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Anna Leigh Waters 15 Year Old Pickleball Princess & SportsEdTV
The 2022 USA Pickleball Triple National Champion, Anna Leigh Waters joined SportsEdTV’s Sophie Chiche and shared insights on how her family and fans support her through the rigors of winning three national pickleball championships.
The 15-year-old pickleball phenom wore three national championship crowns, singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at the US Nationals competitions.
SportsEdTV’s Sophie Chiche You're so young and obviously, you started playing when you were the youngest on the tour. How are you evolving? How is it for you to be in some ways, so famous already, so young?
Anna Leigh Waters Yeah. So I feel like as the sport of Pickleball evolved, I kind of evolved as it aged too. So I feel like as the sport was growing, so was I.
I think it was a really good learning experience for me. Just because a lot of 12-year-olds weren't winning national titles with their mom, you know, playing a professional sport.
So, coming with pickleball are things outside of pickleball. And I say, you know, playing pickleball sometimes is the easiest thing about being a professional basketball player because of all the stuff behind the scenes that you don't see, like interviews and sponsorships and appearances and stuff like that. The business side of it.
It's been a really good experience for me to just learn about that and doing school and pickleball. Having to balance all that, I learned a lot and I'm super thankful that I got to experience it.
Sophie: Is having your mom kind of part of the balance of it all?
Anna Leigh: I couldn’t do it without my family. My dad travels to tournaments too, so my dad, my mom, my grandparents, and even my trainer sometimes.
Sophie: Didn't you start with your grandfather's at your grandfather's?
Anna Leigh: That is a true story. He did teach us how to play. They've always been a really big part of my life. Having them being able to travel with me and get to experience everything with them and then teach me things about life in general as I'm going on the on these trips, that's just pretty adult things.
Sophie: I watched you many times, but one of them, you're you were kind of not playing as well as you've played other times and you were going down, down, down. And I watched you summon I didn't even know how to call it. I just watched you summon this incredible recovery force. Where is that coming from?
Anna Leigh: I just think one of my favorite lines is never give up just because I do know how well I can play. So if I'm not playing my best, I know it's there and I know if I just keep trying, keep grinding, it's bound to come out at some point.
Sometimes it doesn't, but you have to have that in your mind. So as I'm playing, if I'm not playing really well, a lot of times my mom does help me. She helps by saying just be you on the court, you know what you can do. So just be you. So she helps me a lot in doubles, but in singles, sometimes I have to do it myself and I have to get myself back into it. But I have a mental coach and what he tells me to do is think about a shot in the past that was an amazing shot that I made. When I think about that then it really helps to get me going and think, okay, this is what I can do. So now let's do that.
Sophie: Wow. So when you finish a game, what's the routine like? What do you do?
Anna Leigh: As a kid, if it's a match and I have a match after, then I'll stay pretty focused and go and rest. But if the entire day is over, I try to not think about pickleball. We'll go to dinner usually with my family and, just have a good time. We might talk about it here and there, but even if no matter if I lose or I win, I just try to do the same routine afterward.
Sophie: Where do you think that pickleball is going?
Anna Leigh: It has been a lot of places so far, but I feel like maybe in the future, maybe the Olympics is an opportunity. Maybe more kids can get into the sport, maybe in other countries then it will become really big. Those are the main points that I'm hoping for.
Sophie: Are you mentoring other kids?
Anna Leigh: I haven’t done that yet, I don't have that much time. But I try, especially at tournaments to go out and hit with some juniors.
Or I'll do a kids' camp or something like that. Just try to get kids involved. And I've definitely seen a growth. When I first started playing pickleball tournaments, there weren't that many juniors. It was rare if you saw a kid and I'm seeing so many kids like before I came up here, I was taking pictures with some.
It's cool when a kid comes up and says I play pickleball because of you. Like it makes my heart happy.
Sophie: Yeah. Especially watching you with your mom. Just watch you grow together and play together, it's quite inspiring.
Anna Leigh: It's inspiring to play with her, honestly.
Sophie: Thank you so much for stopping by, Anna Leigh, this is super fun.