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The Anna Leigh Waters Story Told by Leigh Waters

Leigh Waters with Anna Leigh Waters on the pickleball court

Last updated on November 21st, 2023 at 03:21 pm

The Simply Pickleball Podcast with Leigh Waters, professional pickleball player, MLP coach, and mother to Anna Leigh Waters. Leigh tells the story of how pickleball phenom Anna Leigh overcame adversity multiple times and rose to become the top women’s player in the world. She also lets us in on a few tips for staying competitive in tournament pickleball. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!

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In like 2019, everybody still wanted the day, they still wanted to use the soft game.And we were coming like firing from, you know, from everywhere on the court.And that’s kind of what we were known for.Well, when we came back in 2021, all of a sudden the game was much faster.Everybody was speeding up balls, everybody was driving like it was a totally different game.


And we were like, whoa, this is what we normally do, not what other people do to us.And and I just remember we left that tournament like, wow, we have a lot of work to do.Hi, I’m Crystal Brown, your host, and we were lucky enough to catch up with Lee Waters, Pro Pickleball Player, MLP Coach and mother to the number one pickleball player in the US, Anna Lee Waters.


She shares her unexpected path to winning several pro titles as the mother daughter duo, her unfortunate injury that forced you to take a break from playing.But was lucky enough to be invited to coaching?And what is it like for Anna Lee to go from anonymity to being a sponsored and very recognizable athlete at age 16?


And what’s the store for 2024?All right now to the show, welcome to Simply Pickleball, the podcast where we discuss all things Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in America and around the world.We are interviewing the founders, industry leaders.


Athletes, lovers of the sport that are driving the spectacular growth, if you love pickleball as much as we do, listen in.OK, Well, Lee Waters, thank you so much for joining today.I am so excited to talk to you about all things pickleball and motherhood and coaching and your career.


So let’s maybe start with, have you been an athlete since you were little?Was it something that you did with your family, maybe?I know your father’s been involved in this pickleball story.So is it something that started early on for you?Yeah.I’ve been an athlete my entire life.My father was very athletic and very into sports and his background was baseball.


He was drafted to to the Cubs.He didn’t end up going, but just very high level athlete.He was always good at everything, didn’t matter what it was.So from a very young age, I, you know, I was throwing the ball, swinging bats, swinging a tennis racket, basically anything I could get my hands on.


I was softball and tennis until probably a sophomore in high school, and it’s pretty obvious I had to make a choice at that point.And I I chose tennis.I think I just liked the individual, like being in control of my own destiny aspect, right, The team sport.


So yeah.So I went to the University of South Carolina on a tennis scholarship and spent four years playing singles and double s there.Oh, that’s awesome.And post college, did you think you that was it you were just going to kind of, you know hang up your racket and play for fun?I did.I was so burnt out by the end of.


I remember NCAA’s my senior year.As soon as we lost, I took all my rackets and I had a really good friend that was on the golf team and I gave him all my tennis rackets and I was like, I’m done.Like, I don’t even want to see a tennis racket, and I ended up going to law school, so I didn’t really have much free time to play tennis anyway for those three years.


But yeah, I felt like, you know, my competitive days were over at that point.It’s funny, I had a similar experience with my swimming career and I remember my last race.I took my cap and goggles, which isn’t as exciting as a racket, and I just like, threw him down and I was like, OK.I have done enough, but I mean clearly, I think being a competitor your whole life, it just shows discipline and drive and other things which I imagine drew you to your law career and wanting to go to law school.


And did you end up going to law school and becoming a lawyer after that?I did.I went to Villanova Law.And I think like, looking back, like people, like, why did you become a lawyer?And I think I was just really an academic.Like, I just loved school and I loved reading and writing.


And so that sort of shifted me into the law career, because that’s pretty much all it is.And but then once, like I became a lawyer, I realized that I really didn’t have the personality for it.I’m not a confrontational person.I am competitive.So that meshed well.But you know, I didn’t want to be in a courtroom arguing.


So I actually found a real little niche with my firm and I did a lot of background work, litigation work, and I was actually able to work from home for.I think I worked in the firm for almost two years and then I worked from Old Road like 12 more.I think I was the first female to work from home in our and we have a huge national law firm.


I think I was the first female to work from home.So it’s pretty cool.Yeah.And so when you had Annalee and became a mom, and, you know, I’m a mom, I have daughters as well.Did your lifestyle change?Did you?Were you still as athletic?Were you working out all the way until she was born and post?


Yeah, I I was always moving.I wasn’t really playing sports, but I was always finding the gym or walking outside or, you know, doing something fun.But once Annalee was born, I would say think she was about 7:00 or 8:00.


Again, she was always active, doing all sorts of sports.But she told me at 7:00 or 8:00 that she wanted to play tennis.And that’s when I actually picked up my tennis rackets again, was at that same exact time.Do you think she felt that way because, you know, she knew about your career and wanted to sort of follow in your footsteps?


Or was your father involved in that?Or just not?It was all Annalee.I didn’t want her to play tennis, so I had never, I had never pushed it on her or given her a racket or anything.I think it was like you just said, I think she knew that I had played tennis and she, you know, she was getting into sports.


And so she said, you know, I want to, I want to start playing tennis well.And I was like, all right, here we go.And so she did.She played tennis prior to pickleball, and I’ve heard you talk about soccer with her, which is common for girls.And did you see anything?


