Mary Brascia has been playing sports her whole life, and when the world shut down in 2020, she found herself on the pickleball court after being introduced to the sport by her parents. Her competitive spirit matched immediately with the nature of the sport, and she’s been playing it at the professional level ever since.
Brascia’s experience with playing tennis during her time at Biola University helped her go pro in pickleball quickly. After winning her first PPA event the same year she started playing, she knew that she wanted to pursue it professionally.
“I think it’s kind of scary to put yourself out there, like I’m going pro in a sport, because there’s a lot of risk to that,” said Brascia. “But I knew after I played in this 5.0 tournament, it was a PPA in Las Vegas in 2020, my sister and I won the gold and we were like, wow, maybe we could actually do something with this. We can get better, we have good resources to train, people to practice with in So Cal. In that moment I knew I wanted to do something with it.”
Soon after they started in the pro leagues, Mary and her sister, Maggie Brascia, quickly proved themselves to be top contenders. The two frequently partner up together in women’s doubles, and they’ve earned several medals in APP Next Gen and the PPA Tour to prove their quick success in the pro leagues.
“I love playing with my sister. Sometimes it can be tough playing with a sibling or significant other, because you kind of let your guard down a little and you might say things you wouldn’t normally say to another partner,” said Brascia. “However, I feel very confident and in sync when I play with my sister versus that unfamiliarity with playing with someone who you’re not always playing with. So there’s definitely pros and cons to it, but more pros.”
Beyond the APP and PPA, Mary also plays in Major League Pickleball (MLP), which has had a phenomenal start to its new format’s inaugural year. At the league’s most recent event in Daytona Beach, Brascia played with the So Cal Hard Eight’s who performed well in the group stage, going to several incredible Dreambreakers.
Shortly after the tournament, Brascia was traded to the Las Vegas Night Owls, who have been really focused on restructuring their team through trades. The team also just acquired Jessie Irvine and Collin Johns, with Dekel Bar being the only original member from this season’s draft.
Brascia explained that she is grateful for her experiences with the Hard Eight’s, and that she’s excited to get to work with the Night Owls.
“Now I’m going to be on the Owls with Jessie, Collin, and Dekel, and I’m super excited about it. I feel like our team is really strong,” explained Brascia. “I heard this news yesterday, and I was already going to play with Jessie in the afternoon because she lives an hour from me. So we get to practice together, and I think we’re going to be a team to look out for.”
The MLP’s 4-player team format has revolutionized not only how pickleball is played, but also how it is watched. Fans get the opportunity to connect with a team’s players and see how they are able to work together in men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, and even singles in the unique Dreambreaker round.
Brascia is now exclusively signed on with the PPA and MLP, and enjoys what both formats bring to the table. In her experience, having more opportunities to play can really push someone to commit to going pro with their game.
“I think MLP is an awesome format, and I think it’s cool to have MLP and tournaments to have both formats. The sport is changing every single day, so who knows where we’ll go eventually, but for now I do really enjoy it. I think being on a team is such a fun thing. I live for the energy and all that kind of stuff.”
While the MLP is a great league for watching the top pros duke it out in an exciting format, Brascia suggests that the PPA Tour offers an “elite match experience” that is a great starting point for amateurs looking to break out into the pro scene. According to Brascia, the APP also has a lot of good opportunities for new players who aren’t currently planning on signing a deal with the PPA.
Above all else, players should simply play competitive pickleball, and a lot of it! Brascia believes that the more a player experiences tournament play, the more comfortable and confident they’ll grow when they hit tourney courts.
“I will just keep talking about getting the reps. Going out there and doing it, and getting lots of match experience because a tournament is so different than rec play,” said Brascia. “Don’t necessarily just play rec games which is probably one of my biggest things. I could play 8 hours a day, I just cannot stop with the pickleball.”
Brascia also mentions that you should try to find a doubles partner who has the same goals as you and can help build you up as a player. Doubles chemistry is founded in your trust in the other player, and it can take several matches and lots of training to really find a rhythm together.
“I always look for a partner with good, positive energy, because I personally can’t play well unless I’m having fun,” said Brascia. “If you see me on the court not smiling, I’m probably losing … I just look for partners that bring out the best in me and support me. Obviously, my sister in women’s is who I play with the most and we’re super comfortable. In mixed doubles, I do have a lot of tournaments with Federico [Staksrud] this year.”
Speaking of pickleball drills, Brascia is a firm believer in the power of the dink. Dinking is integral to staying in control of a match, and Brascia swears by training your dink at all times, even if you feel confident with the shot.
It’s also key to balance your time spent training and drilling with time set aside for maintaining your body’s overall health.
“I drill all of the shots. I firmly believe that dinking is important, so I love to dink all the time,” said Brascia. “Every spot on the court, cross court, down the line. I love doing that kind of stuff. I also love dinking and then speeding it up at your partner across the net, just to be ready for when your opponent will randomly speed it up at you which happens a ton.”
In honor of National Pickleball Month, it’s hard not to gush about the sport we all love. Brascia shares that passion, and her life was forever changed by the sport.
Within a matter of a year, Mary went from learning pickleball with her family to competing at its highest level with her sister. Her success in the PPA and MLP are founded in her hard work and dedication as an athlete, but she also deeply attributes it to the time she’s spent with the community she’s played with along the way.
“Pickleball has really changed my life, and I think it changes so many peoples’ lives once they find it,” said Brascia. “When I first started, everyone who kind of helped me grow as a player and was welcoming and invited me to the groups, it was just different. It was a fun environment to be around, it is the community that everyone talks about … Everyone who I know that plays it, loves it. I’ve just met so many new people in this sport, and sometimes I have to take a step back and be like, ‘What did I do before this?’ For me pickleball is kind of everything.”
Brascia’s got big plans for 2023, and the PPA and MLP have never been more exciting. Her next upcoming tournament is the PPA San Diego Open, where she’ll be partnering up with Dylan Frazier for the first time in mixed doubles.
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