Lucy Kovalova is a professional pickleball player on the PPA Tour. Lucy hails from Slovakia and is renowned for her composed demeanor on the court. Kovalova maintains her stoic game face as she smacks her trademark two-handed backhands across the court.
Having To Lose The Dream Of Pro Tennis
The following is an edited version of a conversation that Insider.com had with Lucy, in which she talks about her beginnings in the sport and gives some great advice about managing your body on and off the court.
Lucy grew up in Slovakia playing tennis. However, she soon realized she didn’t quite possess enough talent to turn pro after playing on the US college circuit.
After graduation, she and her friends would play an improvised version of paddleball together. When they moved on to pickleball, Lucy realized she had found her niche.
Getting In At The Right Time
Her entry into the game was timely. In 2016, she took part in the inaugural US Open Pickleball Championship. At that time, there were no monetary rewards and only sparse audiences — you played for the sheer love of the game.
Since then, pickleball has gone stratospheric. Sponsorships and prize money are now part of the landscape and provide Lucy with the professional sports career she previously thought unattainable.
A Tight-Knit Community
Even at a professional level, pickleball distinguishes itself. It lacks the cutthroat nature of professional tennis, and while everyone is highly competitive on the court, off the court, they form a tight-knit community of friends and family.
She says it’s “an awesome feeling.”
Her fondness for pickleball is unmistakable, and she doesn’t believe you need to play professionally to reap the sport’s benefits.
According to Lucy, here are the essentials everyone should be aware of before stepping onto the court.
Pickleball Is Accessible To Nearly Everyone
In contrast to tennis, which demands an early start and significant investment in coaching and lessons, pickleball is easy to pick up, regardless of whether you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s.
So, don’t let intimidation hold you back. If you’ve been curious about the buzz, acquire a paddle and give it a shot with your family. Join a beginners’ club class, enlist a coach, watch instructional videos on YouTube, or read some of our training articles on PickleballUnion.com. Pickleball offers a splendid way to engage in a healthy activity while having a great deal of fun.
A Wide Range Of Participants
Pickleball can be physically demanding. She can attest to this as someone who engages in the sport five days a week or more. However, it’s also accessible to those who may not be in peak physical condition. You can enjoy playing at a more relaxed pace, suitable for grandparents or individuals recuperating from an injury.
Alternatively, if desired, you can crank up the intensity and get an adrenaline-fueled heart-pumping workout.
The Social Dimension Is Crucial
For most pickleball enthusiasts, the social aspect is just as important as the game itself.
Pickleball is special because everyone can play together: children can rally with their parents and grandparents, and individuals of all genders can engage in friendly matches. It doesn’t have the formality of tennis — you’re encouraged to have fun along the way.
Keep Your Partner In The Game
Engaging in doubles play enhances the social experience of the game.
Lucy’s current doubles partner, Matt Wright, is actually her boyfriend, although they were playing as a team before their romantic involvement started.
She says you always make a point of remembering you’re on the same team, although she recognizes it’s easy to get annoyed with your partner at times. They’re likely already feeling down if they miss a shot, so you should choose encouragement rather than criticism.
Don’t Neglect Warm-Ups And Cool-Downs
Given pickleball’s apparently gentle nature, you might be tempted to skip the warm-up and cool-down routines. However, this is far from advisable.
Regrettably, reports of pickleball-related injuries are on the rise as more people take up the sport. It’s crucial to take the time to warm up before matches and cool down afterward to avoid troublesome tweaks, pulls, or sprains.
Even devoting 5-10 minutes to stretching and other warm-up techniques can make a significant difference.
Prioritize Your Recovery
Whether you’re operating at a professional level or just embarking on a new pickleball regimen, you’re demanding a lot of your body.
In return, it’s imperative to allow it time to recuperate. The key is to establish a routine that suits your body and stick to it.
Lucy’s a big fan of Hyperice products for her recovery, whether it’s easing sore muscles with a massage gun or applying heat to an injury.
“Hyperice products play a huge role in recovery for us as professional pickleball players,” she says. “I’ve been using Hyperice products for years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
“It’s really great to have these products available to all players on the PPA Tour because they are designed to help with recovery for both professionals and amateurs. Everyone should try them out at the next PPA tournament they attend!”
Be Patient With Yourself
While it’s true that pickleball is more approachable than some other sports, trying something new is always a challenge. Thus, it’s important to be patient with yourself.
Don’t anticipate mastering pickleball the first time you step onto the court – or even the 10th! Instead, focus on relishing the experience, building a community, and honing your skills. In doing so, you’ll find a sport that will continue to bring you joy for the rest of your playing life.
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