Merchant of Pickleball caught up with Steve Deakin to discuss his Pickleball journey and what’s ahead for the Canadian!
Steve is one of the Top Ten pickleball players in North America, with a current status as Canada’s #1 player (November 2020).
How did you get involved in Pickleball?
Essentially I came from a tennis background and I played competitive tennis (competitive senior tennis) and I was at a tournament in Ottawa and I had an accident on court. I fell on the clay court and tore my rotator cuff quite badly and while I was in rehab (and it was a fairly extensive rehab) my dad actually asked me if I wanted to come up to my local racquet center, where I live in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia and said “hey do you want to come and play pickleball?” At first, I was like “the name is ridiculous, I have never heard of the sport, I’m not going to play this game.”
He then came to me the following weekend and then asked me the same question and I said “fine.” I went up to the rec center and I played for the first time in an indoor facility on a gym floor, with very basic paddles and balls and I had an amazing time.
I never did go back to tennis; pickleball was way easier on the shoulder. I didn’t need to get any form of surgery or anything like that and my shoulder healed. I basically just fell in love with the game the minute I started to play it.
What did you take from your tennis playing experience into pickleball?
For me, I have always been a fairly ferocious competitor and pickleball really fed [those] competitive kind of juices that I needed and it was something new and exciting. It was an easy transition for me, just based upon the similar mechanics and eye-hand, hand speed and foot work. Once I got past learning the strategy of pickleball, I was able to apply what I learned playing competitive and pro tennis all those years. It was a very simple transition for me and it developed into something that I am able to do full time now for a living. I was very grateful for sure that I was able to correlate tennis and pickleball together and to be able to make something out of it.
What is the most challenging aspect about Pickleball?
For me, when I first started playing, I had that tennis mentality that was power and dominance in that regard and pickleball is completely opposite. There’s a soft aspect of the game and a patience aspect of the game that really needs to be adopted if you are going to have success at any level, let alone the pro level of pickleball. I guess for me it was learning to slow the game down and to really understand the strategy behind pickleball – that for me was the most challenging. Once I did, it was something that I adopted and loved and it became second nature to me now.
Do you prefer doubles or singles and why?
At the pro level for pickleball, I am on the older end of things. I’m 46 years old, I can play pro pickleball until I am 50 and at that point I shift over to senior pro, so I don’t play any singles right now at the pro level. The kids are just too fast, too strong and too fit. With doubles, I am able, as I mentioned earlier, to adopt that slow game and patience game. That’s where my experience as an older player with that competitive tennis background, I’m able to still compete at the highest level, playing doubles. So to answer your question, I’m a huge doubles fan.
Have you had to overcome injuries playing Pickleball?
Yes it was strange, when I started playing in the beginning of 2017, I played pretty much recreationally. I did play the odd tournament. In 2018, I decided to start playing a few more tournaments and I ended up breaking my ankle playing pickleball and so I was out for 3 months there and then I came back way too soon and I popped a calf and that put me out another 3 months. So basically the whole 2018, I was pretty much injured, but I have been (knock on wood), injury free since the beginning of 2019 with exceptions to little tweaks here and there, but I’ve been pretty much injury free for the last two years.
Do you prefer to play Pickleball indoors or outdoors?
Definitely outdoors. Indoor pickleball in a lot of cases is played on gymnasium floors, there aren’t a whole ton of indoor facilities in Canada at least and you don’t have that tennis surface with designated nets. You are usually trying to grind for gym space, playing with a different ball and a different surface. I love outdoor pickleball, being outside in the fresh air and sunshine and you are playing with a real outdoor pickleball on real designated nets. I definitely love outdoor pickleball and that’s where the majority of my tournaments will be played anyways.
2020 is a strange year, but how many events on average do you play in a year?
Next year, I have 32 tournaments planned and that’s pending with COVID in the States as that’s where the majority of the tournaments will be played. It depends on how the COVID situation goes on there. It’s looking like a busy year for me though.
What is your most memorable competitive moment?
I’ve got a lot but probably the most special memory for me was November of 2019 and that would have been at the Indian Wells tennis garden for US Nationals. I was playing in the pro division with one of my partners Eric Lang. There were 64 teams in that draw and we had a deep run and made it all the way to the gold medal match, playing in front of all the Canadian fans. It was just a real special moment for me in pickleball and let alone in tennis. I played a lot big matches in tennis and this was just super special for me just because it was a sport I took up late in life. I’m able to compete at the highest level at my age and I’m competing against players nearly half my age for the most part. That for me was something I will never forget.
For more from Steve, check out his website stevedeakinpickleball.com!