Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on Pickle Ball influencer Sonia Ode Lucci.

The Venice Paparazzi’s “In the Spotlight” is an interview series that highlights people and organizations in the Venice community.  The purpose is to shine a light on all the positive things being done by the fantastic folks in our town!

What is the name of your organization and what does it do?

USA Pickelball.  The mission of the organization is to promote the development and growth of Pickleball. Also, to develop public interest and participation, as we are doing in Venice Beach.

Who helps run the organization, and who participates? is the national governing body for the sport in the U.S and provides players with official rules, tournament rankings and promotional products.

How long has your group been around? Why and how did you get started?  Where did the idea or inspiration come from?

The Venice Beach Pickleball program was started in 2014 by Doug Nichols. It began with the idea of playing Pickleball in the Paddle Tennis courts. We brought our nets since Paddle Tennis nets are three inches shorter and created Pickleball in Venice. 

Doug handed the program over to Linda Abale when she started the Santa Monica program. She ran it for several years until she had to move and handed the program to me. I have been running the program since 2017. My wish is to play Pickleball in Venice Beach 7 days a week, instead of just twice a week.

How many events have your hosted? Share with us one of your favorite events/memories.

We have hosted 576 events, and I have so many beautiful memories of players from out of town to experience playing in Venice Beach. We’ve had players from:

Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Connecticut, Alabama, and Arizona. The camaraderie in Pickleball is unsurpassed, and when you become part of the sport, you automatically become part of a worldwide community. Pickleball is the only sport with apps to find places to play worldwide; the Pickleball Finder is one of them.

How does your organization/events give back to the community?

The organization gives back to the community by having an open play, with equipment included at different locations ran by volunteer ambassadors that help individuals learn the sport. Pickleball is very easy to learn, and it’s so much fun. It helps people stay healthy by keeping their bodies in motion and also connected to a worldwide community.

How are you surviving Covid-19 and the lockdowns? What moves or pivots has your organization made?

I have survived Covid by working on my yard, planting flowers; also writing poetry, and taking long rides to Palos Verdes to a place I call “The View.” It has the most beautiful view of the ocean.  

We make sure we wear our masks when we are close, but we take them off when we play. So far, not one person in our group has gotten Covid; thank God!

During Covid. Here is where we played.

What support do you need? How can one help your organization?

I want two of the courts to stay as designated pickleball courts for daily use, not just twice a week. If that could happen, that would be wonderful and more people can get involved and have fun.

How will you celebrate “post covid” times? 

I will enjoy going to the movies, concerts, parties, and spending more time with my friends.

Anything else that you want to share with our readers? Announcements, accomplishments, awards received, upcoming events, etc?

I have been offering complimentary Paddle Tennis lessons through the Venice Beach Recreational Center since 1997. I am a 12 time National Doubles Paddle Tennis Champion and a one-time National Mixed Doubles Champion. I received the Miss Paddle Tennis Award in 2013. In 2000 I received a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles to make L.A. a better place to live.

Define success

Success is finding your passion and making it a living.

When you follow your passion, joy will follow.

What is the best advice you have received

If it doesn’t have to do with your health, don’t worry about it because life takes care of itself.

Live in the present. It’s the best antidote for anxiety.

Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote

There is power in positive thinking.

The Pressure is the Pleasure.

Venice Questions

Describe Venice

Venice Beach is like a Carnival without the rides. The pure positive energy in Venice is indescribable. Venice, for me, is a place you go to when you feel lost, and then you find yourself. It’s a place that does not judge; it’s loving, caring, giving, and most of all, very unique.

What do you do for fun in Venice?

I play Pickleball and Paddle Tennis and enjoy going to my favorite restaurant on the Boardwalk, the Sidewalk Café.

What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?

The first day I came to Venice Beach in 1982, and picked up a paddle tennis paddle and started playing Paddle Tennis. It was love at first hit.

Any shout-outs or thank you’s?

I want to thank Alex and Edizen for all their work, caring so much for the Venice Community, and helping put Venice Beach on the map for all the great work they do through Venice   Paparazzi. Keep up the excellent work!!

Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?

I think Kristen Archival, the Manager from the Sidewalk Café would be a great candidate. She started working as a waitress there almost 40 years ago, and she has transformed the restaurant and made it a success. She also always sponsors the Paddle Tennis tournaments we have in Venice Beach. She is just an all-around great person.

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