Alison Fulton, Gold Medalist – Pickleball in Scotland

We are always glad to hear about international pickleball group start-ups.  Anna interviewed Pickleball Pro Alison Fulton, and she tells you right away where she’s from!  Enjoy!
Alison: Hi, I’m Alison Fulton, from Scotland.

Anna: Great, and Alison, so we’re at the USAPA National Pickleball Tournament and you have a medal around your neck.

Alison: Yes, it’s a gold medal for the 55 and over Ladies Doubles so I’m … after that.

Anna: Great, and who was your partner in that?

Alison: Denise Boutin, from The Villages in Florida.

Anna: Great. So you’re from Scotland.

Alison: Yup.

Anna: And you’re playing in the United States Pickleball Association National Tournament. Tell us the story about how you got into pickleball.

Well, my mom lives in The Villages, so I go over and visit her on vacation and things and then I just spent more and more time there playing some pickleball and Denise asked me to play a couple of years ago so we’ve been playing some tournaments in the last two or three years, which has been great fun.

Anna:  Great and is pickleball only played in, I mean, is there any pickleball in Scotland?

Alison:  We’ve just started a group. We’ve got three or four groups going in the last year. And it’s taking off. Everyone is really enjoying it and having great fun.

Anna:  And where in Scotland are you from?

Alison: Glasgow.  Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland.

Anna: Great.

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Deb Harrison

Deb Harrison Bantam 2

Deep Love comes to mind when you pair up the name “Deb Harrison” with the game of pickleball!  Deb is deeply in love with teaching and playing this crazy game.  I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do!  I guess I’m going to have to add “travel to The Villages” to my bucket list, so I can take Deb’s “Intense Pickleball Camp!”

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

I have received numerous Gold and Silver medals in 11 years of competing in tournaments. I was selected “Most Decorated Gold Medalist of the Decade” in the 2010 Florida Senior Games. I have attended the Huntsman World Senior Games for 5 years. I love the ambiance and hospitality of St. George and the tournament organizers. I won Gold, Silver, or Bronze each year in Women’s Doubles with various partners, Women’s Singles, and Mixed Doubles with Bill Freeman. At the Geezermeister (aka Geezerjock) Tournament, I’ve won Gold and Silver Medals in 10 years of participation.
Some additional tournament accomplishments include:
Solivita Senior Games Gold in Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles with Bill Freeman (10 years)
2015 Winter Garden Tournament Women’s 5.0, Gold
2015 Riverbend Tournament Women’s 5.0, Gold
2015 Englewood Tournament Women’s 5.0, Gold
2015 Naples Tournament 2015 Mixed 5.0 Gold, Women’s 5.0 Silver, Women’s Singles 5.0 Gold
2011 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles 50+ and Open Division, Silver, with Lydia Fenster Willis

2009 USAPA Nationals, Mixed Doubles Gold 55-59 age group
2006 – Geezermeister (aka Geezerjock) Mixed Doubles with Bill Freeman –

What paddle do you play with and why?

Deb harrison stratus

I use the newest Paddletek paddle, the Stratus.

PTK007-1

Paddletek Stratus Paddle

It is a teardrop shape and is probably one of the lightest paddles made. It weighs about 7.1 oz. and is made of polymer honeycomb inside with a fiberglass face. I like it a lot for its maneuverability (lightness).  The shape has no dead spots, almost guaranteeing a center hit 95% of the time. The Stratus has good pop and even better balance for power and touch. I enjoy the deeply throated sound coming off the center of the paddle and would find it very difficult to change to another paddle.

What’s your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball?

