Meet the Pros – Walter Knestrick

Meet the Pros – Walter Knestrick

Rex Lawler and Walter Knestrick

Rex Lawler and Walt Knestrick

Can you list for us your major wins so we can properly introduce you to our readers?

My partner Rex Lawler and I won Gold for Mens’ Doubles over 80 in the April 2017 US Open Pickleball Tournament in Naples, Florida.  We repeated our Gold win there in April 2018. Then Rex and I won Gold for Mens’ Doubles over 80 again in June 2018 at the St. Jude National Indoor Classic Pickleball Tournament in Cartersville, GA. This was a USAPA-sanctioned event, where I also won Gold with partner Anne Harrington for Mixed Doubles over 80 and Bronze for Singles over 80.

What paddle do you play with – and why??

I am presently playing with the Paddletek Tempest Wave. The grained surface on the paddle helps me get more spin on my serve and return-of-serve than the Paddletek Bantam EX-L which I used last year. It is very important for me to be able to put extra spin on my serve, away from my opponent’s backhand.

What is your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball??

I played tennis and racquetball most of my life, but in the end both sports took a toll on my back, and it was just too painful to continue playing. Six years ago I was introduced to pickleball by a neighbor in Florida where we spend our winters.  I fell in love with the sport and the friendly way we organized play in our residential development.  I found the game easy to play—but hard to master, and I loved the challenge!  To my surprise, playing doubles for two hours five or six times a week did not bother my back—in fact, I believe the sport has not only helped my back but added years to my life!

What is your preference – playing indoors or playing outdoors??

I enjoy playing outdoors—when the wind is less than 20 mph and the temperature is between 50 and 85 degrees! When you are over 80, the lighting on most indoor courts can be a problem—but when outdoor conditions are bad, I am happy to play indoors!

Anne Harrington and Walter Knestrick, Gold

Anne Harrington and Walt Knestrick, Gold

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I enjoy doubles more than singles and that is what I play most of the time. In August 2017 I got a new hip and was told not to play singles—but I played singles in the Cartersville tournament with no pain and won bronze. Pickleball, either doubles or singles, is just too much fun not to play both.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I really don’t have a favorite place to play. I play wherever there is a good group! Close by my home I love playing at Lipscomb University, home of the “Nashville Pickleball Club.”  They have over 100 members and offer clinics for new players almost every week, led by volunteers like Nicole and Rick Hobson. I also often drive 30 minutes or more to play with younger and better players, which really helps my game. At our Florida residence there is play for various skill levels going on all day every day. We have four courts there now for our 300+ players, but this year that will expand to six. Good places to play continue to increase as pickleball becomes more and more popular.

Walt Knestrick and Rex Lawler - Gold

Walt Knestrick and Rex Lawler – Gold

What is your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

Learn the “dink” game! It is important to be able to make this shot from anywhere on the court. Slamming the ball at two opposing players at the net will not work against good players.

Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

It has been a delight talking with USAPA Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador Denise Donald about how pickleball has taken over her life. Here is some of her story. Enjoy!

I started playing pickleball in 2011 and became instantly addicted. When I started there were only 8 folks playing pickleball in South Jersey. We used masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. The township got wind of it and painted pickleball lines on 2 tennis courts. I love encouraging folks to play. I use Meetup.com to get folks to participate. I did meetups for drills and skills, but people complained about them using the only courts available for drills, so the local rec. center let me be on their schedule for drills and skills sessions. Now I get paid $50 for each class!

I love seeing people enjoy themselves. All retirees I meet seem to want to fill their time with activity, but a lot of sports don’t have time to play during the day. Retirees used to say to me, “I don’t know what I’m going to do in retirement,” so I suggest trying pickleball, and now they play pickleball every day. Pickleball makes folks feel like they are a part of something bigger. It’s a grass roots movement that has become a national movement.

I have been very busy since I first signed up to be a USAPA Ambassador 6 years ago. I have done 2 podcasts on NPR with Marty Masowarin about how to grow the sport. I get calls every week to help start pickleball. When I started, there were less than 12 Ambassadors in the District. Now there are 61; 31 in Pennsylvania, and 30 in Jersey, with more people interested. The Area Team includes Bill Gionetti, Egg Harbor Township. Bill Gionetti does pickleball classes weekly. He’s 82 and has been dedicated to growing pickleball for 10-15 years. We have a lot of folks do the ground work and do hours of work just for the enjoyment of and growing the game. South Jersey has a Facebook page.

