Meet The Pros – Nancy Jensen

Meet The Pros – Nancy Jensen

Nancy Jensen, Takako Tourangeau

May, 2017 Timberhill Spring Fling @ Corvallis, OR Gold WD 4.5 Nancy Jensen, Takako Tourangeau

Nancy Jensen is one of our favorite local Pros. I love Nancy’s story, especially the part about Joel Pritchard coming to her school and Nancy’s use of pickle juice to re-energize during a tournament. Enjoy!

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

In May of 2016 I began competing regularly in tournaments. In June of 2017 I received notification that I would be rated as 5.0. Takako Tourangeau & I decided to delay that change until after Nationals in Nov. since the 4.5 category would now be included. For 2018 I have played in my 5.0 Legacy rating, but my rating under the new system will now be WD – 4.5, MXD 5.0, WS- 4.5.

I have been lucky enough to play in quite a few tournaments with different partners since I started playing competitively two years ago. My tournament experiences below lists many of the medals I’ve won in the skill categories 4.5 and 5.0. I’ve also competed in the age groupings of 35+ through 70+. My hope is that I can continue to be considered a competitive tournament player who can play and find partners in these skill and age groupings at future local or national tournaments.

2018 Coeur d’Alene Classic Silver Women’s Singles 4.5
2018 SoCal Summer Classic  @ Encinitas, CA Mixed Doubles 60+ Bronze with Gregg Whitfield
2018 Pickleball Station 4.5 & 5.0 – Kent, WA Gold Women’s Doubles  with Mary Sigmen
2018 Pickleball Station 4.5 & 5.0 — Kent, WA  Silver Women’s Doubles with Takako Tourangeau
2018 Grand Canyon @ El Mirage, AZ Gold Women’s Doubles 5.0 Age 70+ Audrey Sherfey
2018 Cougar Classic Gold Women’s Doubles 5.0  with Takako Tourangeau
Gold Mixed Doubles 4.5 Ages 60-70+ with Jim McMillan
2017 USAPA Pacific NW Regional @ Bend, OR Gold Women’s Doubles 4.5 Ages 19-35+ with Takako Tourangeau
2017 Canada National @ Kelowna Gold Women’s Doubles 4.5  with Takako Tourangeau
2017 International Indoor @ Centralia Gold Women’s Doubles 4.5 with Takako Tourangeau
Silver Sr. Women’s Doubles with Che Cui

Pickleball Station Gold with Mary Sigmen

 What paddle do you play with and why?

I have played with various paddles produced by Paddletek. I thought I was playing well with the Bantam until this year at the Grand Canyon Tournament when Chris Miller had me try his red & white Paddletek Tempest. He thought with my game, I’d like the touch & feel of this paddle and he was absolutely right. I’ve been tempted by other paddles but prefer playing with the Tempest. Like in tennis, I need to stay with a paddle that fits my game and not be tempted by the latest & greatest new paddle.

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

I began teaching High School PE in 1972 and during a fall sports clinic, Joel Pritchard presented a brief workshop on pickleball. He handed out a 2-page rule sheet which included a template for making paddles from 5/8 inch plywood. My fellow PE teacher purchased the wood & cut out the paddles. We sanded them down, placed athletic tape around the handles as grips and then purchased wiffle balls. At the end of our badminton units we would incorporate a pickleball unit. At that time I was teaching, coaching and playing competitive tennis, so I didn’t like pickleball. The paddles were too heavy and the handles cut your hands. In 2014 I found pickleball listed at a Seattle Rec. Center and saw for the first time how much the sport and equipment had changed since the 70’s. Injuries had prevented me from continuing with tennis, so I was eager to finally find something I truly enjoyed as much as tennis.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I love playing outside when the courts are dry, temperatures are above 50 degrees, the wind is below 10 mph and the Dura-40 ball is being used. But because I choose to live in the PNW and I want to play, drill & improve my game, I have to play inside on hardwood or a tennis court. During the rainy season, I’m just happy that there are now indoor pickleball courts available. For tournaments, I prefer outdoor play with all it’s varied locations and the diverse natural elements which add additional challenges to this extremely enjoyable game.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I’ve always enjoyed playing a singles game characterized by more net play and fewer groundstrokes. Right now I feel I can still be competitive at the 4.5 skill level in the 35+ and 50+ divisions. At my age singles takes a toll on my body very quickly and I don’t want it to negatively affect my doubles play in the days which follow this event. My hope is that the smaller tournaments will begin using a 15-point format with 2 out of 3 games reserved for the finals. This change, I think, would encourage more women to begin or continue playing in the singles event.