I was introduced to Pickleball in 2004 in Ft. Myers, Florida, at a retirement community that had one pickleball court. I loved the sport from the very beginning and was quickly one of the more accomplished players on this one court. I visited friends in The Villages in late 2004 and saw all eighty or so pickleball courts, (now over 140) which prompted me to put 2 homes and a business up for sale!  I tried to move to The Villages as quickly as possible. I managed to finalize my plans on July 1, 2005, after selling everything that we could not fit into 2 cars. I moved to the Villages and have not stopped playing pickleball since. I play almost every day, 7 days a week from 8 am to 10:30 am. I play every day it is not raining!! I also manage to fit in an afternoon session a couple of days a week. I teach pickleball full-time to many residents and guests of the Villages, and I offer an “Intense Pickleball Camp”, which includes 10 hours of instruction and my own workbook, that takes the “camper” through all I know about the game of Pickleball.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I prefer the outdoor courts because of the challenge of the many variables that affect the game: the sun, wind, rain and the net, for example. The indoor courts are okay, and I like the sound that echoes off your paddle in indoor play, but I really enjoy being outside with all the elements. The court surface is also different, outdoors versus indoors, and the nets are less ‘forgiving’ on the outside courts.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I enjoy doubles better due to the many possibilities that exist in the game. Doubles is a huge chess match between 4 players and the play is soft, hard, short, deep with spins, flat shots, volleys, drops, et cetera. You and your partner work together to manipulate the ball to your advantage. Singles is more for the depth and pace of your ground strokes and reading the plays for when to come to net to execute the winning volley.

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

I love to play in St. George, Utah during the Huntsman World Senior Games. The panoramic view is beautiful and the city of St. George and its residents welcome you with open arms. The tournament is age and skill-based as well and makes for competitive pickleball for the 50+ crowd of players. I also love being able to spend several hours in Las Vegas and Mesquite Casinos playing Texas Hold Em!!!

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

I suggest isolating the many components of the game and find a group or individuals to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. Your aim is to be the best dropper and soft game specialist!  Another tip is to always recognize the elevated ball and punish your opponent’s blunders with power and placement. Unforced errors win/lose games more than the heroic magnificent shots. Shot selection is mostly based on your opponent’s positions on the court and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Always look for skills and techniques that you can steal from talented players and begin applying to your own game. It is never ending and rich with possibilities.

What is your day job?

Since I am considered ‘RETIRED’, I can make time for “the 3 P’s”:  Pickleball, Ping Pong, and Poker, all the things I love!   My ‘day job’ is teaching pickleball, playing pickleball, teaching table tennis, playing table tennis and playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker!

Deb Harrison smile jpeg

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make the time to play?

I probably play 14-22 hours a week and teach about 8-10 hours a week. I drill any chance I can and I have an Advanced Women’s Group (Deb’s Pickle Picks) that I supervise for 3 hours on one day a week. I also provide 2 days of clinics, open to The Villages residents. I have taught classes for The Villages “Life Long Learning Colleges” for 10 years as well.

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?

I would like to be a better ‘banger’ of the ball. If I were to employ all the ‘tricks of the trade’ that I teach, I would be magnificent! But I need to practice them all routinely so that muscle memory gives me the skill and courage to attempt particular shots in the game. I would like to find both a male and female partner that are compatible with my style of play. I also would like to travel to participate in many of the better tournaments. I especially would like to participate in the Tournament of Champions in 2015 and USAPA Nationals in 2015, before it is too late for an old geezer like me!!

Sorry, but I don’t think “old geezer” should be part of your vocabulary!  Anyone who loves pickleball as much as you do will always be YOUNG at Heart!  Thanks, Deb for sharing your story!

Can you recall the History of Pickleball Composite Paddles? Steve can!

We are so glad to know Steve Paranto!  He is a wealth of information about all things pickleball.  In this installment,  Anna interviews Steve about the history of composite paddles and Pro-Lite Sports. Enjoy!

Anna:  Okay, so, here we have Steve Paranto. And Steve has a long history of pickleball. Steve if you could tell us about when you started playing and what kind of paddle you used.

