The Yin, the yang…balance and harmony…a medal for happiness. Perhaps that is the goal we should be striving for…. in life as well as in the game of pickleball. For me, I approached my guest’s story as looking at the strong ‘n gentle way this lady moves on and off the court. She’s a top ten competitor who keeps things in perspective. She’s properly serious…about having fun. This lady keeps her feet on the ground, even if she falls. This is what I learned about the life and times of a pretty pickle dancer…
Her sports story began in Iowa in 1984. That’s when an active 7 year old started playing tennis. Joy Leising has always been keen on sports and played tennis and softball when she was growing up. For those unapologetic cuteness fans (like me), here is an early picture of Joy on the courts…
Joy Leising and her family moved to Minneapolis when Joy was in her teens. She graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1997. Joy Leising was a good student and when it came time for higher education she decided to leave Minnesota to attend Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR…The city’s ambient atmosphere for arts and culture helped to nurture the empathetic and creative side of Joy’s nature. After obtaining a liberal arts degree she co-founded the 100 Monkeys Art Therapy Studio. Currently Joy is working at the I Have A Dream non profit foundation where she motivates young students to reach their life goals. Joy’s husband, John Paul, is also employed at a non profit foundation.
It is clear to me that this couple has a passion for social work. When I asked her if she would ever consider becoming a full time pro pickleballer Joy Leising answered this way…”Yes, it would be nice to have that option,” she said….Then Joy added, ”But no, I wouldn’t want to leave the my work.” Joy and John have a commitment to helping their community.
During her time at Lewis and Clark, Joy played some college tennis. After graduating she participated in 4.5 and 5.0 competitive tennis teams. That is where Joy Leising met a very important person in her future pickleball career…Christine Barksdale. The ladies had similar racquet skill levels. Their playing styles meshed well on the court so they became teammates. The ladies also got on well together, so when Christine Barksdale was looking for someone to accompany her on a visit to Canada, she naturally thought of her good friend Joy Leising:-)…The purpose of the trip to B.C. was to participate in a different racquet sport that Christine Barksdale had learned from her father. Christine was quite keen on this fun activity and had already been competing and winning medals in the sport. Joy liked the idea of a new challenge, so she accompanied her friend to Abbotsford for the 2013 Pickleball Canada National Open Championship. At the event, Christine Barksdale won a gold and silver medal in doubles play. Although she had never played pickleball, Joy Leising was a quick study…she won a bronze medal in women’s open singles. At this point in Joy’s pb herstory, it is important to note who took the top prize in Joy’s bracket…Jennifer Lucore beat Joy Leising in their match and later earned the gold medal in singles at the Canadian Nationals…Jennifer will be featured later in this story.
Since the trip to Canada had been fun, Joy was ready for more of the same in 2014…The Timberhill Spring Fling pb tourney takes place just down the road from Portland in Corvallis, OR…Every April top pickleballers from all over the Northwest congregate for some high level competition. Since she wasn’t yet quite clear on her doubles mixed ranking, Joy Leising competed in the 4.5 MX Skill Group with Hunter Duvall….Joy and Hunter took the gold in that bracket. That gave Joy Leising the confidence in her ability. When she played in the top women’s doubles bracket, Joy and Christine won the gold medal. Joy was bumped up to the next level…Joy Leising, like her friend Christine Barksdale, was now a 5.0 tournament level player.
The ladies would attend, and have success in other regional events that year…They did well at the Brigham City Memorial Tournament and the State Games of Oregon…That set the ultimate stage for Joy and Christine to perform on….the US Nationals VI took place at Buckeye, AZ in November, 2014. There is no greater test for a player than competing at this prestigious event….Being on the podium at the Nationals is a dream for every top pb player. The competition in ladies doubles at Buckeye would be strong to say the least…especially from ”The Wall”…The top women players had found it was almost impossible to get a ball past a certain duo. Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner had dominated play at the US Nationals, and every other event they had entered since 2011. It would be a feat to even a win a respectable number of game points versus this famous twosome. Joy Leising and Christine Barksdale were up to the challenge…Although they didn’t win their finals matches, Joy and Christine did turn some heads by earning silver medals in the WD Open and WD+35 brackets…they played close matches and finished just behind the legendary golden girls….Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner. The following year would bring more exciting play.
