Athlete Spotlight - Meet Rachael James

June 10, 2024
3 min

Meet Rachael James, a professional pickleball player from Detroit, MI! Rachael is known for her dynamic playing style and strategic abilities on the court. Having played tennis for over twenty years, Rachael competed semi-professionally and collegiately for the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill before transitioning to pickleball. Rachael now plays pickleball professionally on a full-time basis, regularly facing off against the best players in the world. She also spends her time teaching the sport to others while balancing her busy tournament schedule. Follow along and get to know Rachael a little bit more in this Q&A!

How did you find pickleball and how has it changed your life?

I wanted to find an activity where I could bond with my mom and make new friends. We had our first pickleball lesson together at the Delray Tennis Center, and I instantly fell in love with the sport. Now, I have an amazing community of friends, a stronger bond with my mom, and a new profession!

What is your favorite memory from your career so far?

I have so many great memories, it’s hard to choose just one! However, one that stands out is beating DJ Young and Cass Hoag 2-3 months ago. That match was a turning point in my career and marked significant growth in my pickleball development. I train hard every day to improve, and it was gratifying to see my efforts pay off. Since then, I've had several big wins, making that match a major milestone in my career.

What motivates you to become a pro pickleball player?

Being a professional pickleball player is what I want to do with my life. As long as I avoid any career-ending injuries, I plan to keep playing until the end—I'll probably die on the court.

Rachael competing at a PPA

What athlete or person inspires you the most?

My parents are my greatest inspiration. Originally from the east side of Detroit, Michigan, my family moved to Florida when I was younger to provide me with the best opportunities in tennis and a better future. They sacrificed a lot and continue to demonstrate incredible strength and perseverance.

What does your current training regimen look like?

Now that my mixed doubles game has improved significantly, I'm focusing on getting my singles game back to its previous level. Starting today, I plan to train 1.5 hours in singles and 1.5 hours in doubles, Monday through Friday. Previously, I trained exclusively in doubles for 3-4 hours each day during the week.

What is your greatest accomplishment in sports?

My latest greatest accomplishment in sports is having the bravery to pursue a new sport full-time besides tennis and fully committing to it. The date I was able to be a full-time pickleball player was August 1st, 2023.

What part of your game are you working on the most right now?

My focus is on singles and playing the left side in gendered doubles. Many women excel on the right side due to mixed doubles experience. By mastering the left side, I can partner with almost anyone. That will give me the best opportunity to make big runs in tournaments.

What do you do outside of pickleball?

"I really love the beach, painting, and walking around expensive neighborhoods, lol. "

How havelevel-basedd tournaments help you improve your pickleball skills?

 "I only played one 5.0 PPA tournament and I won it. After that, I went and played only in the pro division."

Rachael has also started a business called Pickle Pros, where we create personalized webpages for athletes that showcase their accomplishments and allow people to book lessons with them around their travel and tournament schedules. She adds,

"Our platform is designed to support aspiring pro pickleball players by providing them with a way to earn money while at home, while also enabling them to travel and compete in tournaments."

Check out Rachael's pickleball journey and more on her Instagram and website!

More Posts For You

June 18, 2024

u3a: The Bedrock of Pickleball Participation in the UK

  • Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing activities across national volunteer-led movement for older adults.
  • u3a pickleball groups are significant drivers of participation for the over-50s in UK.
  • With 3,000 players out of an overall membership of 400,000, there is huge scope for growth.

The average age of the pickleball-playing population in the UK is gradually reducing — but, for now, over-50s remain the bedrock of the sport's participation base. A significant percentage of these older players are discovering pickleball through u3a. 

The u3a is a huge volunteer-led movement that keeps retired people active and learning. It is made up of around 1000 u3as  across the UK who organize activities that keep older adults mentally, physically and socially active. These range from sport to learning a language, history, photography, walking, wine tasting and much more.

Three years ago, there were 15 pickleball groups across the u3a movement. Now (May 2024), there are 139. It is one of the fastest growing sports within u3a and now boasts over 3,000 players. For context, Pickleball England has 5,000 registered members over 50 years of age and there are an estimated 15,000 players of all ages (including non-members of the governing body) in the country.

David Pechey has been the u3a's National Subject Advisor for pickleball since 2021. Having started his own club in Bramhall, Manchester in 2018, he felt pickleball strongly aligned with u3a's objective of encouraging older adults to become and/or stay active.  

David, 73, has published guidance and a package of resources on the u3a website for anyone wanting to set up their own group. He has also undertaken a Pickleball Leaders Certification to teach people the basic techniques and tactics. Some are happy with a regular hit and chat; others have progressed to competing and registering with DUPR. 

