Lower Valley pickleball enthusiasts had a chance last week to receive instruction from professional player Sarah Ansboury, a four-time medalist at the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) National Tournament.
Ansboury, 35, a former tennis instructor from Portland, Oregon, is the pickleball pro at Palmetto Dunes in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Her resume includes 2015 and 2016 doubles and mixed doubles championships at the US Pickleball Open. She travels the country trying to impart her expertise to recreational and advanced players, hoping to improve their game.
Ansboury brought her talents to the Lauri Ann West Community Center in O’Hara, a growing hub for the sport, and also ran sessions at Harmar’s PISA (Pittsburgh Indoor Soccer Arena).
Her advice to all levels of players was to keep the ball in front of the body.
“Focus on yourselves more,” she told the eager learners.
She recommended walking toward the net, concentrating on being ready to return the ball, rather than rushing in.
Kathy Demetri, who teaches pickleball at the community center along Powers Run Road, said there is a waiting list for her classes and the open-play sessions are filled, too.
“This sport is manageable at all age levels,” she said. “You are able to play pickleball the first day you learn the game.”
Ansboury said she “fell into” the game only a few years ago and was hooked.
She was in the area to provide teacher certification courses and noted that Pittsburghers “have a huge desire to grow pickleball.”
The USAPA and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) have formed an alliance to help grow the sport as well. Ansboury has signed on to design new curriculum and certification programs.
“Pickleball has changed so much the last few years,” she said. “Better athletes are playing now.”
For more on local pickleball at Lauri Ann West, visit lauriannwestcc.org.