5 Top Pickleball Players Answer How They Went From Amateur To Pro

Posted on December 23, 2021
Pro PPA pickleball tournament

Pickleball has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its inception in 1965. These days over two and a half million people enjoy the sport all across the nation, and the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) pays out thousands of dollars in prize money and appearance fees to the top pros. 

The top professionals of any sport will have a combination of natural talent, determination, and drive, and Pickleball is no different in that respect. 

But all the top players have a different journey on their way to the top, including; the Williams sisters in tennis, Babe Ruth in baseball, Michael Jordan in basketball, Tom Brady in football, and Wayne Gretzky in hockey.

What The Pros Say

We had the pleasure of speaking to some of the biggest names in Pro Pickleball to learn more about how they became professional athletes, and what tips they have for anyone with the same ambitions.

Catherine Parenteau

Catherine Parenteau pickleball player
Credits: Catherine Parenteau

Website - Instagram
Current rankings: #2 Women's Singles, #1 Women's Doubles, #3 Mixed Doubles

How did you get started playing Pickleball?

"Simone Jardim first introduced me to Pickleball. She was my tennis coach at Michigan State University, and she really insisted that I try Pickleball."

"In mid-September 2015, she invited me to play in a Wednesday Pickleball league with a lot of good Pickleball players at the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC). Following my first Pickleball session, I decided that becoming a member of the club (MAC) would be a great idea in order to play some more Pickleball!"

When did you realize it was possible to make a full-time job out of your talent?

"There are a few things that started to happen that made it more clear that I was going to be able to create a career through Pickleball. The creation of the PPA (Pro Pickleball Association) was a big one." 

"The increasing number of tournaments per year that were available to pros to play and earn money at went from around 5-6 tournaments per year to around 30+ tournaments this year. Also, the increasing demand for instruction from Pickleball players all around the country leads Athena Trouillot (my partner) and me to the idea of creating a nationwide teaching academy. You can find more information about that on my website (linked above)."

What steps did you take to go from playing on a hobby basis to making it your career?

"I started playing more tournaments, drilling more, hiring a physical therapist, sports psychologist & working a lot more on my fitness as well as focusing on having a great diet." 

What tips would you give players with a dream of going pro?

"To play as many tournaments as possible. When I first started playing Pickleball, I didn’t have the ability to do so because there were only 5-6 tournaments, but now that there are more tournaments, I highly suggest players to play as many as they can to gain experience and get better quicker!"

Irina Tereschenko 

IRINA TERESCHENKO pickleball player
Credits: @sicktrx_irina on Instagram

Instagram
Current rankings: #5 Women's Singles, #9 Women's Doubles, #12 Mixed Doubles

How did you get started playing Pickleball?

"I turned pro from the first moment I touched the paddle. Denise Dy convinced me to try the sport in a park in Bellevue, WA, and we played against two legends and goats, Chris Miller and Billy Jacobsen." 

"Following this first practice, Chris Miller said that he signed us up for the Tournament of Champions in Utah in a couple of weeks, and he has our airfare and housing covered. Mills said We can pay him back for the flights if we win money, and he has no doubt that we will." 

"Despite the fact that I was very suspect of this whole idea, I agreed and played at TOC the following week and somehow won pro singles and paid Chris back for the flights."

When did you realize it was possible to make a full-time job out of your talent?

"It took about four years after that historic TOC in 2013 for the sport to grow bigger and offer more tournaments with prize money, opportunities for sponsorships, and teaching. That’s when I started playing more events per year, and the opportunities have been growing exponentially ever since." 

What steps did you take to go from playing on a hobby basis to making it your career?

"If you read Rob Nunnery’s recent blog about the costs associated with competing on the pro circuit (Rob’s blog the cost of Pro Pickleball), one should probably think hard before quitting their day job and turning pro in Pickleball full time." 

"The opportunities to make a living from prize money alone are scarce and highly competitive in pro-Pickleball. To put it in perspective, we are definitely behind other professional sports but hoping to grow and offer a sustainable lifestyle for at least the top 25 pro players in each division in 2022." 

What tips would you give players with a dream of going pro?

"If you dream of becoming a pro-Pickleball player, become the student of the game, recognize different styles of play, and try to define and develop your own style. Also, invest time in understanding the pro tours and selecting a schedule that fits your goals and budget." 

