You don’t see Anna Leigh Waters too often without her mother, Leigh. It’s not because the two are pickleball pros and partners, but mostly because Anna Leigh is still a minor.
At just 12 years of age, Anna Leigh Waters is making a name for herself in the world of pickleball and, together with her mom, the team has already garnered some accolades and won some gold together.
Their most recent win was the Women’s Double Pro Match at the Tournament of Champions in August, but the duo has played in the Atlanta Open, Texas Open, Las Vegas Open, Nationals and more. Add in the fact that they’ve only been playing pickleball for two years, and their rise seems even more astounding.
“We discovered pickleball in September 2017,” Leigh recalls. “We were evacuated from our home in Delray Beach, Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We didn’t have electricity for two weeks. My dad has a home in Allentown, Pa., so we went there and he taught us how to play. We started the same day, same week, same year. We played straight for two weeks, and when we got back home, we found that the closest place to us that had pickleball was the Delray Tennis Center, and the rest is history.”
For Anna Leigh, playing with her mom isn’t just a way to enjoy family time, it’s like having the best partner you could get. “I love playing with my mom because we just know what the other is going to do before we hit the ball,” she says. “We know what’s going to happen or how to react to it.”
Leigh adds that the team’s innate instincts and approach to the game is a strategy that’s hard to overcome. “You can both be great players on the same side of the net, but if you don’t have the chemistry, you can be disastrous,” she explains. “We practice together all the time. We have that intuition, and that’s a huge advantage for us.”
In addition to the inherent chemistry, Team Waters also plays skinny singles frequently as part of their practice regimen. “We love playing skinny singles, where the server comes in, or the server can’t come in, because it forces you to play total defense,” Leigh says. “I think that has helped my game tremendously, because I was always offense, offense, offense. So I attribute skinny singles to really helping us both Improve.”
Together, their preparation led to one of Anna Leigh’s highest-rated wins—defeating Simone Jardim and Corrine Carr at the Florida Grand Slam. While Team Waters lost to them in the main draw, they met them again and “had nothing to lose.”
“We went in fearless,” Leigh says. “Everything clicked that day. We executed really well. Anna Leigh played like a rock star.”
Off the court, Anna Leigh enjoys soccer, baking and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” She also loves her bull mastiff, Maggie, and her fish, Mr. Gills.
While it’s hard to project where any 12-year-old will be in the future, with a Paddletek sponsorship already in hand, it’s safe to say that Team Waters will be a force of nature in pickleball for years to come. They take their game seriously, but still enjoy growing together as a family through pickleball.
“Every day feels like a gift for us,” says Leigh. “We are so grateful to our family, friends, and supporters for making this possible.”