HEART OF UTAH

Heart of Utah: Orem pickleball champion says don’t knock it til you try it

May 21, 2021, 5:00 AM | Updated: 8:02 am

OREM, Utah — A national champion pickleball player is from right here in Orem, Utah, but she was adamant about not even trying the sport until just a couple years ago.

Related: Salt Lake ranks fourth nationally for pickleball — but what is it?

Now Callie Smith helps encourage and train even younger pickleball players in one of the quickest growing sports around.

Smith just won the US Open pro doubles title in Naples, Florida recently, with her doubles partner Catherine Parenteau. And she’s proving while pickleball started as a popular sport among senior citizens, the younger generation drives its growth.

Orem pickleball champ transitioned from tennis

Smith (nee Craig) played tennis for BYU and then the University of Utah from 2010-2014. Her family is full of accomplished tennis players around the state. The Orem resident coached tennis, and she just knew she would not like pickleball.

“I saw these people playing what I found out to be pickle, and I was a typical tennis player and scoffed at it. I thought that was the stupidest sport. Who would even play that,” she laughed. “I was like, I will never be caught dead with a pickleall paddle in my hand.”

Then her grandpa George Snell, whose name is on the pickleball courts in Kaysville, convinced her to join a tournament with him around 3 years ago. USA Pickleball Association coach Mike Nielsen was watching and talked to her, but she still wasn’t that interested.

A date with pickleball

And then she and her husband Kyle tried out the sport on a date. Two people came over and asked to play against them. Callie and Kyle thought for sure they would dominate the game.

“I walked over to my husband and said, look, we’re gonna play them real fast, we’re gonna kill them, and then get back to our date. He goes OK deal,” Smith remembers. “They didn’t look athletic, we were both super in shape, I just got off the Utah tennis team. But we got slaughtered. They had us running all over the place.”

She said she couldn’t even believe she lost. After that, she told herself there must be more to the game than she thought, and that’s what really hooked her. She connected with Nielsen again, and now she plays tournaments all over the country.

When Callie is training or competing, Kyle wrangles their two young children. Sometimes they compete as mixed doubles. He is her number one fan.

From making fun to embracing the fun

This sport is growing fans and players and Smith knows why.

“It’s something new to learn. It’s social, it’s fun. You can smack talk to the other person just right in front of you. It’s like you get to be with your best friends all the time. Some of my best friends that I’ve met are from pickleball,” she said.

She has gone from making fun of the sport, to embracing it.

“It’s something you can compete at, something you can have fun at. People are willing to help you learn the game and improve and get better. And I think it just helps build the community honestly. It’s amazing.”

Growing popularity of pickleball in Utah and beyond

So many people enjoy pickleball now, you can’t get a court in some places in Utah. People will park their cars at four in the morning and shine their headlights onto the pickleball courts in Orem just so they can play. Kids and teens ride their bikes and scooters over to the Kaysville courts to try it out. The Smiths’ five year old daughter has started playing and loves it.

Smith says you can compete with older generations and the younger generations, and there’s no competitive gap.

She now offers pickleball coaching and camps. She has the Paddle Pickleball Academy with a new indoor and outdoor facility in Springville and Farmington going up for programs of all ages.

And if you are still skeptical, Smith says just try it.

“I guess for all the naysayers out there, it’s kind of like when your parents say, hey, have you tried this food? If you haven’t tried it, you can’t say you don’t like it. It’s the same thing. If you haven’t tried pickleball, you can’t say you don’t like it.”

Heart of Utah

refugees Ukraine...
Mark Jackson

Brigham City man uses time between work gigs to help refugees in Ukraine

His family says Solomon Smith is uniquely trained to bring supplies to refugees in Ukraine, after having worked in the Peace Corp in Africa.
3 months ago
Spencer Truman st george wwii veteran...
Simone Seikaly

St. George WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday on Valentine’s Day

Spencer Truman was trained to enter combat in gliders, and fought in Operations Overlord and Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge.
5 months ago
afghan community fund helps refugees arriving in utah - small boy holds drawing...
Becky Bruce

Update: Afghan Community Fund raises more than a million for Utah refugees

The Afghan Community Fund collected more than $1.1 million since mid-October, though Gov. Spencer Cox acknowledged an unprecedented level of need.
6 months ago
Sarah Pugliese...
Curt Gresseth

Pandemic can’t stop Topaz Fairy on her mission to spread joy

As a special friend to abused and traumatized children across the country, the Topaz Fairy -- who is also a graduate student at the University of Utah -- was determined not to be derailed in her mission of joy by the pandemic.
8 months ago
...
Amber Gentry

Volunteers of America has resources for homeless youth

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Utah’s homeless youth are not only facing hunger, but are experiencing homelessness. Volunteers of America is a program that aims to promote and spread awareness for the more vulnerable people in our community.   As a part of Utah Gives Back presented by Select Health, The Director of Youth […]
8 months ago
Photo of participants in  a past Youth Futures SleepOut event. Photo Credit: Youth Futures Utah...
Eliza Craig

Overnight on the asphalt (or under the stars?) – raising awareness for Utah’s homeless youth

At any one point in time in 2021, 3,565 individuals in the state of Utah were unhoused. Only 2,410 of the unhoused population were in shelters.
8 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Heart of Utah: Orem pickleball champion says don’t knock it til you try it