Badger Tales – Part One

American badgers are starting to become active now that the weather is warming up. They don’t hibernate, they just sleep more than usual when it’s cold in their burrows. When the temperature rises, the feisty critters live interesting lives in mid western states like Wisconsin. I would enjoy writing a story about the underground adventures of one of the furry fellows, but this time I will focus on a clean shaven variety of the species…The following article is a result of of messages and phone calls with pickleballer Dave Weinbach, aka the Badger, from Madison, Wisconsin. He is a great player who has won over 70 medals in regional and national tournaments.

I’m always interested in how top players get started in their sporting lives. Dave Weinbach is in his forties now, but he regularly gets into, and holds his own, in rapid fire volley exchanges with twenty something pb opponents. He credits his fast hands to all the racquet sports he participated in as a kid. It helps to develop quick reactions when you start young and Dave was 4 years old when his father introduced him to tennis and table tennis. When you watch Weinbach’s game videos, you see how that early start in sports has turned this Badger into a grown up ”beast” on the courts.

Dave grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, after a visit to another city in the state he made up his mind to live in a ”berg” that is often cited as the ‘best place to live in the US…Madison, Wisconsin. When I googled Madison, the description of it’s cultural and outdoor amenities reminded me of the qualities that make my own town of Victoria a most congenial place to dwell. Madison must also be good for ”happy ever altering” because Dave lives there with four other pickleball enthusiasts – his wife Dina and their sons Jake, Ryan and Sam. The Weinbach home is also a most congenial place to play. Dave and his family enjoy the convenience of a pb court in their yard.

Wisconsin is not known as a hot bed of pickleball activity. However, the place that Dave Weinbach was introduced to our sport definitely fits that heated description – Surprise, Arizona. Many top pb players spend their winters at retreats in Surprise and they often interact with rec players of all levels. About 10 years ago Dave was down there visiting his parents and getting in some tennis at Sun City Grand Resort. He noticed a different racquet sport being played in the adjacent court. The enthusiasm of the participants piqued his curiosity and he wanted to know more about this game. We all know that pickleball is the best sport in the world, and, as everyone knows about pickleballers, we all want to spread the pb gospel. So, to get back to Dave, it wasn’t long before he was asked to join a doubles game and, in his own word, ”after fifteen minutes I was addicted.”

Some of the players on the court that day were well known tournament players like Mark Friedenberg, Chile Chilleli, Jim Hackenberg and John Grasso. However, the guy that took a special interest in Dave was 6’5” Patrick Kane. In the days that followed Pat Kane took Dave Weinbach under his substantial wing. Pat is a top player in his age bracket and is famous for his soft touch and finesse skills. He taught Dave to play the right way – starting at the non-volley line. After dinking practice and defensive tactics Pat Kane drilled Dave Weinbach on that crucial shot for all high level players – the third shot drop. Dave was only able to please his coach when he could land ninety out of a hundred drop shots into the kitchen. It’s a hard skill to learn, but all the practice paid off. Dave Weinbach eventually mastered the finesse and all the other variety of defensive and offensive shots that make pickleball such an interesting game.

I think that some people have natural physical gifts. Without much effort they will excel at any sport they take up. However, there are some individuals who, with the right drive, talent and coaching, are able to take their game to another level…With time and intense training Dave Weinbach became one of the small percentage of players who attain a 5.0 ranking. Dave was now ready to test himself to see how he would measure up against other skilled pickleballers in high level competition.

The next part of this story is how Dave Weinbach got on the radar of the thousands (millions?) of fans who watch the top players on YouTube. The following links make up a mini-bio of the Badger’s development as a player. His animal spirits, energy and joy of competing come across in all his matches. After playing with success in regional pickleball tournaments, Dave Weinbach got his first taste of competing in a major pb event at the TOC that took place at Ogden, Utah in September of 2014. Shortly after, in November of that year he was at Buckeye, Az for the USAPA Nationals VI.

The link below is from Nationals VI. It’s a doubles match where Dave Weinbach is partnered with Darin Hurdman vs Tim (Puppetmaster) Nelson and Billy Jacobsen. I got a kick out of this exciting battle, and I’m sure Dave and Darin turned some heads that day when they eliminated their opponents. I’m sure this would have been considered an upset victory in those days because Tim and Billy were the defending champions in this event…Although Dave and Darin didn’t go on to medal in that event, the Badger did take home some hardware from the tournament – he won gold in men’s +35 singles!

