A ‘Couple’ of great PPA pairs

Author: Andrew Gilman

It’s National Couples Day, and there are so many great stories on the PPA Tour. so why not check in on with some of the players who “Couple Up” and compete together 

Anna Bright & James Ignatowich

Anna: James and I coincidentally started playing pickleball on the same day, Oct. 23, 2021, but at places about an hour apart from each other. He drove north and I drove south to play. I first saw him that December at the Delray Beach Tennis Center and recognized him, but for the life of me couldn’t remember who he was. Eventually, it came to me as we knew of each other from junior tennis in Florida, though we weren’t friends. 

A couple of weeks later at a tournament in Delray, I walked up to him and asked if he remembered me, which he did not! But shortly after we started playing in the same groups and became fast friends and continued talking when he went back to college. He was my pickleball best friend and eventually became my everything best friend. We started dating in March of 2022 and have been loving every second of our pickleball journey together and are super excited to travel the states on the PPA tour.

Julian Arnold & Lauren Stratman

Julian: “Lauren and I met at my first pickleball tournament which was a PPA. We had a couple of different practice sessions together, one in Santa Barbara and another where I went out to Knoxville, Tenn., to train for a few days. Then we just started dating.”

Lauren: “I played against Julian in a mixed doubles tennis tournament when I was 14 years old and he was probably 17 or 18 and we didn’t realize that until later.”

Lucy Kovalova & Matt Wright

Lucy: “We met when I was playing tennis at Wichita State University and Matt filled in as a volunteer assistant coach for a dual match against the University of Missouri. We began playing pickleball shortly thereafter when a mutual friend introduced them to the sport. Six months later, we played in the inaugural U.S. Open tournament, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Ben Newell & Yana Grechkina

Ben: “Yana and I met at a Chicken n Pickle league. I was just playing pickle to stay active and push myself a little. Then this cute little firecracker walked in and made it way more fun to play. And she asked me, ‘Hey want to go pro?’ And boom. Married. And we were terrible at our first couple of pro events, but after getting through the competition, travel, and other challenging moments, we became a pretty strong unit.”

Regina Franco & Johnny Goldberg

Regina: “Johnny and I met in a pickleball tournament.. He was a 2.0 at that time, and I was running the pickleball tournament in Florida. He came to check in, and he also bought one of the hats we had for sale while he was trying to make conversation, but I didn’t really pay much attention. 

“Years went by, and he started to get better. We began to spend more time together playing pickleball, hanging out, and traveling. We also started to share the same future interests, and he stole my heart, little by little.

“Today I’m the luckiest wife. We have a beautiful daughter and we travel around the country playing pickleball.”

And how about these stories about partners off the court on the PPA Tour…

Tyson McGuffin & Megan McGuffin

Tyson: My Queen is my everything. She’s the mother to my kids, my business partner, and the love of my life. She inspires me to be better every day and to continue to believe in my abilities. I love this woman to the moon and back, 100 times. We work side by side as business partners and parents. She is by far the most kind, loving, patient, smart, and caring person I know. She has so many great qualities that she has instilled in me. She’s my biggest support system in life and I am more than thankful to have her in my corner. She is my rock on the sideline and is the best mother I know. Find yourself a great female.”

Catherine Parenteau & Athena Trouillot

Catherine: “I am so lucky to have such a supportive partner. Athena is one of the most selfless people I know and she’s always ready to help me shine. She brings stability and reassurance to my life that is incomparable. She never hesitates to put my best interest first and pushes me to be the best version of myself. Her belief in me never wavers, and it inspires me to believe in myself even when I lose sight of that. Her dedication to ensuring I am surrounded by love, support, and everything I need to perform my best on the pickleball court means the world to me. Having her in my corner is a blessing, she is truly the best. I really don’t know what I would do without her.”

Callie Smith & Kyle Smith

Callie: “Kyle is not only the greatest supporter of me in pickleball, but he is the greatest supporter of me and our family. Before I even married Kyle, he told me how he wanted to help me live my dreams and be part of them. He just wanted to live them with me. 

“Nine years later, and true to his word, he is still doing that. But, more than that, he is a dream. I couldn’t have imagined a better human being, who puts me and my wants and needs before his own – who watches the kids for hours while I work out, recover, or practice, who washes dishes, cleans bathrooms, and washes and folds laundry, who thinks every morning, ‘What can I do to make Callie happy today?’ I mean, is there a better dream than that? He loves and supports me through all the ups and downs of pickleball and life. Truly, he’s my Superman and he makes every bit of our lives together better. I’m so blessed to call him mine.

Allyce Jones & Ryan Jones

Allyce: “My husband Ryan has been my biggest support in my career since Day One. We started pickleball together in my high school gym when Covid hit. We played casually and then it turned into three or four times a week, which then turned into six times a week. We played together in some local city tournaments for fun and really enjoyed playing together. 

“In January of 2021, an indoor court facility named Club Pickleball USA opened, and that made me want to play more and more.  Ryan saw something in me that I hadn’t seen yet. He saw that I was getting better and better very quickly. So February of 2021 he surprised me with a lesson with Callie Jo Smith. After the lesson, I came home and said, “Hey, I think I can hang with the pros.’ He looked at me and said, ‘That’s exactly why I got that lesson for you, so you would know that.’

“Since that day he has supported me and my journey more than anything. If he doesn’t come to tournaments, he is home taking care of our three children. He gets them to school, cooks them meals, and gets them to their activities, all while running his own American Family Insurance business. While I’m playing, he is pacing in the living room in a nervous sweat. He loves watching me play more than anything, even though it stresses him out. I couldn’t be more grateful for my husband and all he does for me, my family, and my career.”

Leigh Waters & Stephen Waters

Leigh: “Stephen has been a big part of Anna Leigh’s and my success in pickleball because he takes away a lot of the extra stresses that come with travel and preparing for tournaments. 

“In the airport, he helps us with all of our gear and luggage. Once we arrive, he makes sure we get where we’re going. Then he’s off to the store to stock up for the week. He’s always the first to run an errand to help us prepare for competition. 

“At the tournaments, he makes sure we always have plenty of water, food, or anything else we need to compete. Lastly, he is super supportive of our careers and will go the extra mile for our success.  Not having to worry about anything and just being able to focus on our matches is so helpful. 

Thomas Wilson & Brittany Wilson

Thomas: “My wife, Brittany, has always been supportive of things that bring joy to my life. I enjoyed playing pickleball recreationally for a few years, which slowly fed my desire to try playing professionally. When I was hesitant about taking the leap she basically pushed me into the deep end. Her constant and genuine support keeps me going, and I’m beyond thankful.” 

Related Stories

All Articles

Leave a comment