If growing pickleball is the goal, you can be sure that pickleball has been growing by leaps and bounds in my district. In Jersey Shore, every town now has put in pickleball courts. In June of 2016, I located an unused basketball court and turned it into 4 dedicated pickleball courts. 8 of the dozen who started playing pickleball still play. One township is building 5 more courts from scratch. Another township had no money, but offered to power wash a court and put down lines. Altogether, we have courts at the Croc Center, a Tennis Club and 2 skate rings. In Mashpeh, a court was added in a church, and have had 8 players since November. The county has been very receptive to supporting the growth of pickleball. They have provided grants and masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. 

We have some great pros in the area, some of whom are IPTPA certified trainers, including Sarah Ansboury, Aspen Kern,  Christine McGrath and Ben Johns. Some IPTPA-trained folks do Boy Scout programs teaching pickleball. Ben Johns will be teaching pickleball clinics in the fall. Christine, Aspen, Ben and Kyle also did a fundraiser recently.

Most folks here are 3.0/3.5 recreational players. In the area, we have up to 4.5 players, but no 5.0. 4.0s say we focus too much on older folks/recreational. 7 miles from Philadelphia there is an elite group of 4.5 and 5.0 players. Folks from North Jersey have to travel an hour to play with them. I am getting requests to get tournaments going for the 4.5 and 5.0 players, but my strength is introducing pickleball to communities and folks new to pickleball.

Have you ever taken the time to thank an Ambassador for all they do to promote the game of pickleball?  If in your travels your path crosses with Denise Donald, please thank her.  She is one hard-working USAPA Pickleball Ambassador.

 

Pickleball in the 2018 Singapore National Games

Pickleball in the 2018 Singapore National Games

We are delighted to be able to share this wonderful news from Singapore. Enjoy!

Greeting from Singapore! It is our exciting “pickleball” time in Singapore. Our tournament season is drawing near. Pickleball is finally recognized and included into the 2018 Singapore National games. It will be a national tournament and will spread over 2 weekends, organized by our sport body in Singapore. There will be appropriately 300+ players participating. We are co-organizing the event and details of the tournament can be found on our website pickleball: https://www.pickleball.sg/sng-2018.

History of pickleball in Singapore

Singapore started to introduce pickleball in 1998. It started in a small community with very limited places to play and  little awareness on the sport. Having said that, in the past 5-6 years we have experienced a tremendous growth in the sport. Many community clubs in Singapore started to organize interest groups for pickleball and our sport halls have had a steady growth of players joining their morning groups. In the Hillview area, we have a small group of senior playing pickleball on our only outdoor court. Our neighborhood community has also started a pickleball interest group.

Weekend Pickleball Group

Hillview Pickleball Group

We started to play indoor pickleball when our new community center was completed in 2017. Three months later, we re-established the group as Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball Interest Group, serving more residents in Bukit Gombak and Chua Chu Kang. The Interest Group reached the max membership in October 2017 and we decided to setup a Weekend Pickleball group in December 2017 after securing 8 courts in Hillgrove & Lianhua Indoor Sports Hall. Weekend Pickleball hit the target of 100 members in March 2018. We have 2 new indoor badminton courts that we now play pickleball on regularly, Mondays (6-9:30 pm) and Wednesdays (9:30-12:30am).

Hillview Community Center

Hillview Community Center

Our weekend pickleball clubs are also booming! In a short span of 3 months, we have 100+ members. Every Sunday we open 8 courts to accommodate 50+ players, the largest pickleball indoor courts in Singapore! Here is the link for Bukit Gombak CSC pickleball: sg/bukit-gombak-csc-pickleball. Our weekend pickleball website is:  https://www.pickleball.sg/weekend-pickleball-lianhua.

Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball Interest Group

Weekend Pickleball Group

Since we have been so well established, we have hosted an inter-constituency tournament (Hillview meets Nanyang) and a few more mini-tournaments within our club (such as Jingle & Mingle and Million Hongbao Challenge).

