Meet The Pros – Rick Witsken
Rick has a real passion for tennis and the game of pickleball. He is growing a pickleball program in Indianapolis that he is proud of because he is saving lives. Enjoy.
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
2017 US Open, Men’s Doubles 45+ with John Moorin – Gold
2017 Great Lakes Regional, Men’s Singles 5.0 – Gold
2016 US Open, Men’s Doubles Pro with Matt Schiller – Bronze
NW Regional – Open Mixed Doubles Open and Men’s Doubles Open – Silver
What paddle do you play with and why?
I play with the Bantam Ex-L. It is light weight, with a nice solid sweet spot and core.
What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I was introduced to pickleball about 2 ½ years ago. John Kirstin talked to me about playing. I loved ping pong. I grew up with 7 siblings, including 4 brothers, so I grew up competitive. I’ve always wanted a sport like ping pong and tennis, so when pickleball was introduced, I was very interested. I have a built-in camaraderie with other tennis players. I’m intrigued by the administrative side of tournaments. I have a nice facility and know there are lots of competitive folks around. I put on lots of tennis tournaments and wanted to bring pickleball tournaments to Indianapolis. I have offered 2 pickleball tournaments so far. I’ve also coordinated a Pickleball Powwow Clinic with exhibition games with players Chris Zeilinga, John Moorin, Matt Schiller and myself.
What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
I prefer the faster, up tempo game that indoor games provide. I don’t mind the challenge of outdoor play. Outdoors is more of a finesse game.
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
Singles at 40 is harder because the competition is so much younger these days, especially in 80 degrees with high humidity like at the US Open in Naples, Florida.
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
My favorite place to play is at my tennis facility, Pearson Automotive Tennis Club in Zionsville, Indiana. We have over 100 players and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve put in lots of volunteer hours to introduce pickleball and have reaped lots of benefits from the game.
What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
I play with both hands, which my opponents do not expect. One tip I can share: Be mindful of how you’re gripping your paddle handle. A lot of players hold the grip the same way throughout the game. You can improve your game if you vary how you grip the handle. If it’s a faster game, then tighten the grip. If slower, then loosen it. It’s also based on pace and how far back in the court you are. I have a scale of 1-5: 1 being light as a feather and 5, tight as a vise.
What’s your day job?
I am the owner and director of my own tennis facility mentioned earlier. I coach tennis and teach pickleball. Adding pickleball has been an important improvement to the tennis club business model.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
I currently play in tennis leagues and coach some of the top 10 emerging tennis players, so my time playing pickleball is limited to about 3 hours a week. My priority is to run my tennis club, so I don’t get to travel much on the tournament circuit.
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
As my tennis club and pickleball program get more established, my goal is to compete in more national tournaments. I hope to gain recognition as being one of the top 10 pickleball players in the U.S.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
I’m coaching two middle school pickleball teams right now. I am passionate about spreading the word about pickleball. I realize I am saving lives by getting folks active in a sport that everyone can play. It gives me great satisfaction to help people and at the same time, to save lives.