Meet The Pros – Cherie Chao

Meet The Pros – Cherie Chao

Cherie Chao and Irene Mah

Cherie Chao and Irene Mah at the 2019 USAPA Nationals

Cherie comes from a background of many different racquet sports. She has her own style and loves to help grow the sport of pickleball. Enjoy!

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

2019 Nationals- 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Deb Mascarin -Gold
2019 Colorado Open- 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Ken Lehman – Gold
2019 Great Lakes Regional – 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Gregg Whitfield – Silver
2019 US Open – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Deb Mascarin – Silver
 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Scott Lennan – Silver
2018 Huntsman Senior Games – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Rachel Kroog – Gold
 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Byron Freso – Silver
 5.0 Women’s Doubles open with Rachel Kroog – Bronze
2018 Great Plains Regional – 5.0 Women’s Doubles 35’s with Daria Stakiw-Harlow – Silver
2018 Colorado Open – 5.0 age 19-59 Women’s Doubles age with Vivian Edwards – Silver
2018 US Open – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Susan Baze – Gold
2018 The Lakes Spring Fling – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Deb Mascarin – Gold
2017 US Nationals – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Leticia Brambila – Silver
2017 Great Plains Regionals – 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Randy Coleman – Gold
2016 Southern Utah Shootout – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Marilyn Eves – Gold
 5.0 Mixed Doubles age with Jeff McFall – Gold
2016 Great Plains Regionals – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Carolyn Bagley – Bronze
2016 Southern Utah Shootout – 5.0 Women’s Doubles age with Kellie Banisky – Gold

Cherie Chao Nationals Gold

2019 USAPA Nationals: Deb Mascarin and Cherie Chao with gold medal

What paddle do you play with and why?

The Selkirk Amped Omni, mid-weight, I love it because I can hit with power and still have touch. It also helps me reach balls with its longer length.

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

I discovered pickleball when my town of Arvada, Colorado put in 24 courts soon after I had my hip replaced. It  seemed like a natural transition from tennis since I could cover the court easier. I played 5.0 tennis for years in addition to platform tennis in the winter. I also played badminton, squash and racquetball competitively. Pickleball was a perfect sport after playing so many different racquet and paddle sports.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I definitely prefer playing outdoors – love the surface and the elements. If indoors, I prefer tennis court surfaces with good lighting!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I love doubles and working together with my partner towards a common goal. I enjoy being able to talk to my partner and work on strategy together. My goal is to make my partner look good!

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I love playing in my home town! We have 24 individually-fenced, lit courts 8 min from my house. The people are awesome! If I have to travel, I really enjoy St. George, Utah. Great courts, great people and amazing surroundings!

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My secret sauce is my slice. Most people hate it, but I’ve used it in all my racquet sports with success- so I guess I’ll keep it!

My tips for players – Don’t just play games… make time to drill and get comfortable with your shots. 

What is your day job?

I have 2 day jobs – I’m a registered dietitian working at a local hospital in cardiac rehab and outpatient nutrition.  My second job is being a grandma – I care for my 2 year old grandson and newborn granddaughter 1-2 days/week. Best job ever!

Cherie Chao Team Selkirk

TEAM SELKIRK having fun at the 2019 USAPA Nationals: Pam Stevenson, Susan Baze, Cherie Chao, Takako Tourangeau, Jan Yu and Miok Lee

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

In the warmer months I play 6-10 hours a week, but in the winter or when the outdoor courts are not playable, I play 3-5 hours. I play anytime I can around my work and babysitting – I have great support from my husband, Ken.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Not really – just try to get a good night’s sleep and eat the same food I train with. I often bring food with me to tournaments since I don’t eat meat/dairy.

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

I’d like to continue playing competitively but also spend time helping the sport to grow. I love introducing new people to the game. Pickleball changes lives!

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

It’s been a blast meeting so many wonderful and talented players!

