First time you ever played pickleball together?
LEIGH WATERS: September 2017. A hurricane was coming to Florida, so we evacuated to my dad‘s place in Pennsylvania, and he was playing this sport called pickleball. The first time we tried it, we were hooked. We lost electricity in the hurricane, so we stayed in Pennsylvania for two weeks, and all we did all day was play pickleball.
ANNA LEIGH WATERS: Morning, noon, and night.
First time you realized you made a great team?
ALW: Our first pro tournament playing together, we got silver in pro women’s doubles and we were like, “Oh, we can actually play as a team.”
LW: And you were only 11. We weren’t sure she was ready yet; it was sort of like a trial, and we came in second! And I was like, OK, she’s ready.
Last pickleball skill you mastered?
ALW: Probably my backhand roll. It’s like a dink, but it’s got a lot of topspin, and a little more speed than a regular dink, so it’s like an offensive shot.
LW: Let me think what mine is…
ALW: It’s your overhead lob.
LW: Yeah, it is. It’s hard to put the ball away in pickleball, so I’ve been working on this overhead that angles off the court so it’s more of a put away shot.
Last thing you do before hitting the court to psych yourselves up?
LW: We play Anna Leigh’s music, which isn’t typically the music I listen to, but it gets you pumped up. Or we listen to “Eye of the Tiger.” That was the song that was playing when we won nationals together, and it’s kind of been our song.
This one is for Anna Leigh. Last time you thought, My mom is the coolest!?
LW: I think it’s every second of every day, right?
ALW: It was in practice yesterday; she hit some shot and I was like, Wow!
Last time you thought, Oh, Mom!?
ALW: It was in practice yesterday too! I think she might have missed an overhead shot. I wasn’t even playing on her team, but I was like, Oh, Mom! You’re better than that!
Last lesson you learned—either in life or in pickleball?
LW: For me it’s to treat other people the way you want to be treated, and in the pickleball world, remembering that we’re not just competitors; we’re all people.
ALW: My recent one has been to go out there and have fun and not worry about winning or losing. I think that’s what I’ve been learning in the past couple of tournaments.
For Leigh: Last time you thought, My daughter is the coolest!?
LW: I do think it, like, every second of every day. I’ll go with yesterday also, because it was, like, 30-mile-per-hour winds; it was so hard to play pickleball, and everybody was terrible. Except for Anna Leigh. She was out there just playing like it was a normal day. I was like, She is amazing.
Last time you thought, I can’t believe she did that?
ALW: I want to hear this one!
LW: This is easy! Yesterday in the airport. I let her borrow my Lululemon jacket, and we get on the plane and she turns to me and says, “Mom, I left your jacket in the terminal!” We had to contact the flight attendant to find the jacket and bring it back.
ALW: It was found, just so you know.
LW: The jacket was found, but that was the Ugh, Anna Leigh! moment.
Last question: Last dream come true?
ALW: It might have been 2019 nationals; that’s a moment I’ll never forget.
LW: Yeah, who would’ve dreamt that a mother-daughter team where the daughter is 12 and the mother is 40 could win a professional sporting event? That was definitely the highlight of my entire life. Winning that with your kid? I couldn’t believe it. Anna Leigh says to me the other day, “Mom, when we won, I was so young I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now I understand, and it’s so amazing.”