Anna Leigh Waters competing on the PPA Tour
Anna Leigh Waters competing on the PPA Tour during the 2023 season. PPA Tour

The need for mental toughness coaches in junior pickleball

DALLAS, TX – Ricky Thais proudly announced on the Pickleball Facebook Forum that he hired a mental toughness coach for his 13-year-old son, Rex.

The majority of commenters were supportive of the idea, celebrating Thais for proactively helping his son on his pickleball journey, while others questioned the necessity of a mental strength coach for a kid in his early teens.

Click here to read Thais’ reasoning for hiring this particular coach for Rex.

“Right mindset = massive game change,” commented Clare Bell.

“Nearly every great athlete or team on the planet has a mental toughness coach,” added Reid Rafter.

One of the primary reasons professional athletes work with a mental strength coach is based on the same principles as working with a trainer – to strengthen their body. The only difference is, mental strength coaches help equip their trainees from a psychological standpoint.

Mental challenges come in a variety of forms:

·      Fear of failure
·      Sports performance anxiety
·      Perfectionism
·      Self-doubt
·      Social approval
·      Negative self-talk

Mental strength coaches help combat these challenges by building mental skills for athletes on and off the court.

These skills are:

·      Self-confidence
·      Focus
·      Positive self-talk
·      Resilience
·      Composure
·      Mental toughness

For young athletes like Rex, who intend to make sports his profession, the earlier they can internalize these tools, the better.

“The mental and physical game are about equal the higher you progress,” added Ronnie Hatchell.


The mental game is just as vital as any aspect of the sport. Every pro will say that pickleball is deceptively simple. And it’s the strategy and mental strength that separates the top pros from the pack.

“Anna Leigh Waters is the reason to hire a mental toughness coach, no one is ever going to beat her until they can match her mental toughness,” said Lauren Baker.

Waters is a beast on the court with no signs of slowing down at all. A major reason for her success is her remarkable mental toughness and her ability to maintain focus and resolve when things aren't going her way.

“If a player doesn’t have emotional control, especially at the top level, this will be hugely impactful. In addition, the ‘life coaching side’ is important for aspects happening off the court that could impact a player on the court on any particular day. This includes pressures and other aspects that change someone’s state of mind. If the player doesn’t have the psychological tools, they will take that energy onto the court and be ‘off.’ There are key techniques that are important optimizers,” defended Simon Lovell.

Bottom line: There’s no harm in working with a mental toughness coach.

The invaluable lessons a youngster can learn will last a lifetime. 

Aside from the financial sacrifice, there’s really nothing to lose here.