Meet Penn Miniken - On His Way to Pickleball Stardom
I met Penn at the Pickleball Station 5.0 Tournament last December. He was wearing a tennis outfit that belonged to his dad. There is a certain mix of humility and audacity in every pro player I've met that makes you want to pay attention to what they do next, and Penn is no exception, Enjoy!
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
I’ve been on a steep trajectory over the last 2 years. In May 2016, I won the 3.5 gold medal in men’s doubles at the International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia. The following year in 2017, I played above my ranking and won the 4.5 gold at the same tournament in men’s doubles. At the 2017 Pacific Northwest Regionals in Bend, I played in my last 4.5 tournament and won 4.0 Men’s Singles 35+ gold, 4.5 Men’s Doubles 35+ gold, and 4.5 Mixed Doubles 35+ gold. As of September 2017, I am a 5.0 player and am currently eating up the beat downs from top players, but I hope to start getting mine in 2018.
What paddle do you play with and why?
I love the AMPED Selkirk Maxima because the paddle shape moves the sweet spot farther out the paddle while also putting more weight toward the head of the paddle. With the extended sweet spot and the head weight, I feel comfortable with a lighter paddle (7.5 oz currently) and I have a smooth swing with good action. I also use the Selkirk S1G to mix things up and keep the brain adapting to different paddles, much like the concept of 'muscle confusion' that comes from CrossFit.
What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
As a middle schooler in 1980, I would grab my lunch and sprint to the gym to play on two pickleball courts the P.E. teacher would set up every day at lunchtime. I was happy to find the sport again alive and well in 2009, but I really began to dedicate myself to the pickleball in October 2015. Much like the middle schooler, I found myself 35 years later at the local YMCA eating lunch in line while waiting for the next match up. They say you spend your entire life trying to satisfy the person you were when you were 13 years old, and it appears I am hard at it!
What is your preference: playing indoor or outdoor?
Outdoor for sure, because I absolutely love the DuraFast 40. I enjoy the added variable of the wind as well. Indoor play, however, serves my pickleball addiction just fine.
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
The doubles game is my focus. I love doubles because I enjoy working with a partner. Every match-up is different and requires adaptation and deep communication. Men’s doubles is much like a four-person game of chess with a heavy dose of dodge ball. Singles? They say a true waterman should be able to canoe, swim, sail, surf etc… and I think it’s equally true that a pickleball player should have a doubles, mixed and a singles game. I love singles for how it informs my doubles game, so I play singles whenever I can find someone who will play with me!
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
Where my friends are! You can find me drawing chalk lines on tennis courts around town in Bellingham (don’t tell anyone), playing at Cornwall Park in Bellingham, Perrigo Park in Redmond or the Pickleball Station.
What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
Glen Peterson recommended the book The Inner Game of Tennis to me and the concept of developing your 'body intelligence' is key. When you first play against someone, you need to use your head to pick apart their game, after which you need to allow your body to absorb their game. Again, consciously training is very important, but yielding to your body with its reflexes and reactions is the end goal. Playing against many different players with their unique styles builds your 'body intelligence' and your arsenal of weapons and defenses. Play as much as you can against all sorts of players to develop that arsenal.
What is your day job?
My wife and I built and operate two Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt shops in Bellingham, WA. Among other things, I manage marketing, which involves making lots of balloon animals for our younger guests.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
I average about 10 hours a week. I have a lot of flexibility with owning my own business, so I typically play a few days a week during the mid-morning. Mid-mornings are perfect after I’ve given the business some attention and before the kids get out of school.
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
Now, if I told you, wouldn’t they lose their magic? Wish I could say it involves drinking lots of whiskey the night before, but that never seems to work.
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
I turn 50 in 2018. I want to take down a big medal in the Senior Open. It’s gonna happen. Also, a recent mixed doubles partner of mine told me that she wanted to play every match up in such a way that the opponents across the net would want to share a beer with us after the match. Now there’s a good goal for all levels.
Anything else you’d like to share?
How unbelievably fortunate I am to have this sport in my life. I love being in the company of happy active people who want to 'battle' with me. Tournaments are a great time to see old friends and meet new players. My social circle gets wider with every day I play. Addiction never felt so good! I’d also like to add how interesting it is to observe in myself the level of focus required to play at the top. My body and my mind change daily and feeling these changes in efficiency and focus is like tapping into something primal, something bigger than myself. Hope to see you on the court soon!