"Last but not least, be nice to people and display good sportsmanship, and it will be easier for you to find good partners!"

Zane Navratil

TX Open - Credits: Sara Kelly

Website - Instagram
Current Rankings: #3 Men's Singles, #21 Men's Doubles, #8 Mixed Doubles

How did you get started playing Pickleball?

"I was a tennis player in high school, and one day over winter break, my dad took me to the Caesar Chavez Center in Racine, WI. I thought Pickleball was a sport for old people, and when I arrived, my preconceived notion was confirmed; it was all old people there! However, my dad failed to let me know that it was "Seniors only" time there." 

"I thought that I would kick these old guys' butts, but I was very quickly humbled. I was playing tennis on a Pickleball court, and they were playing Pickleball. I decided to try and learn Pickleball the right way, and I fell in love with the sport!"

When did you realize it was possible to make a full-time job out of your talent?

"Kasandra Gehrke is a friend of mine, and she was from Madison, WI, before moving to Missouri. She was a school teacher but quit her job to play and teach Pickleball full time. She convinced me to quit in July of 2020!"

What steps did you take to go from playing on a hobby basis to making it your career?

"One thing that I try to do is separate my hobby from my career. I still try to have fun playing Pickleball, and I still do have fun playing Pickleball. Teaching days are long but fulfilling and gratifying. I would consider teaching Pickleball to be my career and playing Pickleball to be my hobby!"

What tips would you give players with a dream of going pro?

"Drill, drill, drill. Nobody became a professional tennis player by just playing matches. Plain and simple."

Frank Davis

Frank Anthony Davis Pickleball
Credits: https://twitter.com/frankadavis

Website - Instagram - Tik Tok
Current rankings: #6 Men's Singles

How did you get started playing Pickleball?

"My best friend from high school, Bobby Kobylinski, became a Phys ed teacher, and they taught him in college. He just called me one day and said, man, we have to play this game; it is so much fun. We ended up playing singles against each other for over two years without even knowing doubles existed." 

When did you realize it was possible to make a full-time job out of your talent?

"I guess I still haven't! I am a full-time traveling electrical engineer."

What steps did you take to go from playing on a hobby basis to making it your career?

"Around the end of 2018, I decided I wanted to give pro-Pickleball a solid effort. I focused on physical fitness, drilling, and trying to find positivity in my game." 

What tips would you give players with a dream of going pro?

"Find positivity not only in the good moments but in the bad low moments." 

Jocelyn Devilliers

Jocelyn Devilliers Pickleball
Credits: https://www.facebook.com/Jaydevillierspickleball

Instagram - Facebook
Current rankings: #4 Men's Singles, #6 Men's Doubles, #5 Mixed Doubles

How did you get started playing Pickleball?

"I started playing in 2019. A former teammate of mine from Wichita State University played Pickleball at the high level (I let you guess who) and decided to play my first tourney at a local tournament in Kansas City in early 2019."

When did you realize it was possible to make a full-time job out of your talent?

"I realized that I could potentially make a living out of it when I competed at the Minto US Open 2019. I felt that my tennis game could help me get to the top level quickly and potentially make it a full-time job. However, I also knew it was a big gamble because only the top 10 were barely making a career out of it."

What steps did you take to go from playing on a hobby basis to making it your career?

"I haven't really played Pickleball as a hobby, I am a very competitive person naturally, and when I played my first tournament, I felt like it would be a great sport for me to compete in after playing tennis for so long. I just used my training/experience from tennis and compete my hardest in every tournament."

What tips would you give players with a dream of going pro?

"I would tell them one of the best pieces of advice I received when I tried to play tennis at the professional level. Do NOT listen to negativity; you don't need it! Unfortunately, there are too many people bringing you down and bringing negativity in your life, so ignoring that is the key." 

"Believing in your dream and doing everything possible to accomplish it. Adding to that, having good mentors is important too."

Further Information

Now that you know a little more about what it takes to make it in Pickleball, you might want to look through our buying guides for the best paddles, balls, bags, nets, shoes, and more .You can also read more about how to find Pickleball courts, our ultimate guide to Pickleball serving, and much more in our blog to get yourself ready to be the next big name in Pickleball.

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The Author
Melvin Robles
I'm Melvin. The author and editor of PickleballGuide. I've played pickleball since 2014 and tennis since I was ten. I hope you enjoy your time on here.
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