Meet The Pros – Athena Trouillot

Meet The Pros – Athena Trouillot

Athena Trouillot

Catherine Parenteau and Athena Trouillot, 2019 Canadian Nationals.

Athena represents some of the young tennis players who are finding their competitive edge fits well with the game of pickleball. She also likes to give back by sharing her best skills in training others. Enjoy!

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

2019 USAPA Nationals Margaritaville, Women’s Skill/Age Doubles 5.9:19+ with Catherine Parenteau – Silver
2019 Canadian Nationals, Women’s Doubles Open with Catherine Parenteau – Gold
Mixed Doubles Open with Steve Deakin – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

I am sponsored by Paddletek and I play with the Bantam EX-L. I love it! It has pop and power. It allows spin and is solid enough to be good with blocking. I don’t have to do much to get the ball back over the net.

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

I grew up in Miami and played tennis at Michigan State on a full scholarship. Simone Jardim was my instructor for the first 3 years. Catherine Parenteau started 2 years before me. I graduated 2 years ago.  I was home schooled before college and I played tennis 3-4 hours a day, including 3 of 4 weekends a month. Tennis was necessarily a singles game to be eligible for a scholarship and to compete at the college level. I burned out. I was introduced to pickleball by Cliff and Erica while at Michigan State. We played 2-3 times a week, and then we’d go out to eat afterwards. I needed a different sport, and it was exactly what I needed. Pickleball is competitive, and I was quickly good at it, but a main difference was I could play with friends and be social afterwards.

Women's Doubles 2019 Canadian Open

2019 Canadian Open, Women’s Doubles, Jessica Kawamoto/Ellen Kawamoto -Silver, Athena Trouillot/Catherine Parenteau – Gold, Kim Brent/Barbara Kerr – Bronze

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?


Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I started singles, loving the adrenaline rush. With singles though you get exhausted. When I picked up pickleball, I wasn’t in my top competitive fitness level. After that I started with a personal trainer to stay on top of my game. I play more doubles now.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Indian Wells! It is an incredible facility where they make you feel professional. Playing on the center court had a special ambiance. The energy there was electric.

Being at home in Naples is great too, playing with friends.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Keep fit! I work out 3 days a week with a trainer. I also do cardio. This helps me to be in the best shape for competition.

Canadian Nationals Athena Trouillot

Athena Trouillot and Steve Deakin, Silver at 2019 Canadian Nationals

Make sure you drill to have quick hands, to block well. I have a reputation for “quick hands.” People who play with me the first time often remark, “I can’t believe you hit all those balls. You are so fast in blocking!”

What is your day job?

Before I moved to Naples Florida, my day job kept me from being able to play and drill. Now I teach at the Mediterra Country Club and help Catherine and Simone at Simone’s Academy with their training workshops.

Gold Athena Trouillot

2019 Canadian Open, Athena Trouillot/Steve Deakin – Silver, Catherine Parenteau/Riley Newman – Gold, Jessica Kawamoto – Bronze

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

Most days I am teaching pickleball up to 5 hours a day, often drilling with students. Repeating strokes helps and it adds to the hours I practice. When I practice, it’s about 1-1 ½ hours a day. A month before a tournament it is 4-5 hours a day.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I eat light and drink lots of Pedialyte. No meals, just snacking after a light breakfast.

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

I enjoy travelling to tournaments. What’s fun about travelling is that Catherine, Simone and I always put on clinics wherever we go.  We like to give people an opportunity to train with us. We offered it at the Canadian Nationals in Kingston Ontario. People love learning and we love to do clinics.

Polar Bear Pickleball in Bourne Massachussetts

Polar Bear Pickleball January 1, 2018: Bob Zibbell let us know about their New Year’s Polar Bear Pickleball escapade.  We thought you’d like to hear about a little winter craziness. Enjoy!

Polar Bear Pickleball Nuts

Polar Bear Pickleball Nuts – credit to Bourne Enterprise Newspaper

The Bourne Massachussetts Pickleball group, playing three plus years now, plays indoors at our community center and outdoors at the Monument Beach tennis courts which are also lined for pickleball. On January 1, there is a Polar Bear Plunge, with swimmers wading into the water on Monument Beach, all for the local food pantry. I, half-jokingly, suggested during the week before New Year’s that we play pickleball on New Year’s Day while the Polar Bear Plunge was happening, calling this the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Pickleball game.