Steve:  My very first exposure to pickleball was my community college, which is a suburb of Seattle, where the sport, near where the sport was invented, Green River Community College. And all the tennis players, I was a tennis player, during our lunches, we would go in and play pickleball and the first two weeks of college our professors went on strike. So we felt like, well we’re not going to class, let’s play pickleball all day and we did that. And back then our paddles were wooden paddles with holes in them and they weighed about 13 ounces, so they were very heavy.

Anna: And you said that your dad..

Steve:  So my dad would follow us around to tournaments and my dad was a Boeing engineer and he was an athletic person, so he loved sports and would root us on. And the partner I had at the time, we did fairly well, but we kept losing in the semis and finals to the same people over and over. And I was frustrated and I came home one day and I said, “You know these paddles, these wooden paddles are too heavy.” I weighed a pickleball paddle and I weighed a pickleball and they were thirteen times heavier than the ball. I weighed a tennis racket at the time and a tennis ball, and they were seven times heavier. And I said, “The ratio is off.” So a week later, Dad makes two prototypes out of Boeing floor paneling, he was an engineer at Boeing and we had the prototypes, we went to the next tournament and beat those guys, the same guys that we were losing to and that was the start of the company.

Anna:  I am curious about the facings on those. Were they graphite facing?

Steve:  They were fiberglass, they were fiberglass the very first (ones). They were honeycomb, just like everything you see now is basically a copy of some sort of that material.

Anna:  Do you know what year that was?

Steve: That was 1984.

Anna: And did it have an edge guard on it or how did that..?

Steve:  That was the only part of the paddle my dad did not manufacture, we had that molded by a company. My dad made every single portion of that paddle in our garage in Eatonville, Washington.

Anna:  And then, what about the grips and the build ups on those?

Steve:  Oh well, Dad did that out of a foam material, cut that out of foam. He did that all himself. Beveled it. Had a process to bevel it and then we would be gripping paddles. It was about a 22 step process to make a paddle.

Anna:  And you made them in your, your garage?

Steve:  Garage.

Anna:  Right! Did your dad play pickleball too?

Steve:  …he did and he got very good for senior level. He was winning local stuff for his age. He is 84 now, so. At that time, he was younger than I am now. So it’s kind of hard for me to believe when I look at those old pictures that, “Hey Dad, you’re younger there in that picture than I am now.”

Anna:  Right. Your dad started the company Pro-Lite.

Steve:  He started Pro-Lite.

Anna:  And he named it Pro-Lite because of…

Steve:  Well, it was the lightest paddle available and we thought we’d put “Pro” in front of it. The lightning bolt came from watching the movie “The Natural” by Robert Redford. We were watching the movie when we were starting the company and we liked how Robert Redford put the lightning bolt on his bat. So the next day we had a lightning bolt as our logo.

Anna:  Great. And then you guys sold the company to..?

Steve:  We sold it to Mark Kendall Lario who then a couple years later sold it to Mark Friedenberg and now Mark Friedenberg’s son, Neil has it.

Anna:  Very good. Well, thank you Steve, so much for sharing with us the history of the paddle.

Steve: Yeah, you’re welcome.

It is so good to hear this story.  Pickleball started as a cottage industry and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years.  If you have a good story about the history of pickleball, just shoot me an email, eliza@pickleballcentral.com.

Meet the Pickleball Pros: The Elliott Family

Elliott Family

The Elliott Family at the Englewood Tourney, Englewood, Florida

If you attended the 2014 USAPA Nationals, you have certainly heard of the Elliott Family!  Robert, Jodi, Joshua and Rachel are an excellent example of saying: “the family that plays together, stays together!”  Nicer folks I have never “met” over the phone.  Competition for medals is not their only goal.  They each strive to play their best game, win or lose.  I hope you enjoy reading about their family success story that is leading them to pickleball GOLD!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

Jodi won Bronze at the 2014 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles 35+, with Lydia Willis
Rachel won Gold at the 2014 USAPA Nationals, Junior Mixed Doubles, with brother Josh, Silver in Jr. Women’s Singles.
Joshua won Gold at 2014 USAPA Nationals, Jr. Men’s Singles, Jr. Men’s Doubles, Jr. Mixed Doubles
Robert won Gold at the 2014 USAPA Nationals, Men’s Doubles 19+ with Kyle Yates, and Gold at the  Tournament of Champions, Men’s Singles Masters

What paddle do you play with and why?

