Pumped To Play – Part One

Don’t you just love it,….you enter a PB tournament at your local rec centre. The day of the event your game is working and you win your match!….Exciting stuff!…Bragging rights and ‘congrats’ from your pals….

When the next tourney comes along you do extra work to get ready….You’ve had a taste of winning. You’ve caught the bug! You want more!! Now,…. can you imagine what it is like for the top players?

That is the premise of this weeks’ feature article. Below are 2 questions that I sent out–and the responses I received–from some well known players.

The Questions:

1. In the week preceding a big match, how do you get ‘tournament ready’?

2. Are there any quirky superstitions you do on game day that you believe help you to victory?

The Contributors This Week

* Jennifer Lucore – I think she is probably the most well known player in the whole pickle world! Jen has won a suitcase or two of medals in all the major tournaments. She is an enthusiastic cheerleader for our game. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to her blog: jennifer@allpickleball.com

  • Hello Doug, I am swamped with work trying to finish so I can go to the Grand Canyon Games in a few days…so my quick answer for ya:
  • To get ready: I make sure I play some good quality play the few weeks before, and, out on the court for at least 3 hours of continuous play. That really helps the mental challenge of staying focused, because, we all know that when you sign up for every event like me,(what the heck, right), it can be four straight days of competition–sometimes the last day is singles which is a killer!!

* Mark Rennesen – Canada’s own pickleball star!…Mark was featured in a player profile in the January 11th, 2016 edition of Challenge Court. You can go to the website archives to check out his interview. Go to Mark’s site to see his PB videos: thirdshotsports.com     Or hear him on the Pickleball Show podcasts: pickleballx.com

  • Before a tournament I try to make sure I’m practicing with the official tournament ball (which has become a problem for us open players!). I want to simulate tournament conditions as much as possible. I also make sure I’m playing with the same paddle I’ll be using when I compete.
  • My pre match routine is pretty boring. I try to find a balance between getting focused and staying relaxed. So, while I don’t totally isolate myself, I try not to be too social. Most importantly for me is that my body is prepared to play. I can’t afford to spend any time during the match ”warming up”, so I have to make sure I’m 100% ready when I walk on the court. I should already be sweating and hopefully just walked off the practice court. I need to be fully in play mode!

* Nancy Stern – It’s not just the pro pickleballers who think about being ready for the dance. However, our next contributor subscribes to an easy going philosophy… Nancy is from Nanaimo, B.C., and is one of the top players on Vancouver Island. She won a silver medal in MX doubles at last years’ Canadian West Nationals and a gold medal in MX doubles at last weeks’ Leisure World PB tourney. Nancy competes in the 4.5 brackets, but I think if she keeps winning she may get bumped up to 5.0!…I’ll keep everyone posted about how she does at the Grand Canyon State Games.

  • I usually try to get out and have some practice play with my partner if they are around. Other than that I just continue to have fun on the courts amid all the other activities. I am so lucky to pursue down south…such as tennis, slopitch, biking and the infamous happy hours!!
  • I have no quirky superstitions on game day but do rely on being mentally tough on the court. I thank my pal, Joanne O for that. She taught me the fine points of mental toughness during those big matches and her strategies have served me well.

* Sara Lee Ash – This 5.0 ranked player who is from the Phillipines. Sara’s grace, style, and warm personality are garnering her a large number of fans in the US….You can check her stretching video at the end of this article.

  • Hi Doug, This sounds like it could be an interesting edition. I can’t wait to read it….About a week before a big match, I like to focus on my cardio. I run on the treadmill for as much as 45 minutes a day and then work on the weight machines with routines that focus specifically on the muscle groups associated with hitting forehand, backhand and overhead shots with power.
  • I’m not sure if this is really quirky, but I listen to certain up-beat songs on my head-set to get my mind moving fast. I just don’t like relaxing before a match–just the reverse. Physically, I just do some stretches and lunges before a match to make sure my muscles are stretched and ready to go. I just don’t have many unusual methods of getting ready. I just want my body loose and my mind moving fast.

* Byron Freso – I am having a good time getting to know Byron on social media. He’s what us Canucks refer to as ‘good people’. Byron is also a top player and his medals include a bronze in mens doubles 60 plus bracket while playing with Bill Propert in last years’ US Nationals. There is a video link that shows his secret weapon at the end of this article.

  • Hi Doug, Thank you for reaching out to me! You are doing a fantastic job with the articles you are writing. Continue the good work you are doing…..As for how I get ready for my big matches…First of all, it depends on whether it is a mix doubles or mens doubles match I am getting ready to play. Secondly, if it is a first time partner, or we have been playing in several tournaments together. In a mix doubles match with a first-time partner, I like to get together with her to go over–style of play, strategies, what are her strengths and weaknesses–and then play some practice games. During the games, I will stop play to correct something that I notice is causing us problems. We would determine whether we are going to stack or play straight up pickleball. Generally, in mix, I tend to cover about 60 to 70 percent of the court. Once we have done our preparation, and we both feel comfortable, I tend to not like to play the day before the tournament–but maybe do a few drills. If I have played with my mix partner before, I generally like to play a few practice games before the tournament to ensure that we are still on the same page. The same approach applies to my male partner….The only difference is court coverage. If he is an equally strong partner–and that is determined by the number of balls he sees during the match–I would generally play 50 percent of the court, but again, with a weaker male partner I would cover 60 to 70 percent of the court.
  • I do not have any superstitious behaviour before a big match. However, because I have had major back surgery–and have to potentially undergo a couple more–I have to prepare myself mentally to deal with the pain I will experience during the match. I have to make sure I have taken my medication that will help to alleviate any discomfort and stretch. I like to eat my oatmeal with bananas and slivered almonds in the morning for breakfast. A good breakfast tends to set the tone for the day. Above all else, I like to mentally prepare myself for a grind, by visualizing. I have found that visualization is a great tool to use in preparing for a match. It tends to relax me and not make me suffer from the jitters.
  • I hope you have gotten a better perspective of me and I am looking forward to reading what some of the other players do to prepare for a big match.