Surprisingly, several of our group liked this crazy idea, and signed on. As it turned out, the weather was so cold for so long, that the harbor froze solid, putting off the Polar Bear Plunge for another, warmer time. However, our intrepid (and half crazy) pickleballers decided to go ahead. On Saturday and Sunday, December 30 and 31, a few of us shoveled off about an inch or two of snow that had fallen a couple of days earlier. It dried enough so that about six of us (and a few spouses for support) came with a net to play about 10 AM. The temperature was about 7, but with the wind chill coming off the iced harbor, it was about -15.

From left to right, Bob Zibbell, Fred Kempton, Mary Ellen Kempton, Pete Ress, Jack DeWitt, and Jim Bowen

From left to right: Bob Zibbell, Fred Kempton, Mary Ellen Kempton, Pete Ress, Jack DeWitt, and Jim Bowen

We definitely had the cold and the wind to cope with. You can see the six of us, bundled and masked in this picture.The other picture  were taken by an Enterprise photographer. Interestingly, we learned that the outdoor ball we usually use was too brittle and broke quickly in the frigid cold, but the indoor ball was more flexible and did not break at all. No paddles cracked. We managed to get in an hour’s worth of play with no injuries and no frostbite, before calling it a Happy New Year. Someone brought coffee and Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, which nearly froze solid by the end of the game. We hope to make this an annual tradition, but being New England, it will depend on the amount of snow on the courts at that time of year.

Bob Zibbell

Anyone up for a Polar Bear game next year in Bourne? Could become a real habit!

Meet The Pros – Roberto Donati

Meet The Pros – Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati

Roberto Donati is new to pickleball, coming from POP Tennis fame. He seems to fit right in with the pickleball pro crowd and he has a great sense of humor. There is no doubt that, with his quick rise to pickleball fame, he is one serious competitor. Enjoy!

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

2017 Southern California Classic, Gold – Senior Men’s Doubles with Scott Burr
2017 ISF Palm Desert Senior Games, Gold – Mixed Doubles with Lisa Naumu
Silver – Men’s Doubles 50+ with Blake Wilcox

2017 PPF Rocky Mountain Championships, Silver – Senior Men’s Singles
2017 US Open, Silver – Men’s Doubles 45+ with Mike Stahl
2017 PPF Desert Championships Bronze – Senior Men’s Singles
2016 USAPA Nationals Bronze – Senior Open Men’s Singles

What paddle do you play with and why?

My paddle is a custom-made paddle, similar to the Phoenix Pro polymer honeycomb core. My paddle weighs 8.8 oz. The polymer honeycomb provides plenty of feel and the weight gives me plenty of power and a larger sweet-spot than I’d get in a lighter paddle.

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

I originally come from a sport called POP Tennis, which shares a lot of characteristics found in pickleball – consistency, touch, strategy and quick hands. I’d heard about pickleball for a number of years and finally in 2016 decided to give it a shot. When I visited my local courts in Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach, CA, my Pop Tennis friends Don Schwake and Steve Hosohama encouraged me to continue playing. After visiting the Tustin, CA courts and doing fairly well with the local pros, I was invited to compete by pickleball legends Christine McGrath and Ron Chang. After winning Golds in the 4.5 Mixed and Men’s Doubles, and Silver in the Senior Open Men’s Doubles at the Andalusia tourney, I qualified for the 2016 US Open. Never having played a singles match in my life, I got the Bronze after losing my first round and working my way through the Back Draw. It’s been a pickleball blast ever since.

Round Robin Spanish Open Roberto Donati

Round Robin PPF Elite Division, Spanish Open with Roberto Donati and Steve Wong, Ernesto Cardenas, Zelindo DiGiulio

What’s your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors. I like the sun.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like the teamwork that’s involved in doubles and I’m pretty easy going, so I tend to have fun win or lose. But my results have been better in singles.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

I just got back from two weeks of pickleball in Europe. The excitement and eagerness of the players in Europe was a real surprise and treat.

