Pickleball Points: Rick Bell — a pickleball hat trick

(1) A Sussex County pickleballer now shares with an upstater the distinction as the top-rated male pickleball players in Delaware.

(2) A Sussex pickleballer has also been named the first official certified teaching professional in Delaware.

(3) Finally, a Sussex pickleballer has been tapped to be the very first USAPA district ambassador for the entire state of Delaware — and that makes for a hat trick, because the same person, Rick Bell, received all three simultaneously.

I recently sat down with Rick Bell at the NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View for a chat after a training clinic he conducted. I thought the pickleball community would be interested in the activities of Delaware’s most serious pickleballer.

Last summer, I had the honor of helping train Rick for singles competition, and he brought home a silver medal from his first try in one of the most prestigious events in pickleball. He is a licensed clinical social worker and brings a high degree of discipline to the game. In fact, Rick won gold in the 60-64 Men’s Doubles, silver in the 60-64 Men’s Singles and bronze in the 55-59 Mixed Doubles.

You might remember that we announced his Utah win in the Coastal Point, as well as the subsequent raucous meeting of the Knights of the Cucumber Vine, when we anointed Bell a viscount. Bell was recently designated a 4.5 by the national pickleball association, which is only one step — but hundreds of hours away — from a 5.0 Pro Level ranking.

Our pickle community witnessed his disciplined training schedule last year in which he intentionally lost 70 pounds. The secret, Rick said, was his sugar detox, as well as adding one day a week in the gym. With that and pickleball four days a week, the weight just dropped off him.

There is a study suggesting that every pound of weight loss is equivalent to 4 pounds of stress on the knees. In Rick’s case, this equates to 320 less pounds pounding on the knees, and better acceleration in any direction to chase down a wayward pickleball.

This winter, Rick has continued his diet but flip-flopped the number of pickleball and gym days. It is apparently paying off, because when he does play, he walks away with the medals. At his level of play, against another player of his skill, it requires a tremendous amount of strength, stamina and the practiced ability to play all shots for as long as it takes.

Besides his Delaware ranking, Rick received Level II certification requirements for the highest-level instructor of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association, making him the first in Delaware, as well as the entire Delmarva Peninsula. Rick is very serious about pickleballers being taught the correct basics so they can get more out of their game going forward.

Just for the heck of it, while we are passing out accolades, we should mention Bell’s approaching certification as a physical trainer.

Back at NorthEast, just as I was pleasantly thinking about a sugar-laden chocolate cake or apple pie à la mode, Rick jumped up and loudly said, “Let’s go to the gym. Let’s see if you can duplicate my workouts.”

He was already in his car and waiting for me at the entrance while I collected my notes and took one last sad look at the dessert display.

At the gym, Rick — the entire time complaining about eating too much, while I continued to think about that chocolate cake — put on a 50-minute workout routine that shamed all of those around him, including me.

Bell was recently named to a new position in pickleball: the USAPA district ambassador for Delaware.

Because of the spectacular growth of pickleball, organizational changes have been made in the various USA Pickleball Association regions and their Ambassador Program — a program that has served them well.

Helen White, the new assistant regional director for the new Mid-Atlantic Region, recently named our own Rick Bell to the newly created district ambassadorship for Delaware. Within the Delaware District, there are nine pickleball ambassadors.

Over the next five months, Rick is considering 14 major tournaments, all selected to give him the necessary credits to play in major 2018 national events. The spreadsheet of events he intends to play included events in Augusta, Maine, then a drive over to Cortland, N.Y., then a flight to Tennessee to test the stamina of those Davy Crockett descendants on a pickleball court, and then West Virginia, and…

My very first thought was about the expense. His schedule is going to be expensive. What’s the cost of a hotel room today?

When I was playing tennis tournaments, my share of a hotel room in New York might cost $5. After being tossed down the laundry chute from the third floor as a prank by teammates, I became inclined to stay in single-level motels. My own motel room cost about $6.

A hamburger and a Coke might cost 25 cents, and a full breakfast was not much more. It was certainly not health food, but nary a pound popped up with all those hours on the court. The cost of gas,19 cents a gallon, which was a $3 fill-up — a lot if you didn’t have three bucks.

Leaving the entire political question aside as to why the costs have risen, I asked Rick if he was going to entertain sponsorship money to help with travel costs. He confirmed that he is seeking sponsors, and indeed he would be a great ambassador for Delaware and our businesses here.

I am sure that I speak for the entire Delaware pickleball community when I congratulate Rick, and wish him good luck on his 2018 tournament pickleball tour. Rick Bell’s pickleball hat trick is unlikely to ever be accomplished again in the history of pickleball, and we wish him well.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.