Meet the Pros – Stephanie Lane

Stephanie Lane

Stephanie has been seen often in the “Winner’s Circle” of the USAPA Nationals.  She is a PE teacher turned Pickleball Pro.  Stephanie is an excellent example of someone who has a lifelong commitment to physical fitness.  Enjoy her pickleball story!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

2014 Nationals: Silver Medal in 35+ Mixed Doubles with Steve Wong
                            Bronze Medal in 35+ Women’s Singles
2013 Nationals: Bronze in open Women’s Singles
                            Bronze Medal in 35+ Women’s Singles
2012 Nationals: Gold Medal in 35+ Women’s Singles
                            Bronze Medal in 35+ Women’s Doubles with Nicole Hobson

Phoenix PRo

Phoenix Pro Pickleball Paddle

What paddle do you play with and why?

I choose Paddletek paddles, especially the Phoenix Pro. From the first time I demo-ed this paddle, I felt I had the power AND touch I needed to play my best!

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

I played small college tennis in Nashville.  We did not have access to indoor tennis courts when it rained, so our coach kept a racquet or paddle in our hands in the gym. One of the sports she taught us was pickleball. When I decided to become a PE Teacher, this same coach, Trish Hodgson, explained the sport in more depth so that I could teach children how to play it. I included it in my curriculum for all 8 years I taught middle and high school PE, and students from all backgrounds LOVED it. I just didn’t realize that adults played pickleball too. Sadly, Trish, who gets the credit for my love of teaching & pickleball, died of ovarian cancer before knowing that I put down mytennis racquet to play on the “pickleball tournament circuit” all around the USA.

Stephanie with paddle

Bart Ford, Stephanie and Kyle Yates

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I think I might be a tad better player indoors but I love the outdoors the most!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

The singles game comes more easily to me but I have grown to love mixed doubles the most. I have my tennis doubles partner Nicole Hobson to thank for teaching me the strategies & teamwork of doubles. She patiently & persistently took me step by step & converted me into a decent doubles partner,  from my mindset of doubles being two singles games going on at the same time!

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

I love playing in St. George, Utah. The Little Valley courts are beautiful and have a very special personalized brick placed there, in memory of my brother, Stephen Shouse. Some thoughtful friends bought the brick & presented it to me. The sibling rivalry I had with my brother is the reason I love tough competition so much. I still draw from that memory of competitive times with my brother in playing the game of pickleball.

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

Have confidence & believe in yourself!  Also, I think being cohesive with your partner is very important. Have a game plan, but be ready to change it if things aren’t working. Have fun & treat others with respect whether you win or lose.

What is your day job?

I’ve taught physical education for over 20 years. I enjoy teaching children & being a part of their growth, especially when the light bulb goes off and things begin to “click”. Finding an enjoyable physical activity while they are children plays an important role for them in being active as an adult.

Do you mind sharing about your personal life?

I have been married for over 20 years to Andy Lane. We have one daughter, LeEllen, who is about to begin her teenage years. She is playing pickleball in more and more tournaments.

stephanie and daughter 1

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

Pickleball is my daily dose of “feel-good” happiness! In the winter months when we play indoors, we are lucky if we get to play 4 times per week. However, in the spring, summer & fall, some of us are happiest when we get to play 6-7 times per week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I like a thorough warm-up. I play my best when I can hit several of the same shots that I plan to use in the match. Then it’s the icing on the cake if I can play a few live points, which tells me if I need to make any adjustments. I have been surprised that some top players do not want to know who they are playing until they walk onto the court; but I like to know who my opponents are ahead of time, which is helpful in establishing a game plan.


Scott Clayson and Stephanie Lane

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

With pickleball being a lifetime sport, I hope to do just that….to play pickleball for the rest of my life!


Thank you, Stephanie, for your dedication to life long fitness and for your love of the game!

Sun City West…and the Nationals Referee Experience

 You are going to love this couple…they really do embody the “fun” part of pickleball!  Enjoy!

Anna: I guess you could introduce yourself:

Bill: I’m Bill, this is Jane, my wife.

