Junior Champions - McKenna Hastings and Kendall Hastings
Sisters McKenna and Kendall Hastings are junior pickleball players making a name for themselves in pickleball. McKenna (age 14) and Kendall (age 12) are the youngest members of an active pickleball family residing in Sequim, Washington. They started competing in pickleball tournaments three years ago, and often partner together in doubles and compete against each other in singles. Occasionally McKenna and Kendall also partner with one of their parents or grandparents when they play in tournaments.
McKenna and Kendall have already accumulated an impressive collection of medals. Both girls have played twice in Nationals. Kendall played in her first tournament when she was just nine years old. At age ten she was the youngest participant at Nationals. Kendall and McKenna visited PickleballCentral last week so we had an opportunity to talk about their pickleball story.
How were you introduced to pickleball?
McKenna: We first started playing tennis with our parents a few years ago when I was 11 and Kendall was 9, but that wasn’t very competitive so we switched to pickleball. It was our dad that first introduced us to pickleball.
Kendall: At first when we tried pickleball we didn’t like it because we were so used to the feel of tennis. But we started playing more and getting the feel for it. Our family moved to a new house where we built a pickleball court, which we’ve had for four years. Also I have small hands and used a two-handed backhand in tennis which worked well for me in pickleball.
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
McKenna: At USAPA Nationals we won gold in Junior Doubles for 14-under. Our most meaningful recent medal won was at the Indoor International Tournament in Centralia, WA this past May. We won Silver in Women’s 4.0 Doubles. We came all the way up through the loser’s bracket after having lost to the Gold winners in our first match then playing against them again in the finals and winning silver.
Kendall: Another meaningful tournament medal for me was the 2016 USAPA Nationals, Junior Singles. I beat Rachel Elliott (then age 14) then Rachel worked her way back up and we played against each other again in the finals; Rachel won Gold and I won Silver. We went to three games, 12-10. It was a real nail biter! I love playing against Rachel.
How many tournaments do you play in per year? Do you have a favorite?
We can’t play in very many since we are in school during the school year. We play in about six per year. Our favorites are the USAPA Nationals and the USAPA Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament in Bend, Oregon.
What paddle do you play with and why?
Kendall: We both play with the Selkirk Power Core Pro S1G. This paddle works well for my two-handed backhand. McKenna sometimes does a one-handed backhand and sometimes two-handed and she likes it too. It’s a good paddle for power and touch.
What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
McKenna and Kendall: Outdoors!
Do you prefer playing singles or doubles?
Kendall: Singles, because you have no one else to blame. All the shots go to you.
What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
McKenna: Watch your opponents during the warm-up. Try to figure out their strengths and weaknesses, who is the stronger or weaker player. Look at their mobility to see if lobs might work well.
Kendall: Have a good inside-out shot to keep people on their toes. Isolate and play to your opponent’s weaknesses.
How many hours a week do you play?
McKenna and Kendall: As much as we can with all of our other sports. We play with family and friends and do drills with our dad.
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
McKenna: No, but we should start one!
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
McKenna: I want to become a 4.5 by the end of this year.
Kendall: I would like to become a 4.5 by the end of this year. I also want to work on my sportsmanship and being more positive while I play.
Anything else you’d like to share about your pickleball experience?
Kendall: Pickleball is so great because it’s a way that I can bond with my family. It means the world to me that my grandparents can still play with me. Two years ago I played with my grandpa against my sister in a bronze medal match. It’s such a good family sport.
Well said Kendall! We have no doubt that your grandparents and parents agree.