With our many successes and connections to on-line media such as Facebook, we are now connected to many players overseas and have hosted games for our visitors from the USA, India, New Zealand, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, etc. It is a great opportunity to meet players from other countries and exchange skills to improve our games. We have formally established our affiliation with the Pickleball Association of Hong Kong, China to host our members when they travel to our countries. Likewise, we are extending our invitation to your readers for games if they are visiting Singapore.

Pickleball.sg

Pickleball.sg is a volunteer network for all communities and interest groups to share and promote pickleball activities in Singapore. We have started to chart down the places to play within Singapore and we are sharing tournament invitations on the internet. We are hoping to establish more affiliation with the other countries especially in Asia to promote and raise the standard for pickleball in Singapore and Asia.

Singapore National Games 2018

This is the 2nd year ActiveSG (our sport government body) to organise the Singapore National Games and pickleball.sg will be their official partner for this year tournament which will be held the end of July. Details of the SNG 2018 can be found in this link https://www.pickleball.sg/sng-2018.  It will be the largest pickleball event in Singapore, this year we are anticipating 300+ players for this tournament.

The tournament is open for players above 21 yrs and we have a master group (women above 55 yrs and men above 60 yrs old). We don’t have player rating like in the USA, so the skill sets are simply divided into Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. Besides the individual event, this year we have added a team zone event. Each team comprises of 10 players of different age groups to compete to be the team champion. Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball will be sending 2 teams for this tournament!

Thank you Michelle for sharing this wonderful story about the growth of pickleball in Singapore. I am sure some of our readers will be planning a trip to visit you soon to play pickleball. 

Meet The Pros – Dave Fleming

Meet The Pros – Dave Fleming

Dave Fleming action

Dave Fleming – Photo Credit to Pickleball Photos

Dave Fleming loves pickleball, loves a good laugh and loves his family!  He’s an all-around good guy. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 –  Cedar Park Championships Mixed Doubles with Helen Wilhelm
2018 –  US Open 35+ Men’s Doubles with Adam Stone – Gold, 50+ Mixed Doubles with Helen Wilhelm – Bronze
2018 –  USAPA Mid-South Regional 5.0 50+ Gold in Singles and Men’s Doubles with Scott Baker
2017 –  USAPA National Championships 4.5 50+ Men’s Doubles Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently use the Engage Elite Pro, but I’m testing several others to find the perfect combination of power and control… more to come.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

In December of 2016, a friend on my 5.0 tennis team invited me to play pickleball at his church gym where his wife is in charge of the rec programs. So I show up and laughter ensues. We serve and volley. We charge the net. And then we started learning the rules. And the strategy. And we entered tournaments. And it was (and is) glorious.

My tennis rackets have not left the bag since September—and I love tennis. But, I am all-in on playing pickleball.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors for sure. Having played tennis since I was 5, I am used to and enjoy the challenges that the elements present.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Dave Fleming and Adam Stone

USOPEN GOLD – Dave Fleming and Adam Stone

Doubles. The camaraderie of having 4 people on the court, competing but also laughing, is the best. I love the strategy required to complement my partner’s game. And the thrill of winning a big match with a partner is tremendous. My 2018 US Open experience is why I love doubles—I played with 3 awesome players (Steve Dawson, Adam Stone and Helen Wilhelm) against some extraordinary competition, battling for hours each day, and it was truly the best pickleball can be.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I love playing anywhere there is good competition and always pack my paddle when I travel. If I had to choose just one, it would be the Bobby Riggs tennis and paddle center which is owned and operated by two phenomenal people and pickleball players: Steve and Jennifer Dawson.

The competition is great, the location is amazing, and after a day of great pickleball, it’s a short drive down the hill for a stunning and colorful California sunset. I’m going back to play two tournaments there this summer.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My two-handed backhand. Very few guys use it. I can blast drives, hit cut dinks with extreme spin, and disguise volleys with both placement and pace. Tip: Don’t listen to people who say you can’t play a certain way or can’t use a certain shot in pickleball. Pickleball is great because people come to it from a variety of different backgrounds—mold your game to use your strengths, no matter where they come from.

Dave Fleming bronze

2018 Cedar Park Paddle Battle: Helen Wilhelm/Dave Fleming – Bronze, Darija Klaic/Steve Kuhn – Gold, Natali Pouchet/Daniel Toureilles – Silver

What is your day job?