Meet The Pros – Leigh Waters

Meet The Pros – Leigh Waters

 Catherine Parenteau and Leigh Waters, Bronze

USAPA Margaritaville Nationals, Catherine Parenteau and Leigh Waters, Bronze

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

2019 Minto US Open Mixed Doubles Age with Dave Weinbach – GOLD
2019 Tournament of Champions, Women’s Doubles Open Pro with Anna Leigh Waters – GOLD
2019 Chicago Pickleball Open, Mixed Pro Doubles with Dave Weinbach – SILVER
Women’s PRO Doubles with Anna Leigh Waters – SILVER
2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals, Women’s Skill/Age Doubles with Catherine Parenteau – GOLD
2018 Texas Open – Women’s Open Doubles with Anna Leigh Waters – SILVER
Women’s Singles – GOLD

Leigh and Anna Leigh Texas Open

Texas Open Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters, Silver; Simone Jardim and Lucy Kovalova, Gold; Catherine Parenteau  and Corrine Carr, Bronze

What paddle do you play with and why?

I use the Paddletek Element because it has good pop while being able to maintain control, plus the head of the paddle is a bit smaller so it’s not overly cumbersome.

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

My father introduced us to pickleball when we evacuated Florida from Hurricane Irma last year. We went to Pennsylvania and played for two weeks straight. We haven’t stopped since!

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors. I prefer playing on a tennis court surface with a Dura Fast 40.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I definitely prefer doubles. I enjoy having a partner next to me. Singles is such a physical game and it’s just you out there battling it out. It reminds me too much of my tennis days and I find dubs to be much more fun and social.

Mom and Daughter

Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters Pickleball Pros

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I love to play in South Florida with all my pickleball friends. We have multiple facilities where we play and I have the most fun when I’m with them.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I love mixing in power shots from the kitchen. Throwing in a fast-paced shot keeps your opponent honest and wondering when you might surprise them.

What is your day job?

I’m an attorney.

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

I play 6-8 hours a week. I make time by taking my daughter with me. That way we are not missing family time and we get to practice together. Some nights I practice while my daughter has soccer practice. Most important to me is being with her and my family, so I always time practices around Anna Leigh’s busy schedule.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Not really. I’m not a superstitious person. A good meal is super important, and I like to get to the facility a day or two early to practice.

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

Personally I just want to have fun and play high-level pickleball and do this with my daughter. Obviously, everyone has goals of winning, but I think it’s something really special to be able to travel the country playing pickleball with Anna Leigh and making memories that will last a lifetime. She is always my first priority, and I just want to teach her to be a good person on and off the court. This journey wouldn’t be half as good if she wasn’t a part of it.

Meet The Pros – Kris Anderson

Meet The Pros – Kris Anderson

Kris Anderson action

2019 Texas Open, Kris Anderson and Dave Weinbach

Kris is a great competitor and a doubles master. She has played with the best and competes against the best. Enjoy!

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

2019 Texas Open, Senior (Sr) Mixed Open with Dave Weinbach – Gold
Sr Women’s Open with Lisa Naumu – Gold
2019 Tournament of Champions (ToC)  Senior Mixed Doubles Pro with Kevin Booth – Gold

Sr Women’s Doubles Pro with Lisa Naumu -Silver
2019 The Lakes Spring Fling, Women’s Doubles 50+ with Lisa Naumu – Gold
2019 US Open, Sr Open Mixed Pro with Scott Moore – Gold
Sr Open Women’s With Lisa Naumu – Silver
2018 USAPA Nationals,
50+ Women’s Doubles with Bonnie Williams – Gold
Sr. Open Mixed with Scott Moore – Gold
Sr. Open Women’s with Bonnie Williams – Silver
2018 ToC, Sr. Open Mixed with Kevin Booth – Gold
Sr Open Women’s with Bonnie Williams – Silver
2018 US Open, Sr. Open Mixed Doubles with Kevin Booth – Bronze
2017 USAPA Nationals, Sr Open Mixed with Kevin Booth – Gold
2016 USAPA Nationals, Sr. Open Mixed with Scott Moore – Gold
Sr Open Women’s with Mona Burnett – Silver
2016 US Open, 50+ Mixed with Mike Gates – Silver
Sr Open Mixed with Mike Gates – Gold
Sr Open Women’s with Tracy Worley – Bronze
2014 USAPA Nationals, Women’s 50+ with Tracy Worley – Gold

2019 US Open Sr. Mixed Pro Kris Anderson

2019 US Open Sr. Mixed Pro, Steve Kennedy and Lisa Naumu, Bronze, Kris Anderson and Scott Moore – Gold, Cammy MacGregor and Brian Staub, Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

I just switched this week to the new Onix Evoke Premier Paddle. I love it. It has a great grip, nice texture and balance.

