Catherine Parenteau… You may have heard the name. She was just selected as the #1 pick in the new Major League Pickleball, seemingly dubbing her as the #1 pro pickleball player in all of the land. She also currently ranks #1 in pro women’s singles per the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) rankings. In a whirlwind of the past 5 years, Parenteau has taken playing pickleball from a hobby to a full-time profession. And, not only that, she has set the bar for treating playing professional pickleball, as just that—a full-time profession.
Upon joining the pickleball community a few years ago now, Parenteau dabbled in a few pickleball tournaments. She loved to compete, especially after a successful college tennis career at Michigan State University (where, arguably, the greatest of all time, Simone Jardim, was Parenteau’s coach). And, pickleball gave her a great outlet at the time. Then, as pickleball evolved, Parenteau slowly devoted more and more time to the sport. She started coaching. She started playing more. And, then, with the rise of the professional tours (the PPA and APP), Parenteau could make some legitimate money through winning medals and prize money, as well as sponsorship money by promoting her sponsors along the way.
While Parenteau has had considerable success along the way, including a gold medal in the pro women’s doubles division at the 2021 US Open National Championships (with her partner, Callie Smith), a silver at the 2019 USA Pickleball National Championships (with her partner, Jessie Irvine), and dozens and dozens of other pickleball tournaments, Parenteau recently took her game—and her commitment to her craft—to a whole other level.
In June 2021, Parenteau competed at the PPA Orange County Cup in San Clemente, California. While Parenteau seems to medal in most events she enters, her performance from this pickleball tournament fell short in her mind, as she went 2-2 in pro women’s singles (and out of the medals), 2-2 in pro mixed doubles (and, again, out of the medals), and 4-1 in pro women’s doubles (taking home the bronze medal, after being required to withdraw from the winner’s bracket due to a conflict). While most of us (including me) may be thrilled with these kinds of results, Parenteau was disappointed. She was disappointed in not medaling, but even more disappointed in her personal performance, as Parenteau felt she let herself down on her mental game and her attitude on the pickleball court. She didn’t feel good about the entire event, both physically and mentally. So, Parenteau committed to making a change.
Parenteau did a few things to treat her pickleball play as a full-time profession:
- Parenteau dedicated to drilling more than playing games. She noted that drilling is better for her game development than continuously playing games.
- Parenteau upped her fitness off the court to give her an extra step on the court.
- Parenteau changed her diet (out with those desserts, unless she wins a big day on the court, she will have one to celebrate).
- Parenteau revamped her schedule to better prepare for pickleball tournaments and her on-court play.
- Parenteau studied her own game, as well as her competitors’ games. For instance, she analyzed stats and improved her ability to strategize, which we all know is critical on the pickleball court.
- Parenteau invested in her partners, as she took the time to get to know them off the pickleball court and what they like and do not like on the pickleball court. She also would talk strategy with her partners ahead of the day of the event to further improve their on-court chemistry.
- But, most importantly, Parenteau committed to improving her mental game and mental toughness on the pickleball court. The mental game is at times more important than the physical game on the pickleball court and Parenteau knows it. Before the PPA Orange County Cup, Parenteau couldn’t believe she was #1 in pro women’s singles. She would make excuses to diminish her stature and accomplishments in the sport… Simone stopped playing singles. Anna Leigh Waters doesn’t have any points because she didn’t play during the COVID year. Etc. However, Parenteau learned to flip this mindset. Now, Parenteau believes that she is #1 for a reason. She has proved it on the pickleball court. With this mindset, she is determined to go out there to win, rather than being scared to lose. She is ready to take down whoever is in front of her. She is ready to win with her paddle and take control of her outcome.
With this work under her belt, Parenteau certainly showed up at the latest pro pickleball tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the PPA Championship, as Parenteau took home double golds in pro women’s doubles and pro women’s singles, as well as a strong 4th place finish in pro mixed doubles. Her performance was a validation of her #1 pick in the Major League Pickleball draft, but also her hard work these past several months. Parenteau’s on-court performance was certainly on another level.
To improve your pickleball game like Parenteau, you can follow in her footsteps and take your approach to your game like a true professional. However, if you are not ready to have the full-court-press commitment, Parenteau does have some quick advice to help you play like the versatile, steady pro that she is:
- On the physical side, drill more than you play games. Repetition is powerful.
- On the mental side, play with no fear and enjoy the moment (there is no bad day on the pickleball court!). Think about the present moment only (there is no past or future) and play just one point at a time. Also, be sure not to rush between points. Rather, take your time between points.
- And, lastly, Parenteau has been vocal about her anxiety that she feels on the pickleball court. She says that, if you struggle with the same, whether related to pickleball or otherwise, don’t be scared to reach out to your close friends and family and talk about it. Sometimes, sharing and acknowledging it (without giving it too much power) is a great outlet. Parenteau also notes that, in addition to talking and sharing her feelings, she also meditates, journals to learn more about herself, takes a break from pickleball to do something fun with her life partner, Athena Trouillot (who is always close by on the pickleball court encouraging and coaching Parenteau), and spends time with her adorable dog, Zoey (who Parenteau noted must get a shoutout in this pickleball blog haha!).
Looking to the future, Parenteau’s goal is to one-up herself and take home a triple crown (gold in each of pro women’s singles, pro women’s doubles, and pro mixed doubles) at a major pickleball tournament. She also wants to match her #1 pro women’s singles ranking with a #1 pro women’s doubles ranking, as well as continue her pickleball coaching with Trouillot by traveling around the country offering clinics to the pickleball communities she visits on her pro tour travels. Lastly, Parenteau wants to do her part to continue to grow the sport of pickleball (which she would love to see hit the Olympic Games and have the opportunity to represent her home country of Canada).
Catherine, like most other pickleball players (including us!), believes that the sky is the limit with the sport of pickleball. Allez (as Catherine would say) for continuing to grow the sport of pickleball and the great community of players in it!