Game Faces – Christine on the left, Joy on the right
Video Pb Stars
The first link I want to include in this edition is from the 2015 Timberhill Spring Fling. There are some interesting aspects to this finals match. All four players in the match below were living in Portland area at the time of the tournament. Joy’s home town is a great breeding ground for great pickleballers… Joy Leising is matched up with the young, skilled, and ambidextrous fellow, Kurtis Campbell…Steve Paranto, a legendary star and mentor to many top players, is teamed up with Sarah Ansboury…This was one of Sarah’s first pb appearances and she would soon go on an incredible pb winning streak in all the events she entered. However, in this match the gold would belong to two of Portland’s finest – Joy Leising and Kurtis Campbell. https://youtu.be/6gF_67b-3NY
The link below is from the 2015 Canadian Nationals from Kelowna, BC…It marked the first time that Joy Leising and Christine Barksdale would be competing in Kelowna as teammates… They made it into the open finals vs Gigi LeMaster and Mona Burnett…Gigi is wearing a white top and Mona is in an orange and white tee. There is a dramatic incident at the 20:30 moment of the video that occurs off camera. Joy Leising twists her foot awkwardly and the game is suspended while she gets some medical attention. Although in pain, Joy gets taped up and finishes the game…She and Christine score a hard earned gold medal, but after this Joy Leising had to take a month off due to her injury. https://youtu.be/40xoj2hiUPw
Joy Leising healed up and was stronger than ever for the US Nationals in November 2015. Joy and Christine are featured in this final match of the WD 35+ bracket. As seems natural at the Nationals, they face the SoCal champion team of Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner. However, this time the Oregon ladies are the winning team. Coming from the losers bracket, Joy Leising and Christine Barksdale eke out 16-14 victory in the tiebreaker game to claim the gold medal. https://youtu.be/BbtdXWeZxfc
This next match shows Joy’s singles game. Joy Leising is a strong player and has one of the hardest volley and put away shots in the game. This link is the women’s finals at last years LeMaster Davidson Classic. Sarah Ansboury wins this close game for gold. https://youtu.be/JrnvIAxl-Fc
The 2015 and 2016 pb seasons were transition years for competitive women’s pickleball….Top players like Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner continued to win medals, but there was a new group of ladies that entered the game running…Besides taking a big share of the medals at the top pb events the ”new kids on the court” had something else in common…Tournament pickleball is no longer just an amateur sport. As the prize and sponsorships monies increase I expect this trend towards professionalism to continue….Sarah Ansboury, Irina Tereshenko, Lucy Kovalova, Simone Jardim and others are full time pickleball/tennis pros.
Another transition that has occurred is less pb videos from Victor Jehovskiy….I used to share his links for many of my blog editions, but I haven’t seen any new videos from him for some time. So, although Christine Barksdale and Joy Leising have been winning lots of medals in the last two years, not many of their games made it to YouTube. Just this year Joy and Chris won gold at the Grand Canyon State Games in 35+ doubles, and Joy Leising and Dalton Vavra took gold in Open MX at the International Indoor Championship but neither of these matches was recorded. That to me is a shame and I hope someday we will get more coverage of all the great pickleball events.
If you happen to be up at Kelowna next month, make sure you take in some of the women’s doubles events at the Canadian Nationals. Great teams like LeMaster & Garvin, Drake & Pierce and Hamner & Lucore will be battling in open play…Of special interest to Canuck fans, this year’s Nationals sees the reunion of the all Canadian team of Mona Burnett and Luba Zhekhovskaya…They are multiple gold medalists and will be a hard team to beat.
As well, Barksdale & Leising will be doing their best to redeem themselves after last year’s WD final….Joy and Chris settled for the silver after a rain delayed 11 p.m. final match against gold medalists Gigi LeMaster and Sarah Ansboury.
Canadian National Shots
Here are some pics I took of Joy at Kelowna last year. The first one shows Joy Leising, Chris Miller, Jennifer Lucore and Brian Ashworth….The Beard’s expression says it all…he and Joy had just lost a tight 16-14 game against Chris and Jen in the MX prelims. Joy Leising and Brian Ashworth will be teamed up again this year at the Canadian Nationals.
….I got this close up of Joy Leising with my spouse, Pamela, when Joy was in a break between matches. Joy is one of the players that we Canucks think of as ”good people”…friendly, nice and easy to be around.
The pro pb players tend to be approachable for an autograph or picture…Just remember not to bother them if they are about to go on the court for a big match…They’re probably concentrating on winning and positive mental visualization techniques:-)
Here are some more pics of some Victoria players that went to the International Indoor Championships at Centralia….Randy Oben (the tall guy) was a double bronze man in the 3.5 bracket. One medal with Brian Jenkins and one with Jane Rich….The last shot shows Aunt and Uncle Sam. It’s nice to see that they were in the Centralia area for the tourney:-)
Here Are some shots from last weekends VRPA Tournament at Pearkes Rec….Pickleball is starting to rate a notice in Victoria’s daily paper…The Times Colonist.
It was a good pb Father’s Day weekend to be in Victoria. 14 year old Brayden Latray, on the left, took the bronze and his dad, Gene Latray on the right, took silver in singles play at Pearkes Rec….The player in the middle is Michael Choong…Michael has only been playing about a month but managed to win singles gold! All the guys are from that pickleball hotbed…the Lower Mainland.
Another Father’s Day closeup…Tournament director Robin Milliken is shown here with his medal winning son, Robin Milliken Jr.
Rob Milliken and his mixed doubles partner Vicki Strandlund….Junior and Vicki came back from an 11-5 deficit in the final game to win by a 15-13 score and take the gold medal!
Here is a pic of all the A level mixed doubles medalists. You can find more results and tournament info on the VRPA website.
From the left – Joe Wong, Lori Murray, Rob Milliken, Vicki Strandlund, Jane Rich, Randy Oben.
Here is a reminder to all you Victoria pickleballers that there is still plenty of room to register for the Scott Moore clinic and mini-camp when he is in town June 30th and July 1st….This is great opportunity for all you keeners to take your game to a higher level.
Info – firstname.lastname@example.org 719-331-9086
Register – pickleballtrips.com
Since Father’s Day just passed, here is a unusual but poetic shot of Scott and his son Daniel Moore after they had been competing in a tournament together.
Thanks to Joy Leising for sharing her pickleball story with me and the CC readers. Thanks to Pamela, my punctual punctuation pb editor for keeping my grammar readable:-)…Good luck to Joy, Christine and all the tough, talented and beautiful pickleball dancers that make it to the Canadian Nationals. Your fans appreciate the hard work you all put into playing at such a high level…I’ll have more on the players who will be participating at Kelowna in future editions….’Til then…
Thanks for the game,
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