NML Selects The Dink Awards 2022

📸 @thedinkpickleball

We may already be one month through 2023 but the Dink is doing something pretty cool once again for 2022 as they have put together their 2nd annual edition of The Dink Awards. Nothing gets people more excited than awards that ultimately have no meaning or bearing on anyone’s situation (except there is some money for certain winners this time!). So when the Dink reached out to us about making our picks for who should win each award, we thought who better than us to give an opinion on awards that might make some people mad. You can still head to the Dink’s website through the link above and vote for the winners you think rightfully deserve to win. Voting ends on Friday. We won’t leave you in suspense any longer. Here are NML’s selections for the Dink Awards 2022.

Women’s Player of the Year: Anna Leigh Waters, Catherine Parenteau, Parris Todd, Andrea Koop, Jorja Johnson and Anna Bright

Award: Anna Leigh Waters

This is an easy one. Anna Leigh Waters dominated 2022 with 8 total triple crowns, only losing once in singles and staying at the top of the game with her Mom by her side for almost the entire year. She’s the number 1 player in the world by a wide margin right now and you can’t reasonably have anyone else as the women’s player of the year. 

Men’s Player of the Year: Ben Johns, Tyson McGuffin, JW Johnson, Riley Newman, Dylan Frazier, Zane Navratil 

Award: Ben Johns 

Another easy one. There were times when Ben Johns looked vulnerable in 2022 as no longer the obvious best player in the world. Anna Leigh Waters and Riley Newman smoked Ben Johns and Catherine Parenteau at Nationals. Riley and Matt humbled Ben and Collin, only for Ben to come back stronger than before. JW Johnson was one point away from taking down Ben at the US Open in singles, but JW has been surpassed by other players without being able to come close to touching Ben. It has not been as much of a cake walk for Ben as Anna Leigh Waters, but the fact of the matter remains that Ben was the best man in 2022. His ability to fight back from the adversity he faced was arguably more impressive than the utter dominance exhibited by Anna Leigh.

📸 @jorjajohnson_pb

Ava Lee Women’s Most Improved Player: Parris Todd, Jorja Johnson, Anna Bright, Vivienne David, Salome Devidze

Award: Jorja Johnson 

The choice for most improved depends on your interpretation of what improved means. In our view, new players arriving on the scene do not fit into this category. We think most improved should go to someone who has made the biggest leap from their previous year in pickleball. 

Jorja Johnson fits the bill for us as the most improved woman. The jump in her play between 2021 and 2022 was night and day. She went from an inconsistent somewhat threat to dynamic, left-side power player over the course of the year. The immense level of respect for Jorja’s game from her peers may be as telling as anything, including Jessie Irvine wanting to take her over other proven women for her MLP team. 

Selkirk Lab’s Men’s Most Improved Player: Federico Staksrud, James Ignatowich, Julian Arnold, Dylan Frazier, Hunter Johnson

Award: Dylan Frazier

Based on our definition of most improved, Dylan Frazier is our clear choice for this award. Dylan is the only “veteran” player to make major strides in all 3 areas of his game – men’s, mixed and singles. In men’s, he has become one of the best right-sided players in the game while still having the ability to be very successful as a left side men’s and mixed player. Despite the influx of talent to the singles game, Dylan has been able to vault himself into the upper echelon of singles players on tour. He has truly turned himself into the most versatile player in the game. 

Pickleball.com Rookie of the Year: Parris Todd, Christian Alshon, Salome Devidze, Anna Bright, James Ignatowich, Etta Wright

Award: Anna Bright

From complete unknown to the #2 female taken in the MLP draft, Anna Bright has to be the rookie of the year. While Todd, Ignatowich and Wright all made big splashes in 2022, none of them had the consistent top level success that Anna had from Punta Gorda onwards. She won gold medals on the APP, made a number of Championship Sundays on the PPA Tour and solidified her status as a top women’s player in the game in the span of less than 12 months. 

Senior Women’s Player of the Year: Eva Welsher, Julie Johnson, Beth Bellamy, Nathalie Bagby, Anna Shirley, Jennifer Dawson

Award: Beth Bellamy

The senior pro tour is as much of a grind as the pro tour and none of the other women were as consistent as Beth Bellamy. She had an excellent year with Rick Witsken in mixed and concluded the year as the top senior pro female on the APP Tour. Heck, she even won a bronze medal in women’s pro at the APP Sacramento Open with Anna Bright. 

Senior Men’s Player of the Year: Dave Weinbach, Mattias Johansson, Dayne Gingrich, Rick Witsken, Scott Crandall, Paul Olin

Award: Dayne Gingrich

As good a year as Rick Witsken had, this one came down to Weinbach and Gingrich. Together, Dave and Dayne were a virtually unstoppable force as a men’s doubles team. Although not unstoppable apart from one another, the nod for this award goes to Gingrich because of the success he had apart from Weinbach. Dayne also has a wider array of shot making than Weinbach. It may be extra impressive that Weinbach can be as successful as he is with such limitations on his backhand side, but Dayne’s overall success, creativity and hands puts him slightly above the Badger. 

