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Six of the top pros in pickleball talk about the advice and/or mentors that have motivated them over the years. If you have a question you’d like to submit to the pros, feel free to send it along to [email protected] for the chance to get featured!

Responses have been edited for clarity and concision.

Collin Johns

Of course it is difficult to pick a single bit of advice received over the course of my life by parents, family, coaches, or role models, but one of the first that springs to my mind was one espoused by a mentor and neighbor during childhood, Ray Schoenke. Ray played NFL football in the 60s under Lombardi, among others, excelled in a multitude of different sports, and is one of the best athletes and competitors I have ever met. He would sometimes offer bits of wisdom during my teenage years as I played baseball and tennis, which included the short and simple—“you learn more from your losses than your wins.” I have always been highly competitive and often took losing rather hard. Hearing this simple bit of wisdom from someone I looked up to as an athlete and competitor, has helped me take something positive away from losses by channeling the lessons I learned into fueling my improvement. To this day, I still find that I learn the most through my losses and keep notes on what I take away from them. I will always remember the simple adage of “you learn more from your losses than your wins” and have gotten immeasurable value out of it. 

You learn more from your losses than your wins

Irina Tereschenko

My old boss gave me this incredible advice: “Don’t expect people to do what you say just because you are a coach. Your job is to logically convince them as to why something is important and give them a thoughtful perspective on how it applies to their game.”

As someone who has taught college tennis, junior tennis, and pickleball, this advice helped me build relationships with people and take the time to explain the “why” behind my coaching, rather than just telling them what to do. People will not only listen if you do this, but they will also respect you more and have a more sound understanding of the game which will take them further in the long run. Take pride in what you do and give back to the people around you!

Don’t expect people to do what you say just because you are a coach. Your job is to logically convince them as to why something is important and give them a thoughtful perspective on how it applies to their game.

Patrick Smith

A couple of things come to mind. My college tennis coach had a motto he lived by that made an impression on me: “Whatever hand you’ve been dealt – bring it on!” I like this because we all have to deal with adversity at times, be it mental, physical, situational, etc., (both on court and off!) but it’s important to remember to stay in that moment and do the best you can, no matter what.

Personally, the best advice that I received as an athlete was “Fake it until you make it.” For me, this meant that you have to tell yourself you’re playing well even when you may not be or when things aren’t going your way. The brain is your most powerful tool on court, so staying positive, confident, and dialed in is going to help you succeed even when you aren’t performing at your best. Eventually, there will be a point during a match where you have the chance to turn things around.

Whatever hand you’ve been dealt – bring it on.

Fake it until you make it.

Jessie Irvine

The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten was from my dad. He told me:
“Whatever you do, you need to give your very best and 100%…otherwise don’t do it. Quality is always better than quantity. Every time you step up to the line, you need to give it your all…that way you never have any regrets about what happens because you know you gave it your best effort.” This piece of advice is what helps me maintain extreme focus and intensity when I step out onto the court. 

Whatever you do, you need to give your very best and 100%…otherwise don’t do it.

Kyle Yates

My first tourney outside of Florida was the SoCal Classic. I didn’t know anybody. I was playing singles. I was pretty nervous and was playing fairly reserved (tight) and was using very tennis-like form. This guy named Keith Chapman came up to me and says, “Dude, this isn’t tennis, it’s just a whiffleball.. hit it!” I started laughing and realized what he meant: you don’t need perfect form to play good pickleball – just be aggressive and slap the ball back. The ability to play with an unorthodox style/shot selection and win even when it doesn’t look pretty are still things I love about pickleball. I ended up winning gold.

Another quote that resonates with me, I paraphrased from the movie Brink: “Pickleball is what you do, it’s not who you are.” 

Dude, this isn’t tennis, it’s just a whiffleball.. hit it!

Pickleball is what you do, it’s not who you are.

Callie Smith

I was training for tennis, and one of the workouts I had to do was run 20 reps of 300 yard suicides. (Keep in mind that this was at 6:00am).

All I remember was that I was so tired and fatigued before we even started the workout and I did 1 rep and DIED. I was huffing and puffing, my legs felt like jelly, and I KNEW there was absolutely no way I could do 20 of them, let alone one more. But my coach told me: “You can do it, Callie. You’ve got this. One more.”

That was the key for me—I did just “one more” all the way to 20—all thanks to my trainer urging me to push myself and complete just one more. And I did it! I finished! I don’t know how I did it, but I did. What I learned that day was, no matter how tough or daunting the road ahead may seem, if you just try—push once more, try once again—you can overcome limits and bounds that you never thought possible.

The idea of “one more” has stuck with me—in sports, in life, with jobs, with family, with pickleball… In every aspect of my life, I’ve seen impossible things become possible, all from trying one more time and from never giving up—from believing in yourself and having the help and belief of another person who believes in you just as much as you do, or even more, who can push you to be the best you can be. You have to push your limits in order to surpass them.

You can do it, Callie. You’ve got this. One more.

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