TOC Wrapping – Part Two

In the September 16th CC I talked with 4 incredibly pickleish ladies who excelled in their matches at this year’s Tournament of Champions…Now let’s here from the other side. Let’s drill down and hear what the some of the guys have to say about pickleball, the TOC and getting ready to do their best at major tourneys.

First off we get the inside look at TOC pickleball from an insider….He is a resident of Brigham City so he knows the championship courts well. Let’s hear from this Utah star pickleballer:

Scott Clayson

1. Scott, I have enjoyed watching you on video in some classic pb battles this year. Other than your smooth finesse style of play, all I know about you is that you’re a youthful legends competitor who lives (I think) in Brigham City, Utah…What is your sports history and how did you get into competitive pickleball?

SC – I am 53. My background was being a ”jack of all paddle/racquet trades”. I played high school tennis and some community tournament racquetball. My style of play mostly comes from table tennis though. I played a lot of community tournament ping pong. I think of a pickleball court as one large ping pong table, that is why I grip the paddle so high on the neck which allows me a little wrist action. It also introduces some errors too at times as a stiffer wrist would create a little more consistency…. I took up the game about 5 years ago. I do live in Brigham City, Utah.

2. For pure entertainment value, the MX 50+ Finals at the Grand Canyon State Games was one of the best matches of the year. You and Alex Hamner won the first two games. Then your opponents, Scott Moore and Cookie Drake, came back to take the tiebreaker 16-14…Was that match as exciting to play in as it was for spectators to witness?…What can you tell us about the skill set of your famous teammate Alex Hamner?

SC – Regarding the Grand Canyon State games final, it was an exciting match. I thought we were going to get them. Scott Moore really turned it on at the end to pull it out and his partner Cookie Drake help up very well. My partner Alex Hamner is one of the best in the game and a very nice person to play with. She has a very ”storied” pickleball history.

3. At this years TOC event you won another silver with Alex Hamner in senior mixed doubles…You also won a gold medal in the MD Legends bracket. Your partner has been having an incredible year! How much fun was it for you to compete with Scott Moore?…How was your confidence level at the start of the match, knowing that you would be playing against the top calibre team of Brian Staub and Glen Petersen?

SC – At TOC, playing with Scott Moore was a lot of fun. He is a great person and probably the best 50+ 5.0 player in the country. I was very excited for the opportunity to play against Brian Staub and Glen Petersen. Both are great players and great people. They have both had great success. The game was very intense for me. Scott creates such a presence of pressure that it made it easy to be competitive as they have to worry about him poaching with his long forehand. I like the opportunity to get into a soft game until Scott could put it away.

4. Looking ahead to the US Nationals, I noticed that you will be playing 35+ doubles with Christine Barksdale. I think Chris recently moved to your area from Portland, Or…Have you two had a chance to practice together? Are there many top players that live close to you? What is Brigham City like for a pb tourist who is planning a trip there?

SC – I am very excited to play with Christine Barksdale in the Nationals this year. This will be my first tournament with her. She is a fantastic player. She is moving from Portland but I believe her permanent residence will be in the Arizona area. She does visit here often as she is good friends with Kyle and Trudee Klein…Regarding play in Brigham City/Northern Utah. We have some really great players in our area and do get some pickleball visitors stopping in at times. We now have 17 pickleball courts in our city (population of around 18,000). Our courts are located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains so there is a great view of the mountains. Kyle Klein is the ”Dean” of pickleball in our area and the local ambassador for pickleball.

5. Last question Scott…I admire your easy going playing style. How do you keep your skills sharp? What drills do you do the most before a big tournament?

SC – Regarding my playing style, I do like a good soft game. As far as drills, we do a split court soft game drills and a 3rd shot split shot court drill. Both are fashioned as games that make drilling more fun. However, I am still more tempted to play actual games as we have many opportunities to play with great 5.0 players in our area. I do try to moderate my frequency and cross train as I believe it is good for my joints to have other forms of activity that create different angles on my joints. I generally limit myself to 3 days per week and do other forms of exercise on the other days (biking, lifting weights, etc…).

