Meet Liz & Emilie, two friends who grew up together and are forever pickleball partners

Kevin Brown
January 8, 2024




Liz and Emilie started to play pickleball as a weekly getaway. It is easy to forget the need to refresh and have fun, especially as busy, working moms.


Their inspiring motto, “Try Harder,” applies to their daily routine with family, work, and pickleball. The two friends love traveling and competing against players of different backgrounds, ages, genders, and abilities.


With the DUPR Waterfall format, of four competitive matches all within a four-hour period, they've discovered how to make the most of their time and be able to play pickleball and still return to work or other commitments afterward.


Liz and Emilie's friendship is a reminder that pickleball is a way to create memories, as well as build and maintain lasting friendships. They support each other, compete, and strengthen their bond on and off-court.



What do you like the most about pickleball?


"The competition is fun, meeting different people from all over. We played in a bunch of different states. It has been a really fun adventure getting to see and meet new people," said Liz.
"You get your energy out; you get to do something where you lose yourself. We laugh every single time that we get out there, and we just have fun," said Emilie.



How was your first experience playing at a Waterfall event?


"I like the quickness of it. There was not a lot of downtime, which was nice. We played four matches within an hour; that constant play was really beneficial. Even when we were not playing, they had courts reserved where we could warm up and continue to play. It was a really positive experience, " said Liz.


"Also, when people would lose, they could play on the other courts. It is not like all of sudden you had to just leave, and you could still enjoy the whole experience of the Waterfall," said Emilie.


What have you enjoyed most about the Waterfall format?


"The DUPR Waterfalls are great to be able to play, have fun, and be comfortable with yourself. I feel like it's not as much of a competition where people are shoving the ball down your throat and thinking they're better than you or you're better than me. And it moves quickly and it's fast which is a big deal, especially when you have to fit things into your busy schedule. We have our kids but we can still do things for ourselves," said Emilie.


"With these DUPR Waterfall tournaments, I was still able to go to work that afternoon after a morning tournament, so that's pretty awesome," said Liz.


How has the DUPR rating system enhanced your pickleball experience?


"I do like the idea that with DUPR, it's genderless and ageless. It really is strictly a rating. It gives more competition, especially when it is the two of us against two guys who are younger than us and look like they are in a lot better shape, but it is the rating system that keeps everything leveled, which is fun and makes us play better," said Liz.


Grab a friend and sign up for Waterfall Nationals today. Make memories, enjoy some pickleball, and meet new people, all while playing for the chance to win 20,000+ in prize money. This is an opportunity you won't want to miss. Sign up today! Registration ends Friday, October 6.

View the full video story on our YouTube channel.

More Posts For You

April 10, 2024

The Power of Sibling Partnerships in Pickleball

On April 3rd, at the Major League Pickleball Premier Level Draft, the New York Hustlers selected Jackie Kawamoto with the 16th pick of the 2024 draft.

Shortly after, the Los Angeles Mad Dogs used the 26th pick to select Jackie’s twin sister, Jade Kawamoto.

The final rosters for the MLP Premier teams are comprised of the 48 most in-demand players in professional pickleball. Six of those coveted spots went to three pairs of siblings: the Kawamoto sisters, Ben and Collin Johns, and Jorja and JW Johnson.

Whether as practice partners, doubles teammates, or competitors, sibling teams have a unique chemistry that is difficult to replicate. Their shared history, communication skills, trust, competitive edge, and motivation all contribute to their success on the court.

For Jackie and Jade, the sibling advantage has helped them rise rapidly through the ranks of professional pickleball.

“Just having that person to always practice with was definitely an advantage for us,” says Jackie. “I'm a righty and Jade is a lefty, and we move together very well. I think that's our biggest strength. I know where I need to be when she gets pulled wide, and vice versa. I know all of her shots. We just know each other's game so well.”


“We've practiced with each other our whole lives, so it comes naturally,” adds Jade.