I love the doubles game mostly because I can more fully utilize my aggressive serve & volley skills developed when I played tennis. They transfer almost seamlessly to pickleball shots and strategies. Of course, the dink shot has proven to be a challenging exception. I believe a successful doubles team requires finding a partner whose game both complements and contrasts with your own. Finding a partner, and then working together to develop the skills, team strategies, competitive temperament, and thereby the team chemistry needed to compete successfully, is one of the hidden rewards to be treasured in the doubles game.

Jan. 2018 Cougar Classic @ Vancouver, WA Gold WD 5.0

Jan. 2018 Cougar Classic @ Vancouver, WA Emy Williams/Lynn Syler, Silver, Nancy Jensen/Takako Tourangeau, Gold, Sheila Schoonover/KimBessling, Bronze Women’s Doubles 5.0

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I began playing at various rec sites in Seattle, Mercer Island and the ARC located in the International District. Each time I changed location it was to move to a higher level of play where I thought I could now compete and also learn more advanced skills. Since I prefer to play against a variety of players, my favorite locations in Seattle are now: Pickleball Station, Yost Park, SeaTac Rec. the Highline Athletic Cemter in Burien and also the Eastmont Public Parks in East Wenatchee.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Be sure you’re having fun and that you are continually striving to learn. Find a player who is as addicted to the game as you are and is willing to drill. I was fortunate that when I started to play competitive pickleball I meet and partnered with Takako who was developing a similar addiction to the game. We continue to drill & play to help each other improve our individual skills and games strategies.

What is your day job?

For 31 years I taught in the Highline School District. I began teaching PE & coaching tennis at Highline High School in 1972. For 4 years I directed the WA State Girl’s Invitational Tennis Tournament until the event was recognized by the WIAA and became an official State Tournament. In 1980 I joined the Business Dept. at Highline teaching computer programming, Info Tech & Computer Apps, and Web Design. In the 1990’s I moved to Mt. Rainier High School’s Business Dept. and taught there until I retired in 2004. After 31 years of teaching, I retired. In Seattle it’s an extreme joy not to have a daily 30-45 minute commute.

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

During the summer I usually play between 3 to 4 days a week for about 2-3 hours. One or two of those days are focused on drills. During the rainy season, it has become more difficult to find facilities that aren’t overly crowded. However, I can still play 2 times a week but I also try to find times, facilities & players who are available to drill in the mornings or midday.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t have any rituals that I know are lucky. To prepare my body and mind, I do focus on hydrating with electrolyte drinks several days before the tournament. I also keep a supply of pickle juice handy in case a more concentrated supply is needed during the tournament. I continue to follow the preparation activities I used for tennis. This includes mentally practicing my shots & strategies, reviewing mental & physical notes I have about my opponents, try to determine what the best individual/team strategy might be against some opponents, and deciding how the court and playing conditions will determine which option I’ll prefer if I win the toss. My most important ritual is: “Always go to the bathroom before taking the court, so you’re sure to have your complete attention on the game!”

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

Skills I’m currently trying to develop are: blocking and digging out smashes from the mid-court with a soft drop shot into the kitchen. Footwork remains a constant area of work and focus because it has such a major positive impact on my consistency and success when I move efficiently and get into position early. I just received an incredibly appropriate t-shirt for my birthday. It states:

“Dink Responsibly,
Don’t Get Smashed”

I am told that I’m a bit too aggressive in my play and need to develop “patience.” “Easy” as Brian Ashworth has frequently said, should be my mantra.  Unfortunately after about 3-4 dinks a little voice shouts in my ear, ”Attack.” Now my goal is to regularly hit 5-6 dinks in a row and maybe someday get to 10 dinks before I hear “Attack!”

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

First, I am not one of the best players, but I think being in Seattle has allowed me to watch and play against some of the best. Many of these players have been very willing to give me tips and help me develop my game. Realizing that I don’t have that many competitive years left, I knew I needed a more concentrated and focused approach to improve my game. I decided to take a few lessons, something I never did for tennis. The private lessons from Peter Hudachko has been a immense help in improving my skills in both dinking and blocking, while also making my footwork patterns more efficient.