Hopefully this helps. Happy pickleballing,

Scott Clayson

* Thank you Mr. Clayson, and as the saying goes, ”Great Scott…you are one interesting pickleballer!”


* My next guest is not only a top player, but he and his brother belong to a sports family that is doing beautiful things for our sport down in a beautiful area of Southern California….Let’s find out more about…

Tyler and Callan Dawson

1. Tyler, you and Callan are sons of Jennifer and Steve Dawson. Your parents own the Bobby Riggs tennis and pickleball facility in Encinitas, Ca….What I don’t know is how old you guys are and whether pickleball or tennis is your main sport? Are you and Callan working or going to school?

TD – I am 22, and Callan is 25. Callan played baseball his whole life including in college, where as I played tennis and football growing up, but stopped playing tennis for pickleball 2 years ago. I am finishing my undergrad at UCSD right now, and Callan is working as the head pickleball director at Bobby Riggs as well as running his own business.

2. Your parent’s sports facility is becoming a hot spot for pb folks to grow their skills…How are Steve and Jennifer as coaches? Have they spent much time helping you guys with your games?

TD – Steve is an amazing coach with his qualifications and accomplishments from our website being ”Steve is one of the few player-coaches in San Diego history to win every major junior title in San Diego and repeat that feat in Open Tennis as well. The Junior tournaments are Harper Ink, Maureen Connolly, Wilbur Folsom and San Diego Jr. Championships. The Men’s Open Tournaments are the San Diego District Men’s Open Championship and the La Jolla Invitational Men’s Open Championship…Steve was a two time Big-8 Champion at the University of Oklahoma, which he attended on a full scholarship. Upon graduating with honours with a degree in literature, Steve took up full time tennis coaching and has spent 25 straight years developing students of the game and champions…He has developed over 50 full scholarship athletes to major universities, produced 7 Southern Cal. junior sectional champions, 1 USTA #1 ranked junior in United States, 1 ITF world junior champion, I US Open semi-finalist, and 1 French Open Champion. He has traveled and trained with 3 ATP professionals: HU Na of China ranked as high as 48, Kelly Jones of USA ranked 18 in doubles and a US Open Doubles semi-finalist, and Elna Reinbach of RSA, ranked as high as 29 in singles and a French Open Champion in MxD.”

My mother is a fantastic coach as well as a player (especially player) being asked by team USA to play and represent the USA in tennis tournaments around the world as well as winning a national tennis tournament this past weekend making her the #1 tennis player in the nation for her age division. My mother’s qualifications are:

JENNIFER DAWSON    Tennis Professional

Over 30 years of playing and teaching tennis at the highest level. ITF World #1 in the 45 and over…Ranked #1 in the United States in women’s 35, 40, and 45 age groups…Winner of multiple national championships, she turned professional after college. Jennifer recorded her best win over WTA rookie of the year Yayuk Bazuki of Thailand, who went on to be ranked #25 in the world…After accepting a full scholarship offer to the University of San Diego, Jennifer played the number 1 spot for four consecutive years and helped the team achieve a season ending ranking of 14 in NCAA Division 1….She holds the following school records:

Most wins against Pac 12 teams (defeated UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona St, UC Berkely). Jennifer also defeated NCAA #1 ranked player Stacey Martin (who at the time was also #80 in the world). She was voted by the regional NCAA coaches as the Western United States College Player of the Year. Jennifer attended Poway High School where she was CIF DIV I High School Singles Champion.

3. Tyler, you and your brother teamed up for open doubles play at the SoCal Classic. You guys earned a bronze medal against a tough field. What were your expectations going into the tourney and were you happy with the way you two performed in your first big event together?