Like, you thought, wow, she’s got a lot of potential or she really, up until she was probably about eight, she did a lot of sports.But, like, she didn’t always seem like the most athletic.And even some of her, like, rec coaches would be like, Are you sure she’s your daughter?


Because my husband was also a college athlete and he was like, wait, 2 college athletes.Are you sure?Because, you know, she’d be the one on the soccer field, like picking up the Daisy from the grass, and the ball would be right next door, and she’d just kind of, like, dance around it.And so it’s kind of funny, like, I wasn’t sure at that point if she was going to become, like, super athletic.


And it was right around 8:00 when all of a sudden the soccer took off for her.And right away she was.She picked up Tundas pretty quickly.That’s awesome.And so let’s jump to pickleball, you guys.Maybe you can explain how you guys kind of got into it and how it became something you did together.


Yeah, so Annelie was doing soccer.Well I guess I’ll start with at 8:00 we decided to move to Florida from North Carolina just so that they were more like sporting opportunities for her.So we moved to Florida and Emily got a full time tennis coach and her tennis really did start kind of taking off.


The soccer also was taking off.So she was pretty heavy into soccer and tennis and I think she was a 10 going on 11.A hurricane came through Florida and we decided to evacuate to.My dad’s up in Pennsylvania and that’s where the pickleball started.


We got up there and he said, do you guys want to go play pickleball?And we said no, we play tennis.We don’t even really know what pickleball is, you know, all we knew is that he played with his friends, of course, which were all much older than we were.And we were like, we don’t really want to do that, but we ended up being up there for two weeks.


So he finally got us out on the court and literally that first day we were like hooked.And I mean we played one time with all like my dad’s, you know, 60-70 year old bugs and we had a blast.And from that point on, I think we played two to three times every day for two weeks.


Isn’t that crazy?I feel like I hear this story.It like it.It’s it’s like it grabs you and then you know, you just immediately.And I hate the word addiction because I feel like it has negative connotations.But it does kind of become like, I can’t wait to get back on the court again.I know, I know.


I think we went, we went to like Dick’s Sporting Goods and like bought paddles and like, we didn’t know what we were buying.But, you know, bought paddles.And there was actually a referee, a certified referee who was playing with my dad up there.And she taught us all the rules.So, you know, we got a pretty good education in that first two weeks and it was enough to know that we absolutely loved it.


That’s so awesome.So that’s, you know you I love it and I know a lot of people that play and love it, but they don’t go to that next level and certainly not, you know, even for young kids, sometimes it’s hard for them to focus on a sport because they want to try different sports or have a different type of environment.


I I remember with swimming, I had to pick a lane at some point, the proverbial lane like which sport are you going to do?But you know, you guys could have just had fun with it.So how did it get to something more serious for you?Or that you think you knew that there was something there for you.Yeah, I think part of it was like, Oh my gosh, like feeling that competitive surge within again was part of it.


I think the other part of it was that I was good at it right away.My tennis like transferred perfectly.So we came back to Florida, we joined a Pickleball group in Delray Beach and there were some really good players and they kind of took me under their wing and said, hey, we’re playing a pro tournament next month.


Will you be my partner?And and I was like sure.I didn’t even know there were tournaments or pro events.So I just, I really just got thrown into it and not first pro tournament.I got my butt whipped.So was it singles?


Or double S?Or just double S No, it was double S It’s just because though I was good at it, I was using most of my tennis skills and I did it.I hadn’t seen like true third shot drops and like, you know the dinking for, you know, 10-15 shots in a row.


Like I had not seen that.And so when I got into the This pro event, I didn’t know what to do.I was like, what what do I do with this when somebody has had third shot drop, I don’t know how to hit it back.You know I don’t know how to dink five times in a row.So I think that actually like fueled me even more to what to get better And I was always started shaky start.


When you came back, did you think, all right, I’m going to?Did you take lessons?Did you get a coach yourself where you’re like, I I really want to study the game.I didn’t.I just, I mean really at this point.This was 2017.So even though there were some tournaments, they were fairly rinky dink.


They were in your state.Like people weren’t really.Like the only tournaments people were really traveling to were like U.S.Open or Nationals or maybe there was like one or two TOC out in Brigham City.UT they’re just, you just wasn’t this huge circuit, you know?


And so there really weren’t, there weren’t even really people teaching lessons.I mean, it was just like you would go to the park and play with a bunch of people and mess around, and you’d play with people better than you and you’d play with people far worse than you.And.Right.It was actually a good time for Annalee, who was literally like the only child ever out of Pittwell Court for like the first year that we played.


Kind of a good time for her to come in because I was good and so people wanted to play with me.So they allowed, they were very welcoming of Annalee, wanting, you know, jumping in even though she was 10, you know, they were really great about accepting Annalee and she got so much experience just getting in the car and going with me from place to place.


So when you guys, when you were playing at that time, was Annalee playing with you mostly?I I think you guys, she homeschooled her correctly.And yeah, my mother, yes, my mother homeschooled.Actually, I was lucky, lucky enough that my mom was a teacher.So she actually homeschooled Annalee for most of her school life.


Actually, when we first started playing, Annalee would play, we’d go together, but then I would play with like the higher level and she would play with the lower level because she was like a three O 3/5 when she first started playing.And I guess that’s why I say I’m so lucky because people were so accepting and we weren’t playing together at that point.


Interesting, yeah.But could you start to see something in her?You know, I played in Newport Beach and I’ve played in at Bobby Riggs and I’ve played in Hawaii.I’ve played.And you know, there’s a lot of great players out there.So it’s hard to really identify, like, is that person, does that person have the potential to be really good, even for both of you, For you to know, like, I think I have the potential to be better than just a great player.


