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Thank you, 2023. Welcome, 2024!

The recently concluded tournament in Bangkok was relatively fruitful as I thought I did much better than I thought I would and walked away with five medals. I've been blogging about my pickleball journey and how amazing 2023 has been, but in 2024, my narrative would take on a different stance.

While competing and playing at a semi-pro level or pro level, depending on how you see it, it's full of ups and downs that I will document along the way. I wanted to take this chance to reposition myself as I look at pickleball very differently than when I first started in the Phuket APO tournament earlier this year. Having committed to playing pickleball seriously, I've already signed up for my first-ever PPA pro tournament in Phoenix, Arizona as I continue to think about what's next.

I wanted this roundup piece to look at a summary of 2023 and what to look forward to from 2024 onwards. In silently meditating and reflecting, I decided that my 2024 narrative would be about giving back to others through pickleball and promoting inclusion. Whether it's through running clinics or helping younger individuals get on board, hopefully, it'll change their lives for the better, especially through my constant work with inclusion with the autistic and ADHD community.

A brief recap

So I started playing pickleball in August 2022, participated in my first tournament, then took a break and restarted again in 2023 at the Asia Pickleball Open in Phuket where I almost gave up the game. It was very frustrating as I couldn't understand many things that were happening. Then, I happened to meet some really good friends who spoke sense into me, which made me decide to spend more time trying to understand this game of pickleball and to play it as best as I could. Since then, it's been serious unlearning and relearning everything which has led to a string of results that have exceeded my expectations. The biggest breakthrough was at the World Pickleball Championships in Bali where I surpassed my expectations to clinch two singles titles and a mixed doubles title. I've never looked back since.

Looking ahead

Thankfully, I've been surrounded by people who have supported and taken me through the difficult days, such as my parents, close friends, and my sponsors who took that leap of faith and trusted me. 2023 was a year where I was developing myself, and I think that's never going to finish. But I think it's also time to look into something more, and so in 2024, I want to spend more time using pickleball to pay it forward. Paying it forward is important because, our time on this earth is limited, yet there are so many people with potential out there that, given the right mentoring and coaching, can go far. And I hope that they'll always go further than I ever will.

My trip to the US this time around, hopefully, will give me new knowledge and new wisdom that I can bring back to Asia and share with everyone else, you know, my lessons, my journey, and to hopefully grow, first of all, a much higher performing Asian team. Secondly, I think what's more important is to share the lessons that pickleball has taught me in the past year and how it's changed my life. 2024 is going to be exciting.

With a full calendar of events of almost eight events in total and many other pickleball initiatives I'm looking to embark on, I'm excited to work with so many of my trusted friends, communities and sponsors as well. It has taken me a while to get to this point, and this athletic journey has shown me that we need to keep digging our heels deep. In life, things are ever-changing. I always believe that we need to be flexible in the way we think, approach problems, and deal with issues. More importantly, it's no longer about me and about using opportunities to help and guide people to give back to others. Even if it's just one person.

And so that marks the closing of the 2023 chapter and the start of the 2024 season. Follow me on Instagram (@gritmettle) for more updates as I start dabbling into a more professional pickleball career starting with Phoenix, Arizona in January. Hopefully, you can share with me the lessons of your journey as well.

This is Darren signing out and, as always, onward.


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