Anna: And.. tell us about your club…

Jane: You tell ‘em…
Bill: Say that again…

Anna: Tell us about your club, your pickleball club.

Bill: Oh well…we’re in the Sun City West Pickleball Club. About 10 years ago it had 50 members, and now it has somewhere between 900 and a thousand. It’s really cool. Good club…good people.

Anna: Why did it… what happened… why did it grow?

Jane: Oh people started to get to know about it, it’s so fun, it changes your life It’s like… we do it ‘cuz we can. And here we are old people, and, it’s just cool. (Laughter)

Anna: And tell me, how does it change your life?

Bill: When we started to play, first of all it’s like being a little kid again at recess. We were just hittin’ the paddle, and we’re old people…we, we didn’t lose our reflexes…
Jane: We used to sit on the couch and do nothing..(laughter)
Bill: We want to be active, and I was walking down this alley-way, just between these pickleball courts and I hear laughter. All the courts were full, and I hear laughter…here…and there…it was a fun crowd…and it was like, ok, this works, this is a keeper! If you’re going to do something, and you don’t like exercising, pickleball is a way to play. The heck with all that exercising stuff. So it’s really fun, yeah!

Anna: And you’re here today at the National Tournament as a referee…

Bill: Yes… yeah.

Anna: And tell me about that…

Bill: I GET TO REFEREE AT THE NATIONALS…COOL…who gets to do that? (laughter) I ref’d a medal match last night, whoa! See, I’ve been ref’in’ for about 4 years, and we have tournaments at…the Sun City West Pickleball Club and so they train referees to run that, to help with the tournament. So that’s where I was trained and I got to do it.

Anna: Do you feel any kind of…especially at that level…the Nationals Gold level, you know, a match like that, do you feel a lot of pressure, or stress from the calls that you make? Have you ever had a tough call?

Bill: No, I’ve ref’d long enough [to know] that you enlist the players to help. So, if you want to go in and be the ref and domineer, uh, Its’ not the idea. The idea is to have a fair game. It’s about the players, it’s not about the ref, and once they get that, then they’re on board and they really want the same thing. So it’s again, a win-win deal.

Anna: Well, thank you so much. We really appreciate your taking the time to talk with us.


Meet the Pickleball Pros – Kyle Yates

Action shot Kyle Yates

One of THE BEST pickleball players in the world – that’s who Kyle Yates is!  So young, and yet, already, so full of pickleball wisdom and success!  You are going to love reading about his take on this game!  Enjoy!


Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

Some of my accomplishments:
2014 USAPA Nationals -
Gold 19+ Men’s Doubles with Robert Elliott

Bronze Open Mixed Doubles with Lydia Willis
2014 Fall Brawl -
Gold Open Men’s Doubles with Darin Hurdman

Gold Open Mixed Doubles with Christine Barksdale
2014 SoCal Classic – Gold Men’s singles

2014 Great Lakes Regional -Gold Open Men’s Doubles with Robert Elliott
Gold Open Mixed Doubles with Stephanie Lane
2014 Southwest Regional -Gold Men’s singles

Gold 19+ Men’s Doubles with Darin Hurdman
Gold Open Men’s doubles with Darin Hurdman
Gold 19+ Mixed Doubles with Stephanie Lane
Gold Open Mixed Doubles with Stephanie Lane
2014 South Atlantic Regional -Gold Open Mixed Doubles with Lydia Willis

Kyle Yates medals

What paddle do you play with and why?
Paddletek’s Bantam EX-L. Originally, price was a factor for me. My previous paddles continued to wear down and/or break. Paddletek’s 5-year, “no dead spot” guarantee drew my attention. Bantam EX-L has elevated my game with its balance and power, and yet easy to control.

