Meet The Pros – Cherilyn “Cookie” Drake
From “Absolutely Terrified” to “OMG Yes” in 6 games or less. Cookie Drake is amazing. She is a pickleball force to be reckoned with on the court. You want to be her partner and she has won medals with some of the best! Enjoy some of her amazing pickleball story!
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
One of my most memorable wins was winning gold in my first ever tournament in 3.5 mixed doubles in Surprise, Arizona in April 2012 – 4 1/2 years ago. As a new player I was so worried about playing in it – I didn’t sleep well for a week prior and spent the days beforehand wishing I hadn’t agreed to play a tournament! Luckily for me, my nerves settled down during play and I had a blast. It totally hooked me on the tournament scene. Following that tournament I decided there was only one way to go: UP! And my pickleball journey began.
Some of my major wins:
2016 U.S. Open Sr. Women’s Doubles Pro Senior Open – Silver with Rachel Kroog
2016 U. S Open Women’s Doubles 55, Gold with Rachel Kroog and Mixed 60 – Silver with Ken Curry
2016 Brigham City Memorial Women’s Doubles Open 5.0 – Gold with Sarah Ansboury
2016 Grand Canyon State Games Mixed Doubles 50 – Gold, Women’s Doubles 60 – Gold
2016 So Cal Classic Sr Open Mixed Doubles – Silver with Mike Stahl
2016 Huntsmen World Senior Games 60-64 Women’s Doubles – Gold with Roxanne Pierce
2015 USAPA Nationals 5.0 Women’s Doubles Silver with Roxanne Pierce
2015 – Huntsman World Senior Games Women’s Doubles 60 – Silver with Rachel Kroog
2015 Grand Canyon State Games Gold Women’s Doubles 55, Gold Mixed Doubles 60
2015 So Cal Classic Senior Women’s Doubles Open – Silver with Cathy Parkhurst,
Mixed Doubles 60 – Gold with Bill Propert
2014 Canadian Nationals Mixed Doubles Open 5.0 – Silver with Steve Wong,
Women’s Doubles Open 5.0 Bronze with Che Cui
2014 Tournament of Champions Sr. Women’s Doubles Open – Bronze with Rachel Kroog
What paddle do you play with and why?
The paddle I am playing with right now is the Pro-Lite Titan Pro. I like the power I can generate with the Titan Pro and I also find I have good touch and control with it. I also play with newest Pro-Lite paddle: the Rebel PowerSpin. It is another paddle that I feel helps me generate power without compromising my touch.
What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I became involved in Pickleball by accident like many people. Nine years ago my husband and I traveled to Arizona and bought a home in Sun City Festival, which was the host site of the USAPA National Pickleball Tournament. My husband watched Nationals, was impressed and tried to get me to try the game. I resisted for the first 4 years we owned our home. I had never played a racquet sport. I saw a few people playing and figured I could never be good enough even to join in the recreational play. One day while I was watching a lady from Festival basically dragged me onto the court, stuck a paddle in my hand and insisted I try this fun game. She was so sweet that I just couldn’t say no to her. Once I was on the court I never wanted to leave. It opened up a whole new world for me. Very early in my pickleball journey I met a man who became a good friend and mentor to me – Steve Wong. He worked with me, coached me along and challenged me as I became better. In Surprise, AZ there were many other great players who helped me and inspired me to try my best, and most importantly, encouraged me to believe I could improve my game.
What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
I enjoy both indoor and outdoor play. I mostly play outdoor when I am in the US. When I am in Canada in the winter months I spend time practicing indoors. I do try to get outdoor play in Canada as well in the summer, but the area I live in has very limited facilities and outdoor places to play are very hard to find. I will be working to change that in the future!
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I only play doubles. When I first started I thought I should learn the doubles game and then perhaps I would move to singles later. But I have never taken up singles. I love the strategy in doubles play and there is nothing more rewarding to me than working a point and getting a set up for my partner. I love the communication I can have with my partner in doubles and I love that when I struggle I have a partner there who can help pick me back up and vice versa. I truly believe that you win as a team and you lose as a team and being a supportive partner is one of my most important goals in playing this game.
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
My favorite place to play? Gosh, that’s a tough one. I love Surprise, Arizona and that is where I play the most. I also think St George, Utah is a phenomenal place to play. Their facilities are state of the art and I love the focus on youth and family play that is so evident in St. George. Also getting to play in the very first gold medal match ever played on the Championship Court at the U.S. Open in Naples, Florida was a thrill. I’m not going to deny that!
What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
If I could give any advice to players I would say work hard to become a consistent player. That is the advice I was given and I have taken that to heart. I think my strength in this game comes from my consistency and ability to see the court and move the ball around to create an opening for either myself or my partner to attack. This requires patience. Learn what your strengths are and capitalize on those strengths. Find your game. Study the game and watch upper level players and try the things they do—some will work for you and some will not. Develop different shots so you have a variety of strategies in your arsenal. Don’t be predictable. We all come from different sport backgrounds, so some shots will be natural and others won’t. Practice, practice, practice!
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
When I am in the US I play a lot—nearly every day. Usually 3-4 hours per day, sometimes even twice a day, but that takes its toll on me! I usually only miss playing if it rains or if I’m sick. I save all my rest days for my time back in Northern Alberta, Canada. I come and go to the US throughout the year. The longest spell of continual play for me so far has been 2-1/2 months with about 3 days off. In Canada where I live there is very little pickleball, so that’s where I do more drilling and practicing. My husband plays as well so he is my main practice partner. When I can, I travel to Edmonton or Calgary, Alberta and meet up with Pickleball people there for fun weekends.
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
Before any tournament I think a lot about why I play this game. I remind myself that this is just fun for me and to focus during the tournament on having FUN! I am serious about the game but I also believe that I am very blessed to be enjoying such a great game at this stage of my life. I know I play best when I am relaxed and having fun… and I will never give up!
My goals for the future—I want to keep improving my game. At age 60 I still do not feel I have reached my peak. I am working a lot this year with top notch players and coaches. I know I can become a better player and partner. I am super excited that I will be taking part in the US National Senior Games in Alabama. I will be playing with Yvonne Hackenberg who is a wonderful player, but our highlight will be being there to cheer on Yvonne’s 91 year old mother as she competes in those games! How exciting is that? I am so inspired by her—that is what I hope I will be doing when I reach that age.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
Pickleball truly is a game for all ages and for all abilities. I find the growth in the sport exhilarating. We have young children playing, we have older people playing, we have recreational players, competitive players, professional players, we have wheelchair pickleball… the game is growing by leaps and bounds and spreading all around the world. I am so thrilled to be a part of this exciting Pickleball World! I LOVE this game and I encourage everyone to try it!