KaSandra Gehrke tapping paddles on a pickleball court with a mixed doubles partner
KaSandra Gehrke at a pickleball tournament. 

From PE teacher to pickleball pro: How KaSandra Gehrke leveled up her game

DALLAS, TX – KaSandra Gehrke is a former physical education teacher and volleyball coach who caught the pickleball bug and quickly elevated her beginner game to a 5.0 level - and eventually started her own pickleball business - EmpowHer - along the way, too.

Despite her athletic background, though, racket sports were not her area of expertise. 

“I grew up playing softball, baseball, basketball, and volleyball,” said Gehrke. “I played everything but racket sports.”

Admittedly, she had played pickleball before in gym class, but “it was with really crappy equipment, a wiffle ball and wooden paddles, and the ball would just ricochet off the paddles, so [she] wasn’t a huge fan of it back then,” Gehrke explained.

But, everything changed when she was working at her local gym. It’s the classic tale of a group of three looking for another participant.

“I was watching these 70-year-olds play and they needed a fourth. They asked me to play, and they absolutely whooped me,” said Gehrke. “My competitive nature kicked in and I was like 'Okay, no! I’m not going to get my butt kicked by older people.' I went home, bought a paddle, and just kept coming back.”

KaSandra Gehrke pumping her fist in celebration on the pickleball court
KaSandra Gehrke and partner, Caleb, celebrating on the pickleball court. KaSandra Gehrke

Soon, it was time for her first tournament. 

“I entered into a small local event with a 75-year-old guy named Jim. We ended up winning and I loved it. My competitiveness was back. After that, I wanted to play more,” explained Gehrke. “Then, I entered in a bigger tournament at 3.5 and that’s all she wrote. I just kept entering tournament after tournament and really became obsessed with the sport.”

As Gehrke continued to level up her game, she was itching to play on a full-time basis. 

“I was a teacher back then and my mom encouraged me to go full-time with pickleball for a year and try it, and if it doesn’t work out, I can just go back to teaching,” mentioned Gehrke.

Turning pro was clearly the right move.

Over time, she has gained remarkable insight into the game and relishes every opporutnity to pick up a paddle and compete. Her true passion, however, is teaching.

KaSandra Gehrke posing with a basket of pickleballs
KaSandra Gehrke promotional photoshoot. KaSandra Gehrke

When asked about steadily improving and enhancing her gameplay to reach a pro level,
Gehrke stressed the importance of watching and listening.

“It’s about checking your ego and becoming a sponge of knowledge. When people are offering advice, you take it and you ask questions. You have to really learn to take advice and assess if the advice works for you,” advised Gehrke. “Try it, then you can create your own map for yourself off of what you learn from others.” 

For her, it’s all about accepting feedback and assessing whether or not it’s applicable to your game. 

“It puts it all in perspective because you can’t always be the best player on court and get the best players around you,“ noted Gehrke. “But, there’s always something you can do to have some success and have a good time.”