When retired rock star Gordon G.G. Gebert traded his keyboard for a pickleball paddle, he embarked on a journey that was as thrilling as any world tour. From diving head first into playing the sport to founding the National Pickleball League (NPL), Gebert’s story is a fascinating intersection of music, sports, and the relentless pursuit of passion.
Join us as we delve into Gebert’s world, exploring the intricacies of pickleball, the camaraderie it fosters, and his vision for the future of the sport. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or just curious, this tale of dedication, innovation, and pickleball is an ace.
Pickleball Rookie: Please introduce yourself.
Gordon G.G. Gebert: Hi, my name is Gordon G.G. Gebert. I’m actually a retired rock star. Keyboard player who performed, toured, recorded with the top rock bands/musicians in the world. Ace Frehley (KISS), Marty Balin (Jefferson Starship), Motley Crue, Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel), Angel, etc…
I was introduced to pickleball by my brother Warren in Port St Lucie, FL. Played one day and when I got back to Connecticut, I Googled “pickleball in my area” and found a pickleball ambassador/instructor Betsy Underhill. When I met her the conversation went like this.
Gordon: “Hi Betsy. I’d like you to teach me pickleball.”
Betsy: “Sure, I can teach you how to play.”
Gordon: “No, I want you to TEACH me pickleball.”
Betsy: “You seem like you’re on a mission?”
Gordon: “Yes, teach me pickleball so I can go back down to Florida and kick my brother’s ass!”
Betsy got a great laugh out of that. And we’ve become great friends ever since.
PR: Tell us about the very first time you heard the term “pickleball.”
GGGG: The first time I heard the term “pickleball” was from my brother Warren in Florida. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. What a goofy name for a game. And looking back, I’m sure I frustrated the hell out of the guys I played my first game with. They were patient and I had fun.
PR: What were your initial thoughts when you played pickleball for the first time? How often do you currently play?
GGGG: I play many sports (baseball, football, basketball, etc…). I was a decent ping pong player when I was a kid. I dabbled in tennis and have only one bragging right in tennis. I befriended tennis pro Vitas Gerulaitis through music, and he actually taught me a wicked tennis serve. After that, I was Jerry Lewis on the court.
My first time playing pickleball, I thought it was easy. Of course, I violated kitchen rules by stepping past the kitchen line with volleys, etc. I hit the balls too high. My footwork was atrocious. I was too excited on the court and moved around way too much. But I caught on to the basics of keeping the ball low, minimizing footwork, going for high-percentage shots, court positioning.
I got into trying to improve my play so much that I created the Slam Master Pickleball Practice/Training/Drill paddle. That paddle improved my game exponentially.
Today, I play almost every day. The Official NPL is a lot of administrative work, so it takes away some of my playing time.
PR: What was the motivation for starting NPL?
GGGG: I’ve played many tournaments and joined a few leagues. All the “flex” leagues I played in were too complicated. You had to get a partner, self-schedule matches, drive to your match. I would drive to a match, sometimes 45 minutes to an hour, the matches were 2 out of 3 games and were over in 25 minutes. There was more driving than pickleball.
I was playing so many rec games. It’s great exercise, but I wanted a bigger reward than just passing the time away playing. I would go home and forget scores, who I played with, etc.
My idea for the Official NPL was simple: “Make Your Rec Games Count.” Joining NPL, you just do what you’re already doing – playing local rec pickleball games but recording your scores.
It’s simple and easy.
Make your rec games count towards a goal. Playoffs and National Championship. Win something for all the recreational games you play. The league also offers perks from sponsors. It’s a brilliant model.
PR: What makes pickleball rec play so special?
GGGG: The best part of rec game pickleball is the obvious social aspect. You meet so many people from different backgrounds, different careers. You’re meeting new best friends through the love of the sport.
PR: Where do you see the sport of pickleball in 10 years?
GGGG: Very commercialized. The seeds are planted with all the different organizations MLP, PPA, etc. All the organizations cater to the “pro” players. My Official NPL is for ALL pickleball players in the whole United States. I’ve already been approached by organizers in India and Canada to join the league, so hopefully we will see an expansion to a world-wide league.
PR: What advice do you have for anyone who is on the fence about getting started or is an absolute beginner?
GGGG: Just get out there and play. It’s great exercise. It’s fun. It’s addictive.
PR: If you could make one change to the sport, what would it be?
GGGG: Hmmmm – good question. I’m sure I have many answers to that given more thought, but off the top of my head. On the serve, landing on the NVZ line should be good. That’s the only rule in a sport where a ball landing on a line is ruled out of bounds. LOL
PR: Where would your dream pickleball match take place? Give us specifics about the destination and why. Dream big!
GGGG: This year the NPL Grand Prize is a pickleball trip to Havana Cuba, Nov 29 – Dec 3rd. I’ve toured the world. Been to the North Pole. I would love to have the NPL Championship match each year a different exotic destination in the world. Hawaii, Tahiti, Greece, Italy, Japan, Australia, etc.
I always wanted to be an astronaut, so why not – THE MOON! Imagine that!