Match of the Year: Ben Johns vs. JW Johnson @ Minto US Open Championships, Waters/Waters vs. Bright/Irvine @ PPA Peachtree Classic, Hunter Johnson vs. Federico Staksrud @ APP Houston Open, Johns/Johns vs. Newman/Wright @ PPA Tournament of Champions, Anna Leigh Waters vs. Parris Todd @ PPA Orange County Cup, Bright/Frazier vs. Johnson/Johnson @ APP Chicago Open

Award: Ben Johns vs. JW Johnson @ Minto US Open Championships

We had 3 matches in the mix for this one. The TOC men’s final and the OC Cup women’s singles final were very close. However, we chose the JW vs. Ben match from the US Open because of the stakes involved. Not only did this match happen at the US Open but, at the time, this match was viewed as a potential changing of the guard with the PPA vs. APP debate raging as strong as ever. JW was inches away from beating Ben in 2 straight games before Ben came back to win. The match seems less important looking back on the year because the singles rivalry that we wanted never truly came to be, but it’s still the best match of 2022 based on what we were seeing at the time. 

Trailblazer of the Year: Steve Kuhn (MLP), Connor Pardoe (PPA), Ken Hermann (APP), Pat Sullivan (Jigsaw and Tuesday Night Pickleball), Stu Upson (USAP) 

Award: Steve Kuhn

No surprise here if you read this blog, but Steve Kuhn is our choice. A trailblazer means something beyond having success. It is someone who is a pioneer and innovator. As necessary as it is to have professional tours, following the path of other established sports is not all that trailblazing. Kuhn has created an original product with MLP that brings a completely new dynamic to individual sports. Kuhn’s vision for both the amateur and professional game go beyond what just about anyone could even dream of, and he is already putting that vision into practice in a relatively short period of time. It has not been perfect and there are lots of hurdles still to overcome but, when it comes to the award for trailblazer, who else could it be other than Steve Kuhn?

📸 @pickleballwill

Selkirk Sports Content Creator of the Year – @sheaunderwood, @thatpickleballguy, @sydneysteinaker, @thepickleballstudio, @brionespickleball, @markpricepickleball, @pickleball.journey, @pickleball.chick, @enhancepickleball

Award: The Pickleball Studio

First off, there will be a chip on the shoulders of the NML duo after being snubbed in this category. Although our site does not necessarily fall into the definition of traditional content creator, whatever traditional may even mean for such a new space, all we do is create content!  

Half jokes aside, we have selected Chris Olson’s The Pickleball Studio for this award. Olson has made a name for himself with his top notch, informative paddle reviews while also delving into the podcast game with another content creator not listed here, Will Chaing (@pickleballwill). The Pickleball Studio podcast guys don’t try to be anything other than who they are. They are genuine and when they have guest pros on their podcast, they facilitate some very interesting discussion.  Combine that with the paddle reviews, and you have yourself some high end content creation. 

Best Pickleball Podcast: The McGuffin Show, It Feels Right, The Basic Dink, The Pickleball Studio Podcast, PicklePod, Pickleball Problems, Pickler the Podcast

Award: It Feels Right

We debated between the McGuffin Show with Tyson McGuffin and It Feels Right with Rob Nunnery and Adam Stone. Our final choice is the ‘It Feels Right’ podcast. The ‘It Feels Right’ podcast is newer, but Nunnery and Stone have good chemistry as they dive into topics that most pros stray away from.  It’s really hard for pro players to talk about other pro players and they do a pretty good job of being frank despite the backlash they may receive. Tyson also does a good job being a relatively open book himself but he can’t seem to get his content out in a timely manner and his one-off guests are usually a non-listen for us. What this award came down to for us is that ‘It Feels Right’ is currently the only pickleball podcast that we both listen to every episode of. 

PPA Tour Scrappiest Pro: Allyce Jones, Julian Arnold, Lea Jansen, Rafa Hewett, Frank Anthony Davis, Yana Grechkina

Award: Allyce Jones

We had to go with Allyce Jones for this one. She is the definition of scrappy. It’s not just the dives. It’s her never say die attitude, the fact that she’s up before the sun is up to get her grind in, and that she is right there competing with players who have far more experience from a racquet talent perspective. Her selection as a legitimate Premier division MLP player is a testament to her scrappiness both on and off the court. 

Best On-Court Antics: Riley Newman, Tyson McGuffin, Lucy Kovalova, Julian Arnold, Travis Rettenmaier, DJ Young

Award: Julian Arnold

Riley Newman’s finger wags were in consideration for us as well as Matt Wright’s overall trash talk, even though he was not nominated. We settled on Julian Arnold, though, because of the volume and quantity of unique fire that he brings to the court. There is only one player on tour that has a signature yell and that’s Arnold’s “Andiamo!”. It still seems like a missed opportunity to name his paddle company Volair instead of Andiamo. Some people don’t like what Arnold does on the court but we are all for more personality and trash talk  on the pickleball court. 