TD – I had no expectations going into the tournament, and was just happy in playing and receiving the bronze. I was very happy with the way we played.

4. At the TOC in September the Dawson brothers won a silver medal in that tight MD bracket…Great job!…I noticed that you two were using the stacking strategy. Tyler, you were on the left side. Can you explain to my readers why you like this method of play and what advantage it can give you against an unstacked team?

TD – The way Callan and I play we have no side preference. We are both comfortable playing from either side, however depending on the teams and certain matches, we will rather stack a certain player rather than a certain side. I was coincidentally on the left because whoever we were stacking that match preferred the left side. It has nothing to do with side preference, and everything to do with match-ups. Also, we prefer not to stack, but to switch last second whether we are on the serving or receiving side in order to hide our switching till the last second.

5. Last question Tyler…What are your pb plans for 2017? How many events do you want to play? Will we see the Dawson bros at the Canadian Nationals next Summer?

TD – I have no pb plans for 2017, I will be out of the country in Taipei, Taiwan for the full duration of 2017.

* Wow, that sounds like an interesting adventure Tyler…Your North American fans will miss you…

* Tyler has relayed some of my questions to his brother Callan. I hope to include his answers in a future Challenge Court edition.

* The Bobby Riggs facility was the site of this year’s SoCal Classic Pickleball Tournament. I plan to have more about the event and the Dawson family in a future blog post.


* As I write about the next fellow I have a smile on my face…I had a chance to watch him play and chat with him at the Canadian Nationals. He is a good guy, a great player, and a future inductee to the Hall of Pickleball Icons (if they should build a shrine on Bainbridge Island)…He is the real dilly deal, so let’s get ”right to it” and ”left to it” hear the pickle-philosophy of…

Wes Gabrielsen

1. Wes, at 30 years you are relatively young for a pickleballer. However, you have a lot of playing experience and have been a star player in tournaments for years. What’s more fun for you…the high level competition of a major tournament event, a low key game at your home club, or maybe a semi hardcore match in Steve Paranto’s back yard?

WG – I felt like a youngster the first few years I competed on our circuit. However, now with Daniel, Kyle, Oliver, the Dawson’s and more kicking butt, I don’t feel like the youngster anymore. For me in terms of favourite type of competition nothing beats a championship court, under the lights of a big tournament. I love the atmosphere and the pressure faced in a tough match. Kyle and I have talked this year when we play in those situations about how much we enjoy that type of scenario. It’s so fun to be in that competitive environment. But, at the same time, a four hour session of fun high level recreational play is always a highlight of a week for me as well.

2. When people talk about pb tournaments, one of the great stories this year has to be the chemistry between the team of Yates/Gabrielsen…You two have a nice golden winning streak going when you team up – 5 in the last year, including MD gold at the TOC. You two use the stacking strategy with your dominant hands in the middle. Being a leftie, is it fair to say you have found your right hand man in Kyle Yates? Also, how do your personalities jibe…how is the communication between you guys?

WG – Well, that’s nice of you to say about Kyle and I. I’m just happy to be able to play with ”the kid” as I call him. We decided early on that keeping our forehands in the middle was a solid plan for us as we both like to pounce on sitter balls that are left in the middle of the court. The plan was whoever gets there first to put the ball away. For those who were at the TOC you noticed I didn’t hit took many. Kyle was too quick!!! Personality wise he and I are great friends. We have played a lot against each other but more recently we have  been on the same side of the net. We have had a lot of fun teaming up. Luckily for us he came out to spend about a month this summer in the Pacific Northwest spending most of his time in Seattle, but I was lucky enough to host him for a week here in Oregon. It was fun to spend a lot of time on court together, but more importantly off of the court…whether it was hiking at the coast or time on the golf course. Also, we had a lot of good laughs about things off the court. To bring up the age component from the previous question, I realized through discussion with him that he is the same age as the last group of high school tennis players I coached – so he could have been one of my players!!! That makes me feel old!! But, it was great to hang out with him off court. Anytime you get to spend time off of the court your chemistry improves on the court. Overall, it was great for all of us here in the PNW to have him here this summer.

