What Did the Gold Medalists Learn at Nationals VIII?

Gold Medals at Nationals

Just because you win a medal it doesn’t mean you didn’t learn something from a tournament…  This was our story in Pickleball Magazine – December 2016. Alex Hamner and I write the column Around the Post. I wanted to share with you the full, unedited-for-space version because there are more valuable tips the pros shared. What did the gold medalists learn at Nationals VIII? Lots!

Can you name the pro:

Who started playing professional tennis at age 18 and traveled all around the world?

Who learned a tough lesson straight from Morgan Evans and Marcin Rodpedski?

What guy said: “Don’t hit a put-away at Simone Jardim – find another part of the court to attack!!”

Who learned that it’s time to add a 65+ Open category?

Who said it’s special to win gold at Nationals but indescribably amazing to share it with your loved ones?

Eat and drink at every opportunity you can because you may not be able to get a real meal all day and you will run out of energy by the end of the day.  Also, no matter what happens – always remember this is a game and there are times you are going to win and there are times you are going to lose, so always stick to who you are and what you stand for at all times because that’s the most important thing in life.
Simone Jardim – Gold: Open Mixed & Women’s Doubles; Bronze: Open Singles

My lesson learned: Don’t hit a “put-away” at Simone Jardim – find another part of the court to attack!!  Seriously though, something that was reinforced and helped me this week was to over-hydrate. Start 1-2 weeks before a tournament starts and over-hydrate each night too. This helps with recovery.
Wes Gabrielsen – Gold: Open Doubles & Doubles 19+ & Mixed Doubles 19+; Bronze: Open Mixed

I have learned a lot of lessons playing major tournaments throughout my career. But this last week at Nationals VIII I have learned two more that I will never forget:
– When things are not going your way, be patient. Stay focused, stay disciplined, communicate with your partner, take time outs and make the game last as long as possible.
– Have people to help you out between the matches, throughout the whole tournament, like my family did last week. If you have a chance to bring a friend or family member I suggest you do it. It will help you and I promise you that at the end of the day it is a team victory.
Marcin Rozpedski – Gold: Open Singles; Silver: Open Doubles

One of the lessons I learned at this tournament is the importance of being patient and not letting outside factors like the wind, your opponent, referees, line calls, or the crowd frustrate you and affect your game. Frustration often results in more unforced errors and a loss of concentration and ability to compete at your highest level.  I dealt with such adversity during this tournament by taking my time between points, taking time outs and focusing on executing the match strategy.  Hopefully, the same formula works for me in the future!
Irina Tereschenko – Gold: Open Singles; Silver: Doubles 19+, Bronze: Open Doubles

I think the best lesson I learned was about recovering from a close loss. After you get all the way to the semi-finals or winners bracket final and you have a close loss, it’s hard to get motivated and reset for that next match. It’s never over in pickleball though so you’ve got to let that first loss go and keep fighting.  In that same vein, you’re never out of a game. I came back twice from being down 10-7 (match point) in this tournament and a few other times from being 6 or 7 points behind. Just focus on playing each point well, and good things can happen.
Daniel Moore – Gold: Doubles 19+ & Singles 19+; Bronze: Open Doubles & Open Singles

Every tournament I learn many new things, mostly about myself. I would say the one thing that stands out at Nationals VIII, is the importance of not letting my foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to getting better. There is constantly new talent we are seeing and it will take more commitment than in the past to stay competitive. I welcome that challenge though and I thrive on other players pushing me to get better.
Aspen Kern – Gold: Open Mixed; Bronze: Doubles 19+

Timeouts are very helpful! I think timeouts are very important and many times we keep forgetting about them. They might help us to break the momentum of our opponent or give us some time to re-think the strategy (or catch our breath). I will be definitely more aware of timeouts in my future matches, especially in the close ones where every point counts!
Lucy Kovalova – Silver: Open Mixed, Open Singles; Bronze: Open Doubles

I think the biggest lesson I learned this week is how important focus is in the end. It is something we have to work on just as much as everything else. It is easy to lose focus and clarity since many matches go to three games, or farther to the game to 15. It’s tough to play all day the way you want – but being able to mentally still be there and alert is so important for yourself and your team.
Sarah Ansboury – Gold: Mixed Doubles 19+ & Doubles 19+; Silver: Open Doubles; Bronze: Open Mixed

Never stop being a student of the game:  As the game and players continue to evolve so must your game; what worked last year probably won’t be enough this year. There is an endless amount of video at your fingertips; study individuals to see what mechanics and shot selections worked and which did not in each situation.
Matt Staub – Gold: Doubles 19+; Bronze: Open Doubles & Mixed Doubles 19+

I learned that it’s definitely not uncommon at all skill levels for people to not warm up properly and not properly hydrate in that Arizona weather.  I also personally learned that it was great to have a trainer/masseuse available to help with aches and pains!
Beverly Youngren – Gold: Doubles 70+

I started playing professional tennis at 18 and traveled all around the world and had fun, but that was my job and with it came a great deal of pressure. So even though my competitive juices still flow on the court at big tournaments like Nationals, what I learned is that, for me, Pickleball is a game and not my job.  So Win or Lose, I try to put it all in perspective, grab a beer with my old friends and make some new friends along the way.
Cammy MacGregor – Gold: Doubles 35+ & Singles 35+; Silver: Mixed Doubles 35+