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

I was playing tennis one day and it started raining so someone said let’s go in the gym and try pickleball. I loved it immediately and couldn’t wait to play again.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors. We rarely play indoors in Southern California.

Courts at The Tennis Club at Newport Beach

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why? 

Doubles.

What is your favorite place to play? Why

The tennis club at Newport Beach. Great club and close to home.

What is your day job?

Being a mom.

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

I’m blessed with an amazing husband and family who are totally supportive of each other and I have all the time I want to play.

Middletown – Pickleball Capital of Ohio

Middletown – Pickleball Capitol of Ohio

Middletown loves pickleball, and based on the claim they made in the local newspaper, their town has the most pickleball courts in the entire state: 16 total with 2 more on the way. (This is one more than Mentor, OH.)

With plenty of volunteer and community support for the game, the Middletown Community Fund gave the association a $1,500 grant last year to aid in expanding the courts, said Traci Barnett, executive director.

The association hosted the 12th annual Middletown Senior Pickleball Tournament on August 1-3. Open-aged singles played first followed by senior players (50 and older) playing doubles and mixed doubles.

The tournament had a record 268 registered players from eight states. Five years ago, the tournament drew 112 players.

Are there more “Pickleball Capitals” out there? Let’s start a “Bragging Rights” post.

Is your town the pickleball capital of your state? Tell us why.

Dave Thomas – USAPA Ambassador Growing Pickleball in Town of Riga, Churchville, New York

Dave Thomas – USAPA Ambassador Growing Pickleball in Town of Riga, Churchville, New York

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas, USAPA Ambassador and Recreation Supervisor, The Town of Riga, N.Y.

Hello pickleball folks! My name is Dave Thomas and I have been involved with the wonderful game of pickleball since 1983-84. I found out about the game at the New York State Physical Education Conference in Syracuse, New York. I immediately knew that this was an activity that I wanted to introduce to my students. I taught it in my PE classes to children in Grades 3-6 from 1984 until 2005 when I retired. I adjusted my teaching style to the ages of these students. I figure that I taught it to at least 8,000+ students.

After retiring from teaching, I joined our local YMCA and noticed that they were offering a pickleball league. I was SO surprised! I signed up because I had never played with other adults; I just taught it. After starting to play I researched my new activity. I couldn’t believe how huge pickleball was in 2006.

I retired and secured a new post-retirement job as Recreation Supervisor for the Town of Riga in Churchville, NY. I put my name in with the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) and became a USAPA Ambassador for Rochester, New York—the very first one from this area. Within a week I was receiving emails from “snowbirds” inquiring about outdoor play once they returned. In 2006 there were only 2 pickleball courts in the area at the Westside YMCA on Elmgrove Road in Rochester. I knew we had to try and get others involved, so with the help of many folks we spread the word about pickleball. Thirteen years later, we have indoor & outdoor courts in just about every town in the Rochester, New York area. We’ve gone from 2 courts in 2006 to over 180 courts in 2019!

New Courts in Town of Riga

Recently, I contacted our New York state senator and asked him if he could support the tiny Village of Churchville, New York in the town of Riga by securing a $50.000 grant to build a 2-court venue. He wholeheartedly agreed, and the pictures you see are the result of this grant.

Before pickleball courts

Before pickleball courts

Town of Riga Highway Department Boxing Out the courts

Town of Riga Highway Department Boxing Out the courts

Town or Riga Highway Dept. rolling out gravel base

Town of Riga Highway Dept. rolling out gravel base

First layer of asphalt

First layer of asphalt

Putting second smooth coat of asphalt down

Putting second smooth coat of asphalt down

Cutting out for poles

Drilling holes for sleeve installation

Drilling holes for sleeve installation

Getting ready to cement

Getting ready to cement net post holes

Finished fencing for the court

Finished fencing for the court

Starting the Primer coat

Starting the Primer coat

Town of Riga "Super Seal Gang" that painted the courts! A terrific job!

