Given my new passion for pickleball during my life after 60, you’ll understand why I am so excited this week to share my interview with Eva Welsher, the top women’s senior professional pickleball player. I saw Eva play at a Senior Professionals Pickleball Exhibition back in January on the Championship Courts at Naples Pickleball Center in Naples, Florida. I had never been to such a game and it was exhilarating and inspiring to watch her play.
Not a pickleball player? You may be soon.
According to Axios, pickleball — a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong — surged in popularity over the past few years with participation growing by 21.3% between 2019 and 2020, prompting the Economist to declare it “the fastest growing sport in America.” 4.2 million Americans now play at least once a year and participation continues to increase at a record pace. An article in Vanity Fair revealed that pickleball is also winning over celebs including the likes of Leo DiCaprio, George and Amal Clooney, Larry David and Jamie Foxx. Ooh, ooh, ooh, maybe I’ll have to pack my pickleball paddle when I visit my son D in Los Angeles this spring. Perhaps I’ll meet some celebs on the courts in Venice Beach!
Chatting with top senior professional pickleball player Eva Welsher.
After seeing Eva Welsher in action, I was eager to learn more about how she got started with pickleball. Being in amazing physical shape (when I saw her I couldn’t believe she is in her mid-fifties), I was also interested to know how she keeps fit as a fifty-something female and see if she might be willing to share some tips to help other senior women improve their pickleball game.
Wow-o-wow was I thrilled when I wrote to Eva and she agreed to this chat. It’s really nice to feature Eva during Women’s History Month since she is creating history with women and pickleball. So without further ado, let’s hear from Eva.
Tell me a bit about your background. When did you start playing pickleball?
Eva: “I was a junior tennis player since I was 10 years old, traveling the USA playing tennis. I became one of the top juniors in the country. I went to Northwestern University on a four year scholarship to play D1 tennis and played number one singles and doubles until I tore my shoulder rotator cuff.
I took up paddle tennis or platform tennis from there and traveled the country competing in that sport until I became a mom and put the paddle down. I was introduced to pickleball by my friend who gave me a demo paddle after I became an empty nester. At the time, my friend told me that I had to be a 4.5 player in two months for a tournament and the sport was pickleball and then the story began.” Note: 4.5 is an advanced level of pickleball.
What do you enjoy about the game?
Eva: “I personally like the journey of analyzing the game and getting better. I love the social aspect of it and that anyone can play (and that my family can play) even if they’ve never played pickleball before. It’s a very inclusive sport and people are always happy.”
As a top senior female player, how do you stay conditioned or fit for the game?
Eva: “I work with a personal trainer three times a week. I also jump rope. In addition, I train individually one-on-one with a sparring partner 4 days a week and play practice games throughout the week. To prep for tournaments, two days a week I try to play 5 to 6 hours in one day to duplicate what a tournament day would be like.”
Any pickleball tips for senior women who are just starting out or who want to improve their game?
Eva: “Pickleball can be very easy if you have the right forehand stroke. If someone really wants to learn the sport and/or specifically get better at their game, I would recommend she/he take a private lesson and learn how to hit the forehand dink because the same stroke is used for almost every shot on the forehand side. With a good forehand, you can quickly become a very good pickleball player at whatever level you are at.”
Any other advice for women about pursuing their dreams after 50?
Eva: “I say go for it. I love the fact that I’m bringing out the competitiveness in my passion and some of the traits that I had as a junior and as a young adult prior to getting married and having kids. It’s keeping me young, it’s keeping me fit and it’s keeping me sharp. So I say go all in and live your life to the fullest.”
Thank you Eva for your inspiring spirit and sharing your pickleball prowess. Ooh, ooh, ooh, if you want to see Eva Welsher play, I encourage you to visit the Naples Pickleball Center in Naples, Florida. It’s the Pickleball Capital of the World with 66 courts for players from levels 1.0 to 4.0+. And it’s where the 2022 U.S. Open Pickleball Championships will be played April 23-30. If you attend you might just run into Eva!
Are you a fellow fan of pickleball? Do you love the game as much as I do? If so, leave a comment and LMK.
I had not heard of Pickleball before but now I’m fascinated. It looks like so much fun. We’ve been playing frisbee golf, but I have to show this to the hubby!
Rena, you should try pickleball. It’s so much fun and easy to get addicted to.
I’m 73 and have been playing 6-7x/wk. for nearly a year. I played tennis in high school (nearly 150 years ago) and never played a paddle- or racquet-sport since. I love it! Why? In high-to-low order, (1) the camaraderie, joy and inclusiveness of the sport brings me joy. (2) I enjoy the fresh air and sunshine (while wearing sunscreen, hats and, even sometimes, gloves). (3) Exercise always makes me smile. How is my game? Either lousy or wonderful, is how I’d describe it. Oh, and there’s no such phrase as “sorry” allowed during play.
Naomi, I love it for all the same reasons. Enjoy your pickleball.