Yeah.Yeah, I definitely saw that Anna Lee had potential again, because she was a pretty good tennis player and it was also transferring over.So even though she was tiny and she didn’t have a lot of strength, she had great footwork, she had great technique, she had great volleys.


And so I definitely saw that she had potential and she, she got so good so fast that in her first or second tournament, they actually bumped her up a division in the middle of the tournament because they were like, she’s not three, she’s not three O or three, five, you know, And they actually bumped her up.


So.So yeah, we definitely saw that she had a lot of potential.But the interesting thing was it was at that point in pickleball, it was like, yeah, she had potential, but there was not really any, like end game in pickleball at that point.Like, potential to be better.


Yeah.But for what?Like there was no money.Like sponsorships were like a couple 100 bucks from the paddle company.I mean, there just wasn’t a lot to work towards.So really, and I think it worked out in in our favor for Anna Lee.It was just pure fun.


Football was just fun and it was something that we could do with the family, with my with my dad, you know, we would go play at parks together or tournaments or whatever, and it was just pure fun.Yeah.So no, not a lot of pressure at the time.So then, but things have changed, right?


So you guys have, you know, sort of fast forwarding a little bit.I mean you’ve had your own career and I that in pickleball sort of separate from her as well, right, as a pro.And did you start to see it getting more serious yourself, maybe sponsorships upping?Yeah, yeah, it was starting to grow.


You could see that the sport was going in the right direction still.I mean, I wouldn’t say that the money was great.It still was sort of like something that we were coming out of pocket to do.But again, we were just having so much fun as a family.If traveling, you know, places, spending weekends together, having fun together, that we didn’t really care that we were having to pay out of pocket, it was totally worth it.


And we didn’t have tons of time because Annalee was doing the travel soccer thing pretty hard at that point because she had started to play a couple tennis tournaments also.So even though the sport was going in the right direction and I was doing my own pro thing, it still wasn’t something that was necessarily a focus.


It’s still.Just like when I was playing with other partners, it was still like, yeah, I wanted to win and I wanted to be the best, but like I wasn’t working towards a goal because there’s still even 20, 2018, that’s I wasn’t playing with her in 2018, all 20.


There still wasn’t a lot to be gained monetarily, right?And again, for Annalee, it was still fun.She actually had paired up with a local girl who’s one of our best friends now.Her name is Stacy Towson, who was a Olympic level softball player and they had teamed up together and they played that entire year together before Annalee played with me and won like every single tournament.


And it was cute because they literally both started at 35 and that first tournament Annalee ever played in and worked their way all the way up.So they were winning in Piebones together.So it’s pretty good.That’s so.Fun.So yeah.So when was that kind of shift when you knew that this was like?It’s fun and we’re all having fun.


Hopefully you still are having fun, but it just kind of shifted into something that was much bigger than you would have imagined.I think it was starting in 2019, Annalee, I needed a partner for the Texas Open.My partner last minute couldn’t come and Annalee, I think was just going to play mixed double.


SI don’t think she had a partner for that tournament.So I looked over at her and I was like she was at 5 O at that point.Yeah.So I looked over at her and I was like, do you want to be my partner?And she was like, let’s do it.So we went with like no expectations, I mean at all, no expectations.


And put ourselves in the pro event and we made it to the finals and we got second place.And it was that moment where I was like, this is the coolest thing ever.We didn’t argue one time we had a blast.We played so well.And it was funny because a pro had said to me at the beginning of the tournament, like, Ely’s not ready to play pro.


And then, you know, she almost beat that for just by the end of the tournament.So I was like, I think she’s ready.I think she can handle it.That’s that.Well, so if that’s really interesting because just so were you, was there age brackets or it didn’t matter at that point?No, it was just open pro.


Yeah, it was just Open Pro.The funny thing about age brackets though is that prior to her playing a pro tournament, in order to register for a tournament you had to be forget if it was 12 or 14.Like I couldn’t even go into Pitawalt tournaments and and register her for a tournament and that was when they ended up changing the entry to like 8 and above for like the 19.


The 19 plus tournaments was because of Annalee because I could never register her for any of the tournaments because no kids were playing if right?Yeah, so.That’s amazing.I mean, it’s really ground breaking in a lot of levels, but I mean, and I hope and I see a lot of younger players on the court now, we just got completely beaten by a 14 year old recently.


Very good.And we were surprised, which is great, like that’s what you want.And anyone from 80 to, you know, 14 to 80.But so when you guys played together because you know, I have daughters and mother daughter relationships regardless can be whatever they are.Yeah, there’s lots of words we could use, but, but it’s when you’re in competition, even you know some couples play together, you know, you you have to, you have to kind of get on the same team and remember that you’re on the same team.


And it sounds like that just kind of happened for you guys.Yeah, we were really lucky.It was kind of like why we did that trial run to just kind of see what would happen.You know, would we argue, would we fight?We don’t fight off the court.So I wasn’t expecting that.We would argue.But you never know, like you said, you get into that competitive wanting to win.


And we just clicked.And it was always just that team atmosphere and sort of like even at a very young age, sometimes she was the coach on the court, You know, sometimes she would have the advice that I treated her the same, that she treated me as an equal, right.