Roberto Donati with Christine McGrath Spanish Open

Tyler Wren/Hilary Hilton Marold, Christine McGrath/Roberto Donati, Jennifer Lucore Suzee Millar Anderson at Spanish Open Bainbridge cup

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

My number one tip to all players is… the NET IS YOUR ENEMY! I notice so many players lose too many points because they miss too many balls in the net. Better to hit out than in the net any day of the week. When I give clinics I always ask players to try a drill where they play a game and if you hit the net you lose 2 points. Amazing to see their games drastically improve.

What’s your day job?

Anything and everything that makes life interesting.

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

Yikes, I don’t play enough. But don’t tell my partners…

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No CNN before a big match.

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

I feel I’ve reached so many goals already that I didn’t think were achievable, like great wins over some excellent players. I think being able to introduce the greatness of pickleball around the world and share what I know would be a fantastic and achievable goal.

in Madrid, the Italian Team including Roberto Rospo, Mattia Astori and Roberto Donati

in Madrid, the Italian Team including Roberto Rospo, Mattia Astori and Roberto Donati

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

Ha! Well, thank you for saying that, but I have a lot to learn. I’d like to say thank you to the pickleball community for opening my eyes and expanding my horizons.

Quad Cities Pickleball Club – For the Love of the Game!

The Quad Cities Pickleball Club (QCPC) has recently launched a youth program and a youth clinic in the Quad Cities.  Here is their story, provided by QCPC member Ruth Senneff. Enjoy! 

Introducing the Quad Cities Pickleball Club

The cities of Bettendorf and Davenport are Mississippi River towns on the Iowa side of the river, and the cities of Rock Island, Moline and East Moline are on the Illinois side. These are the major cities in the Quad Cities, and there are about 20+ other communities in the local area. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club draws most of its members from 4 counties and 25 different towns/cities. The club has close to 450 members, and we think 2-3 times more people play the game locally. Pickleball is a hit in the Quad Cities!

How Pickleball Got Started in the Quad Cities

In 2007, a couple of friends from the area spent some time in The Villages over the winter months. Back in town, they would talk about this fun game of pickleball being played down there and wished they could get it going in the Quad Cities. When some players approached both Bettendorf and Davenport Park Boards about the sport, Davenport stepped up to the plate first and marked 3 courts at Northwest Park. Since NW Park is adjacent to the Duck Creek Bike Trail, people would stop their bikes and ask about the game. In June of 2008, a clinic was held at the courts to teach this new sport and to gauge interest from the QC community. A local newspaper, the Quad City Times, covered the clinic and printed an article about it.

The local pickleball craze was on its way. Lines were soon put down on a tennis court in nearby Bettendorf. Dean Easterlund was the first area USAPA Ambassador. The Quad Cities Pickleball Club was organized in 2013 as a nonprofit with a board of directors and about 80 members. Dean served as president of the club the first two years, established our website, and worked with city leaders in getting our first six dedicated courts in Bettendorf in the fall of 2013. Just a few miles to the north, the City of Eldridge, Iowa, put in six lighted dedicated courts the following year, followed by six more on the Illinois side at Mel McKay Park in Rock Island. In 2015, the City of Davenport put in 8 dedicated courts on the original spot where play began.

Bettendorf School District and the City built six dedicated courts on the Middle School campus in 2016, and we celebrated those new courts with school administration, city staff and some youth in June.

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Bettendorf School District Staff, City Staff and Youth at new courts on the Middle School Campus

Silvis, Illinois now has 2 dedicated courts — making a total of 34 dedicated courts in the Quad City area. With our indoor venues, we have close to 90 courts available, and pickleball is easily accessible year-round, without the need for a membership in a retirement community or athletic club — although a membership option is available at the Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club.

Growing Pickleball In the Quad Cities

The area has 5 USAPA Ambassadors living in Bettendorf, Davenport, and DeWitt, Iowa; and Coal Valley and Geneseo, Illinois. Although from different towns and across state lines, these ambassadors work very well together, supporting pickleball initiatives all across the QC. Three of the ambassadors are tournament directors. Our Paddlewheel Tournament and the area’s American Cancer Society Charity Tournament are growing in participation each year. Last year the QCPC managed the pickleball games for the regional Iowa Winter Sr. Olympics held in Rock Island. The QCPC also manages the pickleball games for the local Sr Olympics each June as well, where the pickleball event continues to be the largest event in the Olympics.