SEL225-2T

SELKIRK 200P POLYMER CORE COMPOSITE

Jodi and Rachel: the Selkirk 200P. Jodi likes if for the light weight and for maneuverability at the net. Rachel likes it for the power it gives her backhand.

EVO Composite Paddle

EVO I COMPOSITE PADDLE

Joshua and Robert: the ZZT Sports EVO II. Joshua: I like the lighter, smaller paddle. When people hit hard, he can get to the play quickly. Robert: I like the Aluminum core, it withstands a lot of play. It doesn’t break down. I like the size of the paddle. When you’re at the net, you can trust it. Anywhere you hit, it returns the ball over the net into the kitchen. It has a lot of control.

What’s your family’s pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

Jodi’s parents moved to The Villages, Florida 8 years ago. Jodi and Robert lived in Massachusetts at the time. Her parents sent a pickleball starter set that they played with on their lop-sided driveway. They would also play pickleball when they vacationed at The Villages. Because of their growing love for pickleball, and to be around Jodi’s parents, the whole Elliott family moved to Florida 3 years ago. Pickleball easily became a part of their daily routine.  Some friends helped them learn how to dink and they have been going on an upward spiral in competition ever since.  Rachel and Joshua get to practice daily with other players at their level. Robert has a tennis background and has always been a 5.0 player.  Jodi loves how her parents come to watch her games. Jodi started competing 2 years ago.  Rachel started playing at age 10.  Joshua started playing at age 12.  1 1/2 years ago, Joshua started entering more competitive play.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

110% OUTDOORS! This is the unanimous response of all four of the Elliott family members. Jodi likes to play outdoors because she gets a tan. Joshua doesn’t like the confusion of indoor court lines. Robert doesn’t like the play of the softer indoor ball.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Jodi and Robert Elliott

Jodi and Robert at 2014 USAPA Nationals

Jodi: I prefer doubles. It’s nice to have the other half of the court covered.
Rachel: I’ll play singles or doubles. I only play doubles with my brother. I prefer junior singles to Women’s doubles.
Joshua: I prefer singles. I can hit ALL the balls. I can make all the mistakes.
Robert: It fluctuates. I guess I like singles better because it’s more engaging. I get to hit the ball more often and it involves more exercise, more running. The singles game takes a lot more out of you.

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

Again, it’s unanimous! The Villages, Florida is their favorite place to play.
Jodi: I’m comfortable with the pick-up matches that happen on a daily basis. Today, I got to play with Brian and Matt Staub! Practicing with National Champions helps me build my confidence. It helps me get the game more solidly in my head. Another perk at The Villages is that bottled water and pickleballs are always provided.
Rachel: I love playing at the Pimlico Recreation Center at The Villages. People are nice and there is lots of competition.
Joshua: I also like to play at Nationals.

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

Jodi: We drill a lot together. Robert is a good teacher. He is showing us how to improve our ground strokes. If we can master the ground stroke, we are better able to block volleys.
Joshua: Drilling is very important. It is also important to be mentally tough and physically fit. I keep in my mind that I’m in it not to lose, rather than being in it to win it.
Robert: Honestly, my secret sauce is “PATIENCE!” My tip for players is: have both a soft and hard playing style.

What is your day job?

Jodi: I’m a “Stay At Home” Mom. We are homeschooling Rachel and Joshua, so I am available to give them guidance in their schoolwork. I also give pickleball lessons at the Villages. I call them “Second Hand” lessons, because I’m just channeling Robert’s coaching. We have a website, pickleballinstructions.com  where people can sign up to take our lessons. We are also very family-oriented, so we always play pickleball together.
Robert: My day job is working as an IT Consultant for a big consulting firm.  I am also a pickleball instructor and coach for my family.  I feel pretty lucky to have the family I have!