I was impressed by the outstanding play of the top players and how much can be learned by watching them play in person.  I also learned how many more excellent players there are than when I started playing 4 years ago.
Buzz Summers (age 82) – Gold: Singles 80+ & Doubles 75+

Jim:  I learned that the quality and level of play has increased at an amazing rate over the last few years.  The top players of the game are incredible, athletic, and fascinating to watch. I also learned that it’s time to add a 65+ Open category to support the older players who have been largely responsible for the growth of the sport.
Yvonne:  I learned that it’s best to add extra days to a tournament, like Nationals VIII did this year, and divide large events like Mixed Doubles into two days in order to finish at a reasonable time, rather than run one event 14 hours straight.  I also learned that pickleball is still the greatest sport in terms of the overall sportsmanship, camaraderie, and fellowship.
Hackenbergs – Gold: Mixed Doubles 65+ together & Singles 65+ for Jim & Doubles 65+ for Yvonne

Develop an honest growth mindset. Losing is a part of the game but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. After a loss take some time to think honestly about what you did well and what you need to improve upon. And don’t just rely on your perception, ask a trusted player what they saw and don’t be surprised if they disagree with your assessment. Oh, and wear sunscreen.
Morgan Evans – Silver: Open Doubles

You really can win a match after losing a game 11-0.  And, the wind is my friend.
Bonnie Williams – Gold: Senior Open Singles & Singles 50+; Silver: Doubles 50+

It is special to win gold at Nationals but indescribably amazing to share it with your loved ones. Our 3 generations (including step-father Carl Brumley, and son Daniel) winning gold in Age Singles is something I will always treasure.
Scott Moore – Gold in all 6 events entered! Senior Open Singles, Doubles, & Mixed and Singles 50+, Doubles 50+, & Mixed 50+

Work on dinking. Most of the points are won at the net in doubles so your dinking has to be good.  Come up with strategies to use with your partner prior to each match – and stick to them.
Christine McGrath – Gold: Doubles 19+; Silver: Open Doubles

At Nationals Vlll I learned that mental toughness is equally as important as physical toughness.  My opponent was having issues coping with an injury, overheating, and the pressure of a large crowd watching. I didn’t want an easy medal but I had to push through mentally after her medical time-out and play all out. It didn’t feel good at all when I won because I didn’t feel like I deserved this medal for beating an opponent that could not play at her normal ability.  But she fought through and finished the match. So I learned that even when my opponent is injured or can’t play at their usual level, I still have to play the best I can and try to win, no matter how bad I feel about doing so.
Rachel Elliott (age 14) – Gold: Junior Mixed Doubles 15 – 18 & Junior Singles 8 – 14; Silver: Doubles 19+

The lesson that I learned at this Nationals is that you have to find the right balance of focus, intensity, and fun to play your best.
Jennifer Dawson – Gold: Doubles 35+

During my Nationals Vlll experience, I learned two very important things. First, I need to have a lot more patience during dink rallies and before rolling a ball (note: “rolling a ball” is when you flick a ball hard at or past your opponent off of a dink.) The second thing I learned was I needed to keep my balance and weight forward, staying on my toes. This helps me to stay in the point and be ready for any ball. These two learning experiences will help me improve my game.
Joshua Elliott (age 16) – Gold: Junior Mixed Doubles 15 – 18 & Junior Singles 15 – 16.

Even when you’re up 9-1 you can’t start thinking about the next match. Doing so can cause you to lose 14 straight points (in a game to 15) in the blink of an eye. Stay focused and in the moment, and don’t take anything for granted, as your opponents may play their loosest and best when facing a big deficit due to the proverbial “nothing to lose” mindset. Thanks, Marcin and Morgan, for teaching me this lesson the hard way!
Matt Wright – Silver: Open Mixed

– Enter as many events as possible. That way, if, God forbid, you get injured in the middle of the tournament, there is still a chance you’ve gotten a gold or two.
– No matter your age, never ever think there are no lessons to be learned, even if you cannot enumerate them!!
Hilary Marold – Gold: Mixed Doubles 60+ & Doubles 65+

At 88 years of age, one would think I’ve learned all my “lessons”, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that pickleball people are the most friendly, warm and welcoming group that I have ever encountered. 1. It never gets old to be appreciated and loved. 2. The game of pickleball is adding a smile to my face and years to my life.
Doris Castaneda – Gold: Singles 80+, Doubles 80+; Silver: Mixed Doubles 80+

Now YOU also have the lessons learned from top players at a top tournament.  Time to take that info and Go Play!


11 comments on “What Did the Gold Medalists Learn at Nationals VIII?”

  1. You’re the best Jennifer….This is a great idea for an article and thumbs up to all the players who shared their thoughts.

  2. This has to be your best article so far. I read every one you post. I especially like the videos you post. It’s fun to watch higher level players and to learn from you. Thank you for showing good sportsmanship on the courts. You help give pickleball a good name.

    1. Wow, thanks so much Katie! I really do like creating blog posts, just not enough time to share everything in my brain 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed this article Jen. Everything each player said is a valued piece of information that can help players improve their performance. Very inspirational reading!

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