Currently, we are looking at the possibility of hosting a regional pickleball tournament in the future, and what that would require in preparation. The Quad Cities Tennis and Pickleball Club is a venue capable of handling such a tournament, as well as BettPlex, a regional sports complex currently under construction in Bettendorf. Our cities lie right along I-80 and 1-74, and a local airport serves both United and Delta, making the area easily accessible for our tournamets or pickleball visitors.

Our current president, Larry Miller, has a big vision for pickleball in the area.  Larry is a IPTPA-certified trainer, and has set up a training program for all levels, using local trainers as well as bringing in national pros. Last year Coach Russell conducted a clinic. In June we hosted Dave Weinbach and Stephanie & LeEllen Lane for a clinic. Many of our players are becoming confident and successful tournament players, playing in tournaments around the country.

Community outreach is another area of focus, and our large volunteer base is dedicated to promoting pickleball as well as giving back to our local communities. We offer free beginner lessons on both sides of the river, have held charity tournaments, have had two blood drives, food drives, participated in community health fairs, offered pickleball lessons to our Plus 60 club, and offered youth camps and clinics.

Okay, now to our involvement with youth!

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

Brian Roderick and Ruth Sennett win second place in Punta Gorda

In 2014, another player and I met with the Phys Ed staff at Bettendorf Middle School (from which I had recently retired as a math teacher). Pickleball has been taught at this school since the mid 1980’s as part of a racquet unit, and we thought we could do some volunteer time with the pickleball portion. As it turned out, 17 volunteers from all over the Quad Cities area helped teach pickleball in over 1000 middle schools over the course of 18 days that winter.

In the summer of 2015, we held our first Youth Clinic at our Kiwanis Park dedicated courts in Bettendorf. 40 youth signed up! We had to chalk lines on the nearby tennis courts to make enough courts available. We had enough volunteers to put two on each court, which is great to have on a court of 4 kids.

In 2016, in cooperation with Rock Island Park Department, we offered a four-day pickleball camp at the dedicated courts in Rock Island, IL. We had 11 youth participate in the camp and compete in a round-robin tournament on the last day. This camp was completely staffed by QCPC volunteers.

Our second annual youth clinic, in 2016, saw 32 youth attend with another large group of volunteers. Like the 2015 clinic, it lasted 2 hours, with a break in the middle, and lots of fun drawing prizes at the end.

2016 Summer Youth Clinic - Youth and Volunteers

2016 Summer Youth Clinic – Youth and Volunteers

This year, we had our 3rd annual clinic at the new Bettendorf Middle School courts, with 43 coming to that one! This time we didn’t have the extra space, so we had 7-8 youth on a court with 2-4 volunteers per court.

2017 Youth Clinic

2017 Youth Clinic with students watching a lesson

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School

2017 Youth Clinic at Bettendorf Middle School with Quad City club members and youth

It worked really well, thanks to our volunteer trainers who were quite comfortable with the numbers and creative in keeping the kids engaged in learning skills. For our drawing at the end we had 20 Pickleball Central drawstring backpacks, along with some PC decals, carabiners, etc. donated by Pickleball Central. (Thank you! I think you have that picture already.) We also had 4 Ranger paddles donated to our program by Paddletek, and some small items from Onix. We acquired some local items as well, and each child went home with a prize.

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

2017 Youth Clinic on Bettendorf Middle School campus

With Larry’s passion for training along with parent requests for continued play after the clinic, Larry set up a class for pickleball skill lessons as a follow-up to our clinic. Sixteen players came to the first class last week. We found that many of the kids preferred to play the game rather than have a formal skill lesson, so trainers gave occasional pointers while letting them play. Another class will be held this coming week, and then with school starting, perhaps one later a Saturday depending on interest.

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

Lala Climaco, Larry Miller and Steve Paranto

What is exciting and different about this summer’s clinic from previous two years are two things: 1) the sponsor support from Pickleball Central, Paddletek, and Onix; and 2), the follow-up opportunities for kid-play. With Larry’s initiative and organizational help, we extended our youth pickleball program by adding afternoon youth lessons/play times. The original thought was to offer skill lessons, but the youth that have come are showing us that, at this point anyway, they like to get together with their peers and just play pickleball!!


