In our current issue of Meet the Pros, we were able to steal some time with Alex Hamner! Alex manages to balance work, life with her husband and two teenage boys, and pickleball competition perfectly. She is a great inspiration for players aiming to do the same.
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
My major wins include achieving a “4-peat” gold medal win at the 2014 Nationals Tournament in Women’s Doubles with Jennifer Lucore. Winning 4 times in a row made the last win extra exciting! Also, at the 2014 Nationals, I won silver in the Open Mixed Doubles with Matthew Blom, and gold in the “SOWS” division – haha – which is the Senior Open Women’s Singles. I also won the singles event in 2013, when they didn’t have the senior divisions.
At the 2014 Tournament of Champions in Ogden, Utah, Jennifer and I won doubles (we got second in 2013), Matthew and I placed 3rd in the mixed doubles (Dan Gabanek and I got second in 2013), and I won the senior singles (there were no singles in 2013).
I have won the women’s doubles with Jennifer at the Grand Canyon Games in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and we won at the So. Cal Classic in North San Diego County as well. I only play 5 or so tournaments each year as that, unfortunately, is all I have time for.
What paddle do you play with and why?
My current paddle of choice is the Legacy by Pickleball Inc. I choose this paddle because from the first time I hit with it, I felt that I could drive the ball hard, as well as control my drops and dinks. I find that its relatively low weight allows me to also have quick maneuverability, especially at the net.
What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I had heard “pickleball” mentioned a few times by Jennifer Lucore when we were tennis partners. She would sometimes mention that her parents, Bob & Bev Youngren, were winning a tournament somewhere – and in 2010, Bob, Bev and Jen persuaded me to try it out. Jen convinced me to play in the 2010 Nationals, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Pickleball does have that addictive quality …. 🙂
What’s your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?
I definitely prefer to play outdoor pickleball. That’s a big reason I live in Southern California – so I can happily and comfortably do things outside! Actually, I’ve only played indoors a few times; once, when it was raining, and a couple more times getting Jennifer prepared for an indoor tournament. But my experience with indoors is that it’s hot and loud, the courts are on top of each other, and the lines from other sports make picking out the pickleball lines a bit of a pain. Outdoors you only have to contend with the sun, the wind and the changing temperature … it’s great!
PC: Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I absolutely LOVE to play doubles. I love the strategies that evolve during rallies, the communication that occurs between partners, and the whole aspect of winning and losing together as a team. I find singles to be just … painful.
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
My favorite place to play pickleball is on the same side of the court with Jennifer. : ) As for why that’s my favorite place? It would have to be because that is where I’m comfortable and where I tend to have the most fun.
What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
The important thing, I think, is to have fun. As long as you’re having fun, it’s a win in my opinion. Also, mustard helps with cramps – and tastes so much better than mayo.
What’s your day job?
I work with my husband in our CPA practice. I try to mostly do the business management and low level tax work, and leave the higher technical aspects to my capable hubby.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
Sadly I can’t consistently measure my time in hours per week – when I do play it’s usually for 3-4 hours at a time, and if it’s within a month of a big tournament I can usually make 3 or 4 times a week to play. Otherwise, I sometimes go a month or more without playing at all, since I have so many work deadlines to contend with 🙁 .
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
Strangely enough, I find that the more I practice before a tournament, the better I do. So for luck, I hit the courts! (Credit goes to John Madden for this sage advice.)
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
My short-term goal is to get pickleball started in my hometown of Carlsbad. We are getting very close, but as of now, I still can’t play where I live. Such a bummer! And my long-term goal is this, that I hope to still be playing for another 30 or so years.
Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?
I’ve been married for 23 years to Michael, and we have two awesome teenage boys, who only sometimes play a little pickleball.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
I don’t know that my experience is too much different than any other tournament player – except that maybe I play a little longer into the day. But when we play in tournaments, we all get to meet the other interesting pickleballers, we get to visit with the awesome vendors, and we experience the pleasure of hanging out together all day waiting for our next match to be called. Super fun times, and it is all in the name of the competition and camaraderie that falls under the definition of Pickleball. LOVE IT!
Thank you, Alex, for sharing some of your awesome pickleball story with us. Best of luck to you in your efforts to get pickleball started in Carlsbad.