I run the Dallas office of the global ad agency We Are Alexander. I was also voted the number 2 corporate comedian in the US by CBSNews.com—I perform an 80-minute comedic one man show about corporate America called Man vs. Office.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I try to get to 15, with one outing focused solely on drills. It’s a priority in my schedule and always a great workout.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I am known for always wearing black and gold (I am a huge, diehard fan of the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates). I always hold the same side of the grip, so I have 4 dots on the paddle face, representing my family, that are always face up. I also crank “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi before the first match of every day.

Dave Fleming: Steelers Fan

Dave Fleming: Pittsburgh Steelers Fan

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

Keep improving and adding new shots to my arsenal. Play with and against the best players in the world on a consistent basis across the country. Grow the game at all levels here in Dallas and wherever else I can.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Truly anything is possible if you are passionate about it. I hope you can feel the love I have for this sport through these words and answers. I will never stop learning. I encourage everybody at all levels to embrace a weekly session where you only do drills. Take a goal to the court every time you play a rec match. And never stop laughing. That’s what makes this game so great. Thank you very much for the chance to share my pickleball story.

Meet The Pros – Jose (Joey) Farias

Meet The Pros – Jose (Joey) Farias

Joey Farias

Joey Farias, credit to Partovich Photography

Jose Farias loves to play and teach tennis and pickleball. You have to admire a tennis instructor who falls in love with this game. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2016 US Open Men’s Doubles 5.0 – Gold with DJ Howard
2016 US Open 19+ Mixed Doubles – Bronze with Catherine Parenteau
2017 Southwest Regionals Men’s Doubles 5.0 – Gold with Sean Rickard
2017 Southwest Regionals Mixed Doubles 5.0 – Silver with Miok Lee
2017 US Open Men’s Doubles Pro – Bronze with Ben Johns
2017 US Open 30+ Men’s Doubles – Gold with Rafael Siebenschein
2017 US Open 30+ Mixed Doubles – Silver with Lee-Anna Camper
2017 Northwest PPF Bend Men’s Doubles – Gold with Ben Johns
2017 So-Cal Mens Open Singles – Bronze
2018 Southwest Regionals Mens Doubles 5.0 – Gold with Sean Rickard
2018 Southwest Regionals Mixed Doubles 5.0 – Bronze with Miok Lee
2018 US Open 30+ Men’s Doubles – Bronze with Chris Miller
2018 US Open 19+ Mixed Doubles – Silver with Catherine Parenteau 

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Gearbox GX5. I really enjoy the new paddle; I was able to put a lot of my input on how the paddle should feel and play, making it tailored to my preferences. It has plenty of pop and is soft enough for me to really control my shots around the kitchen.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I was a full-time tennis coach when I was introduced to pickleball in Lansing, Michigan, while working at a club that had 4 pickleball courts. I was introduced to the sport by Dan O’Toole and DJ Howard. I had a great group of “new players” who were learning at around the same time and they were Corrine Carr Siebenschein, Simone Jardim and DJ Howard.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I enjoy playing outdoors more because that is what I am most familiar with and I sometimes have trouble seeing indoors. 

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer doubles because of the strategy behind it and how different it is from tennis. Pickleball strategy is one of the reasons I fell in love with the game. My tennis background definitely helps with singles but it is a little too close to tennis to pick it as my favorite. 

Jose Farias in Michigan

5.0 Singles Finalist -Jose Farias Bronze (left), Simone Jardim Gold (center), Brandon Schmeling Silver in Williamston, Michigan.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I would pick East Naples Community Park and the US Open to be my favorite place to play. I enjoy the atmosphere of the tournament and the courts there are world class.

Jose Farias with friends at the USOPEN

Jose Farias with friends at the USOPEN

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I would say my secret sauce would be my deceptive shots, my one-handed backhand drive/roll and consistent dinks, especially from the right side of the court. If I could give one tip to players it would be to get as low and balanced as you are physically capable of and take more dinks in the air. 

What is your day job?

I was a full-time tennis pro but about a year and a half ago I became the Director of Pickleball at a Tucson Country Club in Tucson, Arizona and am now full time pickleball. I am an IPTPA-certified Pickleball Instructor and I travel all around doing clinics. Its a rough life, haha! 

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I practice about 4 hours a week, but I do teach close to 30 hours each week so I get plenty of dinking practice you could say. Since I do pickleball full time now I have plenty of time to practice, but in Tucson it’s the lack of practice partners that I have to deal with. I have another 5.0 in town named Sean Rickard who I try to drill with when his schedule allows.