How many hours a week do you play?

How do you make the time to play?
Jodi and Robert: we play every day for 2-3 hours a day
Rachel and Joshua: 4 days a week for 1-2 hours

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?

Jodi: I want to work more on my head in the game. I hope to teach more pickleball in the future. I’m also interested in helping my kids to achieve their pickleball goals.

Rachel Elliott

Rachel at the South Atlantic Regionals, Naples, Florida

Rachel: I want to get up to a 5.0 so I can play with my mom in doubles. I want to beat my parents. I’m a 3.5 now. If dad keeps coaching me, I’ll be 5.0 in 2 years.

Joshua Elliott

Joshua at 2014 USAPA Nationals

Josh: My goal is to get from a 4.0 to a 4.5 rating in 1 year.
Rob: My goal is to have a medal in all events at the USAPA Nationals and in the Tournament of Champions at Ogden, Utah.

Any advice/ anything else you would like to share?

Jodi: I love the friendships we have built with people who love this game. I love to laugh and have a good time. I got a huge compliment from a player at Nationals because I was the only person who said hello. I think we need name tags at nationals, maybe names on the visors would be a good idea. As far as advice goes, if you have to work on something, work on you head: work on knowing that you can be as good or as fast as you wont to in this game.
Rachel: #1. Don’t underestimate the older folks. #2. If parents are busy, ask grandparents to play.
#3. Take every chance to keep practicing.

Robert: I’d rather that we all play our best game and lose, than to win an easy match. My dad always pushed to win “at all costs”.  I prefer to practice good sportsmanship, like when a competitor pulled a muscle and couldn’t finish the game, I chose to forfeit, rather than claim a win.
Joshua: It’s a blast to play. Pickleball is a game for all people, it’s a fun sport for the whole family. I enjoy playing with my grandparents. They used to win, but now, I can beat them.

Thank you so much, Elliott family, for sharing your story and your love of pickleball with our readers.   May all your hopes and pickleball dreams come true. 

Steve Paranto Interview – Remembering the World’s First Pickleball Tournament

It is always wonderful to hear the stories of how pickleball got started and how it has grown over the years.  Anna Copley was able to catch Steve Paranto at the USAPA Nationals last November, for a brief conversation about the World’s First Pickleball Championship in Seattle, Washington.  Listen for Steve’s confession in this video.  Enjoy!

Video Transcript:

Anna: Here we have Steve Paranto and he was at the first pickleball tournament.
Steve: It was billed as “The World’s First Pickleball Championship” in a suburb of Seattle, at the Southcenter Athletic Club. It was either ’75 or ’76. It was the spring. And Joel Pritchard, one of the main inventors stood up on a chair and kicked the tournament off and told us the rules. Back then the matches were three out of five to eleven not two out of three. So it was a long match when you played singles and the surface was carpet and so the rallies were very good because carpet slows, kind of like clay court version of pickleball, so it was different because of that, it was and we had a blast. About 50-60, either they were tennis players that learned at their community college or high school or they were guys who worked at Weyerhaeuser, the company, because they had a private indoor court and they played every day at lunch time. And that was pretty much all the participants in that “World’s First Tournament”.

Anna: How many people do you think..?
Steve: There were about 60 to 70 players. My partner, Dave Lester won that, and I took second and we lost the doubles. So, I am the “World’s First Loser” of pickleball.  And I just talked to Matthew Blom, who is one of the great players of today. He was taught how to play by Dave Lester, my partner, who is the world’s first ever champion of pickleball. Dave Lester,… and he is teaching at a college, Concordia College in Minnesota, and that’s where Matthew Blom spent his time learning the game from my first partner.

Anna: Thank you Steve.
Steve: You’re welcome.