I think that was part of why we were successful because, you know, she never felt like she was the child and I was the mom when we were on the court that we were a team, You know, we were an equal team.So I think that dynamic really helped us.That’s great.So then what happens next because you play together and again you guys could have fun with it and it it’s gone in in a much bigger direction.


And I I actually was at the ballpark series in San Francisco and saw you guys took a picture with with Annalee and just you know kudos to you guys because she’s just so poised and wonderful and and you can just tell appreciates it but you know that’s that’s a part that’s a far departure from again just playing mother daughter I think there are a lot of.


Family members that play tournaments together and you don’t.No one knows their name but everybody.In the world.Knows your name and Annalise name, right?So.So how did that transpire?Yeah, I think 2019 was a big year because not only did we start playing together regularly, but the sport was also starting to take the big rise.


We were seeing a lot more tournaments, a lot more sponsorships.It was becoming a lot more feasible to travel around other than her soccer schedule.So soccer still came first that year.If there was a soccer game or tournament, we didn’t go to pick pickleball tournament, we did soccer.


That was her love.Soccer was her true love.Like, I would never have told her to quit soccer.That was going to be her thing.And we won nationals together at the end of 2019.That was the first like real big tournament that we won together and I think that’s when we were like, whoa, we’re pretty good like in the sports growing and like we could do this.


And I think we were planning on hitting 2020 pretty hard, like pretty focused and that’s when coven it.Right.I talked to Wayne Dollard.I don’t know if you know.Yeah, yeah.He and his wife are pros and his son.He told me that soccer players often make very good pickleball players because of their footwork, and that it’s not uncommon either tennis or soccer, to really have those skills.


So that’s probably part of why she was so good at pickleball to begin with.Yeah, for sure.Not only the footwork, but also like, as you know, if you play tournaments well, even if you play Wreck, you play like 4, 4 hours or in a tournament, he’d play all day long.He might play, you know, four or five matches or whatever it is in a day.


So like, you need endurance and saw and that.I mean soccer, she was a center midfielder, so all she did was run up and down.So she had tremendous endurance.She had tremendous like quick speed.Plus she had the tennis background.So it was like it all kind of came together and yeah, it just made her a really good pickleball player.


Yeah, it’s really awesome to watch and I think about that with body type 2 and and you see a lot of the players that really can get like download to the ground, you know, and they’re just in that position.So my boyfriend is really tall and he often gets hit with the ball in his chest.


Big target.In 2019 though, I feel like because a lot of people attribute the growth of Pickleball to Covic because that’s when a lot of people started playing themselves.But it sounds like prior to that there was a little bit of fuel in the fire and I I think that you know maybe that’s.


From what’s gone on with Duper and the growth of the MLP or the the ideas behind it, but during COVID it became I think more popular just recreationally and and I feel like that’s when a lot of people started hearing about it.So what were you guys doing during COVID?Were you not playing pickleball?


No, no.We always joke that like, the best thing that ever happened to pickleball was COVID, you know, which isn’t really a joke because COVID was terrible.But like for pickleball, like you said, I mean it just it was something that people could do and like, you know, have the social distancing and get, you know, be outside and they can do it in their driveway, they could do it in the streets, the park, wherever.


I really think everybody did sort of like the country I think fell in love with with Pickleball for us.My mother was still homeschooling Italy and you know, we were very fearful because nobody in 2020 really knew what COVID was.


And we were really scared because Annalee was with my mom every day.And still soccer was Annalee’s focus.And soccer did continue here in Florida.There was a little break, but we felt like it was outside and she was with her peers and it was a little bit safer than travelling for the pickleball.


So what we did is we, in order to kind of like stay in pickleball, we had our little COVID group, which was a whole mix of ages and levels.There was about eight of us and we played, you know, a couple days a week and everybody, you know, knew that everybody else was being safe.


That was the total extent of what our pickleball was in 2020.It was very interesting though, because all the other pros did the complete opposite.So they kept travelling because they didn’t, couldn’t go to work.Now they’re in the now they’re playing more.


Now they’re going to the gym.You know, they’re hitting it harder than they were before, and we were doing a lot less than we were before.So coming back in 2021 was very was an eye opening experience.Yeah, tell me, what was it?And were you surprised at how how people had gotten better or just how many more pros?


There were?Both?Our first tournament we did terrible.We went out there, We lost a good player.So don’t get me wrong, but people that we had been beating the ball all of a sudden was coming back so much faster.We, you know, gained a lot of traction because we were super aggressive.


And like 2019, everybody still wanted to dank.They still wanted to use the soft game.And we were coming like firing from, you know, right from everywhere on the court.And that’s kind of what we were known for.Well, when we came back in 2021, all of a sudden the game was much faster.Everybody was speeding up balls.


Everybody was driving like, it was a totally different game.And we were like, whoa, this is what we normally do, not what other people do to us.And and I just remember we left that tournament like, wow, we have a lot of work to do.We have a lot of work.We also found out that people had started letting up their paddles, so now their paddles were way heavier, so the ball coming back was way heavier and we were like, yes, we got you know, we had so much to learn all over again.


But I think that also once again like re lit the fire of of getting better like we want to get.Better.And at that time, did Annalee decide, OK, I’m going to.Let soccer go?Or was she still doing both?She was still doing soccer.She still loves soccer.


What she decided to let go was tennis.So during COVID, she decided to drop the tennis.She liked the practice, but she did not like the junior tournaments.She just you have to love tennis.Yeah, I guess.Well, I’ll say the junior tournaments are not very fun.