Joey Farias for the win

Joey Farias for the win – fueled by chocolate milk

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t know if I would call it lucky, but something I tend to do before playing in a tournament is drink chocolate milk the morning of the event and possibly have a cookie.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

My pickleball goals would be to help grow the sport in any way I can and to be a positive role-model on and off the court to up-and-coming juniors. I would also like to medal in a pro event in all three majors by the time I am done playing. 

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

My experience being one of the top pickleball players has been amazing because I get to meet players from all over the world and travel. I now get to do what I love for a living, and it is such a blessing. 

Meet The Pros: Tiener-X Nguyen

Meet The Pros – Tiener-X Nguyen

Tien Nguyen

Tiener-X Nguyen

Tiener-X Nguyen is an extreme strategist! I say this because he turned down chances to play in order to deeply study this game of pickleball before stepping onto the court. It is clear to me that he loves this “inclusive” game and he is in it to win it. Enjoy!

Can you list for us some of your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2017 State Games of Oklahoma (first tournament): Gold – Mixed Doubles 50+
     Gold – Singles 50/55+, Silver- Doubles 50/55+
2017 USAPA West Regionals: Gold- Mixed Doubles 4.5 50+
2017 State Games of America: Gold- Singles 5.0 50+
     Gold – Mixed Doubles 4.5 50+: Bronze- Doubles 4.5 35+
2017 OK Senior Games – Gold in three disciplines
2017 USAPA Nationals: Gold – Doubles 4.5 50+
     Bronze- Mixed 4.5 50+, Bronze, Singles 5.0 50+
2018 State Games of Oklahoma: Gold-Singles 5.0
     Gold- Mixed Doubles 5.0 50+, Silver- Doubles 5.0 50+
2018 Hawaii Senior Games – Gold in two disciplines
2018 USAPA Mountain Regional: Silver- Mixed Doubles 5.0 50-59
***All but two medals won in the Mixed division was with my wife, Moira Roush, as my partner***

What paddle do you play with and why?

Pro S1G

Pro S1G

I play with the Selkirk Pro S1G+; I like the overall feel and balance of the paddle. The paddle has been discontinued so I plan to upgrade to the newer AMPED models soon. I am a part of the Selkirk Team.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I first encountered pickleball during a TDY (temporary duty) near Surprise, AZ, in 2007. I saw from afar what appeared to be very small tennis courts. I returned that evening and saw how the game was played. It was enjoyed by both genders on the same court, young and old competing alongside and/or versus each other… camaraderie and “fun” filled the atmosphere. After watching for about an half hour, I pondered to myself what a great sport it was to give everyone across the spectrum an avenue to stay fit and still compete if desired. At the time, I didn’t lift a paddle or pursue pickleball any further.

In September 2016, I was exposed to pickleball again at a local gym through a friend’s invite. I watched and absorbed the game as I saw her play. I stayed a couple of hours to “let it dink in” (pardon the pun). I noticed how much fun as well as the “friendly competitiveness” everyone experienced. I did not partake, although I was asked. I did this two more times just to get a better understanding/knowledge of the game. On my fourth visit I participated and brought my own paddle, a wooden one.

I really enjoying playing sports, especially ones that hold my interest. I try to be a “student” of the game. A couple months later, I introduced pickleball to my wife. We’ve continued to play ever since.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I prefer outdoors where you have to learn to play the elements (sun, wind, shadows, etc). Those who can adjust their games better to the elements will normally come out ahead. In the Oklahoma City (OKC) area, there is only one outdoor place where everyone plays. It’s at Stephenson Park, where four pickleball courts are painted on one slightly dilapidated tennis court. There is a need for more outdoor courts in Oklahoma.

Tien Nguyen 2017 USAPA Nationals

Tien Nguyen 2017 USAPA Nationals

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like both, perhaps a slight edge toward singles, because in singles you “can’t not” stay focused during a point. When you do, you have given your opponent the advantage. In singles, I get to hit the ball every other hit.