Coming in Part Two – There will be more ideas from top tournament pickleball players in the next edition. I want to thank this editions contributors Byron, Sara, Nancy, Mark and Jennifer for getting us ‘pumped to play’!


If you’re a new player who hasn’t checked out the pickleball channel, do yourself a favour and take a look at all the incredible info on this site. This next video shows Byron Freso’s hard to return serve.


Sara Lee Ash has the movements of a dancer on the pickleball court. This next video shows her doing some stretches to music.


History and Herstory

Gigi LeMaster talked about learning to play pickleball with the legendary Wayne Muggli in her interview in the last Court edition. I wanted to get Wayne’s take on working with Gigi. This is one of the questions I asked Wayne:

  • Wayne, what is your memory of teaching Gigi LeMaster to play pickleball?

* My wife and I had to spend a summer in Surprise, AZ due to an illness. To keep busy, my wife started a women’s group of 3.5 and 4.0 level players that had no place to play. They played Friday mornings and I would go along to help out. I would stay after play and help anyone wanting help. We were also on temporary courts so I set up courts and filled in as needed. Gigi was one of those ladies who came out every Friday morning, and, I saw a sparkle in her eyes–a look of determination that said she wanted to improve. She absorbed everything I could throw at her and more! No one worked harder than she did in that first summer, and later on…..I am still proud to call her a friend and am so happy at her accomplishments.

  • I will have more about Wayne Muggli and the development of pickleball in a future Challenge Court edition….Thanks Wayne for sharing your fascinating story about Gigi LeMaster.


Pickleball Writer

  • I sent a note to Keith James–a pber from Gig Harbour, WA–an email asking him what pickleball was like in his town. This is his reply:


Allie (Keith’s wife) and I play three or four times a week indoors at the local YMCA. The facility has three courts on the main gym and two additional courts on a smaller gym used for children’s activities. However, the smaller gym is available on a limited basis, depending on scheduled activities.

Our primary time of play is 6:30 to 9:45 am on MWF. Most of the players are retired–more men than women–however, the pairings are fluid and are constantly changing. The skills range from 3.5 to 4.5/5.0. The atmosphere is competitive but very social with a ‘big time emphasis’ on laughter and fun.

I am very lucky to count Jen (Lucore) and Alex (Hamner) as friends. About a year and a half ago, I posted some comments on Jen’s blog site, and she emailed me directly, leading to Jen and Alex visiting me at the local YMCA and putting on a free clinic for about eighty people. Some folks drove from out of state to attend.

I was privileged to play four games against and with Alex and Jen before and after the clinic. In the last game, Alex and I fell behind 6-0 to two strong locals. Alex took me aside and said quietly, ”Keith, get you rear in gear!” I listened to the boss, and we won 11-6.

Jen subsequently asked me to become a regular contributor to her blog site, something I am honoured to do.

Alex and I are ongoing email-pals and can make each other laugh very easily.

I am a lucky dude.

Well, I have rattled on long enough. I will check out your site asap.




Cucumber Vine –  All The Puckering News You Need To Know

– Pickleball General Meeting at Pearkes Rec Centre is this Friday, February 26th from 11:00am-12:30pm in the Ross Room (upstairs). All players are welcome to attend. This is a good opportunity for those players who want more playing times to give their point of view to the Saanich Programmers.

– Mild Rant of the Week…When I’m facilitating at Pearkes–and there’s an open court–I pull 4 paddles out of one of the boxes. Some of the paddles are memorably well used, and look as comfortable to play with as an old Gibson looks in the hand of a gray haired folk singer. Those paddles are no problem…I know who belongs to them, even if they are the ”paddles with no names”. If, however, it’s an unmarked new looking paddle, finding the owner can be a problem. So, for the sake of saving time–and making things easier for the facilitator of the day–please remember to put your name on your paddle. What is especially nice, is putting your name on the end of the handle so it can be read when it’s in the box.

-The next edition I will have more ”preppy talk” from the graduate students of the PB game and some news about playing in the Grand Canyon (watch that first step). ‘Til then….

– Links to all the videos are available online at: www.challengecourt.net

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.








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3 Responses to Pumped To Play – Part One

  1. anna desrocher says:

    Interesting to read the background of the professional pickleball players in your newsletter. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Michael Pesile says:

    Doug, this is my first time reading this since I just joined and I enjoyed every part of it. It was informative and warm as if the replies were sent to me by a personal friend. I started playing Pickleball two years ago and love the game. The trick is trying to get someone who is willing to practice drills in order to get better. So what you are doing is much appreciated. Keep it up and thank you.

  3. Mario Najera says:

    Awesome articles! Thank you.

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