Youtube videos have allowed me watch the skills and analyze the strategies used by the BEST. Although my previous experience in tennis is a help, I was slow to realize that pickleball really isn’t tennis. I need to continually analyze, modify and/or develop my shots and strategies. Recently I viewed a video of my competitive match play. Although not a pretty thing to watch, it clearly shows you what you have not corrected, the errors or poor techniques you’re continuing to use, and the poor footwork or court positioning that has returned and must again be corrected. I think most players would improve their skills & court positioning if they could arrange to have a video made of their match play. This visual feedback provides you with the critical information you need to realize your progress and also determine your new goals in pickleball.


AMBASSADOR SERIES – Ron Tugwell, North Virginia, Fairfax County

Ambassador Series – Ron Tugwell

Location: North Virginia, Fairfax County

Ron Tugwell, Home Plate Awards

56th Annual Home Plate Awards Banquet, Ron Tugwell, organizer on the left,

Ron Tugwell is a life-long sports enthusiast and coach. We are glad to have him in the pickleball “family” now! Enjoy!

How did you get into pickleball?

I’ve been involved in sports all my life. I coached baseball. My son played professional baseball. I played tennis, but I’ve had 2 knee replacements in 4 years. After the last knee surgery, I tennis-ed out, and started playing golf. It was tough to learn and hard on my knees. Then about 7 years ago I visited my parents who live in a retirement community. They played pickleball and I started hitting around with them. I got hooked, went home and found places where it was played. I play pickleball now 4-5 times a week. My wife and I both play. We get to know people better playing pickleball than when we played tennis. We enjoy organizing pickleball parties and we travel with it. I played at Naples (US Open). It’s nicer traveling with pickleball than with golf. Pickleball is my passion. The appeal of the game is that it is easy to learn and fairly inexpensive.

Why did you become an ambassador?

I was approached by Helen White, Asst Regional Mid-Atlantic Director, outside DC. She’s great! She asked for help with the Mid-Atlantic Tournament, so my wife Peggy and I jumped in and helped. Peggy and I like to travel and play together, and we like to help, so we jumped at the chance to become ambassadors. We work together as co-ambassadors. We handle a lot of calls and have a lot of visitors to the places that have pickleball.

Highlights of being an ambassador? Accomplishments?

Helen, Peggy and I work together to get more people playing pickleball. Two years ago, 20% of folks who took our classes stayed with it. Today, every class is full, and they often have played already and have already bought a paddle. The growth includes younger folks ages 30-50. Pickleball is also being introduced in public schools.  We introduce pickleball at local middle schools for the first-time last year. 

We just finished hosting a City Open Tournament in DC. We also had the 10 best pickleball pros, like Tyson McGuffin, Irina Tereschenko and Joey Farias, come to do exhibition play. Three stayed around after to do clinics. We filled 260 slots for a 3-day clinic.

Pro clinic

Clinic participants and the Pros – Tyson McGuffin, Irina Tereshenko, Joe Farias in the cente, row did you get into pickleball?

What challenges have you encountered in getting pickleball into communities?

I know pickleball will grow. My wife and I are both educators, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that the game is 80% practice and 20% play. Most folks are 3.0 level and not seeking to improve much. It’s sometimes hard to get folks to do skills and drills.  

Peggy Tugwell

Tyson McGuffin and Peggy Tugwell

We are behind on providing enough facilities for the demand for the game. There are no dedicated courts within 50 miles except Fredricksburg. Pickleball is big in pockets of Maryland. In the DC area, there are more indoor courts. We have heavy competition with other activities. Fairfax County wants all facilities to be multipurpose. A number of facilities are small and some have tile floors, like one site near Arlington which is not so good for pickleball. There are 220 tennis courts in Fairfax County, and only 20% are being used. We are looking into one perfect location, easy access in the DC area. It has 11 tennis courts that no one uses, with 2 that have pickleball lines. We are working hard to convince the county athletic board to consider expanding pickleball in this location.

Ambassador Series – Meet Mary Barsaleau, USAPA Ambassador, Coachella Valley, California

AMBASSADOR SERIES – Meet Mary Barsaleau

Rosie Garcia, Vincente and Mary Barsaleau

Referee clinic with Rosie, Vincente and Mary – what a TEAM!