Pickleball Hall of Fame

Hall Of Fame Mockup small

PickleballCentral is honored to be working with the USA Pickleball Association and the IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) to create the Pickleball Hall of Fame.  The Pickleball Hall of Fame will capture pickleball history while pickleball is still a young sport with a big future.  The following is an announcement from the president of the USAPA and IPTPA regarding the Pickleball Hall of Fame:

Dear Pickleball Community,

The USA Pickleball Association and the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association are proud to announce the creation of the Pickleball Hall of Fame. The Pickleball Hall of Fame will recognize individuals who have achieved exceptional results in pickleball play over the course of their career, as well as those who have made exceptional contributions to the growth, development, and leadership of the game. All candidates should have also demonstrated a high level of character, integrity, sportsmanship and consideration for others and thus earned the respect and admiration of their peers. PickleballCentral will serve as the initial home of The Pickleball Hall of Fame at their headquarters in Kent, Washington next to The Pickleball Museum.

A group of pickleball leaders has formed The Pickleball Hall of Fame Foundation. The Foundation will incorporate the Pickleball Hall of Fame as a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation, establish the structure and procedures for the Hall of Fame and build an associated website. The initial inductees in the Pickleball Hall of Fame will be announced at the 2017 USAPA National Championships in November.

Seeking Nominating and Selection Committee Members
The Foundation is looking for 16 people with an extensive background in pickleball to serve on the Nominating and Selection Committees. The Nominating Committee will screen all people nominated for the Pickleball Hall of Fame and select a maximum of ten finalists for consideration by the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will review the ten finalists and select the honorees for induction into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.

If you are interested in serving on the Nominating or Selection Committee, please send an email to Seymour Rifkind at or David Jordan at and answer the following questions: What is your background in pickleball? How are you uniquely qualified to screen nominees for the Pickleball Hall of Fame? Applications are due by August 15, 2017.

Please direct any questions about the Pickleball Hall of Fame to Seymour Rifkind, President of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (, or David Jordan, President of the USA Pickleball Association (


David Jordan – USAPA, President, and
Seymour Rifkind – International Pickleball Teaching Professionals Association, President


Throwing Our Hat Over the Wall – PickleballCentral is Moving!

“Three people were on a journey. They had walked thousands of miles across the country when they came to their biggest obstacle – a solid brick wall. Instantly one man threw his hat over the wall, so he had no choice but to climb it.”   – Old Irish Adage


The new home of PickleballCentral is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

We signed the lease yesterday – our figurative, “hat over the wall.” PickleballCentral is moving to a warehouse/office space that is FOUR TIMES the size of our current location.

The new space will have four indoor pickleball courts. The courts will be open to the public every day of the week from early morning to late at night. The new space will host pickleball clubs, pickleball tournaments, pickleball lessons, pickleball pro-tours and pickleball parties!

The new space will also have a big retail store that will provide customers an opportunity to touch, feel and demo paddles on the courts and try-on pickleball clothing!

Finally, we are extremely proud to announce that the new space will be home to The Pickleball Museum! Pickleball is an American Original. It was invented a short ferry ride from Seattle on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The sport of pickleball likely would not have left Bainbridge Island if it weren’t for one man, Barney McCallum.  Barney and his friends the Pritchards and Bells invented the game by accident in the summer of 1965.  Their kids were bored and they didn’t have equipment to play badminton, so they used what they had on-hand to play “badminton”, a whiffle ball and table tennis paddles.  They lowered the net and voilà pickleball was born!

Barney started making wood pickleball paddles by hand for friends. In 1972, to keep track of the accounting and taxes, Barney started a small business in Seattle called Pickle-ball Inc. Barney already was a very successful businessman with his own big company, McCallum Envelope. He didn’t need to start another business, but thank goodness, he did! Pickle-ball, Inc made paddles, balls and net systems and the sport grew. Other pickleball equipment manufacturers emerged in the Seattle area – ProLite Sports and S-Type Sport, now called Onix Sports. Today, thanks to Barney McCallum, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world!

