Anna Leigh Waters: The Rightful Face of Pickleball

Anna Leigh Waters at Mesa PPA tourney
Anna Leigh Water’s PPA Mesa 2024 (Picture Kerry Pittenger)

Young and ambitious, filled with a desire to work hard, make my own money and claim independence, I started working at fourteen. Never lazy, I was determined to develop whatever skills I had and persevere, earn respect, and be taken seriously. Some people wanted me to fail; they couldn’t understand why a young man was so passionate about his vocation, always shaping and refining.  By the time I graduated high school, I had a respectable résumé, a growing vision.

Here you are, Anna Leigh, 17 (pro at 12), a world champion pickleball player. Motivated early in life, I admire that! How wonderful that you knew what you wanted to do—and then chased that wild dream to the top. I see in you that same ambition, that same work ethic, that same desire I had at your age to navigate life on your own terms. Yes, with help from your parents and others you have flourished, but all while negotiating backstreets and sideroads on your own.

Anna Leigh Waters at Mesa PPA tourney
Anna Leigh Water’s Mesa 2024 (Picture Kerry Pittenger)

Fans expect (no, demand!) so much of you, so does everybody else it seems—sponsors, fellow players, the media, commentators. The truth is, there are those who want you to lose, to fail, to be diminished in status, to be discouraged, humiliated. That happened to me too as a young man, also later in life, once I had found some momentum and gained a sense of self. I endured harsh words, hard knocks, adversity left and right. But I powered through that nonsense and worked, worked, worked. I see in you that tireless discipline, that determination to win, grind, succeed, be unique. Never compromise those values. Believe in them, live by them.

Facing Adversity

About seventeen years ago, my real passion—writing—found me (or, did I find it?). Some said, why waste your time doing that? There’s no money in it. You have no degree, no connections. How are you going to learn? Succeed? Stand out? I ignored them, Anna Leigh, and haven’t stopped trying to teach myself in all the right ways, for all the right reasons, making the best of whatever comes. I see that in you, AL, that full-steam-ahead mentality. You are the number one player, an ambassador for the sport, an example of what’s possible in America if your hustle matches your hunger.

People come from places near and far to watch you play. From the bleachers and online and on TV, some cheer for you, praise you, learn from you, while others disparage you, heckle you, spit out snark—jealousy and envy palpable in every comment—but much like I was at your age, and still am now, you continue your forward march, complacency absent from your vocabulary.

The Journey Continues

Many your age and older are directionless, mean-spirited, crying boredom, dragging their feet, feeling entitled, not even curious about themselves, about anything, staring at their phones waiting for something to happen, desperate for attention however they can get it, looking up to the wrong people. Again, there you are, AL, making a living and more, following your dreams and gliding through adolescence like an adult, showing maturity and wisdom beyond your years, garnering attention by succeeding at the highest level–not by lowering yourself, degrading yourself, dropping your standards.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Though I haven’t accomplished anything in sports (or anything monumental in life), I still see myself in you and can see you turning into one of the most recognizable and accomplished athletes. Keep gliding, Anna Leigh Waters, and let nothing impede your path, let nothing knock you down, let nothing stain your thinking. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to shake your hand and say thanks. If not, thank you now, Miss Waters, for the level of pickleball you play and for the entertainment you provide. I for one have been enjoying your journey as well as the journeys of all MLP/PPA players. Wishing you luck as you close in on your hundredth title. Go after it, young lady!

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About David Boyle

A versatile and diversified writer, David Boyle has written three short story collections, published by independent presses. Though he earned his readership by writing reality-based fiction, Boyle has gained a reputation for literary stories, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, analyses, travel writing, reportage, and poems, a good number of which have appeared in both print and online magazines. Inspired by his wife's passion for the sport, David now loves pickleball and aims to illuminate current pickleball events and subjects with a fresh, creative perspective, offering readers something they can't find anywhere else. | My website | | My Pickleball Journal

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