Selkirk TV Best On-Air Personality: Dave Fleming, Camryn Irwin, Dominic Catalano, Morgan Evans, Adam Stone, Lauren McLaughlin

Award: Lauren McLaughlin

There almost needs to be two awards for this one, a play-by-play versus color commentator award. Morgan Evans may be the best regular color commentator that is on the air with his lighthearted humor and generally solid analysis. Dave Fleming is the most prominent commentator with his regular role as hybrid play-by-play and color guy for the PPA, but there’s something about Fleming that has changed since his early days as an APP commentator. Fleming is solid but it’s almost as if he is trying too hard to be an announcer more recently. 

This award for us goes to Lauren McLaughlin. Call us biased all you want but we don’t say things we don’t believe. McLaughlin does the best job out there in our opinion. Period. 

Chad Edwards somehow did not make this list of nominations, even though he and McLaughlin were quite possibly the most enjoyable duo for us to listen to by the end of 2022. There’s an ease and professionalism to McLaughlin’s commentary with a real likeability factor as she is not trying to bring attention to herself. She does not try to fit into the traditional mold of a broadcaster and that should be a good thing. Different is needed in pickleball and it’s still a shame to us that she is consistently bypassed in favor of some other more “professionally” viewed broadcasters. 

Fan Favorite: Lee Whitwell, Tyson McGuffin, Adam Stone, Simone Jardim, Anna Leigh Waters, Ryan Sherry

Award: Ryan Sherry

Who else could this go to other than the mental training guru himself, Ryan Sherry? Sherry is one of a kind. His personality combined with his on-court ability as a singles player in his late 30s is like nothing we see anywhere else in professional sports. He has gotten some big results on the court too along with all-time interviews. That’s why he is a true fan favorite. 

NEXT GEN Player of the Year: Riley Bohnert, Austin Tchikatilov, Gabriel Tardio, Alix Truong, Jack Foster, Spencer Lanier 

Award: Gabriel Tardio

We went with Gabriel Tardio, but this one was tough as Gabe is also just a professional pickleball player. We weren’t sure whether he properly falls into the definition of a pro but we go with him because he is the best pro in this group. There is still lots to work on with his game, namely consistency, but he has a ton of raw ability and flare to his game. He is definitely one to watch in 2023. 

Event of the Year: Major League Pickleball Austin, PPA Select Medical Orange County Cup, APP Franklin NYC Open, Minto US Open Championships, USAP National Championships 

Award: Major League Pickleball Austin

This one wasn’t close. Nothing compares to MLP. The atmosphere, stakes and format are unparalleled in professional pickleball. The MLP events are the most anticipated viewing events so far and they are only getting better. 

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook too!

13 thoughts on “NML Selects The Dink Awards 2022

  • February 1, 2023 at 8:05 am

    I’m bummed that the mixed gold medal match at Nationals wasn’t an option for match of the year. That beatdown of Collin’s brother & CP, in full-fledged villain spotlight, by Riley and ALW was epic.

  • February 1, 2023 at 8:49 am

    I was sad to not see you guys on the list! You’re the no.1 content for me in pickleball, though It Feels Right Podcast is right there as well.

    • February 1, 2023 at 12:55 pm

      We fit more into a niche demographic at this point in time. But you are one of the OGs of the blog Grant and we appreciate it!

  • February 1, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    Men’s MIP: I agree that the other names don’t really count since they weren’t around much in 2021 to show their improvement. Thomas Wilson is my vote for Men’s MIP.

    Sr Men’s: Definitely Rick Witsken. His doubles medal count was the highest and he had the most gold for both MD and MXD.

    Best match: LV Championships when Wright/Newman beat Johns in 5. This match stands out because of the very funny commentating from Tennis Channel. And let’s not forget we had Lobgate here also to entertain us.

  • February 1, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    I’m with Grant.

    1. NML
    2. It Feels Right podcast

    everything else in the picklesphere

    • February 2, 2023 at 6:22 am

      Oh my God. Excellent click bait and engagement (enragement) material. I’ll stick to if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all for this post 🙂

      • February 2, 2023 at 6:23 am

        arg ,that was not supposed to be a reply to Kevin

      • February 2, 2023 at 2:43 pm

        We don’t do things for the purpose of clicks, Denise!

  • February 1, 2023 at 6:28 pm

    Worst commentator?
    Michelle M

  • February 2, 2023 at 8:08 am

    Where is Lauren in 2023? She is also my favorite commentator but she has been notably absent so far this year.

    • February 2, 2023 at 2:43 pm

      You’d have to ask her personally on social media


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