Meet the Pickleball Pros - Hilary Marold

by elizaled on Jan 28, 2015

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Hilary Marold


I sent an invitation to Hilary via facebook the other day. I asked her if she would like to share some of her pickleball story with our readers. She’s one in a million! Have fun reading about her life-long love of competitive sports! Thanks Hilary!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

I have competed in almost every racquet/paddle sport out there: badminton, racquetball, table tennis, paddle tennis, platform tennis, tennis and now, pickleball. I have many years to my credit, so here goes: 9 National USTA gold balls (tennis), 11 National APTA championships (platform tennis)-Hall of Fame inductee 1998, 15 National USPTA championships (paddle tennis)-Hall of Fame inductee 2012.

I have won 12 National USAPA gold medals from 2009-2014, and most recently, have won medals at the following events:

Tournament of Champions, Ogden, Utah
Gold, Senior Open Mixed Doubles(50plus)
Gold, Senior Open Women's Doubles(50plus)
Silver, Senior Open Women's Singles(50plus)

Huntsman World Senior Games, St. George, Utah
Gold, Women's 60-64 Singles
Gold, Women's 60-64 Doubles
Silver, Women's 5.0 Doubles

USAPA National Championships, Buckeye, Arizona--Gold, Women's 60-64 Singles
Gold, Women's 60-64 Doubles
Silver, Senior Open Women's Singles(50plus)
Silver, Senior Open Mixed Doubles(50plus).

I have also been a television sports broadcaster: NBC Wimbledon 1977 with Bud Collins and John Newcombe, ABC Women's Superstars 1976 (competitor) 1977 (broadcaster) with Al Michaels.  I have been the only female athlete to compete in CBS World Racquet Championships 1977 and I have been featured in Sports Illustrated, Us, Racquet, Women's Sports (cover), and People magazines.  I have also appeared on numerous television shows, among those, the David Letterman Show.

What paddle do you play with and why?

Having bought and tried just about every pickleball paddle out there, I still am happy and content playing with my original choice! That is the Spike’s (ZZT Sports) EVO I Classic.

EVO I Composite Paddle EVO I Composite Paddle

I believe for me it has a large 'sweet spot' with the best control and 'feel' as well as offering enough power. The only difference I have made in my Spike’s EVO I Classic is moving up in weight. I started out with the average 7-8 oz. paddle, but I noticed that during heavy winds I felt at a disadvantage. I play with a 10 oz+ paddle now and find the added weight suits my game fine. I do not recommend this paddle weight to beginners or players with unorthodox strokes. In all my sports I have always chosen to have a racquet or paddle with some weight, and it makes sense now more than ever, especially at my age where it is evident I'm not as strong as I used to be. I appreciate how my heavier paddle gives me more defensive security and offensive depth than a lighter paddle.

What’s your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball?

Yvonne Hackenberg and I competed together in the late 70's, early 80's on the platform tennis tour. She called me in 2009 and told me she was playing a sport called, 'pickleball'. I had heard of it. She wanted me to fly out to Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona to be her partner. Because of my background it seemed like I would like it. We won our age division doubles and were runners up in the open women's. The next year we won the National Open Women's Doubles together, 2010. We have played every year together since then. I believe we have won the national gold medal every year in women's doubles in our age. I'm proud to say we also won the gold medal this year in the Tournament of Champions- Ogden, Utah in the Senior Open Women's Doubles (50 plus), giving away those 15 years to many of our opponents.

Hilary Marold, Jen Lucore Yvonne H. at Tournament of Champions Ogden, Utah Sept 2014 From left...Hilary Marold, Yvonne Hackenberg, Jennifer Lucore, and Alex Hamner

What is your preference - playing indoors or outdoors?

