Thirteen-year-old Rex Thais is already a 5.0 player.
Thirteen-year-old Rex Thais is already a 5.0 player. Ricky Thais

Building mental toughness at an early age

DALLAS, TX – Ricky Thais decided to hire a mental toughness coach to help take his 13-year-old son's pickleball game to the next level.

Rex Thais is a 5.0 player who's setting his sights on turning pro.

As a pickleball coach himself, Ricky is looking for any conceivable way to best support Rex on his journey.

Drilling and tournament play is key to player development, of course, but the ability to effectively manage the inevitable ups and downs along the way is especially important.

“In every single sport at the elite level, all the athletes know how to play the sport, but the separation between someone who’s a good player and someone who is a champion is their mental toughness,” explained Thais. “Playing for fun is one thing, but once you get to the elite and professional level, it brings on a whole new set of challenges.”


Thais noticed a trend with his son when he played competitive golf before making the switch to pickleball.

“Every time Rex was happy and shooting great, then it would just completely flow and the results were amazing, but the second that he would hit a bad shot, he would let that affect him for the next couple of holes,” he noted. “If you do that in golf, you’re out of the tournament.”

Thais wanted to avoid this becoming a recurring issue on the court.

“In pickleball, I noticed the same thing. When he’s happy, he’s drilling those forehands and backhands and had no issue whatsoever, but when he would hit a bad shot, he would be so hard on himself,” he explained. “I was always trying to help him stay in the now and forget about those bad shots, but as a parent and coach, that’s not the area I want to be. I just want to be “Dad” to him because it’s very hard to play both the coach and father role.”

Luckily for the Thais family, a few valuable connections helped Rex get started on the right track.

“One of my mentors heard about my son and offered to help. He comes from a social worker background, but he’s also a life coach,” shared Thais. “He teaches a lot of kids and athletes. That’s his passion, and he offered to help Rex out.”

This isn't the first time Rex has received mental toughness advice and coaching.

Former tennis coach Tom Gullickson resides nearby, so Rex was fortunate enough to spend some time with him to debrief and gain some insight after a few matches.


“The coach talks a lot about the now, and keeping your focus on the present,” recapped Thais. “He would also say that you want to make sure you don’t lose to the net. Don’t get frustrated and make sure you hit high-percentage shots and don’t get too much into your head.”

The Thais family believes Rex will benefit greatly from his lessons on mental strength moving forward.

“His first session went so positively,” concluded Thais. “We’re pretty excited to continue, and hopefully we’ll see that translate in the months to come.”

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