I also enjoy doubles because everyone likes being a part of a team. I like setting up my partner as she/he knows when I have hit a better than average shot to gain a team advantage. When fatigue comes into play, doubles is a great alternative.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Little Valley Pickleball Complex, Ogden, Utah

Little Valley Pickleball Complex, Ogden, Utah

Little Valley Pickleball Complex in St. George, UT. It is a great 24-court outdoor facility with lights, benches, restrooms and shade pavilions. It is open to the public and FREE to play. If OKC had a place one-quarter the size of St. George’s, it would assist with the “obesity” problem. The staff & volunteers in St. George run a great Regional Tournament.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I don’t have one but may go to one in the future: two hands on both sides in kitchen exchanges. I had to change my tennis strokes by hitting two hands on both sides due to two elbow surgeries.


Tips: Concentrate more on the easy put-aways. It is the point you have earned and/or set your team up to win. Don’t be so nonchalant and lose focus when executing it. It’s the easy points that you/your team must win, not the difficult ones.

What is your day job?

I am a Telecommunications Engineer for Tinker Air Force Base. I am a civilian who has been on five deployments: Qatar, Djibouti, & Cuba. If I had known about pickleball back then, I would have made a valiant effort to introduce it to our men and women overseas. I plan to introduce pickleball to Tinker Air Force Base personnel this summer.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play 8-10 hours per week; I would like to do more drilling but there are not enough courts, so play takes precedence. I play mostly after my work day is finished and on weekends. Most times my wife and I are together, whether it is to play or drill.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I like to eat duck feet. (Just kidding…making a Swedish joke). None.

2018 Hawaii Oahu Tournament – Tiener-X Nguyen-Moira Roush Gold, Lori Tokutomi-Pete Bresciani Silver and Chris Why-Jimmy Lowe, bronze

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share? 

I would like to play the top seniors in singles to see where I stand and what areas can improve. I got a chance to play a few at USAPA Nationals last year. Also, I would like to bring pickleball to other countries, especially Vietnam (my birth country). In Asian countries I have witnessed exercise regimes in the form of walking, badminton, Tai Chi, swimming, etc.  I see where pickleball would be a great addition to their fitness routines.

I would like to venture into the “Have Net, Will Travel” pickleball lessons concept. Something along the lines of my wife and I driving to provide lessons to individual(s)/couples/families/peers. Yes, you can watch videos and read all you want, but most people are visual/hands-on oriented. With us being present, the learning potential would be much greater. Anything within a 7 hours’ drive would be considered.

Oh yeah, and I enjoy cooking!

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Pickleball has been the only sport where I have witnessed a great-great grandpa playing/competing with his great-great grandson… filled with smiles, being competitive and continuing to make life-long memories. I do have a “Barrel List” (like a Bucket List):

  • Play on the same court with a person from each of the 50 States.
  • Play a tournament in all 50 States
  • Play in all 6 continents

I have “Sour Dills” (like pet/pickleball peeves): In pickup play, when an opposing team avoids hitting to the better player. This tells me 0-0-2 things:

(1) You would rather win versus improving your game… really… win a “pickup game”?
(2) You are preparing (for your upcoming tournament) to beat teams that are “inferior” than yours. Thus you need to work on that game strategy.

I plan to take advantage of free lessons and tips.

Meet The Pros – Randy Coleman

Meet the Pros – Randy Coleman

Randy Coleman

Randy Coleman

Randy has sized up the competition quickly and set his sights on beating Scott Moore, one of the best singles competitors in the world of pickleball. Good luck Randy, look out Scott! Enjoy!

2017 USAPA Nationals, Joe Nguyen/Randy Coleman - Bronze

2017 USAPA Nationals, Jay Rippel/Scott Burr – Gold; Scott Clayson/Justin Rodgers – Silver and Joe Nguyen/Randy Coleman – Bronze

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
I played my first sanctioned tournament as a self-rated player in Houston, Texas in 2017
February 2017- The Real Dill, Houston, Texas
Gold Medal- Mixed Doubles 4.5 skill
Gold Medal- Men’s Doubles 4.5 skill
Gold Medal- Men’s Doubles 50+
(I was contacted by the USAPA and moved to a 5.0 in April 2017)
April 2017- Texas Senior Games, San Antonio, Texas
Gold Medal- Mixed Doubles Age 50-54

Randy Coleman, Silver,

Randy Coleman, Men’s Singles 5.0, 50+- Silver

September 2017- USAPA Great Plains Regional, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Silver Medal-Mens Singles 5.0, 50+
Gold Medal- Mixed Doubles 5.0, 50+
November 2017- USAPA National Championships (my first)
Silver Medal- Mens Singles Age/Skill 5.0, 50+
Bronze Medal- Mens Doubles Age/Skill 5.0, 50+
January 2018- State Games of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Ok
Silver Medal- Mens Singles 5.0, 50+
Gold Medal- Mens Doubles 5.0, 50+
March 2018- South Florida Slam, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl
Bronze Medal- Mens Pro Singles Open 19+
Silver Medal- Mens Pro Doubles Open 19+

 

 

 

What paddle do you play with and why?

