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The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 11-01-2021

If you have been paying attention in the pickleball world lately, then you have certainly heard the names Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters. These are the names of the mother-daughter duo taking the pro pickleball scene by storm and the reigning National Champions.

With Anna Leigh (also known as “AL”) at the ripe age of 14, she has already been dubbed as the “princess of pickleball” or “future of pickleball” – and the future has certainly arrived. On the pickleball court next to this teenage phenom – whether it is literally next to her in doubles play, on the sidelines as a cheerleader and coach, or sometimes, as her opponent – is her mother, Leigh Waters. This has to be some dynamic, as some pickleball players cannot even play with their spouse and keep it together.

The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters | Pickler Pickleball

So, what’s it like for mother and pro pickleball player herself, Leigh Waters, to be on the pickleball court with Anna Leigh, challenging players for championships week in and week out? What about coaching her in her stellar pro women’s singles runs every pickleball tournament? What about playing against her with money and bragging rights on the line? Hear from Leigh Waters herself about the “trichotomy of pickleball” with her daughter, Anna Leigh Waters…

And, for those like us, that had never head of a trichotomy (haha!) it is a “division into three categories”… playing with, playing against, and coaching the teenage phenom, Anna Leigh Waters!

The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters

I experience pickleball with Anna Leigh in three different ways: (1) as her doubles partner, (2) as her singles coach, and (3) as her opponent in pro mixed doubles. Let me start by discussing the experience of being AL’s opponent, as I absolutely hate, hate, hate (can’t say it enough) to play against her.

Playing Against Anna Leigh Waters

AL is a very talented mixed doubles player. She can dink for days, she can handle the aggression of the men, and she doesn’t get intimidated easily, even when she plays against her mother. She is just as intense, aggressive, and fierce when she faces me as her opponent. I, on the other hand, clam up when I face AL on the other side of the pickleball net. And I don’t mean to at all! I have all intentions of beating her when we step on the pickleball court. But, time and time again, even if my partner and I have a large lead, something happens to me internally and I freeze up. It usually doesn’t end well for me, and I always end up feeling so bad for my mixed partner. 

However, on a brighter note, I am really excited to watch her team up with a new partner next year, Ben Johns. I am personally going to play a little less pro mixed doubles brackets, so I can be on the sidelines for her matches, cheering her on!

The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters | Pickler Pickleball

Coaching Anna Leigh Waters

A new experience for me this year has been coaching AL in singles competitions. AL decided to start playing singles this year at the US Open Pickleball Championships in April 2021. She had not played singles in over a year and half, not even in practice, and she came out of the US Open with a bronze medal in pro women’s singles. She decided then and there to take up singles on a regular basis. 

AL and I have had to work together to really learn the singles pickleball strategy and how to expose her strengths during singles play. Singles pickleball, at times, is like a totally different game than doubles pickleball. Now, my job is to keep her positive, composed, and give her pieces of this pickleball strategy that we have worked on together throughout each match and against different opponents. I absolutely love this job and am really learning about AL and myself, as she competes in more and more pickleball tournaments. It has been so exciting for me to sit back on the sidelines and play a very small part in her success and growth in the sport of pickleball.

The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters | Pickler Pickleball

Playing With Anna Leigh Waters

Last, and my most favorite experience, is getting to play next to AL on the pickleball court in pro women’s doubles. First of all, she is so fun to play with.  Her energy is high, she makes me laugh, she can pick me up if I’m down, and I love getting to see her make amazing shots from the best seat in the house – on the court next to her. We strategize together, encourage each other, and make memories I never dreamed possible for a mother and daughter. We have become Nationals Champions together, we’ve had some amazing wins, and we’ve weathered some bad losses. But, we have done it all together, and no one can take that away from us. Not ever. To speak in terms of cake (AL’s favorite), anything else that comes our way is icing.

The Trichotomy of Pickleball with Anna Leigh Waters | Pickler Pickleball


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