With our acquisition of  Pickle-ball Inc. last fall, we are excited and honored to create The Pickleball Museum as a place where people can learn about the history of pickleball and learn about Barney’s extraordinary contribution to the sport.


Barney McCallum is one of the inventors of Pickleball and founder of Pickle-ball Inc.

For years my husband, David, has collected pickleball artifacts. We have some of the first paddles made, an old pickleball hole drilling machine and other items. If you have a pickleball item that you think belongs in The Pickleball Museum, please contact David Johnson,


New home of PickleballCentral, Pickleball Inc. and The Pickleball Museum.

We move in early April 2017. Come check us out when you are in town! Our new address is 22330 68th Ave. S., Kent, WA 98032.

 – Anna Copley, founding partner,

Meet The Pros – Tyler Sheffield

Meet The Pros: Tyler Sheffield


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

2015 Senior Men’s Doubles Silver Tournament of Champions 2015
2015 Senior Men’s Doubles Nationals Silver
2014 USAPA Nationals, Senior Men’s Doubles – Gold
2014 Tournament of Champions, Senior Men’s Doubles – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

Onix Evoke

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

We were building a basketball court in the back yard and looked on line to see if there wasn’t a court game we could play.  I saw pickleball and made the basketball court a little bigger and we started playing as a family with a starter set of net and four paddles and some orange balls.  This sport has brought our family closer and created many opportunities for travel and togetherness.  Although, all buy my oldest son think I am a little too involved with a sport that uses a whiffle ball and involves dinking.

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?


Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I wear a brace on my knee now, so I prefer doubles.  

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Our neighborhood owns a park and we put in a perfect dimensioned court.  Lots of space and fenced in.  The commute is great.  Love it when great players and friends choose to join me on this court.  

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

I don’t think there are any secrets.  Too many good players.  I like to mix it up going soft and hard.

What’s your day job?

I am  retired as chief financial officer.

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

I probably play on average six hours a week – that’s usually two days a week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No rituals.

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

As I approach 60 years old I’d like to remain competitive in the senior brackets.


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

Best in the world?  Yikes.  Not sure that is the case.

Meet the Pros: Pickleball Prodigy William Sobek

The U. S. Open provided plenty of opportunity to meet and greet some of the best.  Here is our interview of William Sobek who was the youngest player at the U. S. Open this last April. Enjoy!

Interview Transcript:

William: My name is William Sobeck.

Interviewer: And where are you from William?

William: I am from Key West, Florida.

Interviewer: And how old are you, William?

William: I am 11 years old.

Interviewer: And (what) school do you go to?

William: I go to HOB. Yeah, it’s right next to Bayfield Park.

Interviewer: What grade are you in?

William: Sixth.

Interviewer: So we are here at the US Open Pickleball championship in Maples, Florida and you just competed here. Can you tell us what the level of play was like?

William: Well, it was very difficult, because you got to make that forehand, like that spin and it keeps on jumping and I am like little, little, so I really can’t get it that well.

Interviewer: Are you the youngest player here?

William: Yes.

Interviewer: Yeah, I saw you in the crowd… what type of paddles do you like?

William: I play with Pro-Lite.

Interviewer: What is it about that you like about the Pro-Lite?

William: Umm… well, I am sponsored by Pro-Lite.

Interviewer: How did you get into Pickleball?

William: Well, umm… when I was 4, well I was 4 and a half. My parents made me play tennis and our friend Colleen, she brought pickleball to the beach and she told us to play, so we play and well that is how I started playing pickleball.

Interviewer: And how much do you play pickleball?

William: Well… we were preparing for this tournament, so it was before school on Mon., Wed., and Thurs. and we also played on Saturdays.

Interviewer: And who do you play with?

William: Well I play with adults, mostly, because there are no other kids. Like I am the only kid.

Interviewer: Do you like playing pickleball?

William: YEAH. It’s very fun!

Interviewer: Is this your first big competition?

William: No. This is my third competition, outside of Key West. My first one was Canadian Nationals and I got 1st place. Second place I got two silvers and one bronze and this my third.

Interviewer: Congratulations!

Interviewer: So you are William’s parents? How did you guys get involved?

William’s Parent’s: Exactly how William said. We started to play and have been playing, playing, playing.

