedom to play wherever they want to.
I’m sure Cuban will be great for the sport and don’t expect any of the other big-money investors to want to get sideways with him due to his reputation and influence. I hope the players turn out to be the big winners as it all shakes out.
The tour wars stuff is interesting bottom line
That didn’t take long to work out. Interested to see who the owners are for the “PPA teams” and whether the new MLP reverts to the original team format (I expect that is part of the deal). I hope they increase the MLP announced prize money pool now that they’ve combined and added teams.
Kevin M: “Vibe could just be a bargaining tactic used by the PPA to cut a deal with MLP” Definitely that looks like what it was.
The PPA Copy-Cat League… Excellent. If Connor is involved, don’t expect quality, don’t expect sportsmanship, don’t expect any kind of good business practices. It really is a horrible company.
Interesting, I’ve never had problems at PPA tournaments I’ve played in
What is going to be a poke in the eye is if Vibe takes over the team format that MLP used in 2021 and 2022 but is abandoning for 2023.
What MLP needs is NML as color commentators for the draft, during the draft. Just like in the NFL and NBA – analysts who have their own opinions and aren’t afraid to make them clear. For example, after every questionable draft decision, the broadcast could cut to a 1/2 minute take for NML’s opinion on the pick. It would be make things more engaging and entertaining. There’s a reason every other professional sports league does the draft this way. Of course, we don’t know how good NML would be on TV. But I’m sure MLP could find knowledgeable, well spoken analysts.
Thanks Jimothy! Gotta let the big wigs at MLP know we need to be hired to provide some candid draft analysis
And you can be unfiltered with no consequences basically. That’ll be great for the entertainment value of the broadcast. I’m one of the few pros who likes NML (because I can handle criticism.) So what that means is you guys can basically be as unfiltered as you want with your comments without risking pissing off any pros since most are already pissed at NML hahahah
Thanks Jimothy, whether you are or are not a real pro. Maybe Vibe needs draft analysts now too 😂
And the Waters are confirmed
Too much emphasis being put on the contracted PPA players confirming. Their current contracts don’t allow them to play MLP so of course they’ll play Vibe; there’s only a financial upside. It would be like me announcing a family dinner then getting excited when my family members (who have no other option or place to go) accept my invitation.
As mentioned by another post, this only becomes relevent when top or even mid-level MLP players commit to playing VIBE. Otherwise it’s just another form of exhibition of the same 8-10 players we see every. single. event. The recent PPA Roundup that PPA put on to go against the Columbus MLP event proved the PPA can’t put on a full event with only their contracted players. It was basically the usual 8-10 players plus dozens of 4.5 level players not good enough to be drafted to MLP.
The real question is whether MLP can figure out why their very entertaining and compelling event pulled LESS views than a stale, underwhelming PPA Roundup event… (basing that other posters streamig data.)
Very valid ^^
This has now happened with JW and Dylan, and possibly more
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Will any other non PPA players join Dylan and JW? Will they still be able to play MLP? If not PPA had to offer some real $ MOOLAH $
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Parris and Anna join. Won’t they need 2 top women to balance out Dylan and JW? Not saying they’d form the same team – just the numbers have to balance.
They need more women. Think about Jorja Johnson too. The Johnson’s do things as a family
Doesn’t look like they will be able to play MLP too
Another Thought- Regardless of what organizations take leads in Pickleball, one of the draws is that it’s something that anyone feels that they can compete at and potentially higher level players can get in draws and compete against the top players. The
access for the masses to have as easy a path as possible to enter and compete with the best is important. If there was something like they do in soccer in Europe with teams being able to move up or down from the various ties of leagues that would be good
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