3. You and Kyle faced two interesting teams before you claimed the top prize at Brigham City – Marcin Rozpedski, Morgan Evans and Tyler Dawson, Callan Dawson. The team from the desert is known for their hard driving ”shake and bake” style, while the Dawsons tend to specialize more in finesse play at the kitchen line. You and Kyle both have a lot of tournament smarts. You guys have learned how to vary your shots depending on the game situation. Did you change your own strategy when you played the desert dogs vs the California brothers?

WG – Oh geez…Marcin and Morgan are two of the best players in the game and definitely one of the top men’s doubles teams you can face. They have so many skills and a wide variety of shots that it’s hard to dictate play against them. Kyle and I realized that our consistency and defensive skills were going to keep us in that match, so our goal in that match was to wait for a chance to attack and just buckle in. Luckily we were able to hang tough, mount a comeback in game one, and win that match. Kyle played out of his mind in that one…Now on to the Dawson’s. Tyler and Callan are about as good of athletes as you will find in pickleball and they are very physically and mentally tough. We knew that against them I would see most of the balls, so my goal was to out dink the brothers and to create chances for Kyle to attack. I was able to focus in and set up Kyle for some crazy put aways that he had. In the end it was fun as always to team up with Kyle and compete against some of the best teams in the world.

4. In my September 16th edition I talked with the ladies that were involved in the epic MX finals at Brigham City…Simone Jardim and Sarah Ansboury gave me their takes on the match. I haven’t heard from Simone’s partner Rafael Siebenschien yet, but I wonder what it felt like for you to be partnered with Sarah in what may become known as the most exciting match ever played at the TOC. Have you had a lot of feedback from your pb pals about the great comeback you and Sarah had in the 15 point tie break game?

WG – Sarah and Simone: talk about two of the most headstrong, physically and mentally tough women on the circuit. These ladies know how to win and put their heart and soul into every match they play…Sarah and I have become great friends over the past year as we’ve teamed up for most mixed events. She is a fiery competitor but has a great handle on the fun of pickleball. We get fired up together out there but know when to take a deep breath and laugh. But in that match, those two ladies played some of the best, most solid control based pickleball I’ve ever seen. I think Raf and I were just happy when we got to butt a few balls every now and then. And we certainly did encourage our partners to keep on fighting. I remember telling Sarah in that game to 15 that she was a warrior and to keep battling each point. She certainly turned it on, as our comeback was in progress and we played solidly throughout the rest of the match. I still can’t believe it happened but was very grateful and blessed to be in that situation. It was really a blast, and Raf and Simone played out of their minds in that match.

5. Many of us amateur pbers do not spend much time on practicing skills as opposed to playing the game. I think that may be a handicap. I wonder how it is for you…Do you like doing drills? Do you spend much time on technique training before you go to a tourney?

WG – I love drilling. It’s the key to my success as a player. When I played competitive tennis in high school, college, and beyond I drilled more than I played practice matches. The same carried over into pickleball. One of my great friends, Tim Gardner, reignited my love of fitness and drilling three years ago, and he and I (along with his awesome up and coming 16 year old son William) drill 2-3 days a week for 1.5-2 hours. This helps us keep a rhythm with our shots so when we play our tournament matches we can focus on where we want to hit our shots, not how we are going to hit them. My recommendation for all players is to drill half the time, while playing practice matches the other half. That’s the only way to truly practice the shots you practice.

6. Last question Wes…I’m thinking that you’re back at your home base for awhile. Many B.C. players like coming to Oregon for a getaway. Since Portland area is a popular destination, I’m wondering what your time management is like in the Fall? Are you personally giving pickleball clinics this time of year that out of town visitors could attend?

