Junior PPA parent tip: Going pro
DALLAS, TX – What do you want to be when you grow up?
A famous ballerina, a baseball star, a tennis player, or maybe even a Super Bowl MVP who gets to say “I’m going to Disney World!” during an interview after winning the big game?
The Junior PPA will be the place that raises the next generation of professional pickleball athletes, and some of them are already well on their way.
I spoke with some parents who shared some insight on what the journey has been like helping their youngsters reach their ultimate objective of turning pro.
“It’s all about mindset,” said Erika Paman-Mercado, mother of 14-year-old Alexander (“Lex”) and 17-year-old Lauren. “We set the mindset straight at the beginning. Whether they were playing amateur, at a low level, junior, high level, or pro, you’re going to lose more than you win. And you have to be able to win graciously and lose more graciously.”
“I see a lot of kids that cry when they’re losing or their parents get mad at them, and to us that’s part of the learning process. You can’t be so hard on the kids. It’s a cliché, but we remind them to have fun and be grateful for the opportunity, win or lose, because not a lot of people get there,” she continued.
As cheesy as it sounds, for the kids, it really is about having fun. And for parents, it’s about shaping their children into good people, not just good pickleball players.
“The character on the court is the most important thing. Be a good partner, whether you’re winning or losing, because at the end of the day, they’re just kids. They have a long way to go in the sport and they don’t need to be getting burned out right now. It’s not good for their longevity, so enjoy the journey,” explained Mercado.
“To see her on grandstand, that’s a really big accomplishment. Whether you win or lose, we just tell her that the experience in itself is a bonus. We have to remain grateful for the opportunity to get there because it shows the hard work has been paying off. It’s a good win for the whole family,” shared Mercado.
For Ricky Thais, father of 13-year-old 5.0 player, Rex, it’s about surrounding his son with top talent.
“I always put him around the best kids. He might not be the best kid in that group, he may be the worst of the best, but he’s around the best, playing and competing against the best. I try to put him around the best players possible, and for a kid that is relatively tough. I know on the outside I’m that annoying dad trying to set up games all the time, but it works,” revealed Thais.
Thais also recommends sitting down with your child and clarifying what “going pro” really looks like.
“I think that the parent has to sit down and define what “pro” is to them. Even the adults who talk about going pro, I don’t think they’ve ever sat down and broke it down to see what it would take. Do they just want to play a couple pro events, play against pro players, get sponsored, or make a living out of it?” mentioned Thais. “Every kid says that they want to be a pro in their sport, so you just have to put them in a position and see their athletic skill and see how far they can really go.”
“Kids are young and fearless and they don’t know what their limitations are until we put that into their minds, so we just try to put our kids in a position where they could succeed,” he added.
Thais has utilized several different strategies to best support Rex in his quest to enter the pro ranks, including building a pickleball court in their backyard and hiring a mental toughness coach.
“My son is 100% into pickleball, but he doesn’t know what it takes in order to make that happen, so I don’t let him worry about any of that stuff. All he needs to focus on is getting good grades, straight A's, and make sure that he grinds, wants to be better, and has a lot of fun. Other than that, I will take care of the rest,” he shared.
Turning pro in any sport isn't easy. There’s a lot of hard work, talent, and luck involved. But at the center of it all for these parents is the fun factor. After all, they’re just kids. And whether or not they’re the next Johns or Waters, what’s most important is quality time spent with your youngster.
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