Have you heard of Pickleball? If you had asked that question to a group of people 10 years ago, they might say they played it once in a middle school PE class. Nowadays, if you ask a group of people that same question, you will be surprised that not only have they heard of the sport, but they play it regularly. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States, and even has a professional league called Major League Pickleball. OOFOS received an anonymous tip that Professional Pickleball player, Lee Whitwell, was practicing at Pickles, New England one afternoon. Lee has been named the MLP MVP in 2021 and 2022, and is the co-founder of the card game, Pickler.
We rushed over to the facility to interrupt her workout with a few questions of our own. If you are familiar with Lee, you’ll know that you can never quite predict what she says next, and you’ll find yourself laughing in her presence more often than not.
What is Pickleball?
Upon entering the Pickles facility, Lee was changing out of her OOFOS and into court shoes. We ambushed her on the sidelines and asked,
“Hey Lee Whitwell! What is Pickleball?"
“Do you want the PG version or the Rated-R version?”
She explained that Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis that you can’t help but fall in love with right away. Played one-on-one or in doubles both indoors and out, Pickleball is easy to learn yet difficult to master. Oh, and apparently you can DM her if you are interested in the Rated-R definition.
What kind of player is Lee?
“Hey Lee Whitwell, how do you annoy the competition?”
She replied with “Most of the time by just being myself!” For context, Lee has a witty personality, which has given her quite the reputation for being the comedian on the court. She also added, “A lot of players like to speed up the ball when it is high and close, and I’ll tend to just reset and put it back over the net like it was nothing. It really annoys them!” Pickleball is played on a smaller court than tennis and with a plastic ball. Because of this, it is very easy to smash a pickleball at the opposing team, but not everyone can accurately return these hits and keep the ball in play. Lee told OOFOS that she dedicated much of her training time to perfecting this technique of resetting the ball and that is one of her best qualities as a teammate. Yet, we still wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of her overhand smash - many have described it as one of the deadliest overhands in the game!
An Unlikely Career
“Hey Lee Whitwell, did you ever think you would have a Professional Pickleball Career?”
Lee turned to us and said, “Absolutely not! But yet stranger things have happened, and here I am today loving the sport.” Lee told OOFOS that the first time she played pickleball was when a friend bribed her with a 6-pack of beer to play in a local tournament. They won and she had a blast playing, but she was a tennis player at heart and even played professional tennis post college. Lee told OOFOS, it is challenging to come from tennis to pickleball, but you must embrace the differences of the game. Once you do, you’ll understand that Pickleball truly is a unique and valuable sport.
OO, gOOd Game!
“Hey Lee Whitwell, what does Active Recovery mean to you?”
Snarkily, she replied, “This body is not a fountain of youth anymore, I need to take care of my body if I want to continue to play”. She then proceeded to pull a pair of OOFOS Recovery Footwear from her gym bag and explained…
“Active recovery means having a pair of these in your bag at all times. My feet thank me every time I put them on.” As a veteran to the game, Lee encourages the younger players to take care of their foundation. She recognizes the fact that if players started prioritizing active recovery now, they would be able to play longer and with less stress to the body. “If everyone old and young had a pair of OOFOS on their feet, how unstoppable would we be?” Our proprietary OOfoam™ technology absorbs 37% more impact than traditional/performance footwear foams. This reduces stress and load on the body to fight match or workout-induced fatigue - helping you recover faster and bounce back for your next effort. Lee explains that a Pickleball tournament has multiple games all day and that she needs to be able to stay fresh while socializing with the rest of the teams. You will see Lee in her OOFOS in between each game, optimizing her chances for her best performance.
The Pickleball Community
With her OOFOS on and her paddle bag over her shoulder, Lee started to make her way off the courts after a successful practice session. We had one last question to ask before she left,
“Hey Lee Whitwell, how would you describe the Pickleball community?”
Lee the comedian turned to us with the most sincere response and said, “Pickleball is a sport that has managed to bring everybody together - it transcended all boundaries and it's weaved the social fabric of communities together. If you are new to Pickleball or new to a town, go down to your courts. You will end up with 200 friends you didn’t know you needed. It is a sport for everybody.” Lee’s passion is to get more paddles in peoples’ hands to experience the joy of Pickleball, no matter your age or skill level.