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The best reality check is to put yourself out there. (My 2024 PPA journey)

Well, here we are again, at the end of a truly exciting past 4-6 weeks, where I finally took the plunge and played my first-ever PPA Pro Tournament. And for those who don't know what a PPA Tournament is, it's the premier pickleball brand and franchise globally where the best players compete. When I finally arrived in the US, I got to train with some of the best players before my tournament, made some great friends along the way and met some of the other pro athletes who have been nothing less than welcoming of me as a Singaporean.

It all starts and ends with the mind.

I could have done much better in the pro category for my singles and doubles. I was super nervous during my singles, but at that level, it becomes a game of who holds their mental state the best and who shows up at the key points. That day, my competitors were more steadfast than me and deserved the win and progress. It was a learning lesson on staying strong and combating the external elements, which we all had to do, and really about getting over my nerves early on. 

All in all, it was great fun, and I think that the crowning moment was for my 35+ 5.0 Singles where I managed to rough out the gold medal. Kudos to my competitors who were with me playing in as low as 6-degree weather at night. We were all struggling with the cold and, of course, on the back of many matches we were already playing. It was a great experience, with many humbling lessons and something I believe I will continuously put myself through with many more tournaments in the US. This experience in the US has taught and shown me what a truly global and world standard is.

Nonetheless, it is not so much about the win that I like to share but about how the process and journey have changed me and given me many new insights into what I want to do with Pickleball moving forward. I have never seen players move so fast, hit so hard, stay so consistent and yet embrace winning and losing in the true spirit of sportsmanship. I think this is something that we all have to learn. When we are out there, we are all competitors and gladiators in the arena, and there will always only be one winner. How we embrace the loss more importantly than how we embrace a win truly signifies the kind of person we are. More than just technical skills, we always need to ask ourselves whether we are playing the sport in the right spirit. I don't think anyone can ever expect to always win in a sport like Tennis or Pickleball. There will always be one winner, but what matters is that everyone goes out there, tries their best, leaves everything out on the court, and walks out with their head held high. 

How we deal with the loss is a true reflection of how much more we have to give and a testament of how far we want to push ourselves. It is never easy to lose, that is for sure, and at least for me, I like losing because it teaches me so much more and shows me how much more I have to learn. 

Always strive to be better than yesterday.

Secondly, we must always aspire to be greater than where we are right now. It is easy to be a small fish or any size of fish in a small pond. However, if we want to do and achieve great things, we must get out into the big blue ocean. We need to put ourselves out there against the best in the world, play catch up, understand what it took for them to get there, and emulate that by adding our special sauce to it. All of this takes effort and a certain amount of tweaking to our mental models and persevering all the way. This is something that I truly wanted to experience for myself when I decided to play in the PPA in Phoenix, Arizona. 

And for me to even look at, to be on the same premise as the top ten players in the world, and to hit with some of them has already been amazing. And it's shown me how much further I have to go and how much more I have to push myself, which I'm committed to. These are lessons that I also would like to share with other fellow pickleball players in Singapore and around the region.

Competitors on the court, family off the court.

Thirdly, this concept of paying it forward and being generous came out very strongly during this experience in Arizona where I saw that while everyone is a competitor, everyone is also a very tight-knit family trying their best to help each other. 

When I was playing, I had other pro players helping me on the side, helping me get water, guiding me, and warming up with me before a match. I think these guys were awesome. You know who you are, and you guys helped me pull through, especially during my 35+ event. It is easy not to be there for a fellow athlete and competitor, which is the norm, but I respect that these guys stayed on. The cold was blistering, yet they stayed on and supported me, and we all went for dinner to celebrate our victories as friends and family. That kind of generosity and paying it forward touches me emotionally when I think about it. And this is something that I hope continues within the Pickleball Fraternity, especially here in Singapore.

You are your first investor!

A lot of times, we want to get better and do bigger things, but we fail to take the initiative to invest in ourselves when investing in ourselves allows us to prove in some ways to others that they should also take a chance on us. When I chose to go to Arizona and play in the PPA, it was fully self-funded without monetary sponsorships. Everyone thought I was a little bit crazy, but what I told everyone was, if I don't invest in myself and I don't believe in myself, why would anyone believe in me? 

And this is something that I stand strongly by. Investing in myself allowed me to understand that this journey, while it is fun and exciting, is also an extremely tough one and I completely respect all the athletes out there who pursue this full-time and are trying to make a professional career out of pickleball. 

All of you have my utmost respect. It is not easy, and hopefully, there will come a day when I can do my part in supporting some of you in your professional career pathways. It has always been in my plan to pay it forward, with coaching being one of the ways. After the PPA, I decided to start my pickleball coaching academy which I will eventually touch on more. Some major developments and initiatives coming up in Pickleball that I have put together have started to take shape that I will be announcing very soon on my socials and website. I am blessed with very supportive partners and friends who have helped me through and encouraged me to carry on this journey with Pickleball. It is not something I have done on my own but with the encouragement of so many friends and especially my family, my parents who have been super supportive and telling me to continue pursuing and pushing forward. 

And, of course, thank you for reading my posts. Hopefully, some of these lessons can also be applied in whatever context in your daily life.

Till the next post, onward. 


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