The 2022 calendar year not only has been the year of pickleball, but it is also the year of Anna Leigh Waters. The two—pickleball and Anna Leigh Waters—may just about be synonymous at this point anyway. In 2022, the 15-year-old Waters (yes, we still need to identify her age because what she has accomplished at 15 years old is impressive to say the least) has achieved milestones within the sport of pickleball, but also major achievements that transcend pickleball. And, again, at just 15 years old…
- First, within the sport, Anna Leigh has garnered 8 triple crowns and 45 medals (with 38 being gold medals!) in 2022 alone. Those accolades were in the span of 48 events over 16 pickleball tournaments. In other words, Anna Leigh medaled in a whopping 94% of the events she entered, and won gold in 79% of the events she entered. She also successfully defended her national champion title (3-peat, in fact, as her first title came at just 12 years old).
- Second, Anna Leigh has been dubbed by Forbes—of all of the young athletes and others in the sporting world—to be on the 30 Under 30 list (plus, she was the youngest by almost a decade). She is making “moves” outside of just pickleball.
- Third, Anna Leigh is making the sport relevant to a critical demographic in the growth of pickleball—the youth! The visibility of a 15-year-old at the pinnacle of the sport is certainly influencing others her age to follow, which is one of the things that the sport needs to continue to grow and sustain for generations to come.
- Plus, only a handful of other athletes—whether in pickleball or another sport—can say that they graced the broadcasting airwaves of each of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, The Tennis Channel, and YouTube all within the same calendar year. Anna Leigh has done just that (including with her latest feature on NBC on Christmas Eve). She is doing her part to help promote and grow the sport on a multitude of levels.
- But, what may be the most remarkable feat of them all is this… pickleball is one of the few sports in the world that is played co-ed (both male and female) at the highest of levels. In a draft, where any player of any gender could be picked first, Anna Leigh Waters was the #1 pick. A female beat out all of the men for the top spot. We are hard-pressed to find any other circumstance in sports to mirror this—both because of the unique inclusiveness of the sport of pickleball and the insane talent of Anna Leigh Waters.
For these reasons, Anna Leigh Waters is the inaugural Pickler of the Year for the 2022 calendar year. Pickler will recognize the person, group, idea or object that has had, for better or for worse, tremendous influence on the sport of pickleball over the course of the previous 12 months. In this case, it is for better… congratulations to Anna Leigh Waters! And, since she is only 15 years old, we likely expect her to continue to push the boundaries of pickleball, sport, and culture for years to come.