I am a Pro Athlete for Selkirk, and I play with the AMPED Epic for singles and the AMPED S2 for doubles. Being a former tennis player, I like the Epic’s longer handle and head-heavy leverage when I am hitting ground strokes. It still has a large sweet spot for volley put-aways and overheads. I play with the AMPED S2 for doubles thanks to its smooth, soft feel with easy power. The shorter handle naturally puts my hand closer to the paddle face which gives more control for kitchen rallies while still maintaining power when needed.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I grew up playing tennis from a young age in Lubbock, Texas, and into college. I also grew up playing anything with a ball. I’ve had a ping pong table since I could walk. My brother played competitive badminton in college, and I used to practice with him all the time. I grew up playing a beach paddle sport called Smashball or Kadima with 2 wooden paddles and a small uninflated ball. In 2015, while living in Florida, I went back to Lubbock, Texas to visit. I have a friend that, when I am in town, we are always golfing, throwing softball, playing basketball or getting our Smashball paddles and going to the park to hit. The object of the game of Smashball is just to keep the ball going when hitting back and forth without it hitting the ground. I kept saying: There has got to be a better paddle we could use!

I Googled Smashball paddles, and these funny looking pickleball paddles came up. I got curious and began looking into pickleball paddles. I found that a local sporting good store had a Wilson paddle. I went to only buy the paddles but then saw the balls and decided, why not? We fell in love with our old game and our new paddles, but then decided to try this pickleball game we saw online. With no place to play, we hit on a tennis court.

In Lubbock the volleyball courts in the parks are on concrete. We found ourselves making up a game hitting over the volleyball net. It’s actually fun; I’ll show you sometime! I went back to Florida and looked up places to play pickleball. I found converted courts in Ocala and then the golden gates opened when I found the dedicated courts in Daytona Beach Shores. I was quickly addicted, traveling almost every weekend 1 ½ hours from Gainesville to play on these great pickleball courts with some really good players. The rest is history.

Randy Coleman in action outdoors

Randy Coleman in action outdoors

What is your preference “playing indoors or outdoors?
In March of 2016, when I moved from Florida to Houston, Texas, I quickly learned that there are no public outdoor courts in Houston, except for one friend who had his own outdoor court. Needless to say, if you want to play pickleball in Houston, you play indoors, mostly at YMCA locations.

To answer your question, I absolutely prefer outdoor play. I grew up playing tennis on outdoor courts. It’s just a totally different game to me. I understand the need to have indoor play, but as the sport continues to grow, I would love to see sport complexes accommodating several sports, building acrylic hard surface pickleball courts, just as they have for tennis. 

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I totally love the individual personal accomplishments you get when you play singles. It’s just you and the opponent. It’s fast, it’s hardcore, it’s intense, it’s pure endurance. I am 54 however, so my mind loves singles, while sometimes my body is not very happy with my mind for loving singles. I will say doubles can really bring a smile to your face. Its strategy, patience, offense and defense. It’s exciting for the crowds. And when you find great chemistry with a partner, there is nothing like it. Did I answer your question?

It’s kind of like ice cream. Some of us have a few favorites, and how do we choose? I really like pistachio, chocolate almond, chocolate mint and orange sherbert, but if I walk by a freezer and I see Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, I’ll always pick that one. So I guess you could say singles is my Chunky Monkey.

Randy Coleman hiking

Randy Coleman hiking

What is your favorite place to play? Why?
Wow, so many, it’s like the ice cream dilemma. I am still pretty new to this sport, but because I am fortunate enough to play in so many locations in a fairly short amount of time, I do have some wonderful memories of many.  