Like many professional pickleball players, the Kawamoto sisters have a background in competitive tennis, playing throughout their childhood and into college. 

Their journey with pickleball began in 2019.

“At first it was just fun, something to do with the family,” says Jade. 


“It didn't take long for all of us to get hooked and pretty much play nonstop,” adds Jackie.

They started competing in 2021, and in less than 3 years, they’ve become top rated pros. The Dink recently rated Jackie and Jade the number five women’s doubles team in the world for 2024, and their 5.9+ DUPR ratings demonstrate how far they’ve progressed in their short time since finding the sport.

“Chemistry is such an important part of this game because of the nature of the game and how quickly it goes,” Jackie explains.

Jade adds that the emotional support is just as important as the training.

“When you grow up with each other, and you're the same age and have gone through similar experiences… I know it's a cliche or whatever, but it does help you on the court to have someone that knows your emotions and knows how to bring you up when you're down,” she says.


This season, that bond faces a new challenge. Where the Kawamoto sisters played together for the ATX Pickleballers in 2023, this year they’ll meet as rivals.

It’s fitting, perhaps, that their new teams represent the sister-cities of New York and Los Angeles, two American metropolises that share similarities and a healthy rivalry.

For Jade and Jackie, meeting head-to-head is an opportunity to keep improving their game.

“We were pretty competitive with each other when we were younger,” Jackie recalls. “It always pushed us to be a little bit better.”

“We still like to be competitive with each other,” Jade says, “but mostly in a fun-spirited way, not like ‘I have to be better than you at this’. It helps us get better if we're trying to have that competitive mindset, but also keeps it fun.”

Community
MLP
March 14, 2024

‘A Real Eye-Opener' - Reflecting On Our Trip To The Indian Open

David McCune says the India pickleball market is ‘poised to go boom’ and that the nation’s technically adept players pose a real threat to the USA’s hegemony in the sport.

Johnnie Pickles, DUPR Crew

DUPR Executive Director David McCune was "blown away" by the level of play and scale of pickleball participation on a recent overseas activation at the Indian Open in the vast, vibrant city of Mumbai.

 

February's Indian Open, organized by Global Sports, boasted a $150,000 prize purse, making it the most lucrative pickleball tournament ever played outside North America. 

 

David's observations highlight that players from sub-continental and Southeast Asian regions bring exciting new skill sets to the court that are set to provide a stern challenge to the USA's hegemony in the sport. What was even starker is that when a nation of 1.4 billion people gets a taste for a new sport, it can create high volumes of participation quickly!

 

"The region is poised to go 'boom!'" smiled David after meeting with partners, athletes, sponsors, club owners, local dignitaries and celebrities in Mumbai to raise awareness of the benefits of DUPR (or "humanizing the algorithm," as he neatly calls it).

 

David added: "The best question about the level of play in India is not to ask how far they are behind the States, but how far along they are. Let me tell you, these guys are doing very well indeed!

 

The tournament was a real eye-opener for some of the US pros. When they got into those rapid hand battles, it wasn't a series of blocks and speedups — the Indian athletes were actually redirecting their attacks with spin on the ball. These guys are used to badminton where a shuttlecock reaches speeds of nearly 500 km/h, so pickleball is virtually in slow motion for them."

 

David was particularly taken by the current Indian No. 1 Harsh Mehta: "Until he hits it, you just don't know whether he's going to roll it, cut it or flick it. I watched him break the ankles of one of our top 10 pros numerous times! This guy is incredible."

Dave McCune, Sathwika Sama, and Ben Hildreth

 

Brian Omwando was another competitor in the Indian Open draw. An ex-tennis player turned pickleball fanatic, he opened Nairobi Pickleball Club last May and has helped embed DUPR as the go-to system in tournaments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Brian led a squad of five players to Mumbai (it was his first-ever plane flight).