And she only played like four or five.But by the last one she was like, mom, this is not fun, you know, And I was like, I totally, I get it.So she decided COVID year, she really focused on soccer.She got real, real good at soccer, minimal pickleball.


And then, so then coming back 20/21, she had soccer and pickleball to focus on.And so we really started putting a lot more time into the pickleball because now pickleball was even bigger because now we’re coming off COVID where everybody knows what it is and the celebrities were playing and you know, the NBA players are playing in the bubble and the baseball teams are playing in the dugouts and you know, whatever.


And it’s like just a big thing.And so we see now like, OK, it’s worth putting in this extra time.We still love it.We want to be better.And so we, I would say the first half of 20/21 was a very much rebuilding era of Art Thickewell.


And did you at that point, did you again, like now there’s more you know, videos out or coaching or did you guys just kind of stick with your game and and just put in what we did was because I felt like I knew the game pretty well and I knew that I would be Italy’s best coach and she wanted me to be her coach.


What we started doing was drilling.We had never done the drilling before.We had always just gone out and played and, but we realized we needed to work on shots, so we needed to get better and we needed to mess around with the lead tape and the placement and how heavy our paddle should be.


And really we just started drilling like 80% of the time, which was a huge change for.I’ve heard that that really it should be, you know, drilling 80%, playing 20% if you want to get better because in a game you.Or may not practice a shot that you need work on.


Right.So yeah lead tape’s interesting because when I first went to meet when Wayne Dollard and they were putting lead tape on every every paddle and and and you know there’s a lot And I I was like everyone needs lead you know, and and then I was like well why aren’t the paddles just heavier to begin with.


But then it becomes you know sort of a personal choice and you know what you want.But how did that change your game when you guys decided to weight your paddles?It just really helped us.Really can balance out the paddle, but it also helps a lot with like the counters or so now everybody’s beating the ball up at us and if we can have that heavier power now, heavier paddle, now we have that heavier ball coming back.


And that’s what it really helped us with, WAS was countering, honestly.Yeah, and then how did you guys get to relationships?Were you being approached with sponsorship?Because I talked to Lindsay Newman.She and Riley played their first tournaments, a funny story on a different podcast.


Everyone should subscribe and listen so they can hear it, But that, you know, they just got approached and they they, you know, someone wanted to sponsor them on the spot.And this was really early, but did the same thing happen for you guys?Where the same thing happened with us with Paddletech.


Literally the first tournament Annalee played in, the Paddletech Rep was there and saw Annalee play and just thought, like, wow, this kids got potential and she’s a kid.There’s no kids playing pickleball.So they like sponsored her like almost right away.And then, yeah, she was like 1011 and she was, she probably had a better sponsorship than I did to start off.


But then they saw like, oh wait, this is so cool, mother, daughter, you know, starting to play together.And that’s kind of when I moved over to Pilotech also.And so we’ve been with Pilotech pretty much since the beginning and they were our first like true big sponsor.


I would say the rest of the sponsorships, the bigger ones, probably all started trickling in like that 2021 year for us.And how did that feel as a mom?I mean, you know, I have friends whose kids model, for example, and they’re happy.They’re like, great look if they can build up a little bit of a nest egg at a young age and they’re happy doing it.


I’m not forcing it, you know?Like, was that the same perspective you had?Like, oh, 100%.The only thing I didn’t like was when she started beating me in like in singles, I was like.Wait, wait.She’s 12 and she’s beating me in singles already.Like, what the heck?


Like that?Took me like that.Took me a minute.Yeah, but but no.As far as like her successes in Pickleball, it’s been the same.Like, this is so amazing and I’m so proud.Like just so proud of her on so many different levels.And the fact that people that ask me out all the time like she does it, like, upset you that you’re not, that Annalee is like you’re not in the spotlight, that Annalee overshadows you.


And I was like, Oh my God, I’ve never even.I’m just like the static.That’s that’s what’s happening.Like, you know, I’ve had my college career and I’ve been there, done that and like, prefer even at this level, it’s just amazing and I’m so happy, yeah.


That is really nice.I mean again, it shows both of you have a lot of maturity and poise and just the way you, you approach the sport.I mean it’s really exciting.The growth is outrageous.I mean with with the MLP and and that just started, right, That was in the beginning of your career, it wasn’t there and those choices weren’t there.


So how did that kind of come to?Together for you guys picking teams and then you became a coach, Like, how was that?How did that conversation all work out?Well, the first MLP?Let me say the first MLP was it before COVID or I can’t remember what the 1st.


MLP was doing the work before, but I think it it was so we were, we were part of the first ever MLP and it was very, a very different thing than what it is now.I know it’s just a lot of fun, but we didn’t really know if the team thing would be something for the future or not.


And then we joined with the PPA and so we missed sort of those those middle MLPS and then now then I got injured.I wanted to ask you how you’re feeling also.Yeah, yeah, So I guess just to keep this story makes making sense.


At the end of 2021, Annalee came to us at National.We were actually at Nationals and she said I don’t want to play soccer anymore.She said there’s so much going on in Pickleball and I’m good at it.And she and I, I think had gotten towards, you know, winning again.


And we actually won.We won Nationals again and in 2021, right?Yeah, 2021 we won Nationals for the second time.And she said I’m worried I’m going to get injured in soccer.It’s so rough.Three or four girls on her team had toured Acls that year.


