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Pickletopia hosts inaugural Savvy Slam on Oct. 21

A trio of pickleball instructors has been giving private lessons. Now, they figure, it’s time to host a tournament. The Savvy Slam is slated for Oct. 21 at Rowlett Park in Tampa.


Debbie Cagnina, Lisa Krawetz and Trevor Smith aim to do their part in promoting a sport they are enamored with — as is the case with countless players who have tried the game in

recent years.


“We all met playing pickleball,” Krawetz said. “We love it and we all have a vision to help others. We take great pride in the vibe. It’s all about creating community.”

Trevor Smith, Lisa Krawetz and Debbie Cagnina pose for a group photo.
Trevor Smith, Lisa Krawetz and Debbie Cagnina are instructors with Pickletopia.

All of the three have won their share of tournaments as they have risen among the ranks. Like plenty of others, though, they relish the camaraderie shared by newfound pickleball enthusiasts as well as experienced players.


“For me, it was just the competitiveness,” said Cagnina, who used to play a lot of racquetball and volleyball before taking lessons at the Hillsborough Community College courts. “I like how pickleball makes me feel and how it affects my life, so I want to push that onto others.”


Like many people, Smith, a former Division I lacrosse player, was not a top player from the get-go. He began playing with his father at Coquina Key condominiums, using cheap wooden paddles, he said.

Trevor Smith hits a forehand shot from the backline.
Trevor Smith hits a forehand shot from the backline.

Starting out in a beginner’s league at HCC, the mortgage broker improved his game and began winning. Then he met Cagnina, retired from a law enforcement career, and Krawetz, a retired nurse, and the three decided to get certified and become instructors.


“We really care,” Smith said.


Caring is how the leaders of Pickletopia decided on a charity for the tournament. Savvy

Giving by Design is a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides comfort, support and healing to

families with children facing a medical crisis. They do that by transforming interior home

spaces at no cost.

Debbie Cagnina reaches for the ball to keep a volley going.
Debbie Cagnina reaches for the ball to keep a volley going.

Hence the name, Savvy Slam.


“That one was dear to my heart,” Krawetz said of the group’s chosen charity. “It’s so important to have a home-healing environment.”

Lisa Krawetz returns a ball over the net.
Lisa Krawetz returns a ball over the net.

So far, Pickletopia’s trio of instructors has given lessons at people’s home courts and at various places throughout the city. Krawetz said they are working with city officials to give lessons at specific courts.


Savvy Giving by Design has previously benefited from charitable golf tournaments, but

Krawetz has other ideas on future fundraisers for that nonprofit.


“We think the Savvy Slam will be here to stay,” she said.


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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