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Lydia Willis

Lydia Willis playingLydia “heard it through the grapevine” that I was interested in interviewing her for our “Meet the Pickleball Pros” blog series.  We had a wonderful conversation over the phone about her love of all racquet sports and her new love: pickleball.  Thanks so much, Lydia, for sharing your enthusiastic story with us!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

I have been competing at the USAPA Nationals since 2010, and I have earned a medal every time in Mixed Doubles:

2014 – Open with Kyle Yates, Bronze Medal
2013 – Open with Enrique Ruiz, Bronze Medal
2012 – Open with Steve Wong, Gold Medal
2011 – 19+ with Steve Wong, Silver Medal
2010 – Senior 50+ with Jeff Shank
, Gold Medal
2010 – Open with Steve Wong, Bronze Medal
In Women’s events:
2014 Women’s Doubles 35+ with Jodi Elliott, Bronze Medal
2013 Women’s Doubles 50+ with Mona Burnett, Gold Medal
2012 Open Women’s Doubles with Heidi Hancock, Silver Medal
2011 Women’s Doubles 50+ with Deb Harrison, Silver Medal
2011 Women’s Singles, Silver Medal
2010 Women’s Singles 50+, Gold Medal

What paddle do you play with and why?

Lydia Willis

I used to play with the Legacy paddle. I play with Paddletek paddles now, and the most recent paddle I use is the Paddletek Element paddle.

PTK006-2T

I like the durability and I like the pop of this paddle. It has great power and touch. It is the best paddle I’ve put in my hand so far.

What’s your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball?

I was introduced to pickleball when I moved to The Villages, Florida 10 ½ years ago. I was big into racquetball before moving to The Villages. If I had had a coach when I was young, I could have been a tennis pro. Raquet sports have been a life-long practice of mine.  Steve Wong saw me play, he needed a partner and invited me to play with him.  That’s how I got started competing in tournaments.

Lydia Willis and Steve Wong  What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

OUTDOORS! I’ve never played indoors.

  Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

  I like doubles better. I like how you really have to connect with your partner. Communication is important, like calling out if you can return the ball. In competition, together you scope out the other team and share with each other their strengths and weaknesses. Doubles play also seems to have a nicer flow to it.

 

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

I live in The Villages! Need I say more? We don’t have many tournaments, but I love to play here. In March we’ll be having a Pro Exhibition. Lots of folks from across the country plus good local folk will be playing. We have fun. We work to make each other look good. We can also be a bit goofy, which adds to the fun of the game.

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

Learn how to land the 3rd shot drop. Always stop before you hit the ball. Always keep the ball in play. Let the opponent make the mistakes. Hit the ball out front, not from behind.

What is your day job?

I am retired.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make the time to play?

I play 7 days a week and about 4 hours a day.

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?

I received lots of compliments on my game at Nationals. I played my best in the 19+ Mixed, playing with the “kids”. That being said, I’m ready to play more in my own league. I’m tired of playing the Wes Gabrielsen types. I’m looking at playing more in the “Legacy” category and hope to do well in the 50+ category.  When I “grow up” I hope to be as good as Hilary Marold.

Anything else you’d like to say as one of the best Pickleball players in the world?

It is an honor to represent the Villages as one of the top women players. It’s incredible. In my first year, no one knew me. Now, lots of folks know me and appreciate how I play.  And this is how I grow in the game:
I remain teachable!

Thank you so much, Lydia for sharing your pickleball story with us, and thanks for the tip on playing with my co-workers!  Pickle on!

