Meet The Pros – Barry Waddell
From his first game in flip flops to gold in the US OPEN, Barry Waddell has shown us what a professional tennis turned pickleball star can do. I think we could all learn a lot from him, on and off the court. Enjoy!
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
2019 US Open, Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Dave Weinbach – Gold
2018 Texas Open, Senior Men’s Open Doubles with Steve Kennedy – Gold
2018 Atlanta Open, Men’s Senior Doubles Open Pro with Scott Moore – Gold
What paddle do you play with and why?
The Paddletek Tempest (Original). I love the soft touch and I can generate my own power. I use a bit lighter paddle (7.8 oz) and find it very maneuverable when getting into fights at the net. LOL.
What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I grew up in Miami, Florida playing football and baseball in the youth programs until the age of 13, when I discovered my true love of tennis. Within two years I was ranked in the top 5 in the state of Florida and top 50 in the nation. At 18, I won the Florida State High School Championships at the number one singles position earning many college scholarships. Attending the University of Illinois, I was ranked number one as a freshman and reached the finals of the Big Ten Championships. I then played professionally on the satellite tour in Europe and the United States.
After a brief professional tennis career, I returned to Florida to become the Director of Tennis at Casa Ybel on Sanibel Island. Continuing to play tennis tournaments, I was ranked number one in Florida in the Men’s 25 and Men’s 30 division and number two in the men’s open division. At the age of 47 and after many years away from playing competitive tennis, I found my new love of pickleball by chance one day when I was working out at the local recreation center.
I heard some noise coming from the indoor basketball courts and went inside. I saw people playing this strange game with a neon green ball (Jugs) and small paddle. Sitting on the bleachers, someone asked me if I wanted to play, but I was in flip flops and didn’t have a paddle. “No problem,” he said, “Here’s a paddle and flip flops will work fine.” From that moment on I was hooked. I started recreational play indoors for the first 8 years and then began outdoor tournament play in 2017.
What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?
I hesitated going outdoors for many years partly because my knees were bothering me and also because I didn’t think the game was going to grow into the sport that it has become. Boy am I glad that I got that wrong! The first year of playing outdoors, I was literally pulling my hair out because the game was so different from indoors, playing on wood floors with the soft Jugs ball. It was almost like two different games, but I stuck with it. Now after 2 1/2 years, I enjoy playing outdoors very much because of the unique challenges associated with outdoor play. Most tournaments are outdoors, but occasionally, because of weather, they move inside where I am VERY comfortable. ; )
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I like singles and doubles but have decided because I don’t have too much time to practice it doesn’t make sense for me to compete. Singles is great for getting in shape and “skinny singles” is also great for doubles training!
What is your favorite place to play? Why?
The US OPEN is my favorite venue because of the open air venue and the ability to watch all the matches in close proximity. The Championship Court is also an incredible experience with an intimate and electrifying atmosphere.
What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
I personally don’t believe that there is a secret sauce, although there is no substitute for good technique. Tennis players have an advantage in this category because of the many similarities to pickleball, but that doesn’t mean that other sports don’t contribute. Ping pong, racquetball, squash, platform tennis and badminton are all sports that have similar benefits to pickleball. My advice or tip would be to take lessons from a tennis turned pickleball player or pickleball players that have learned good technique and can clearly articulate those instructions. There is also no substitute for hard work and many hours of practice.
What is your day job?
Full time realtor with John R Wood in Lee County, Florida.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
I try to play at least 3 or 4 times a week.
Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?
I am an IPTPA Certified Teaching Professional and have been teaching pickleball and tennis for over 40 years. I would like to share my experience with others and introduce as many people as possible to the incredible sport of pickleball.
Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
Pickleball is a very unique sport which connects many different demographics and cultures. The younger players are starting to enter the game, which should only increase the exposure and bring the game to the next level. You can literally learn to play pickleball in a couple of months compared to tennis which takes a couple of years to achieve a similar status. Also you do not need to be Roger Federer to play the sport, as many different shapes and sizes compete well in this arena. I have a disability with my neck being organically fused, but I do not let it stop me from going out and playing the greatest game on earth!