Questions & Answers with ProLite Pickleball Owner, Neil Friedenberg

(Simone Jardim - Neil Friedenberg)

He’s not a large statured man, nor is he loud. You wouldn’t notice anything particular about him in a crowd but you may notice his intentionally uncoordinated apparel on the pickleball court.

A quiet, 39-year-old former west coaster, Neil Friedenberg is the owner of ProLite Sports. He is the force behind the sport’s well-known, highly recognized, best quality pickleball paddles on the market.

You may have heard about his father, Mark (Yoda) Friedenberg who is a pickleball legend. Truth is though, not many people know Neil. He has a dry, warped sense of humor, strong principles, stands up for what’s right, is kind, loves to compete (but doesn’t get to play enough), has a beautiful wife and 3 fantastic kids, and he lives in a beautiful little town on the western shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.

I asked Neil a few questions to share with all of you. Hopefully, this will give you a better sense of the man behind the company and why ProLite pickleball paddles are so “Revered”.

Q: What is the one thing about your game you really want to change?
A: I think sometimes I can be too patient and relaxed and that can cause me to not take advantage of some opportunities where I should have been aggressive.

Q: What shot would you like to perfect?
A: What does perfect mean? I know I want to improve a lot, but that takes more time on the courts. Not always easy to do. If I had to choose, I would say a stronger backhand with pinpoint accuracy.

Q: Who do you admire most in the sport of pickleball?
A: I could easily say Wes Gabrielsen. He is so humble, respectful, honest, and of course a great player. I value the character of a person more than anything. BUT who do I admire the most? That would be a group of players. The fighters. The players who have gone to battle and overcome. The ones who were diagnosed with forms of cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, saw tragedy in their lives, and fought! I have had the chance to hear so many beautiful and amazing stories of resilience. I am so appreciative for that and admire that group of pickleball players.

Q: What is one thing that most people don't know about you?
A: I saw Karate Kid when I was younger, sometime in the 80's, and I wanted to be him. I even took TaeKwonDo at the local Federal Way, Washington Boys and Girls Club and attained a white belt - you know the one they just give to you for being on the roster. That was the only belt I ever received........I sucked!

Q: If you were a girl player - who would you be?
A: Simone Jardim. That 2 handed backhand is killer. Can I have it? Kidding aside, she is a fierce competitor, brings the tennis background to the table and never backs down from playing her game.

Q: What is your first memory of pickleball?
A: Back in the late 1980's playing pickleball with my dad at the Weyerhauser fitness center downstairs. I loved the sport then and love it even more now.

Q: What foods and drinks you consume during a tournament?
A: Gatorade, water, and granola.

Q: What would most people be surprised to know about you?
A: I am writing a book.

Q: What is your dream car?
A: A 1983 Chrysler LeBaron with a couple missing hubcaps and a bad transmission....maroon in color preferably.

Q: What is your favorite beer?
A: Mmmmmm beer. I drink Shock Top Belgian White, but also like to try a variety of microbrews from different areas.

Q: What one tournament would you most like to win?
A: They are all fun and I always try to win, but I am pretty honest with myself. I try to limit errors, play intelligently, and try to execute a plan if there is one. With so many great players out there, it isn’t easy, especially at the big-time events. I look at those more for experiences with a lot of good friends.

Q: What tournament would you like to play in that you haven't already?
A: The Olympic qualifying tournament.....just a matter of time right? Pickleball is heading there. Lets see it where it belongs. The Olympics baby!!!!

Q: What is your favorite paddle of all time?
A: I love the vintage paddles that sometimes come in for new grips. The old school ProLite's from the 80's and 90's are cool. It shows where the game was and where it has gone. For playing and how it handles on the courts today though, I have to say the Titan Pro.

Q: What sports celebrity would you most like to meet?
A: I grew up idolizing Magic Johnson, Andre Agassi, Dan Marino, Jack Nicklaus, and others. I am a father now and I look back on what posters I had on my wall. Jose Canseco, McGwire to name a few. In my son, Erick's room, he has Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers up. I love that! Those are the two I would like to meet and say, "Thank you. Thank you for being stand up human beings, doing things the right way, and being role models for my son."

Gold medal winners Neil Fridenberg (center right) with Men's doubles partner Steve Kennedy (center left)