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Billy Jacobsen

Billy at net

Billy Jacobsen’s name is synonymous with “Pickleball Pro”  Everybody knows Billy.  Shirley Shepherd, president of Pickleball Canada, posted on Billy’s Facebook page in September: “Congratulations Billy on your Silver medal and cash prize at the Tournament of Champions in Utah!”  Billy is a pickleball star!  I’m so glad he agreed to share some of his story here.  Thanks, Billy!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

At USAPA Nationals: Open Singles – 1 gold, 2 bronze medals
                                     Open Men’s Doubles – 1 gold, 2 silver medals
                                     Open Mixed – 1 silver medal
At the Tournament of Champions:
                                     Open Men’s Doubles – 1 gold medal
At Canadian Nationals:
                                     Open Singles – 1 gold, 1 silver medal
                                     Open Men’s Doubles – 2 gold, 1 silver medal
I have won over 50 Open Men’s Singles and Open Men’s Doubles medals over the years.

PL025-3T red rocket

ROCKET XL Pickleball Paddle

What paddle do you play with and why?

I have played with most all of the Pro-lite paddles.
I’m going to give the Rocket a try next.

Billy Jacobsen Canada Men's Open Doubles

Men’s Open Doubles medal winners – Canadian National Pickleball Championship – Billy Jacobsen/Chris Miller in the Center win Gold, Josh and Zachara Grubbs, bronze and Denis Zhekhovskiy and Scott Lenan, silver

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I played pickleball for the very first time at a tennis club for about 20 minutes when I was 16 years old. Then I tried it again at the University of Washington when they converted the badminton courts for 2 weeks of pickleball play at their recreation center. After playing a grand total of 4 times in my life, I entered my first pickleball tournament in open mixed doubles, and won it!  I did the same thing for the next 3 years. I have played at least one pickleball tournament a year for 33 years straight. As far as I know, that makes me the only single player in the history of the game to have played tournaments for this long. I hope I get to play many more in the years ahead.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I have played 99% of my career outside. I rarely play indoors other than at a tournament. For most of my career, I have only played indoors during a tournament 2 to 4 times a year.  I like outdoors the best, but indoors is good only if the lighting is good, which isn’t too often.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like both, but probably prefer singles in that you win and lose on your own.

Working together in doubles play, what does that look like?

The best strategy is to be patient with your dinks and know where you are hitting your shots. Always try to dink to your opponent’s weaker side and, if possible, move the ball around. Anything high over the net, slam it at the opponent’s feet or in between both players. Always expect the ball to come back – don’t be caught off guard. Don’t be afraid to slam dinks at people. If you are playing poorly or are being attacked directly in front of you, then simply dink cross court as much as you can. Never be afraid to lose!  If you lose, you lose.  You may as well go out and play to win and have fun.

What are your favorite places to play? Why?
My favorite place used to be at Lake Tapps, Washington, but they let the courts go to ruin. A friend of mine had a fantastic at home court, but he has long since moved away. Today,  maybe Dan Gabanek’s court.  We have some great doubles games when he has a bunch of top players over a few times a year.

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

I have no secret sauce or anything unusual. I think you need to stay low and have good footwork for singles. With doubles, if you can learn to dink well you can always have a chance to compete.

What is your day job?

I help my wife out in the mortgage business. Plus I coach volleyball, basketball and tennis teams mainly with two of my younger kids teams. I also give private tennis/pickleball lessons.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make the time to play?

I rarely play in the winter – usually don’t pick up a paddle for 6 to 8 months, so just play in the summer. It probably averages out to be a 3 to 8 hours a month (some years more, some years less). I definitely do need to play more, just hasn’t happened.

Do you have any pickleball goals that you would like to share?

My only dream in pickleball is I hope to someday be able to play in a tournament after being cured of type 1 diabetes. Been hoping for over 38 years and it may never happen, but a guy can dream.

Billy 2012 Nationals

Photo of Billy Jacobsen, second from the left – 2012 USAPA Nationals Pickleball Tournament

 

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

For me I just enjoy the hard exercise of the singles and I really enjoy the social aspects of the doubles. Social doubles is a lot more fun than tournament doubles as to everyone is sharing the ball. It is an easy and very fun sport to play. I hope over time more and more people get introduced to the game and it becomes a lifelong habit.