Town of Riga “Super Seal Gang” that painted the courts! A terrific job!

Painting lines

This is how they paint the lines, with a spray can, then followed along with a roller.

Last November they put the final coat of paint on the courts but alas… it did not take as the sun did not shine and the snow ruined it! As soon as we were able to string together 3-4 sunny & 60 degree days, the company came out and repainted.

Poles installed, measured to correct height and ready for the nets

Poles installed, measured to correct height and ready for the nets

ready for the Grand Opening on June 26, 2019

Nets attached, tables in place and ready for the Grand Opening on June 26, 2019

New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer making the first official serve on the Town of Riga's Pickleball Complex.

New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer making the first official serve on the Town of Riga’s Pickleball Complex.

After our Grand Opening we were featured on Spectrum New’s “Your Morning Rochester” TV show, Wendy Mills was the host and we had a wonderful time bringing this facility and pickleball to the audience.

Thank you Dave for sharing your story about how you are growing pickleball in the Rochester New York region. Congratulations!

Ambassador Series – Jan Lucas, USAPA Ambassador for the Greater La Crosse Wisconsin Area

Ambassador Series – Jan Lucas – USAPA Ambassador for the Greater La Crosse Wisconsin Area

Tournament medals Jan Lucas

Jan Lucas and husband Robert

When you hear about a growing pickleball program, you have to know there is a USAPA Ambassador working to make it happen. Enjoy Jan’s story!

I started playing pickleball in December 2014 while visiting my parents in Arizona. When we got back home to Dayton, OH, we found one court and kept playing. In 2015 Larry Vergilio, USAPA Ambassador, asked if I could help teach pickleball. I made myself available and started teaching women at a local tennis club. I love the game and I love to teach people about the health benefits of pickleball, both the physical and emotional benefits.

Later my husband got a promotion which meant a move to La Crosse, Wisconsin, right on the Mississippi River. He went to La Crosse ahead of me, while I stayed back to settle things with our house. He immediately connected with folks playing pickleball. We already had a large group of friends when I arrived. Pickleball always comes with a built-in community.

Oak Park Pickleball Courts in Onalaska, Wisconsin

Oak Park Pickleball Courts in Onalaska, Wisconsin

In the La Crosse area I found there were 4 dedicated courts in the area and no USAPA Ambassadors, so I became an Ambassador for the greater La Crosse area including several suburbs of La Crosse. The USAPA does a great job of building pickleball programs through the Ambassador program. We petitioned the city to put in more courts with 100 signatures. We did phone calls, attended council meetings, got friendly with tennis people and won their support. The city has agreed to install 6 more courts with lighting. We are very excited because in the fall when the days are shorter, lighted courts allow folks to play longer outdoors. We have 2 local YMCAs that have pickleball. In the nearby town of Homer there was an unused tennis court where we set up pickleball on half of the court. 30 miles away in Winona, Minnesota there are indoor courts.

Bob and Jan Lewis

Robert and Jan Lewis with Dave Weinbach at River Valley Paddle Battle

La Crosse Area Logo

La Crosse Area Logo

We started a club for our community which has grown to almost 300 members. We have 250 followers on our Greater La Crosse Pickleball Facebook page and an additional 150 followers on our private La Crosse Pickleball Club page. We have 275 followers on Instagram. We’re growing, getting new courts, gaining identity as a large group and starting to bring home wins and medals at tournaments.

People come from 30 miles away in Minnesota to play pickleball. Most folks are recreational players. Only 10% of all players go to national tournaments, and they’re mostly guys. Many of our players are moving up in the grading system. We approached a tennis center in Winona about adding pickleball to their program and they agreed. We had the River Valley Paddle Battle Round Robin event last March. I’m also partnering with Dave Weinbach for our next big tournament in March 2020. He’s bringing in sponsors and lots of pros! Our club is almost at 300 people – not quite there yet, but we will be in another month. We are having our 1st sanctioned tournament with 60 people participating. We will have a booth with videos showing the game of pickleball.

We use the GroupMe App to keep in touch with everybody in the club, letting them know changes in court availability or announcing pick-up games and special events. Drop-in play is scheduled every day. We have round robin tournaments and summer leagues. Dave Weinbach has provided clinics in our area too.