One girl had fractured her back that year and she said I just it’s not a matter of like if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen.And I said.Amazing.Her maturity.Yeah, I know.Like, I know.I just, sometimes I’m like, jeez, she’s like an old soul.


I don’t.Know very wise.She’s very wise, but I wish I was that wise when I was here.Too, she said I I can’t do it anymore.And I couldn’t believe it because it was like I said, it was her love and her passion.She had dreams of going to Europe and playing and she actually gotten invited to do that.


So it was just, I was shocked, but at the same time, like I thought it was the right decision.So Fast forward 2022.We’re like the number one or number two women’s team that year and they’re in the PPA rankings and we get to nationals, we’re going for a three peat and I tear my ACL in the mixed double SI.


Yeah, if I could take back 2 seconds of my life, that would be it.I know.And you, you you knew right away that something.Yeah, I knew right away I was praying.It wasn’t the ACLI was praying.It was like the MCL or, you know, I sprained it or just anything.


But the ACL could have been anything, just not the ACL.But it ended up.I completely ruptured it.So I had to have surgery and I thought, like for the next couple of months, I really thought like my life was like, over because it was all I had focused on for so long.


And it was like, I knew that me and aunt getting to play with Annalee was probably over.And I think that was the hardest thing.It wasn’t like, oh, I can’t play pro piggle ball.I was like, oh, I I this like dream of playing with her, which has been the most amazing thing, is like is over.


And I really struggled with that for, I would say probably until I actually had my ACL surgery, which was like four months later, I really struggled with that.And yeah, I’m sure you did.And, you know, how did you kind of keep your mental game then?


Because it’s, you know, once you started to go down that path of feeling really like I’m really enjoying this, there’s something that’s going on.It’s really good, and then it’s taken away.You know, how do you kind of come back around and and focus on?I think it was two.I think it was two things.


I think one thing was I really started just focusing on Annalee and it actually, I don’t know, I guess it kind of makes sense.I actually, like, felt a lot of stress leave my body because now I don’t have to focus about myself anymore.


And I don’t have the stress of like, oh, I got to play good or I’m going to let her down because she’s better than me now, You know, she’s a better, she’s better than me.So like, now I’m the person getting most of the balls where it used to be, she got most of the balls.And so like, all of a sudden I didn’t have that pressure anymore and I could just focus on her and I could just be a parent and I could just be a coach and I could really just like help her.


So I found that and then I got asked to coach MLP team.And it’s amazing.It was so cool because prior to that, like the MLP teams didn’t really have coaches, like they had GMs or owners, but not really like tree coaches.


And so that was the first kind of season where they had like some of the senior pros act as coaches and then they, Annalise team asked me to to coach and I was like wow, this is like this is really fun.That’s amazing.I mean, I I I’m sort of surprised to hear you say that just because it’s like it it could be a goal of yours but I really want to be a coach.


But instead you.I mean you keep using the word fun, which is amazing and that’s what everyone wants to associate with you know their life.But pickleball is usually and so it’s great that you found fun in coaching just as and I never really thought about like coaching other people before.


But coaching A-Team, it’s like totally different.And getting to coach other players.I started thinking like because I’m not, I don’t, I’ve never loved like going out and just teaching a lesson, you know, like I I just, I could never be like an instructional where I just go out and give lessons all day.


Like that’s just not me.But I love the strategy and I feel like that’s like my strength is kind of seeing the chord and understanding the strategy.And so like getting to coach that team was was just a lot of fun.And then Fast forward to the last MLPI was coaching two teams.


I was teaching, I was coaching, you know Lee’s team with the Premier League and then I was coaching the fines asked me to coach their team, which is now in the Challenger League.So that was like, oh, I was like doing double, double duty.But again, it was.It was the type of coaching.Was it like you said it more strategy like court strategy shot construction or is it more who should play with who and which games and how like things like that that just a little of that which usually like I’ll give an opinion but it’s you know, you got to kind of let let the players decide that because they know what their chemistry’s like.


And so so it’s a little bit of that.But then it’s also just mainly like and you don’t want to give too much strategy because with rally scoring and how fast all the moving parts of of an MLP Max like you can’t get overloaded with it.But just sometimes you can say just one thing and it can it can change the dynamic of a of a match or maybe like you guys need to switch the OR.


So at the moment like you don’t think about switching sides or just even being a big old cheerleader.You know just screaming to death for them.It’s just them knowing that like they’ve got somebody on the sidelines.This is so pressure filled when you’ve got people that you can look over and like MLPS got the different dynamics because you can coach in between points and you can talk to the players.


And so like, I’ll never forget James Ignatowicz looking over at me and saying fire me up, please fire me up, you know, like in between points.So it’s like it’s just like different.It’s so different from like a PPA dynamic that it’s kind of cool to go from coaching like the PPAS MLP.


And what do you think about the rally scoring?Do you like playing that way or do you?I don’t like it at all.Everybody.I can say that because everybody knows I don’t like it.I don’t like it for so many reasons.I mean, I think it works for MLP.I think it works for MLP.


I wouldn’t want to see it ever be the scoring for the norm, yeah, or the IT is.Interesting to know to see what will happen, because there’ll be players who kind of only know that that scoring, right.If they’re watching on TV, they and they’ve never played and they just assume that’s the scoring and there’s all the jokes about how hard the traditional scoring is to remember anyway.


But yeah, I, I and I love the mood at the MLP games, that kind of raucous crowd, which is very different than tennis, right?Like it’s, you know, and.Again, coming from a swing background, you’d be surprised at how much it meant when you would lift your head up and there would be someone at the end of your lane because you could scream the whole time.