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

My uncle introduced me to the game when I was 15. There was a small group that played indoors at a local recreation center. I had been a competitive tennis and table tennis player. I picked up pickleball fairly quickly in most aspects, however the transition from tennis to pickleball took some time. After about a year of playing, I started begging my mom to sign me up for tournaments. Luckily, about 2 years ago, I met the Elliotts at a tournament in Naples, Florida. They invited me up to The Villages to practice with them and with some of the top players in the country, like the Staubs, and Phil Bagley. It wasn’t until then that I started to really love the game and take it seriously. After high school, I switched from tennis to pickleball altogether, and I’d say it has worked out for me so far.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I live in south Florida. Enough said. Outdoors. I prefer outdoors, not only for the sunshine and fresh air, but I like how the ball plays. I like playing the soft game with lots of dinking which seems less common indoors.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

This may be shocking to a lot of people, but doubles. I like the chess aspect of the game, not so much the running. I switched to pickleball from tennis because I prefer pickleball. Singles to me is just like tennis but at a much faster pace.

USAPA Nationals, Men's Doubles, 19+

USAPA Nationals, Men’s 19+ , winners from left to right: Bronze – Glen Griffin, Steve Wong, Gold – Rob Elliott, Kyle Yates and Silver – Wes Gabrielsen, Enrique Ruiz

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

Most of my practice happens at Wa-Ke Hatchee Recreation Center in Fort Myers, Florida. However, my favorite venue to play is right alongside Peace River at Gilchrist Park in Punta Gorda, Florida. Great view, great group of players, and a great overall pickleball atmosphere.

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

I don’t really have any sort of pregame ritual. I do like to listen to music to calm my nerves before certain matches. Staying calm, I’ve found, is a huge advantage in critical situations. Pickleball is so much about maintaining focus throughout the entire array of points, games, matches and tournaments.

What is your day job?

I hope to make a living solely from pickleball someday but for now I’m looking to get a degree in business from the University of Florida.

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

I try to play as much as I can, which ends up around 3 to 4 days a week for a couple hours at a time. Drilling seems to me to be just as important as playing, so I try to practice as much as I play.

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

I hope to keep playing, competing, improving, learning and , most importantly, loving this game for the rest of my life.  A few more big wins would be much appreciated, though.

Any advice/ anything else?

People like to complicate the game with all these different techniques and styles, but we tend to forget that the object of the game is to hit the ball IN the court. Pickleball is a game of errors, not winners. All you have to try to do is keep the ball in play longer than your opponents. Strategy is involved only after you understand that concept. Strategy is involved only to make your opponent’s job of keeping the ball in play more difficult. There is a very fine line of demarcation between going for a win, and forcing your opponent to make an error.

I’ve been very fortunate. I’m thankful for what Pickleball has given me. I have had the opportunity to travel all over the country and meet so many great people. In the simplest terms, pickleball is a fun sport we all enjoy playing, but in reality, to some people, and to me, it means so much more.


Thanks so much, Kyle, for opening up about your love and respect for this game of pickleball.  May the winning continue!

Rachael Kroog – Go to the Light Side

Everyone has a story about how they got started in Pickleball.  It usually starts with family!  I hope you enjoy Anna’s interview with Rachael Kroog at the 2014 USAPA Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona!

Anna;  Okay, so here we are with Rachel. Rachael, can you introduce yourself?

Rachael:  Hi, I’m Rachel Kroog from Minnesota.

Anna:  And Rachel, tell us about pickleball. How did you get into it?

Rachael:  Well, I’m a tennis player, and actually a four sport athlete, but my dad and I played tennis tournaments together. And one year, when he was probably about 79 years old, he called me and he said, “You know, I’m not playing tennis anymore.” And I, you know, my heart kind of sank. And he said, “But it’s okay.” He said, “I found a new sport, and it’s called pickleball.” And I thought, maybe it was something like shuffleboard, because they live in a senior community down in Sun City Center, and what sport does a 79-year-old just pick up, you know? And so he said, “No.” He said, “Really, it’s a great sport.”

So, I flew down there and I played for a couple days, and we batted the ball around. It was okay. And then a year later, I went back and we played for about a week. Then the hook was set, you know. And I came home and I googled pickleball in Minnesota and found out there was a small group playing very close to my house. And, you know, I’ve hung up my tennis racket and I really haven’t played much since. I call it, “Going to the ‘light’ side” versus “Going to the ‘Dark’ side”.