Mary Barsaleau loves getting EVERYONE into the game. Her love of the sport is clearly apparent by all the work she is doing to promote the game of pickleball. Enjoy!

Mary Barsaleau in Action

Mary Barsaleau demonstrating at the L.A. A.P.E teachers clinic

How did you get into pickleball?

I started teaching and coaching after I finished the teaching credential program at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1983, after playing tennis, basketball and softball in college.

I was introduced to teaching pickleball at the Cal Poly workshop in 1984. It was a blast, and we had mini tournaments after classes. I incorporated pickleball into my physical education curriculum at Francis Parker, and in the Grossmont and Tustin Unified school districts. I coached both the boys’ and girls’ varsity  and J.V. tennis teams for 7 years at Tustin High, and even my tennis team loved pickleball!

Before we had courts, I used the service boxes on the tennis courts and dropped the volleyball nets on the volleyball courts, at first using tennis balls and hard plastic paddles. The kids loved it!

I ran summer tennis camps for 12 years and did “pickleball Wednesdays” from 2002-2015 in Tustin. They wanted to play pickle more than tennis!

In 2012 I joined a P.E. workshop friend who told me they were playing competitive pickleball at Crown Valley middle school. Bill Smith and Jane Porphir as well as many others took me under their wing, told me to quit “playing like a tennis player,” and encouraged me to enter some tournaments. After joining Phil Dunmeyer’s early morning Tustin district employee gang (aluminum nets and taped lines) I played my first tournament at the Palm Springs Senior Games in 2013. After recovering from back surgery, I moved from 4.0 to 4.5 and became a USAPA ambassador in 2015.

Refs in Training Mary Barsaleau

What a great bunch of Refs in Training

Why did you become an Ambassador?

I love pickleball, love teaching others and wanted to start a program that did not conflict with sanctioned tournaments and social play at Tustin. I had run many events as an athletic director, and thought that the round robins which Cyndi Glavas and Phil Dunmeyer first organized at Tustin were the way to go.

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

Patriotic Pickle Round Robin participants at Tustin

My first round robin was the Summer Sizzler in the summer of 2015, and I just hosted Summer Sizzler 4! The round robin format is a great way to meet people, socialize, practice for tournaments and not worry about being eliminated. I have run about 20 events at Tustin, and 5 in Palm Springs. That is my major ambassador contribution, and I hope to continue to run these events everywhere. 

Montana School Demonstration Mary Barsaleau

Mary and youth at the Montaras School Demonstration

Highlights of being a USAPA ambassador? Accomplishments?

I finished the IPTPA training to be an instructor in July. I plan to attend the Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR) certification program in September at Seal Beach, so I can compare the two teaching programs. PPR is a subset of the Professional Tennis Registry, of which I have been a member for years. They provide certification and insurance for instructors.

Mary Barsaleau, Garcia with Montana School Students

Mary Barsaleau, Rosie Roper with Montaras School youth

Rosie Roper and I ran two clinics for L.A. Unified in June, for both students and APE teachers. I recruited Jeanie Garcia, Doug Nichols and Gary Rogers to help, along with Bev Vigil, who works for LAUSD. San Clemente ambassador Manny Romero is working to schedule an inservice for his teachers this year, after we ran a senior center demonstration along with Phil Dunmeyer earlier this year. I am working with Steve Riggs to start the program in Irvine when the Portola facility is completed. I recently changed my ambassador registration from Tustin/Long Beach to the Coachella Valley and hope to run more round robins, in-service workshops and school district programs in the desert.

Dean Mangione, USAPA ambassador in Palm Springs, has worked hard to promote pickleball in a variety of programs, and has been my mentor. Along with Rosie Roper, we ran a free clinic during Spring break that had over 45 kids! He and his wife Nancy have worked with the city, and have offered free youth programs indoors at both Demuth and JOJ community centers. Along with Vicki Oltean with the City of Palm Springs, and Dave Paquette, I have run 5 round-robin tournaments during the season, with great success. Hank Reimer is running referee clinics and training in the Palm Desert area, and I am working with him to become a certified referee.

Challenges to getting pickleball into communities?