I spent 23 years living in Florida, and Daytona Beach Shores has some initial lasting memories. Arizona is a mecca of beautiful pickleball locations, and the hiking in the surrounding mountains is awesome. Chicken N’ Pickle in Kansas City was just so uniquely cool with great food and beer, so I’ve heard. The Bobby Riggs Tennis/Pickleball Center in California holds a true special place for me for its laid back feel, the California weather and Steve Dawson. Monument Park in Colorado Springs, where my son lives, is always special to pass through with views of Pikes Peak, and of course, more spectacular hiking.

Playing with Sergio Garcia and ex tennis pro Amer Delic at a friends house in Austin

Playing with Sergio Garcia and ex tennis pro Amer Delic at a friends house in Austin, Texas

Everywhere I go, except Florida unfortunately, I have a close group of players and friends, and we ALWAYS take time during tournament play to go on as many hiking adventures as we can. So you ask me what my favorite place is? Well, it’s all of them, because pickleball is not just a sport, or an outdoor court, it’s about meeting new people and making an adventure together wherever you are.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
I am a visual learner. I watch the top players and mimic their movements through hours of practice. A tennis background helps to develop the natural movements and advanced shot selections. I will say, no matter what your level, you will play how you practice. You can’t expect different results doing the same thing over and over. Cliché’? A little, but it’s pure and important.

Take tips from as many pro instructors as you can, preferably an IPTPA instructor with consistent baseline fundamentals, and learn at least one thing they teach. Then take all those “one” things and apply them to your game. If you grew up playing a sport, take those fundamentals you were taught and learn to apply them into your paddle movement. You don’t just hit your shots over, hit your shots with a purpose. Don’t just serve the ball, serve deep to a target. Don’t just dink the ball over, dink to a target. It’s a chess game; be patient.

What is your day job?

My day job is now pickleball. I left a great paying job last November with benefits, decided to minimize my life, sold 75% of my belongings, and only mostly kept what I could take on the road.  I signed with Selkirk as a Pro Playing Athlete, coach and distributor in January. Fittingly, Selkirk is the only paddle brand I have ever played with. I decided I wouldn’t worry about gaining monetary wealth, but enjoy the peace and happiness through teaching, sharing and playing this life-changing sport.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
I will practice and play anywhere from 10-18 hours a week if I am preparing for an event. I’m not counting any teaching hours of court time. I will schedule a recovery or fun day every 3 or 4 days.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
I don’t have a ritual before a tournament, but I am a slightly methodical person during a tournament. There’s a mental list of things I check. I make sure I have a fresh Tourna Grip dry wrap on all my paddles, plenty of dry daily shirts, wrist sweatbands, 2 hats, 2 pair of socks for each day, 2 pairs of shoes to rotate, 2 pairs of ankle braces (Adidas Speedwrap), plenty of Bai drinks and water. (Uh oh, guess I do have a ritual!)

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?
I want to beat Scott Moore in singles in a tournament. I want to play pickleball and go hiking with friends in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. And my ultimate goal is to help see this sport make it into the Olympics and be a part of the coaching staff. Thanks to Daniel Moore and USAPA President Jack Thomas, I have been invited by the newly formed Shenzhen Pickleball Association to go to China this May and introduce our USA Pickleball at the International Trade Expo to teach and help build their programs. I was also invited into their school system to teach pickleball to students. It is truly an honor, and I am humble to be a part of this monumental opportunity.

Randy Coleman and friends at a LevelUp Pickleball Camp

Randy Coleman and friends at a LevelUp Pickleball Camp

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
I hope that because of this sport, which is like no other, I have become a better person. I love to joke and laugh, start conversations at restaurants, in line at checkout registers, sitting on planes (yes, I have pulled out 2 paddles and a ball and played pickleball on a plane with a stewardess!) and what I am finding is that all the roads somehow lead back to pickleball. 

I am a social media person. I love taking selfies with friends on the court and at the homes of so many wonderful hosts. Because of them I can do what I do, and what I find is that this big world gets a little smaller because of a wiffle ball and a paddle. My favorite sporting event in the world is the Olympics. The only sporting event where over 200 countries put aside political differences to compete for the spirit of the games. Just as the Olympic motto I wear proudly as a reminder: Faster, Higher, Stronger. It’s the pinnacle of excellence that I may not achieve, but I can always strive for. Life IS competition, and it’s always better with pickleball.