Since there is no pickleball where I live, (Corpus Christi, Texas) I get to practice only when I arrive at a tournament early. Since I only play 2-3 tournaments a year, my opinion might not be based on enough 'indoor' experiences. I have only played one indoor tournament ever! It was in College Station, Texas at the Texas Senior Games. Luckily I had brought two pair of tennis shoes. My first pair was old and the soles rather worn out. I slipped on the court and did not get good traction. The other pair was newer and worked great. I found the ball had to get some getting used to. It seemed faster and 'slid out' at times, more so than I'd experienced with the outdoor ball. I did like the fact that there were no worries about the sun or wind. Overall still, I am an outdoor person! Can't help but love competing with all the natural elements on a beautiful and sunny or a cold and windy day!! My vote is to play outdoors!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like singles for the workout. It is both physically more demanding and psychologically more intense. And it's all on MY shoulders, whether I win or lose in singles. However, the camaraderie and satisfaction in winning together with a partner in doubles competition far outweighs my love of singles in the long run. I'm too social! I like to have fun and kid around on a court and I like to share all that with a friend/partner next to me 'in battle'.  I also like to interact with my two opponents; it is more of a chess game in doubles. Anyone who knows me well knows I love ANY game, the more people playing the merrier!

Working together in doubles play, what does that look like?

Working together in doubles should look like a good, healthy meal and taste like one too. Good teamwork should look effortless, with all the hard work and preparation done prior. The teammates should be excited to 'dig in' to the match. Everything should go calmly, be enjoyed, savored, while leaving no bad taste in your mouth and no currents of negativity left behind on the court. In other words, to be in a good partnership, it has to feel good, be fun, feel right and be a healthy experience. Both players should understand the team strategy and his/her individual role on the court, which can vary throughout a match. Each partner needs to be able to meet and understand the needs of the other throughout a tough match. Encouragement, strategic knowledge, and levelheadedness in the 'tiebreaker times' come in handy by both partners, but it is also of comfort to know that the leadership roll can be assumed by either, depending upon the circumstances. It is ok to allow moving 'ying to yang' and vice versa. To show respect and have faith in your partner's abilities is key always, on and off the court.

Tournament of Champions Ogden, Utah with Alex Hamner and Hilary Marold Tournament of Champions Ogden, Utah Sept '14 with Alex Hamner (gold) Senior 50+ Open singles ( Hilary -silver medal on the left) on left

What are your favorite places to play? Why?

It is always enjoyable for me to play in places where I have played before and have a 'history'. Obviously, I love St. George, Utah, as I always try and compete in the Huntsman World Senior Games in October every year. Late summer, early fall is a gorgeous time to be in Utah. I enjoy Ogden, Utah for the Tournament of Champions in September too.  It is a beautiful area with the surrounding mountains and clean air. I loved Arizona for the nationals in Buckeye and look forward to Nationals VII at the Robson Ranch in Casa Grande, Arizona. I would also like to play in the Canadian Open sometime. I bet that would be a pretty area!

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

My 'secret sauce' would have to be my parents putting a paddle tennis paddle in my hand at four years old, then playing my first doubles tennis tournament at nine years old in Southern California. My first doubles partner ever turned out not to be too bad. Her name is Peggy Michel. She ended up winning Wimbledon doubles with Yvonne Goolagong Cawley. We used to ride our bikes to the park and play. She practiced tennis and played more tournaments than I did, while I went to the beach a lot and played my paddle tennis, volleyball, and surfed. What we do have in common is that I also have a partner named 'Yvonne'!?! TIPS: I would stress conditioning, footwork, the fundamentals of shotmaking/strokes, and the mental preparations that go along with strategy and the positive attitude needed to enjoy competition. A successful athlete has to learn how to face defeat head on with a positive attitude and learn from the experience while on the other hand, being able to accept any victory with grace.

What is your day job?

My husband and I own rental properties (houses, 4plexes, duplexes...) in and around Corpus Christi, Texas. We are our own management company, so there is always work to be done and never a dull moment!! We could write a book!! (...the good, the bad, and the you know the rest!! )

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make the time to play?

I do not have to worry about 'finding the time' to play pickleball, in that as I said prior, there is no pickleball where I live. There is some pickleball about 2 1/2 hours away in San Antonio, but that is still quite far to travel. We have given some clinics here at the YWCA (indoor) and the country club (outdoor), but the attitude here among the tennis playing community is a bit derisive of a 'smaller' racquet/paddle game. It is also extremely windy in Corpus Christi, which could be another factor. My feeling is that my hometown will eventually come around to pickleball, but they will be definitely 'late to the party' and missing out on the fun that we have now!

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?

I have played platform tennis in Europe: England, Belgium, Holland, to name a few countries. It would be a nice goal to be able to compete in pickleball in Europe, Asia, Australia and the other continents in my life time. Is that too lofty a goal??!

No, Hilary, that is not too lofty a goal!  We all hope to see international competitions in the near future!