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NCPA 2024 Championships: Collegiate Competition @ Its Best

How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

March 21 2024
More than 50 colleges from across the U.S. participated in last weekend’s San Diego tournament.

When was the last time you were transformed — or perhaps better put, transfixed? If you’ve ever endeavored on an experience that seemed destined to fall flat, but actually succeeded beyond your wildest expectations, you walked away a different person. That experience, in and of itself, leaves one spellbound.

While driving from Los Angeles to San Diego at 7:30 a.m. this past Saturday to cover NCPA’s first collegiate pickleball tournament, featuring on its website’s homepage a biblical verse (Matthew 7: 13-14), and produced by the organization’s 23-year-old founder (currently tangling with the NCAA in a trademark dispute), let’s just say expectations were more of a question mark than an exclamation point.

About 20 minutes from our destination, our social media reporter looked up the Bible verse: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Pretty poetic given that the founder, Noah Suemnick, has passed through many narrow gates since launching the National Collegiate Pickleball Association (NCPA) less than a year ago, in late summer 2023. In many ways, Suemnick has been living the story of David & Goliath, with NCAA suing Suemnick in an ugly legal battle over copyright infringement associated with similarities between NCPA and NCAA. As a recent college grad taking his passion for America’s new favorite pastime to create opportunities for college kids to play competitive national tournaments (in a sport that NCAA refuses to recognize as an official Division 1 and Division 2 collegiate sport), NCAA has thrown the book at Suemnick, who might have flinched at the mighty sporting giant had it not been for Suemnick’s deep faith.

As the parable taught us about David: don’t underestimate the will of the underdog, especially when that will is rooted in faith. Faith may not guarantee the end-result, but if one has faith on their side, it’s more than a tool, it’s a movement that drives from inside the soul to achieve what it knows to be the right thing. If a corporate entity with employees and law firms who have no sweat in the game besides a paycheck are driving the company’s objectives over the heart of a founder serving customers with a faith-driven mission, then guess who’s gonna come out on top?

About last weekend’s inaugural NCPA Tournament: All we can say is WOW. Walking into the event – hosted at The Hub Pickleball Club in San Diego – felt like Dorothy landing in OZ. With an exterior infrastructure aligning directly along Interstate 15, entering the event was as charmingly unassuming as Grandma and Grandpa’s little cottage on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee.

From the moment we walked into The Hub, the most vibrant, well-designed Pickleball facility we’ve experienced in a year of covering too many tournaments to mention, the Club’s stunningly contemporary artful surroundings made us feel like we were next to the beach instead of a major U.S. highway. Add-to-the-mix the rousing energy of college pickleball players and you have perfect environmental magic that didn’t diminish for the eight consecutive hours we were there.

That said, the most awe-inspiring part of the event wasn’t the more than 50 competitive collegiate pickleball teams participating from across the country (over 400 players), or the flawless execution of the day’s matches, nor the amazing food truck offering yummy regional cuisine – it was Suemnick, NCPA’s founder, discreetly rooted the kind of faith that makes all of us believers, single-handedly registering every player, tracking every score, announcing every match, and mixing and mingling with players and spectators throughout the three-day tournament. Yes, folks – Suemnick ran the entire thing ALONE, setting an example elder executive management teams at PPA/MLP, NPL, and APP can only aspire to.

Maybe there’s hope for the rest of us after all, to be reminded of the power of faith, which, during times like these, takes either an act of Congress or an act of God. We may walk into a sporting event jaded, but once inside, have an experience that transforms us, not exactly because we were wrong, but because we needed to be reminded of who we ultimately are, deep inside ourselves, at the place where faith still lives, despite our attempts to pretend it’s not there. That’s the thing about faith – it may not be on, but it’s always on idle, selflessly waiting an experience, or the humble acts of others, to remind us that it’s there -- not because we were told, but by example.

It's easy to default to the everyday skeptic within us, but the internal fortitude to power through – regardless of the adversities one might face along the way – has the potential to change the world. As the great 20th century cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said: “Never underestimate the power of a small group to change the world; in fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Here’s what faith looked like last weekend, at NCPA’s 2024 Championship tournament.

More than 400 players traveled across the country to participate in the 2024 NCPA Championship.
Piece de resistance: 'Centerstage' at The Hub 
Hands-on Founder: NCPA Founder Noah Suemnick registering players and tracking scores.
Florida in the House
Famed GCU - minimalist but mighty. 
A Club Team's gotta eat...
Founder Suemnick mixing & mingling.
Team Pepperdine out in full-force.
Nap Time.
Pickleball Swag
USC Trojans pickleball power-up
Washington - ask the team about their flight to the tournament ;)
The Hub's pickleball graffiti 
The Drive Home: What faith can do...






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