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?
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.
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: 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: 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.
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.