DURHAM – In October of 2022, a pair of Duke women’s soccer alumnae — Kaitlyn Kerr and Callie Simpkins — went in together with other investors and purchased the Las Vegas Night Owls team of Major League Pickleball.
GoDuke.com caught up with the Blue Devils to talk about how they got into pickleball and how things have been going since taking over the team. Kerr is a 2014 Duke graduate, while Simpkins graduated in 2013.
GoDuke.com: How did you end up going in together and purchasing a professional Pickleball team?
Kaitlyn Kerr: I had met the founder of Major League Pickleball, Steve Kuhn. When we heard he was selling expansion teams in the summer of 2022, we reached out because Callie and I thought we could put together a great group of investors to purchase one. In October, we officially purchased the Las Vegas Night Owls with Knighthead Capital, Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters.
Callie Simpkins: Kaitlyn and I stayed very close after Duke, as she came to work on Wall Street, where I started (and still am pursuing) my career. Then we bought houses in the same town on the Jersey Shore – so in addition to speaking all week about our respective finance careers, we were spending weekends and then all of peak COVID times together down the shore. We were looking for new adventures together in 2020-21 when we were both down the shore full time and started playing Pickleball. Kaitlyn went down a rabbit hole with the sport – she started playing in tournaments, met a bunch of people and pro’s in the community and then started her @pickleballchick Instagram account to be the voice of Pickleball lovers. I’ve always known Kaitlyn as a winner and wanted to not support her new passion but find a way to invest in her. So, when she mentioned to me that Major League Pickleball was going to be selling expansion teams in the Fall of 2022, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to buy the team with her and we put together a top notch ownership group alongside our friends at Knighthead Capital, Kim Clijsters, and Tom Brady.
GD: How long have you been playing pickleball yourself?
KK: After having countless knee surgeries during my time at Duke leaving me with a hole in my femur, post college I was unable to run or jump. I couldn’t find a sport to play that I was passionate about. In March of 2021, I found…