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An Interview with Neil Friedenberg, Owner of PROLITE Sports

May 03, 2022

Neil Friedenberg is no stranger to the pickleball industry. He’s been involved in the sport for years. Learn more about the PROLITE Pickleball brand.

Neil Friedenberg, owner of PROLITE Sports, is no stranger to the pickleball industry. He’s been involved in the sport for years and has plenty of insights to offer about pickleball and his brand. During our Q&A with Neil, we got the scoop on what makes PROLITE a legacy brand and part of the sport’s diverse range of products.

Eli: What do you think sets PROLITE apart from other paddle brands?

Neil: PROLITE's been around for almost 40 years. So we saw the different aspects of the sport and how special it was early on. PROLITE was the first brand to ever bring paddles made out of something other than wood to the market, and then it’s just completely evolved.

Eli: Have there been any specific ways that you've seen PROLITE transform as pickleball has had this surge in popularity over the past couple of years?

Neil: We’ve seen that in our growth is not only having paddles but having grips, accessories, apparel items— they [customers] want to wear the brand, it’s becoming a lifestyle. And also with all the competition out there, you can't stay in your lane. I mean, if you stay in your lane and you're content, you're gonna lose out. So we're always exploring new ideas and new types of paddles.

And that’s just what PROLITE is doing. With their new LX series, they’ve dipped into serious players that want to experience a luxury, premium paddle.

PROLITE LX Series Pickleball Paddle

Eli: How does PROLITE continue to keep up the spirit of innovation?

Neil: I do like to research constantly. It sparks my interest because I feel like there are so many different materials that I want to know about…  I started just going down that rabbit hole of curiosity and looking at the different types of materials that I see. What does the ball do when it hits that material? So that constant curiosity is just part of my DNA.

Eli: What can PROLITE fans look forward to now that the weather is getting warmer?

Neil: The LX series that just launched, I think you're gonna see a lot of those at the courts. What's really neat about those.. when the paddle is in one direction or angle it’s silver, in another direction, it’s gold. It’s a very awesome performance paddle but also plays on the eyes a little bit, it’s an attractive practical series. Not only that, though, we're gonna be launching two new paddles that will compete with some other brands out there.

PROLITE Pickleball Paddles

After some discussion, Neil revealed to me how PROLITE has been switching gears and focusing on the larger demographics of pickleball: the average person that picked up the sport and those looking for a replacement for tennis.

Neil: But we basically redirected our philosophy because we noticed that… 99 percenters are people where most of them don't even know who the pros are, they just fall in love with the game… it's just great to see and so we focused more on that craft grassroots philosophy.

Eli: So what sort of wants or needs have you addressed with pickleball players over the years?

Neil:  And at the beginning, we had paddles with longer handles, and the longer handle paddles actually didn't sell very well. No one wanted that because, with pickleball paddles, length plus width cannot exceed 24 inches. So we started phasing those out because they weren't really selling on one, or long handle, that's often how tennis players do handed backhand. They do want that.

Neil and PROLITE aren’t afraid to drop a design completely if it doesn’t fit the player’s needs. Seeing that a lot of former tennis players were coming into pickleball, he modified the PROLITE design to reflect the learned hand dexterity of that demographic, making shorter handles that could easily be used in backhand swings.

Eli: What do you personally love about PROLITE?

Neil: We’re building a brand, a legacy brand… The whole evolution of the game and our brand, for again, almost 40 years— is very special to me. I’m passionate. I still love to teach at clinics all the time. We have a lot of cool things, we spread the brand, spread the game, and the love of the game. We have a trading program where they trade in their ProLites and we donate them to schools. There’s so much more I can probably say but I’m very attached to it. It’s a family. This brand is a family.

Prolite Pickleball Clinic

The full line-up of PROLITE's new LX Series of pickleball paddles is available now at Fromuth Pickleball. Click here to shop pickleball paddles from PROLITE.

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