Pickleball has been on the rise in recent years, and the top ranked player in the world is from Montgomery County, Maryland.
Ben Johns, 23, has won more than $146,000 in prize money and has 50 Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) titles.
“It’s kind of what I’d call an unsolved sport,” he said. “Everyone’s still kind of figuring out what is the best way to play.”
He’s ranked No. 1 in the world by the PPA.
“There’s definitely a lot of strategic elements and placing the ball where you want it at the right time, shot selection, all that,” he said.
Pickleball is played on a small court, and the ball doesn’t bounce very high, so the game is played low to the ground.
“I love it ‘cause it’s really a sport for anybody,” Johns said. “Anybody can play. It doesn’t matter your age, guy-girl it’s like about even. Whatever your background is – sport background, no sport background – everyone loves it and everyone can play.”
He said one common strategy a lot of people use is aiming the ball at the opponent and trying to hit them. It’s called tagging and it means they’ll have less time to get out of the way.
When he isn’t volleying pickleballs, Johns studies material science at the University of Maryland.
He used his skills to partner with a manufacturing company to design his own paddle.
“The hardest part was juggling the school and the pickleball,” Johns said. “Both are super enjoyable, individually, but when you combine them, you’re almost always stressed out about I gotta get this assignment done or I got a tournament coming up and I haven’t practiced, so the hardest part is just time management.”
After he graduates, Johns plans to continue his pro pickleball career. He also runs a travel company called Pickleball Getaways where people can book all-inclusive vacations to go play the game.
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