Michelle Li – Pro Paddle Dreams

Michelle Li is relatively new to Pickleball but has rapidly progressed to championship status as an elite competition player.

About 18 months ago as a newcomer to San Francisco from Benicia, a college friend introduced her to the sport.  “We bought $25 paddles and balls and got to play with high level players at all the City courts.”  For Michelle, “it was an easy sport to learn.” Always physically active, Michelle played tennis through college and was also a member of the Dominican University soccer team.

In September of last year, after six months of playing PB, Michelle realized she was “getting better,” and believed she might even be good enough to take on the challenge of entering “big time” competitive Pickleball. But to succeed, she would need to leave her nursing job and dedicate herself to improving her game. And that’s exactly what she’s been doing for the last ten months.

With the support of a practice partner, Michelle drills daily at the Bay Club and plays fast & furious games at Presidio Wall, Louis Sutter, and courts in the East Bay. Asked if she had a coach to help her along, Michelle replied, “I’m looking, but not yet.”

She would also like to find a sponsor, as tournament play is expensive, about $1000 per tournament, she estimates. Last year, contract nursing jobs covered her expenses, and her father’s travel discount as a United Airlines employee helped with travel expenses. But now he’s retired and money is getting tight, so Michelle has taken a full-time, three-day a week nursing position with CPMC. “I might miss tournaments because I need to work every other weekend, but the insurance and salary will be helpful,” and helps to fund her sporting pursuit.

Asked if she had any wisdom to offer players seeking to keep on the winning track, Michelle said, “At the end of the day, everyone makes the same shots and the same mistakes. You have to be on. It’s easier to be on the more you practice.”

Michelle expects to play her next tournament in Las Vegas.  We wish her good luck and hope she gets a lot of practice standing on the center podium, trophy in hand.

-Judy Goddess