There’s no quiet, period.Just knowing that someone’s like go and you’re like, OK.You know, I got them, yeah.So I can.I can imagine that they really love the coaching and and the team dynamic is really special because it, you know, it does create how you play individually is so important.


But then realizing that contributes to the team’s success is.Yeah, I think that’s why it adds like so many more pressures like.Because all of a sudden you’re playing for three people, plus your owner, plus your coach, plus there’s so many people that all of a sudden you feel like you’re carrying the weight of all those people.


And so, yeah, it’s a different dynamic for sure.So how has it been?Now with Annalee, she’s very well known.She and Ben Johns.You know, if if recreational players even know anyone’s name which some of them don’t.But but that’s changing really fast, right.


And the sponsorships are, you know, amping up and the interest in the sport essentially Olympics, you know, how’s that sort of changed your, you know, your dinner time discussion or you know?Well, we went from always going to dinner on tournament like we’d lead the tournament and go to dinner to we only get take out because it started to be like we would go to dinner and.


Just because you’re in the, you know, area where Pickleball Tournament is like, you’d end up not being really able to eat your dinner because people are coming up to your table.And yes, so yeah, and so, you know, we rarely stay in hotels at pickleball tournaments.We get Airbnb’s for the same reason because it’s hard to go down and eat breakfast or right try, you know, not be stopped a lot.


And that happens mainly when you’re at a tournament.It does happens.It is starting to happen more where we’ll go somewhere like random and there’s somebody who knows who she is.And that’s cool and weird at the same time.At the same time, like she’s really into like building her brand and like wanting to do more.


And I kind of keep reminding they’re like like how many people do you want to know who you are?Because it can’t go from this like it’s cool to like, you know, the celebrity, the Super celebrities.He can’t even go out and be a normal person, so I think maybe the cat’s out of the bag on that one.


I hate to.Break it to you, I mean, but as a mom and she’s still a child.And you know, even though she’s in very mature and wonderful and you know like cold soul, she still doesn’t have all the perspectives that you that was the mom.


And I think with the Olympics coming, all the things that are coming ahead you know, she will get more well known.And have you guys thought about how how you’re managing it now and sounds like you made a few changes and and how to help her keep it in perspective and still be, you know a teenager, teenagers, girls, fun, you know?


Yeah, yeah.I mean, one of the things that we’ve always instilled in her was you treat others how you want to be treated and.That was way before Pickleball and that was way before anybody knew who she was or who, what her name was.And you know, always be respectful.


That was one thing that you know that we’ve always from the very beginning instilled in her.Also that I’ve always said to her, the minute you start changing and you become becoming somebody else is the minute we start scaling this back because you’re not going to become this like.


I don’t know whether the word prima Donna or, you know, she’s done a really, really, really wonderful job of staying true to herself.That’s good, and I’m very proud of her for that.But it’s like you said.I mean, things keep getting bigger and bigger, and my main goal as a parent is to make sure that she does it.


Of course you’re gonna change.But to make sure that you’re not changing for the worse, and social media makes that so hard.It makes it hard what no matter who you are, you know, like it really and it’s hard to stay off of all of them.


But I do think that everyone tends to come back to their roots and how they were raised in in even if they go off course for a little while, they tend to have that.And it sounds like you guys have a really good family base.I mean there’s been a lot of athletes that have gone on and they’re well known like you know, gymnasts and you know, swimmers that you know that that go off into the world and they’re they’re well known forever.


But they they tended to be known for, you know, doing great things and being inspirational to a lot of other kids.Whether those, you know, kids end up, you know, being as good as as an Olympian or not, I think it’s it is inspiring.


And also because this sport spans so many ages, I think, I mean you know, Annalee has the potential to be inspiring, you know, as as do you to so many different age ranges.And I think keeping that in perspective that it’s also really, it is hard to have that pressure, but it’s also really inspiring and then it’s just for you guys as a family to figure out what the boundaries are for you.


Yeah, and I think it’s been really cool for Annalee to see, like how many kids are now playing.And not that it’s all due to her, of course it’s not.But like.So many of them like teeny, you know, upset kids her age and even older.You know, I started playing because I saw you play or or my mom watched you and your mom play.


So she asked me to play.And now we play together.And I think some of the coolest stories for me, we’ve had families come up to us and say like seeing the, you know, your dynamic.Has saved our family.Like, you know, we, we pickleball has saved our family.


And thank you so much.And like, of course it’s not due to us, but just knowing that like there’s a bigger picture and it’s not all about winning and losing, but.And I think Annalee is starting to understand that too.But it’s not always about winning and losing stocks.


Yeah.And maybe she hasn’t handled losing the greatest, but like she’s starting to get that there’s more to it.And if there’s a bit much bigger picture, yeah.And that’s how you grow as a person.Totally.I mean it.And again, they’re these are, you know, young minds.That’s part of the downside of social media along with other things.


But there’s a lot of influence.And so it sounds like she has the best influence with you and your husband and your dad.And, like, you know, really, we.Travel as a pack.She’s not.She doesn’t.She’s always had like a great support base, you know, and like never any pressure from us.


Like if she came to me tomorrow and said I’m miserable, I hate it.I’m not going to make her do it.You know what I mean?And it’s always been like that with any of her sports.Like, I don’t want her to be birds out.I want her to be happy.I want her to do what she loves.So luckily she’s thriving in what she loves that.


