Cierra Gaytan-Leach has had a remarkable year. Beginning with her participation in Major League Pickleball’s inaugural Season One event in Mesa, Arizona, she then took time off for the birth of her first child in June.
Remarkably, by September, she was back on the court and was justly recognized with the 2023 Biofreeze Bounce Back Player Award in early November.
“I Feel Honored”
Gaytan-Leach expressed her surprise and gratitude for the award, telling Stephen Hunt of Red Line Editorial, “I was definitely not expecting that. I feel honored to have won that, and I’m just happy to be playing competitive pickleball again. I love MLP.
“It was a blast, and it’s an honor to win this award. I thank everyone who voted for me.”
Reflecting on her challenging pregnancy and return to competitive play, she noted, “Yeah, it’s been my best year yet, favorite year. Definitely rowdy, I would say.
“Whenever the first MLP was, I played in it, and then my pregnancy was really rough. I had a lot of morning sickness, more like all-day sickness, so after the Arizona MLP, I actually decided to take myself out of the Florida one.
“My team was so gracious. They were going to keep me, but I just was not feeling good, so after the first MLP, I shut it down.
“I delivered my son at the end of June, and I didn’t think I was going to be playing that much competitive pickleball anymore, and I’m back, and here I am. A great year; it’s just been really busy.”
We featured Brooke Buckner in another article recently, and talked about her return to action after her pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Gaytan-Leach secured the women’s award with an impressive majority of over 70 percent of the vote, marking yet another pinnacle in her extraordinary year.
Acknowledging the shift in her priorities after becoming a parent, Gaytan-Leach emphasized her focus on her son and young family. Despite the initial difficulties in her comeback after a C-section, she found her stride and now feels her game is improving with the help of a coach.
Moving From Tennis To Pickleball
Having shifted from tennis to pickleball, she highlighted the progression in her perspective on the game: “Coming from tennis, I’ve been more of an offensive player. Now, I see pickleball a little differently than before because of my coach, and that is really helpful.”
When asked for advice for those returning to competition after a break, Gaytan-Leach emphasized personal enjoyment and satisfaction: “Honestly, just do it for you. If you enjoy it, that’s all that matters. Just go have a good time and do your best is all you can hope for.”
Fulfillment In Coaching
Not only has she been refining her game on the court, but she’s also found fulfillment in coaching pickleball, especially with the 50-plus ladies at Tustin Hills Racquet Club in California. Gaytan-Leach finds joy in their uplifting company and the fun they have together on the court.
Despite returning relatively recently to competitive pickleball, Gaytan-Leach feels positive about her progress with her new coach, focusing on refining her technique and adjusting her game style to excel in this sport.
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