We need to work cooperatively with the tennis community and offer free programs to introduce our sport in camps, after school programs and schools. Senior center demonstrations, Back to School Night or Open House demonstrations, and off season leagues for high school girls and boys tennis teams are only a start.

When we get them playing, they will push their communities to build more courts. Sponsorships from businesses will help with funding, and corporate Health and Wellness is a great place to offer pickleball to get employees active and exercising. I would like to see everyone on the courts!

Meet The Pros – Lucy Kitcher

Meet The Pros – Lucy Kitcher

Lucy Kitcher

That Lucy Kitcher SMILE

Lucy Kitcher, originally from England, loves pickleball and she loves the people she meets wherever she plays. She is GAMMA’s first pickleball pro! Enjoy!

Can you list for us your recent wins so we can correctly introduce you?

2018 Great Lakes Regional, Mixed Doubles 5.0 with Ernesto Fajardo – Silver and
            Women’s Doubles 5.0 with Bobbie Phoumy – Silver
2018 Gamma Pickleball Classic, Pro Women’s Doubles with Bobbie Phoumy and
             Women’s Singles Open Pro – Silver
2018 SoCal Summer Classic, Mixed Doubles age with Tao Thongvanh – Gold
2018 Minto US Open, Mixed Doubles age with Ty Petty – Gold and
             Women’s Doubles age with Mary Helen Atkins, Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

Gamma Mirage – it has great touch so I can dink with accuracy and the Gamma Needle.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

About three years ago I was taking my daughter, Rebecca, to soccer practice at Bamford Park in Davie, Florida. A friend posted on Facebook to try pickleball. As luck would have it, pickleball courts were at the same park where my daughter was practicing. I dropped her off at practice and hunted around for the courts. The people at the park were so friendly, they gave me a paddle and allowed me to join in. One game and I was hooked! After that, I went to play pickleball three times a week when I took Rebecca to soccer practice. It wasn’t long before I was playing pickleball even on the days she didn’t have soccer practice!

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I usually only play outdoors.

US Open Women's doubles Lucy Kitcher and Maryhelen Atkins win Gold

US Open Women’s doubles Lucy Kitcher and Maryhelen Atkins win Gold – with Jodi Elliott and Geegee Garvin.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Doubles!! I never played tennis and singles is more like tennis. Doubles is more about strategy and shot choice and placement.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

After this weekend my new favorite is Chicken n Pickle. There are outdoor courts which are covered so you can play even in the rain. There is also a restaurant right at the courts. My local courts are at Bamford Park in Davie, Florida.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Slowing down the game. Especially when playing against players who love to hit the ball hard.

What’s your day job?

Pickleball. I run tournaments and trips through my company Zero Zero Stay. I also attend lots of tournaments!

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

I currently play about five days a week. I was playing every day but decided to try some other exercise such as Zumba and Pilates to keep me in shape.

Meet The Pros – Jay Rippel

Meet The Pros – Jay Rippel

Jay Rippel and Glen Peterson

Jay Rippel and Glen Peterson, International Indoor Pickleball Tournament, Sr. Men’s Doubles  – Gold

One of Jay’s goals in life is for his doubles partners to say he is a “really good partner.” If you ask Glen Peterson, he would say Jay Rippel is an outstanding doubles partner. Enjoy!!

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

2018 International Indoor Tournament, Sr Men’s Doubles, Open with Glen Peterson – Gold,
       Mixed Doubles with Kim Jagd – Silver,
       Sr Singles Open – Silver
2017 and 2018 Canadian Nationals Tournament SR Open Mens Gold, 2018 Gold Sr mixed open
2017 Lakes tournament (1st ppf event)  Silver Sr Open Men’s Doubles
2017 USAPA Nationals, Men’s Doubles, age 50-54 with Scott Burr – Gold
2017 International Indoor Tournament, Mixed Doubles with Julie Haney, Bronze

What paddle do you play with and why?

I’m currently a member of “Team Selkirk” and play with the Selkirk  “Amped Omni” lightweight paddle. I love the touch and feel it gives me without sacrificing the power that my original Omni had. I play with the lightweight version and this has helped me tremendously with my “paddle speed” at the net when playing doubles. I feel I return a lot more balls with this paddle that are hit hard at me.