Weinbach & Hurdman vs Nelson & Jacobsen

The first pb major of 2015 was the Grand Canyon State Games. It took place in February at El Mirage, Az. The link below is from that tourney….Dave Weinbach is competing with Justin Rodgers, who was Dave’s first friend on the tournament circuit. The pals are in a lively contest against legend Steve Wong and young expert Aspen Kern…Dave and Justin won this finals and took another gold in the men’s 35+ doubles. Leftie players should study the stacking technique that right handed Dave Weinbach and southpaw Justin Rodgers used to wall off the centre of the court in this match…It’s a great strategy.

Weinbach & Rodgers vs Wong & Kern

One of the top men’s doubles partnerships is the team of Dave Weinbach and Kyle Yates. Another great partnership is Dave Weinbach and the Pickleball Channel. They must see something they like in the Badger’s game because Dave is featured in a lot of their videos. Thanks Rusty!…The next link is their interview with Dave and Kyle from the SoCal Classic that took place in Oceanside, Ca in June 2015.

Weinbach & Yates 2015 SoCal Classic

In my last CC edition I profiled Oliver Strecker. The Big O and Dave Weinbach teamed up for gold in April 2016 at the LeMaster-Davison. A month later the Badger was down in Florida for the inaugural US Open. He was partnered in mixed action with his Surprise friend, Gigi LeMaster. In the next link they talk about the lovely skill (the drop shot) that helped them to earn gold at Naples.

Weinbach & LeMaster 2016 US Open  

Kyle Yates and Dave Weinbach vs Daniel Moore and Wes Gabrielsen…what could be better! These four guys may be the 4 top doubles players in the world. Here is the link to their open MD battle from Naples. Following that is an interview video with Kyle and Dave.

Weinbach & Yates vs Moore & Gabrielsen

Weinbach & Yates Interview, 2016 US Open

Dave Weinbach and Kyle Yates have won every match, except one, that they have competed in together. I asked Kyle a question about their partnership and why he and the Badger are so dominating together. Here is his reply:

KY – We both have similar philosophies on how to play. We discuss and usually agree on our strategy going into every match. I trust his shot selection and consistency and I feel that he trusts my game as well. That understanding allows us to be in sync on the court and gives us a significant mental advantage.

Dave Weinbach stressed to me that he looks for teammates that have a strong competitive streak. That is important because of the increasingly professional level at major pb events, but, since it’s pickleball, the players want to have fun. Dave Weinbach trains hard, plays hard, enjoys the journey and makes friend along the way. The short clip below is a teaser for what is coming up in Part 2 of the Badger Tales – Dave’s adventures with his partners at 2017 Grand Canyon State Games.

Weinbach & Ansboury vs Ashworth & LeMaster

In part two I will also be talking about Dave’s interest in pickleball instruction. He does clinics and lessons all over America. Dave Weinbach and Seymour Rifkind are founders of the IPTPA group that develops teaching standards and certifies instructors. Here is the Badger’s email address for anyone who is interested in participating in one of Dave’s clinics. I will be working on part two after all the videos from the Grand Canyon games are out on YouTube.

One of Dave’s gold medal teammates at El Mirage was Scott Moore…In the next edition of my blog I will be talking to him about his planned visit to Vancouver Island, including the information for us Canucks to attend one of his clinics! Scott Moore is a the top player in his age bracket, and one of the best male players of any age. Incredibly, I think Scott gets better each year. I hope as many of my readers as possible take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn his techniques. I am quite excited about the prospect of spending some time on the court with him this summer!

In closing, for anyone who is a true green and lumpy picklehead, you should make sure you have joined the public Pickleball Forum on Facebook. This site was created by the inventive mind of funny, wise pb philosopher Aspen Kern. There are live interactive interviews and interesting player posts….Here is a Spring pb reading list from the Forum:

”Poacher in the Rye, Silence of the Slams, Fifty Shades of Yellow, Twenty Thousand Dinks Into the Net, Little Court on the Prairie, The Dinkfather, Harry Poacher, Lob With the Wind, Pair a Dinks Lost, Volley of the Dolls, To Kill a Mocking Opponent, Cool Backhand Luke, Moby Dink, All Quiet On the Kitchen Front, 12 volume ref…Picklepedia Brittanica, and for the kids…Mary Poppups, Honey I Shrunk the Court, Pickleberry Finn and Snow White and the Seven Dinks”….There is sure to be something there for everyone’s taste, don’t you think? So get into the pickleball pages and until next time…

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.


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