 

"It was a totally new experience for us - seeing how players warm up, the different drills they do, and tactics like stacking, which we are now including in our practice sessions. The standard was a different level but we were amazed how well we played against players who have been playing for many more years than us."

 

British player Louis Laville reached the round of 16 in the men's singles where he fell to India’s Rohit Patil. He was also bowled over by the host nation's rising stature in the sport.

 

“Pickleball in India is absolutely exploding," he said. "They have coaching programs, investment, sponsorships, and financial backers.

 

“What the tournament showed us is that the UK and Europe need to get on with developing pickleball facilities and getting more people playing very quickly, because the rest of the world is starting to motor ahead in terms of numbers and level of players and investment into the sport. I am very excited to watch the top Indian players take on some of the top pros at April’s US Open!"

Written By: Mike Dale

Community
Events
March 8, 2024

Empowering Women on the Pickleball Court: The Importance of Women's Only Spaces

International Women's Day marks a global celebration of women's accomplishments and resilience. In the realm of pickleball, clubs like Pickle Pop and Gold Coast Pickleball's women's only group exemplify this spirit by providing platforms for women to excel, compete, and support one another.

Pickle Pop, Santa Monica

The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California is famous for its shops, dining, and proximity to the beach and the Santa Monica pier. However, the area was hard hit by the effects of the pandemic and is still recovering, creating the perfect opportunity to bring pickleball to some of LA’s most in demand real estate.

Steph McCaffrey, a former professional soccer player with an MBA from Wharton, and Erin Robertson, a Project Runway winner with a background in design and fashion, teamed up to cofound Pickle Pop right in the heart of the promenade. This pickleball venue stands out not only for its distinctive pink courts but also for its commitment to fostering an inclusive and empowering environment, particularly for women.

Robertson says, “a lot of times in sports, everything is super masculine, even for women's sports. It's not like I wanted to make it (Pickle Pop) feminine and fluffy, but I definitely wanted to soften the energy of it, so it felt warm and welcoming, but also fun, bright, energetic and like you would want to move your body.”

The decision to introduce a women's only open play at Pickle Pop was fueled by their general manager Jane Hollon's observation of the need for a space where women could enjoy the game and, as Hollon puts it, “avoid the male players who maybe aren't as experienced and are just like bang, bang, bang.”

What began as a one morning event has now blossomed into “one of our most popular programs,” says Hollon, expanding to three days a week. The program’s rapid growth highlights the demand for providing spaces tailored to the unique preferences and needs of women in the pickleball community.

"If you don't have a DUPR, do you even play pickleball?" says Hollon. Pickle Pop recognizes the importance of DUPR’s rating system and recently organized a fun event to help players earn their rating.

Gold Coast Pickleball, Queensland, Australia

Six thousand miles across the ocean, nestled in Carumbin Beach in Queensland, Australia, Gold Coast Pickleball’s facilities cater to local players of all types and skill levels.

Suzanne Mackenzie decided to team up with two friends to start a women's only pickleball group at the facility after feeling targeted on the court.

“I’d be on the court with my husband, who has bad knees and isn’t very mobile, and these young guys would absolutely be targeting me. I’d say ‘ease up, buddy.’ It was intimidating, terrifying, not enjoyable.”

Determined to build confidence among female players, Mackenzie envisioned a community grounded in friendship, camaraderie, and teamwork.

The success of Gold Coast Pickleball's initiative is evident in its growth from 30 participants to over 90 women of various ages and skill levels. Utilizing DUPR has proven effective in maintaining a level playing field, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to participate.

As Sue Bailey, a member of the group says, “the women's only group opened up an opportunity for us (women) to play competitively. You play socially and win some games or lose some games. It doesn't really matter. But when you're playing with a team, it adds that extra incentive to work harder, get better, and to support the team.”

As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's raise a paddle to Suzanne, Steph, Erin, Jane, and all the women who are leading the game on and off the court. They're breaking barriers, building communities, and showing the world what women can do when they come together.

Written By: Alana Jackler

Community