Interviewer: Thank you guys, I wish you the best of luck. I am so proud of you, it’s like a new generation of pickleball and such a bright future for you in pickleball.

William: Thanks!

2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament

Johnny Cash wrote “Folsom Prison Blues”, but they weren’t singing the blues at the 2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament.  Here’s some of their story.  Enjoy!

Folsom Pickleball

The only Public Indoor Facility in Sacramento County with 7 Pickleball Courts.

Derik Perez is a USAPA Pickleball Ambassador for the Sacramento Region.  He shares here about the Folsom Breakout tournament held last December:

“Since Folsom is known for “Folsom Prison” I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into the name of my first Pickleball Tournament I was going to host.  So I came up with “Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament”.  Our marketing staff created the logo with a pickleball and chain.  Just like the old ball and chain notorious for prisoners.  I wanted to provide a fun and friendly format for the tournament so I elected to go with Round Robin.  I wanted to give our customers and players more bang for their buck

“We completed our 2nd Annual Folsom Breakout Pickleball Tournament last December.  It was a huge success!  The 1st Breakout Tournament had 16 teams and 32 players for a 1-day tournament.  This year we had 70 teams and 140 players over the course of 3 days: Women’s Doubles were on Thursday, Mixed Doubles happened on Friday and Men’s Doubles on Saturday.  It was a round-robin format and everyone seemed to enjoy that!

“The cost was $25 per person and $15 for an additional event.  T-shirts and swag bags were provided.  We provided breakfast and lunch to all participants.  We partnered with the Folsom Tourism Bureau and they provided a goodie bag for the players staying at the hotel.

“We had teams participating from all over Northern California, and we anticipate that this tournament will only get bigger.  We now have 7 indoor courts!  And we’ve grown our email distribution list for the Folsom Sports Complex from 5 to 350 in just one year.”

Congratulations to Derik and all the Folsom Breakout participants! It goes to show how powerful pickleball’s allure is.



Meet the Pros: Laura Ogden Fenton-Kovanda

Laura Fenton Kovanda at the U. S. Open

Laura Fenton Kovanda at the U. S. Open

Can you imagine playing a game you had to google on Youtube on your way to the Senior games in Ohio, then ending up at the U.S. Open winning GOLD?  That is part of Laura’s story!  Enjoy!

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

US OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS 2016: Women’s Pro Doubles – Silver Medal,   Mixed 50’s Doubles – Gold Medal,  Women’s 40’s Doubles – Gold Medal

 BRIGHAM CITY OPEN 2016:  Mixed 5.0 Doubles – Silver Medal, Women’s 5.0 Doubles – Silver Medal

 HUNTSMAN’S GAMES 2015:  Senior Mixed Open Doubles – Gold Medal,  Women’s 50 Doubles – Gold Medal

 FALL BRAWL 2015:  Women’s Open Doubles – Silver Medal

 SoCAL CLASSIC 2015:  Senior Mixed Open Doubles – Gold Medal

 What paddle do you play with and why?

Paddletek Tempest – It’s the only paddle I’ve ever found that not only gives me more power and control, but I get a lot of spin off of it too.  The weight distribution is perfect for me, whereas there are some paddles that are too heavy in the handle or too heavy in the face.  Ever since using this, I’ve had fabulous results at this year’s tournaments.  When playing Racquetball, I literally have used the same racquet for 18 years now – may turn out to be the same in Pickleball – why change something when it’s not broken!

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

When visiting my future husband in Ohio one summer, the Senior Olympics were brought to our attention.  Since the state of Illinois allowed outsiders, along with competing in as many sports as you wanted (I was definitely on board with this, as I was able to compete in 11 sports), we decided to travel to Springfield, IL.  We came across this game called Pickleball, which we had never heard of before, so entered it.  On the way driving, we decided to Youtube it, and then realized we didn’t even have any paddles, so called up a friend, who was more than willing to share a couple, since he was headed there as well.

 The town of Springfield just happened to have a ribbon-cutting event that night with the mayor to dedicate the courts.  To our benefit, they happened to teach us the rules, a bit of the strategy, and luckily won a gold in singles and a silver in mixed doubles the next day. Unfortunately, the two people who taught us how to play, and who had won the mixed the year before, lost to us in the semis. Can honestly say it was the first time I felt bad winning a match!  Fortunately, we are still very good friends with them to this day!

