From a game he once believed was reserved for Florida fun to launching an AI tool that’s transforming the way we understand the sport, Ryan Hampton’s journey with pickleball is a positive one. Dive in as Ryan unveils his intriguing first encounter, his passion project PB Vision, and his celestial dreams for the ultimate pickleball match.
Pickleball Rookie: Introduce yourself. Please include a bit about your pickleball journey.
Ryan Hampton: I live in Georgia and got started with pickleball when I moved to a community that happened to have courts, and I Just joined in the fun. It was 2019, and we were all kind of learning together.
PR: Tell us about the very first time you heard the term “pickleball.”
RH: The first term I heard the word “pickleball” was as a kid.I figured it was a beach game for older Floridians, but not a real sport. So I was aware of it, I just didn’t know that it was like a serious sport and super fun to play once you got into it.
PR: What were your initial thoughts when you played pickleball for the first time? How often do you currently play?
RH: After I played for the first time, it was addicting. Because even back then, I didn’t know any real strategy or tactics for how to advance through levels. I didn’t even know about levels. I knew you’d swing the paddle, hit the ball. I learned the rules and then I started playing pretty regularly for a while. I was playing three or four days a week until I had kids. Now I usually play about two times a week: one time in a competitive group and one time in my local community just to have some fun.
PR: What was the motivation for starting PB Vision?
RH: I knew I wanted to improve my pickleball game to 4 or a 5 level. I spent some time with a coach and learned a lot about my play, but I really wanted to be able to do it without a coach and be able to analyze my data. I thought, this stuff should be able to be codified. At first I was going to start recording any time that I had an unforced error like dinking into the net or missing a serve.
I’ve been following developments in AI quite closely and fell in love with the idea of creating an AI tool that could analyze data. This led me to envision a coaching-style app that would assist users in viewing their stats and analyzing videos to provide insights. So I started searching the web. The idea began to brew late last year, and in March, my co-founder, Mike Arney, made a post on Reddit introducing Pickleball Vision and outlining some of the project’s goals. I reached out to him, letting him know that we shared the same vision and asking how I could help. We decided to start a company, making it official by developing a roadmap, crafting a marketing strategy, determining our funding approach, and diving right in. We hope to achieve something quite significant by the end of the year.
PR: Where do you see the sport of pickleball in 10 years?
RH: I see it in colleges for sure. It’s too addicting and so much fun to play. So I think pickleball is going into colleges and from there, once it starts to be more televised and at D1 colleges I think it will be in high schools. Some of the bigger high schools will feed those programs and kids will start playing it, growing up on it, and they’ll develop different strategies.
I think the game will change quite a bit. As much as people hate singles, I I think it’s here to stay even though it is hard on the body.
PR: So what advice would you have for anyone who is on the fence about getting started?
RH: Go out there with some people you know, either your family or friends, and have them show you, and maybe you’ll get hooked. And then start playing more with people around you at your skill level or maybe a little better to keep advancing.
PR: If you could make one change in the sport what would that be
RH: I would like to go to rally scoring. Also, I’m not a fan of singles but it is pretty cool to watch. And I know a lot of people definitely want a better scoring system and way to determine where people are at level-wise, which I hope PB Vision can actually do better than DUPR because it would be able to really know your strengths and weaknesses and put you in a category based on them.
PR: Where would your dream pickleball match take place?
RH: It’d be pretty sweet if it was on the moon if you could imagine trying to adjust to the different gravity. Playing on the moon seems like it could be possible in the next 50 years and since I still can play the sport when I’m 80, sounds like a plan!