WG – Yes Doug, my pickleball time has been taken way down since TOC due to personal choice and professional responsibilities. As a high school teacher we started our school year with kids the day after that TOC Gold mixed match, so my availability for players goes way down. But, I’ve enjoyed the break for my mind and body. Since TOC I think I’ve played six times total, but am now getting back into it. Clinic wise, I actually don’t give any clinics as I’m just in the playing pickleball phase of my life right now, but I know there are several great teachers in Oregon, like Steve Paranto, who I recommend for clinics.

Hope that helps and let me know if you need anything else…Best wishes.


* That helped a lot Wes…As you probably guessed, I’m always intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes of tournament pickleball. Thanks for sharing your insights and great luck to you and the other skillful cukes that play our funny/fab sport.


Video Links

* This match was the MXD 50+ from the GCS games in April. Scott Clayson (in a white tee) and Alex Hamner took on Scott Moore and Cookie Drake…

* Scott Clayson and Scott Moore team up at the TOC…

* Callan Dawson (black tee) partnered with Tyler Dawson (blue tee) practicing with their Dad Steve Dawson (purple tee) and Bob Richland…

* Callan at the SoCal Classic with Morgan Evans (Aussie hat)…

* Wes, Kyle, Callan and Tyler (blue tee) in the MD Finals at the TOC. This is the edited video that is courtesy of Jennifer Lucore’s all pickleball site…

* 2014 post game interview with Wes and Enrique Ruiz…

* Another interview with Wes and Columbia River Group players…

* Wes and Kyle’s gold match in MD 19+ from the US Nationals…

* Wes & Sarah vs Simone & Raf – TOC MX Finals 15 pointer…

More Of My Fave Videos

Wes Gabrielsen recommended Steve Paranto as a pickleball instructor…Steve is a legendary pickleballer who lives in the Portland area. He has won 3 national doubles titles, 4 world senior singles titles and many other medals and 5.0 titles. He is a certified instructor with the IPTPA and he writes instructional articles for pickleball magazines. He will be one of the instructors this year for clinic day at the US Nationals. Steve’s dad invented the first composite paddle. Here is the story…

* Steve Paranto with Arlan Paranto and their Pro-Lite paddles…


* Here is some more about the TOC, it’s founder John Gullo, and the creation of the Professional Pickleball Federation…

* Here is a video that wasn’t available in Sept 16th ladies edition. Lucy Kovalova vs Simone Jardim singles finals at the TOC…


* If you go on the VIPA pickleball site there is a list of all the gold medal winners from this September’s 55+ BC Games. Victoria players did very, very well!!!

* Cedar Hill Rec is hosting Partner Challenge Tournament II…. PC I was held last Spring at the same location. There will be 12-15 teams of any gender. Entrance fee is $20/person…One person registers and gives the name of their partner. To be competitive you should be at least a 3.5 ranked player. If there is interest there may be a similar event for under 3.5 players.

To register call Cedar Hill at 250-475-7121 for the Nov 12th PB Partner Challenge…or online at Reconline Saanich and search under barcode 806404.

If you want to enter but don’t have a partner then you call email Ian Daniel. Also, email Ian if you can do some volunteer work at the tournament…

* Here is some info from for players who are interested in playing at Brentwood Community Hall on the weekends…This is NOT drop-in. It is capped at 14 players/session….

Contact Leslie at  cell 250-588-6594

Saturday 9-11am Brentwood Mixed 3.5/3.5+ pickleball  $3 Closed Group.

Sunday 12-2pm Brentwood Women’s 3.5/3.5+ pickleball $3 Closed Group.

* That’s about it for now, but I will have more in the next edition about our game and the people that make pickleball the best thing you can do when you’re not lying down….(Warning – pb in bed can result in personal injury)… Thanks to everyone who contributed to this newsletter. For new readers, you can access all the archive editions on my Challenge Court website. ‘Til next week…

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.

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