 What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

Honestly, I feel blessed just being able to play!  After years of wear and tear from other high-level sports, back surgeries, knee surgeries, and arthritis – like many of us have, I am thrilled every day I get to walk on a court. But I would always choose fresh air and sunshine over being indoors!

At the U. S. Open

At the U. S. Open: Jennifer Lucore, Alex Hamner , Corrine Carr, Laura Fenton Kovanda

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I actually love them both.  If my knees were better, I’d probably say singles, as I like being in control of my own destiny and in putting my own game plan and strategies in play. But that’s not to say I don’t love doubles.  There are a lot of tactics in this game, with something new I learn after every match. Strategies are totally different in singles play. The greatest asset the Doubles Game has brought me is that I have become a more patient person, even in life.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Anywhere with Water and Mountains.  I “love” scenery!  In fact, I drive people crazy, as sometimes in the middle of a rally, I find myself just gazing at all the beauty around me. This just happened this past weekend in Brigham City, looking up at the snow-capped mountains, green grass and bright blue sky.  Of all the places I’ve been and played, though, I would have to say Lake Tahoe in the middle of pine trees and overlooking the lake and mountains in the background is the best. Heaven!

Bobby Riggs Tennis Club promoting Feeding America! Fun playing with great players Laura Ogden Fenton-Kovanda, Lon Krantz, Laura and Mike Stahl.

Bobby Riggs Tennis Club promoting Feeding America! Fun playing with great players Laura Ogden Fenton-Kovanda, Lon Krantz, Laura and Mike Stahl.

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

I think the 45 years of competitive sports and 15 years with the US Racquetball Team, along with my background in kinesiology, athletic training and physics, have given me a huge advantage mentally, physically, analytically and how to prepare for matches and tournaments.  I’m not a very serious “social” player, but that whole demeanor changes when I walk on a court at a tournament.  Mentally, I can play through absolutely anything, but I’ve also learned how to win when I’m not playing my best. One of my coaches taught me that – that we all “have bad days,” but the real athletes learn how to win when they’re not playing well.  Physically, I’m a bit more challenged right now, as I can’t train the way I would like, but I intend for that to change as well.   One of my greatest strengths is the ability to analyze this game to death – the court, the angles, opponent’s feet and hip direction, lack of lateral movement, or weak overheads.   But I am far from still mastering everything in this game.  The higher level one plays, the fewer weakness your opponents have.  This is where you have to find the one weakness that particular day.  As for my game, I’m always looking to add another shot (maybe one someone else has) and improving my own weaknesses.  Learning to add top-spin in my dink game and better blocking skills have been my two main focuses lately, as well as building more strength and flexibility in my body.  And if there’s any secret from any female out there how to trim the waistline after menopause, I’m all ears!  That part sucks!

What’s your day job?

I am a retired professor, coach, professional athlete and business owner.  But I may be going back to work full-time. If not, I will be concentrating on teaching more pickleball clinics and lessons, training people here in the states and abroad.

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

It depends on the week or if a tournament is coming up.  Typically, I’m one who likes to drill before a tournament to fine-tune skills, but I may play one or two days.  I find that if I play too much, I’m not enjoying the play like I would like (since I already trained day in and day out for 15 years). Also, if one plays too much, the skill level tends to go down, and that is being recorded in one’s brain.  I know people like to play a lot, and nothing wrong with that, recreationally, but for tournament players, they need to balance the play time with the conditioning off the court.  This way they’re hungry when it’s time to play a tournament.

In regards to making time to play, it’s like anything else – whatever your priorities are, you make time for!

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I’m too dang serious and competitive.  So my rituals are more in preparation physically, nutritionally and technically.  As extremely social as I am, I have to be “alone” before big matches.  I do play a “big” match through my head in its entirety, prior to even going to the venue.  I also have a pretty standard routine, unless for some reason my schedule gets out-of-whack, say from cancelled flights or some time off because of a cold or flu.

 Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

My goals are always to be the very best, no matter what it is I do in life.  Pickleball shall not be any different!

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

I thank my God above every day that my arms and legs are attached, and to my knowledge, I don’t have a terminal disease.  How much better could life be!