Professional Pickleball player Lauren Stratman wasn’t one of those people who found themselves immediately hooked on the sport. In fact, it wasn’t until she played in her first tournament that she knew the sport of Pickleball was for her.
Lauren said, “I’ve always enjoyed the competitive side of tennis. So, I grew up playing tennis and I always loved going to tournaments. I was never really big into practice, but I would always get so excited about going to travel and going to a new place and staying in a hotel as a kid. So, I felt like when I went to this Pickleball tournament, it just brought all those feelings back of competing, like as a kid again. So, I don’t know, it was just kind of a new outlet for me, and I had already stopped competing in tennis tournaments. So, I think it just brought all of those feelings back.”
Lauren competed in tennis tournaments every weekend from the time she was seven years old. She played tennis in college and competed in some of the lower-level professional tournaments. According to Lauren, she did okay in some of the doubles events, but she knew she wasn’t going to be a top professional tennis player, so she let that dream go. Now she is a professional Pickleball player near the top of the sport and she has plans to be one of the top players.
One of the things that helps Lauren compete at the highest level is something her Dad taught her in the fifth grade. Proper preparation prevents poor performance is a mantra always in the back of her mind. Lauren described what it means to her, “I always needed to be prepared or properly prepared. And so, what that entails is just making sure you’re doing it. You’re on the right training regimen that you are training the right way, training properly, not showing up to a tournament without obviously your bag, your equipment, your shoes, having all your travel preparations all laid out. So, I’ve been very meticulous about how I travel and how I’m getting ready and preparing.”
The idea of preparation is not just the physical component but mental preparation as well. Lauren said a few days before a tournament, she visualizes how she wants to play and imagines the results she wants to have. When she was young, her Dad would take her through guided imaginary for 15 or 20 minutes right before she walked on the court. He would take Lauren through an entire match, starting with shaking hands with her opponent and then through all the points and scenarios.
Nowadays, Lauren spends 15 to 20 minutes the morning of a tournament event visualizing the match. She said, “I do the same thing just with myself where I just will go through the match. If I make mistakes, I shake them off quickly, no negative reactions. I envision how I’m feeling when I’m playing. So, I literally just want to go through like the actual feelings of how I’m striking the ball as it strikes clean. Am I making the right shot selections? If somebody cheats me out, I’m imagining how I mentally just am moving past it. I’m visualizing myself on the medal stand with my partner, who else is on the medal stand? So, stuff like that where I just try to get as specific as I possibly can so that I’m really ready for everything that could possibly happen out there.