"You get great satisfaction from helping people learn to play and seeing them grow in confidence on court," said David. "But some u3a groups have started without any help from me. I am just a sounding board if people need one, but pickleball is increasingly creating its own momentum."

David also adds,

"Pickleball is so accessible for people of my age. They don't want hours of training with a coach. As long as there is someone to teach you the rules and basic tactics, you can start playing pickleball to a reasonable level pretty quickly. That's why it has struck a chord. People have been able to get a bit of physical activity and social interaction while feeling they are having a good, competitive game." 

As pickleball groups have popped up and grown throughout the u3a movement, the organization has organically become a key participation driver for the sport in the UK – all led by the enthusiasm and passion of volunteers. 

David stated,

"A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the local champions in every active u3a group: the group conveners, coordinators and leaders. These are local heroes with enthusiasm, initiative, perseverance and patience. A debt to them is owed by me and by every u3a player that enjoys exercise, fun, gentle competition and social interaction as a result of their efforts.”

With just under 100 u3a pickleball groups across the UK, there is obvious potential for it to spread much further.

"We haven't reached 10% yet, so I want to continue to help grow it throughout all the u3as  in the UK," states David. 

With players’ ages ranging from 50 to early 90s, thousands of people in the autumn of their years are being given a new lease of life through u3a and pickleball.

June 16, 2024

Father's Day special - The Brascia's

Mary Brascia, a professional pickleball player on the PPA tour, currently ranked number 4 on the PPA leaderboards for women's singles with an impressive DUPR rating of 5.666 in doubles and 5.871 in singles, is among the top-ranked female players in the sport. Hailing from Southern California, Mary finds the greatest joy in playing pickleball with her family, and especially enjoys being coached by her father Vinnie Brascia.

“Our whole family is a pickleball family. We all play all the time and our family is super close. We enjoy spending time together so it’s really nice that we found a sport that we can all play together as a family”, Mary says.

Mary’s dad, Vinnie still coaches her and her sister to this day. Mary says,

"He knows me better than anyone, and he helps my sister and I play our best on the court because he knows the game really well.” Mary mentions she plays her best with her dad as her coach because it keeps her in a “positive headspace”.

Vinnie has always taken pride in both Mary’s and her sister Maggie’s passion for pickleball. He remains focused on their goals and maintaining a good relationship to the sport.

“My goal is for them to have fun and to achieve their potential as best as they can”, Vinnie says. As any good father would, he remains dad first, “I’m dad first and foremost, and always, and no matter what happens in a match I’m just going to give Mary a big hug and just say how proud I am for trying their best out there, cause this sport is hard.”

As we celebrate Father's Day this year, let's not forget the role that fathers play in shaping our lives and helping us reach our full potential. Mary Brascia's story is a reminder of the impact that a father's love, guidance, and support can have on their child's journey to success.

To hear more about Mary and her dad, watch the video here. Follow Mary's journey in climbing the pro pickleball rankings on her Instagram.

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father's Day!

June 14, 2024

DUPR Juniors - Meet Jack Pickleball!

At DUPR, we aspire to have level-based play options for all ages and genders. Our commitment to this is reinforced through the partnership with National Junior Pickleball (NJP). Jack Loughridge, a junior player from Las Vegas, Nevada, has been playing NJP tournaments all across the U.S.

Learn more about Jack's pickleball journey in this Q&A!

How many times a week do you play pickleball?

I play pickleball about 4 times a week. Usually I will drill 2 days, have a lesson one day and then play games on the days I don’t have soccer practice.

Why did you start playing pickleball?

I saw one of my friends playing it and it looked fun. I like that I got to play a lot with my Dad when I was learning.

What is the best part about playing pickleball?

The best part of playing pickleball is getting to travel to different places and meet lots of new people. 

What is the best part of participating in the Junior Tournaments?

In Junior tournaments I get to play with and against my friends, and it’s a lot of fun. We also get to hang out afterward and do fun stuff or just play more pickleball.

What is your favorite memory of pickleball?

I liked when I first got sponsored by Joola and getting to know all of their team and the pros. I also remember when I was 8 and won Gold in a tournament and we got to hold a big check for $200.

Did the Junior tournaments help you improve your pickleball skills? How?

I would say yes because kids don’t go easy on each other and everyone plays their best, so I have to play my best too. I also want to beat them.
Jack watching professional pickleball

Who is your favorite pickleball player/someone you look up to?

I don’t really have a favorite player because a lot of them are my friends like AJ, Ben, Allyce, Etta, Anna, Chuck, Tyson, Brooke, and Rachel. It’s hard to know who to cheer for when they play each other. 

What is your biggest pickleball dream?

I want to be a pro pickleball player and play all over the world. 

We can't wait to help young players ride the pickeball wave, and help their game progress throughout their pickleball journey!

Don't miss Jack's pickleball journey on his Instagram.