Jan Lucas and friends

Mike Gritzmacher, Robert Lucas, Diane Walker and Jan Lucas at a tournament

Events often are partnerships with folks in the community. For example, in May we supported cancer research in Gunderson. In September, we will be doing pickleball demonstrations during a “Stepping Out In Pink” event. The Honorary Chairperson, Candi Bucheger, is a cancer survivor. The city has an annual Riverfest event. This year is the first time our club will be involved. We’ll have one court with players on it all the time and one court for folks who want to learn the game. We just got business cards to hand out and we will have a booth with a monitor in place showing folks playing pickleball. We’re excited to continue finding opportunities to grow the game in our community.

La Crosse Area Pickleball Club

La Crosse Area Pickleball Club

Meet The Pros – Tony Girodo

Meet The Pros – Tony Girodo

Tony Girodo with Linda Dillon

Tony is a full-time RV’er, so he gets to play pickleball with folks from all over. He must have a fantastic array of pickleball friends. Enjoy!

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

2019 National Senior Games Mixed Doubles with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2019 Wickenburg Ranch Men’s Doubles Age – Gold

2019 Grand Canyon State Games Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Gold
2019 Robson Ranch, Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2018 Margaritaville USAPA Nationals, Mixed Skill/Age Doubles with Sandy Scanlan – Silver
2018 US OPEN Men’s Doubles Age with Bob Costanza – Gold
            Mixed Doubles – Skill with Connie Reker – Bronze
2018 Happy Trails, Mixed Doubles Skill/Age with Sandy Scanlan – Gold
2018 Duel in the Desert, Men’s Doubles Skill/Age with Doug Cook – Gold
2017 Round Up@ Sun City AZ, Men’s Doubles Skill/Age with Bill Marshall – Gold

Tony Girodo Gold

2016 🌵🏅Duel in the Desert🏅🌵 Mixed Doubles Age/Skill Groups 65+: 4.0, GOLD Audrey Sherfey and Tony Girodo, SILVER Terry Saunders and James Saunders BRONZE Diane Hill and Donald Bangs

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently play with the Tempest Wave. I used to play with an original Paddletek pickleball paddle, no model name, and had it for about 7 years.

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

Ten and a half years ago my wife and I started RV’ing. At our first stop in Palm Springs I kept hearing this “ping – ping – ping” sound and went to investigate. I was invited to play, and the rest is history. I have a tennis and racquetball background. My wife plays recreationally. Pickleball has turned out to be a great social sport. We’ve made a lot of good friends. No matter where we go, we find people who play pickleball.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Ninety-five percent of the time I play outdoors.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer doubles. I may venture into singles at some time in the future.

Tony Girodo, bronze

Marriott Desert Ridge Holiday Classic December 1, 2017 Men’s Doubles 70+ 4.5: Gold: Barry Jeff Stone & Malcolm Derr, Silver: Jim Saunders & Brian Parkes, Bronze: Tony Girodo & Doug Cook

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Indian Wells is my favorite place this year, also Happy Trails and Pebble Creek. The Surprise, Arizona area has 16 public area courts that are great. They may be expanding the number of courts in the future.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I have a supportive spouse, and that really helps. It also helps to get the right partner. Get one who plays like you or better. Make sure you drill all the time and seek to play with better, skilled folks. This builds confidence. It helps to use a Sports Tutor machine to practice drills.

What is your day job?

I am a full-time RV’er with my wife. Just recently visited Portland, Maine and the beach in New Jersey.

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

I play 2-3 hours a day, 15-20 hours a week. I usually take a day off during the week to let my body heal. Thankfully, I ‘ve had no major injuries.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I pet our dog “Mojo,” a schnauzer who gives me big “MOJO.” 

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

My current goal is to medal at the USAPA Nationals.

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

This is a great game to play and for meeting new friends. I keep playing to keep active. Eighty percent of my commitment to the game is so that I can continue to eat ice cream! I try to improve every day. I suggest working on 1 or 2 things at a time, like dinks, lobs and 3rd shot drops. That’s the best way to improve your game, in my opinion.