The Arizona Pickleball Players league (APPL) has now expanded its popular team-based pickleball league into its fifth region. After founding the first team-based pickleball league, East Valley Interclub League in 2012 (which has grown ever since), the Arizona Pickleball Players League was formally organized as a nonprofit in 2019 by a group of volunteers to bring its unique, competitive team concept to pickleball players throughout Arizona.
APPL started in two regions (Casa Grande and East Valley), with 95 teams and more than 1,100 players participating, and in 2021 expanded to four regions, adding the West Valley and Southern (Tucson area) regions. More than 2,000 players participated in APPL in 2021. APPL’s winter season ended with a thrilling State Championship held in Casa Grande this past April. APPL expects more than 250 teams and 3,000 players to participate in its 2022 winter season, with team and player registration currently underway. But team pickleball doesn’t have to be only a winter sport in Arizona.
In early 2021, avid pickleball players in the White Mountain area, many of whom participated in APPL’s winter league, wanted to start a more formal competition that they could enjoy in the summer months. In May, Steve Speight, a longtime East Valley Interclub League advocate as well as an APPL enthusiast and recurrent team captain, put his experience and his love of pickleball to work and took the reins by piloting a league for the Pinetop area. They used the APPL model and processes to move forward with four clubs: Pinetop Country Club, Pinetop Lakes, Pinetop Recreation Center, and White Mountain Summer Homes.
Steve solicited coaches from the four clubs to work together in forming the league in the region. Each of the coaches put together two doubles teams of men and two doubles teams of women, and they played the other clubs twice; one match at home and one away. It was a fabulous summer of organized team-based league pickleball in the White Mountains.
Looking ahead to Summer 2022 will be the expansion to add the White Mountain Region (WMR) as the Fifth APPL Region. The plan for the WMR is to expand the current league to eight clubs, including the original four, plus Show Low, Torreon Country Club, Lakeside, and Juniper Ridge. Speight has joined the APPL management team as the WMR APPL League coordinator and will manage the women’s, men’s, and mixed divisions. They will start their planning meetings for Summer 2022 in April and look forward to competition starting at the end of May or early June. Coaches and teams are looking forward to an awesome summer of team pickleball competition in the White Mountains.
“We’re delighted to have APPL pulled into the White Mountain area as a result of Steve’s initiative and enthusiasm for team pickleball,” states Greg Mather, APPL’s founder and president. “We hope to pilot a Northern region in the future, which would include the Prescott and Flagstaff areas.”
APPL is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. For more information, visit the Arizona Pickleball Players League website at arizonapickleballplayersleague.org.