Name: Tanner Wilhoit | Age: 27 | Home courts: Asheville, NC
How were you introduced to pickleball?
I actually first tried pickleball while on vacation in Hilton Head, SC around 2017. However, all the groups back in my hometown of Asheville only played between Monday-Friday and 9am-5pm when I was normally working, so I never got the chance to play. Then, in 2020, I was furloughed from my day job and I was able to start playing with some local groups. I instantly fell in love and got the pickleball bug!
What have your greatest challenges been on the path to upping your skill?
One of the toughest challenges for me has been finding the time to travel to larger tournaments and finding partners for those events. I’m very lucky to have people and places to drill and practice around Asheville, but finding partners of the same age/skill than can travel to tournaments can be tough!
Which TMPR paddle do you play with and why?
I use the Ascend LX (medium weight – and preferably blue, or the new Indigo Ice!). I love the extra length of the grip & paddle – it gives me a little extra reach over other paddles. Also, the shape and weighting of the paddle are very comfortable to me as an ex-tennis player. It gives me the ability to drive the ball low when needed and helps with quick hands battles at the net over other paddles.
Do you have a racquet or paddle sport background? If so, how has that influenced your pickleball game?
I played tennis in college, and I grew up playing table tennis for fun (or ping-pong for the less competitive). I think tennis really helped with my pickleball singles game – a lot of the court positioning and strategy was a relatively easy crossover. Tennis and table tennis have both helped my hands at the kitchen in pickleball.
What do you like most about pickleball?
It’s so hard to narrow it down to one thing! First and foremost, my favorite aspect of pickleball has always been the social nature of the game. I have made so many friends through pickleball. In less than two years, I’ve made more friends through pickleball than I ever did playing tennis. I also like that it’s a sport that anyone can learn and play quickly.
What is one of your fondest memories you’ve experienced in conjunction with pickleball?
Other than meeting so many kind, incredible, and fun people through the sport, I would say my favorite memories related to pickleball has been teaching the game to my family. After playing for a while and playing in multiple tournaments, I was able to teach my wife, both of my parents, in-laws, and sister-in law. Also, my nephew who lives in St. Louis (about 4 years old) has seen videos of me playing, and he wants to play with “Uncle Tanner” the next time we get to see each other!
What advice would you give new players who are just learning the game?
Ask questions, stay humble, and have fun! Everyone I met when I first started playing were extremely welcoming and willing to help me learn the game – this is one of the other great aspects of the sport. The pickleball community is one of the most welcoming and fun group out there!