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“Pickleball is not a sport — it’s a phenomenon.” Q&A with pickleball coach Rachael Kroog.

How did you first get into Pickleball?

My dad was my athletic hero. He showed me how to fast pitch a softball and jump shot. All the different sports that I got to play in high school and college. He said, “I found a new sport”, and I said, “You're 79, What new sport did you pick up?” And he said, “It's called pickleball, I think you're going to like it.” So that was the beginning, and I ended up moving my parents up here and spending a lot of time on the pickleball court with my dad.

What is your favorite thing about Pickleball?

It's very accessible, it's affordable, and you get to mix in with a lot of different people and experience different styles of play, which is always fun. You're smacking this ball, and then in the middle of the point, you're laughing. And I thought, what sport elicits this type of response?

What’s your favorite thing about playing pickleball at Life Time facilities?

Here in Minnesota, we just are very proud of our Life Time facilities. We've been on the cutting edge of providing opportunities and tournaments. I've played several tournaments at the lake field now, most recently just 3 minutes from me. They've completely turned one of their Life Time facilities into exclusively pickleball, so that's really exciting.

Do you think pickleball will become a mainstream sport?

You know, if any of us had a crystal ball back ten, fifteen years ago, we would never have believed it. I remember doing a clinic ten years ago with many players, including Kyle Yates, and he made the statement, “yeah, I'm going to be a professional pickleball player.” You know, when you look at the sport and all of the reasons that I've already mentioned, it makes total sense. I had a little phrase on my water bottle that I made up, and it goes, “pickleball is not a sport - it's a phenomenon.” I just don't think the world has ever seen a sport that can compare. Where is it going? Well, up. They can't build enough courts for all of the players.

How important is your DUPR rating to you?

You know, it's important because I'm still playing tournaments, and I got drafted by the National Pickleball League to participate. We have to be able to have some universal rating system that we can all kind of grab onto. Also, it helps put us in our place.

How important are ratings to you as a pickleball coach?

It’s really nice to have some sort of base way to organize them and put them on courts of equal ability. We've all been in the situation where you have three players that are 4.0, and then you have a 2.5 or a 3.0 player and it changes the whole vibe of the game.
As athletes, we want to have a goal and we want to keep achieving. We want to get better. We want to perfect our skills. That's one way that it's a litmus test that can see how we're doing, how we compare with other players, and I think it's integral to the sport. It's important that people reach out and do play with other lesser players because we've all been in that position, and we've all stood on the shoulders of people that have helped us along the way.
I think that's another great thing about this sport, is that people are very willing to give advice. I feel like I can go anywhere in the United States and beyond, since I just got back from Spain teaching, and connect with the pickleball community.

View the full interview on our YouTube channel.


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