Yeah, so I’ve come to the “light” side, and it is addicting. It’ll change your life in so many positive ways. All generations can play it.  I’ve seen grand-kids play with their grandparents and with their parents, three generations out on the court. You know, what other sport can you have fun and compete with three generations? So, it’s really an all-around sport and I highly encourage you, if you haven’t picked up a pickleball paddle, pick one up, find a friend that plays. They will take you under their wing because that’s the pickleball “‘hood”. That’s what we do, we help the beginners. So, go grab a racket. Go grab a paddle.

Anna:  And Rachel, what did you win today?

Rachel:  I won the silver medal in the Women’s 50-54.

Anna:  And this is at the USAPA Nationals Pickleball Tournament.

Rachel:  In Buckeye, Arizona. The Nationals. It’s real.

Anna: Thank you.

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Denise Boutin

Denise Boutin on the court

Denise has a lot of enthusiasm for competition!  She was a Golf Pro, and is now a Pickleball Pro!  Thanks, Denise, for sharing some of your story. 

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

2014 USAPA Nationals Gold Women’s Doubles 55+, with Alison Fulton
2013 Atlantic South Regionals, Silver, 5.0 Mixed Doubles with Kyle Yates

2010 Huntsman World Senior Games, Gold, Women’s Doubles 3.5 with Char Schulte

What paddle do you play with and why?

I like the Performance POP graphite 5.0 paddle made by Brian Jensen.

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

I moved to the Villages and started playing in 2007. I often traveled to New York for work and so I played at the Villages only in the winter. I thought it was just a sport for old people. Since 2010, I play full time in The Villages, and play with Lydia Willis every day. This is the first year that I have entered in the over-50 Masters to compete for money.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I like both indoors and outdoors. Playing outdoors, you get accustomed to wind and sun as factors in playing the game. Indoors, I like the challenge of adapting to a different ball, different playing conditions. I can also use a different paddle indoors. I have to move faster indoors and I don’t have to deal with the wind.

Denise Boutin doubles

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like doubles better, mostly because I have back issues, and like the ease of play.

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

I have to say that I love to play in The Villages, Florida. There are about 4,000 pickleball players in a community of over 110,000 people. and The Villages has the largest pickleball group of folks over 55 years old. I also like the Hunstsman World Senior Games, in St. George, Utah. It is just as good at Nationals. I like it for a vacation.

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

Stay healthy.  Keep some consistency in practice. Do a lot of drilling, and work on limiting unforced errors. Stick with shots you are good with.  In the game, keep the ball in play. Minimize angle shots. Cross court, minimize the angle to opposite player to get back easily on the defensive. Always be patient and wait for a good ball to put away.  When you get into your level of play, patience is key.

What is your day job?

I am a retired Navy nurse. I retired 15 years ago. I was a PGA Professional from 1989.  I retired from being a golf pro in 2010.

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

I play 5 days a week, 2 hours a day. I also help teach drill classes. I am limited in the hours I can play because my body doesn’t always cooperate. I am fortunate in that I’m coordinated and I work hard at it.
Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share? I want to stay healthy so that I can play at 70+. I want to be consistent, be smarter and I always hope to keep learning, about myself and about the game.

Denise Boutin with Kyle Yates 2

Denise Boutin with Kyle Yates,17, his first Mixed Doubles 5.0 Atlantic South Regional Medals

Anything else?

Something I have observed is that guys do a lot of dinking in the doubles game. It seems to me that women get stuck in the game adapted from tennis, where you take a couple of hits and then bang it. I think more women need to learn the tricks of the soft game, so we can be better partners in mixed doubles.  I tell a lot of folks to just keep playing, working on what’s going on inside. Work on playing smarter.  I do watch the YouTube videos of tournament matches.  I love how the short game of golf is similar to the game of pickleball.  It has been easy to transition from teaching golf to teaching pickleball.  I also love the “giving” nature of the pickleball community.

Denise Boutin garden

Thanks again, Denise, for being a pickleball “Shining Star”!

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.


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!