Meet the Pickleball Pros - Steve Wong

by elizaled on Jan 14, 2015

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Steve Wong at 2014 Pickleball Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona Steve Wong at 2014 Nationals in Buckeye, Arizona

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

Some of my accomplishments include:

  • USAPA SW Regional Tournament, El Mirage, AZ
    – Gold in Men’s Doubles 35+
  • USAPA Nationals VI, Sun City Festival, Buckeye, AZ
    -Silver in Mixed Doubles 35+
  • 2014 SeaTac Spring Open Doubles Skill, SeaTac, WA
    -Silver in Men’s Doubles 5.0, -Bronze in Mixed Doubles 5.0
  • 2014 Grand Canyon State Games, AZ State Pickleball Championships
    -Gold, Men’s Doubles 19+, -Gold, Men’s Doubles Skill 5.0,
    -Bronze, Mixed Doubles 35+ and Skill 5.0

Graphite Stryker Pickleball Paddle Graphite Stryker Pickleball Paddle

Graphite Evoke Paddle Graphite Evoke Paddle

What paddle do you play with and why?
My favorite paddle is the new Graphite Evoke by Onix Sports, because it is the most different new paddle out there. It has nice touch, a big POP, good control. Usually I play about 6 months with my prototypes to see what people love. The Onix Graphite Stryker is the paddle I played with the longest.

What’s your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball?
I was introduced to pickleball in 8th grade. I have been playing athletics all my life. In 2000, I played at 24-Hr Fitness in Bellevue, where I played with folks like Yoda Friedenberg and Don Paschal, a great bunch of players, and that is where I started getting involved in competitive play. I could play and be satisfied with the workout and competitive aspects of any sport. But the social aspect of pickleball is the best thing; it’s what keeps me playing. I make new friends everywhere I play, and when I travel to play in tournaments, I always meet lifelong friends. These are people who will invite me to dinner and to stay in their homes. I see some of my best friends at competitions.

What is your preference - playing indoors or outdoors?
In Surprise, I LIVE for the outdoors, and prefer outdoor play: the wind, the sun, the playing surface. Games seem to go a lot faster.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I like to play doubles better: mixed doubles and men’s doubles. I like working together, figuring out how to use each others strengths in the game. And, I like singles for the ratings.

Working together in doubles play, what does that look like?
Top players play with different skills, they have developed different shots and styles. Playing together, we get to know each others style and shots and learn how to work together for the advantage in the game. An example of working together would be when the ball comes down the middle. In that scenario, whoever has the forehand always has the advantage, so always has the right of way.

What are your favorite places to play? Why?
My favorite place to play is at home in Surprise, Arizona. They call it the “Mecca of Pickleball”. When I moved there 4 years ago, I helped form the Surprise Pickleball Association (SPA). Over time, good players have developed here and people now travel to Surprise, and even move here, just for the level of pickleball played in Surprise. The people I meet for the first time tell me they can see the passion I have for the game. The other day I was playing at the Surprise city courts and met a couple visiting from Toronto. I introduced myself and found they already knew me, but, after playing together for about 10 minutes, they realized how passionate I was about the game and became more passionate about the game as well. Most folks, who begin to share my passion, also start going to tournaments, and find new friends and start living the Pickleball lifestyle. Pickleball is an outlet for folks who fall in love with the game and who like sharing their life-long passion with others.

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
As a coach, I teach folks to:
     get consistent, work on skills, work on getting a high percentage of your shots
and then go for the harder shots.

What is your day job?
My full-time job is President of Onix Sports. I now have 12 employees, so I’m finding myself busier with the business aspects of the company.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make the time to play?
I try to practice 4-5 times a week for 3–5 hours. I do a lot of coaching by invitation. I spend a lot of time doing clinics. I love it when people invite me to do a clinic where I’ve never been before, because I always make new friends.

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?
My main goal is to get pickleball available to youth in schools. When I do clinics, if any fees are collected, they go to my Foundation to support the sport for youth. The Foundation donates paddles to youth organizations. I also do clinics at schools. The long term goal is to get Pickleball in schools around the world. If Pickleball is played in middle school, high school and college, then JV and Varsity play will follow and if each school gets competitive, then the competition level of all players will skyrocket. And we all dream of pickleball one day becoming an Olympic sport!