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

I was introduced to pickleball way back in 1992 at a 24-Hour Fitness Club in Bellevue, Washington by a gentleman named Ewol. It was played on carpet with the old Cosom ball. I was instantly hooked. There really weren’t any tournaments back then, but a group of us played several times a week until the club was shut down. Unless I’m injured, I have played pickleball weekly for the last 26+ years.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I really prefer to play outdoors with the Dura ball, since its such a fun ball to try and master.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, I preferred to play singles since its such a challenge to compete, especially against the younger players. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I prefer men’s doubles to everything else. I will occasionally play singles, but usually in the bigger tournaments. I also enjoy mixed doubles and have been lucky to find some amazing ladies to partner with.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I think my style of play is a bit more aggressive than a lot of players. I’m always trying to create shots for my partners and keep opponents guessing on where my shot will be placed. I think with the way the game is evolving, my advice to new players is to not be too predictable, like always playing one style. I think everyone who plays tournaments and wants to compete at a high level should also look to add some sort of “offensive” shot to their game. Communication with my partners during a match is crucial to the success of our game.

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

Jay Rippel

Jay and daughters Caitlin and Mackenzie

I’m able to play pickleball on a regular basis. I have a fabulous support system of my wife, Leigh and two great daughters, Caitlyn and Mackenzie. I play usually 3-4 times a week with a great group of pickleball players. Each session is usually 2-3 hours and mainly consist of doubles. Sometimes we will drill before tournaments.

What is your day job?

When I’m not playing, my day job is in the field of “financial services” and with stock market hours.

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

My goals for pickleball are pretty simple. I would love to win a “Sr OPEN” Gold medal in one of the major tournaments (USAPA Nationals, US Open, Tournament of Champions). I’d like to stay healthy and pain free, and I’d like players to think that “yes he’s a pretty good player”; he is also a “really good partner!”

Meet The Pros: Nick Williams

Meet The Pros – Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Pickleball Pro Glen Peterson says: “I believe Nick is the best player in Washington state right now. It is safe to say Nick is one of the top 20 players in the nation in men’s open doubles.”  He sounds like one serious contender. Enjoy!

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

Gold at Yakima Classic, Quarters at US Open, Semis at SoCal Classic, matching wins against McGuffin/Goebel, Evans/Campbell, Johns/Siebenschein, Farias/Dawson. I also have multiple losses to many of these players so I certainly haven’t gotten the better of any of them.

What paddle do you play with and why?

I have been using the Selkirk PRIME S2 for most of my time playing pickleball. The paddle allows me to feel the ball on the paddle face as well as create spin.

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

I have a tennis background and played for the University of Washington in the mid 1990’s. My brother convinced me to try pickleball during the summer of 2016. I’ve been playing regularly since.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I much prefer outdoors on a sunny day. When the conditions are more difficult with wind, sun or shadows the game is more interesting. It’s harder to line up balls perfectly and play pure power. A ball out of round will drive me crazy though.

2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships: Men's singles Open. Tyson MacGuffin (gold) Nick Williams (silver) Rob Cassidy (bronze)

2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships: Men’s singles Open. Nick Williams (silver), Tyson McGuffin (gold) and Rob Cassidy (bronze)

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I preferred singles in the beginning as the transition from tennis was easier. I now prefer doubles after learning some of the nuances. There are similarities between pickleball and tennis with singles but doubles is a completely different game, which I like.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

The first time I actually played games was on a court tucked away in a small park in Bellevue, WA. It’s probably the best outdoor court in the area and is still my favorite place to play.

What is your secret sauce?

I try and stay mentally in the moment. Games are quick and momentum changes often. It can be costly to let negativity carry over from point to point.

Any tips for players?

After watching various levels play, I commonly see issues with court positioning/coverage. Teams shouldn’t get beat down the line or through the middle. Hitting hard with a cross court angle shot is very difficult in pickleball and teams should make opponents try and beat them with the most difficult shot.

What is your day job?

I work for Boeing as a Financial Analyst.

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

I usually play twice a week for a total of about 5 or 6 hours a week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I am not superstitious, but I do try and break a sweat with a good warm up before the first match.

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

I would like to experience playing against the top players at as many of the major tournaments as possible. I have a wife and 6-year-old twins, so finding the right balance will be the challenge.

Nick Williams with his twins

Nick Williams with his twins

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.