Yeah.No, I mean that’s, you know, there’s a lot of soccer players, female soccer players that have led the charge for young women to want to be soccer players.And I think that’s why, you know, women’s soccer has bloomed.And I really believe that pickleball has so many facets that are there was an article that said can pickleball save America?


And then you’re I I really think it is because there’s so much other, you know, darkness and it is such a light.And I think that’s part of why I started this podcast was I really wanted to expose what the light is.What are all these wonderful happy moments that are bringing people together.


And also people are losing weight and people are reconnecting and people have, are motivated to get out of their houses and do you know, not feel isolated, but you know, to be a celebrity like we talked about is slightly different.And so for you guys, I think there’s good pressure and bad pressure.


There’s good thing next for you guys, what’s in the next year?Is there anything on the horizon?Yeah, I just think, I think next year you know we’re we’re seeing how this PPA MLP burger is going to play out.So we still don’t have like a finite schedule for next year and and how the two are going to intertwine.


I think it’s going to be a very busy year.Between the two.But there’s a lot of exciting things.I mean, just the TV coverage for next year is just insane.And I thought this year was insane and next year is even better.The sponsorships just keep getting better and better.


Like big name sponsors are now getting into the sport.You know it’s not.It’s not any longer like you’re only sponsored by your paddle or, but you know, by something you know intrinsic into the sport.Now you’re going to be like Tyson and Miller Lite and you know you’re seeing some some really big, you know, Lee Carvana, you’re seeing some big companies getting involved and so that’s super exciting.


Anna Lee wants there to be like an international push.And I think the sport needs to go that way.It’s we have a Canadian stop next year, so that’s pretty cool.She’s going to continue to do some more ballpark series like you talked about.


So yeah, I think it’s going to be a really busy year.I plan on coming back next year from my injury, but no full, not full time.Going to do a maybe a couple with Annalee things that maybe don’t count as much.


I don’t want to.I don’t want to throw a wrench in anything, but you’re healed and you can you’re you’re feeling good and you can.I’m.Still not really back with the court yet, but they say by January I should be good to go.Sending you lots of healing by.Yes, thank you.So yeah, so I’ll still be coaching and and I’m working with the pickle four people, so.


I got a lot of advisory roles and stuff go that was I’ll be busy and does Annalee want to come out with any sort of branding of her own or does she have ideas for things that she’d like to do?Yeah.So she just came out with a logo that we’re trading working right now.And once we get further into that process, she does want to start some type of branding of something.


We haven’t quite figured out what it’s going to be.She has a brand new paddle with paddle tech coming out, going to be introduced I think in November at Nationals carbon fiber paddle.So that’s exciting.It’s got her logo on it.And but yes, the word talks with some people about creating some pretty fun, handily branded items.


So that’s great coming soon.Like I said, I think it’s exciting.It’s not, you know, like a lot of young women young, you know, it’s probably, it’s really not just young.I mean one of my friends who’s a 52 year old, very good player dad with kids thinks, you know, it’s like oh I want to watch Anna Leon TV, like yeah, you know, everyone wants to see a good player play so and everyone wants to get better.


So I think that’s really exciting.That is the cool thing about the sport is it’s like all the age, you know, sex, ethnicity, whatever, it all goes out the window and like everybody just comes together and plays pickleball, which, yeah, is amazing even, you know, in San Francisco there’s a lot of people, you know, that end up on the court.


I mean, it is as random as the world.Yeah.And some people don’t speak any English and it doesn’t matter, you know.And and Speaking of international, I have always had a fantasy of moving to Spain once my kids are on their own.And so I follow Pickleball Spain.


And then I interviewed someone who was from Spain who’s creating a documentary called A Game Changer about the growth of Pickleball.And she’s from Spain.And so she follows it.And then she told me in Australia.So I it’s getting really big.Yeah, in Canada it’s big.And I think it’s only a matter of time.


There’s a lot of Asian countries that you know traditionally played other racket sports like badminton or ping pong.And so yes, I don’t think there’s going to be, it’s like you know it’s it’s as big as as you and Annalee want it to be for you and then it’s just putting it in perspective.But, but I I really appreciate that you guys keep people interested and that you keep you’re very grounded.


You’re a great family.As a as an example, it’s similar to the dollards that you know Wayne and his wife and their son and like just really bringing grounded people to the sport.So thank you and good luck with your recovery.I’m sending you lots of healing energy and it’s exciting to watch you coach and as a mom it’s just really awesome to watch you.


You know clearly you’ve done a great job.You should pat yourself on the back.Jeez, thanks.Yeah, I mean.It’s so funny.Like, like we talk about social media.Italy’s like, yeah, I don’t really like get meet people send me neat things.And I’m like because they send it all to be like, like, I get all the like, which is fine.


I’d rather be get it.But like, sometimes I’m like, jeez, we’re people just jeez, you know, like, yeah, that’s better, it’s better.It’s just much better for you to to be receiving it.Well, good luck in this year.


I hopefully will check.We’ll check back in.We’ll we’ll check in with you guys near the end of the year and see how you’re doing and and just wish Annalee good luck and all of her matches coming up and that you guys just keep it up.It’s awesome.Thank you.Thank you.Now, thanks for having me.Appreciate it.Awesome.


Thank you.Hey guys, thanks for listening to Simply Pickleball.We will be back very soon with great interviews, discussions and more, all about Pickleball.Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or any of your favorite podcasting outlook.Until next time.


Happy dinking. 


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