All Stars

Pickleball’s Catherine Parenteau Runs the Court

The No. 2-ranked, Naples-based player pulls out all the stops as she makes her mark on the hottest sport in town.

BY May 1, 2023
Catherine Parenteau
Pickleball star Simone Jardim introduced Catherine to the sport. The 28-year-old is now a professional player, with big-name sponsorships and tournaments around the country. (Photo by Christina Bankson)

Not long ago, Catherine Parenteau was looking for a new challenge. Tennis had been in her life since she was 4 years old. She had excelled at the sport in her native Canada and played at Michigan State University.  But as her National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility ran out, she realized she needed a life after tennis. 

Her tennis coach, Simone Jardim, introduced her to pickleball. Catherine didn’t know much about the sport, which is similar to tennis but played on a smaller court with a larger ball and smaller paddle. She enjoyed the fast-paced rhythm of the game, and the naturally competitive Catherine Parenteau was good at it. She had found her second life. 

Now, Catherine is one of the best pickleball players in the country. She’s made her home in Naples, which is heralded as a hub of the sport. The honor is partly due to the Naples Pickleball Center in East Naples Community Park, where the annual US Open Pickleball Championships occur and where Catherine got her first taste of success. She won gold in the mixed doubles bracket at the US Open in 2017, having picked up a pickleball paddle six months earlier. Since, she has won 16 Professional Pickleball Association tournament titles and topped the rankings of the best pickleball players in the country.

Catherine moved to Naples when interest in the sport was booming. Her former coach Simone had already established herself as one of the top players and instructors in the Naples area. She and her partner, Athena Trouillot, moved, and Catherine got a job as an instructor at Collier’s Reserve Country Club. “There are so many courts in almost every community. It’s amazing,” she says of her new home.

Success was quick. Catherine was winning tournaments, and as the sport grew, so did the purses. She’s now a full-time pickleball player, receiving sponsorships from companies like Skechers and traveling to 20-plus tournaments a year. She teaches clinics after matches but had to give up her Naples instructor gig. “I had to focus on training and playing,” she says.    

When Catherine’s not on the road, she’s at home training. She spends two hours a day with one-on-one, on-court training in her private community, followed by an hour and a half in the gym for lifting weights.

In some ways, the transition was easy from tennis to pickleball. The quick reaction and footwork skills developed in tennis suited her well in her new sport. She still spends much of her workouts on agility drills, plyometrics and conditioning. But, she had to develop a “soft game”—to loosen the grip on the paddle to gently and strategically place the ball over the net. 

Her biggest challenge now is finding time off. Pickleball tournaments are held year-round, so she’s had to create her own off-season. Summers are now a time to visit family, relax and just play for fun. She loves how accessible the sport is. All you need is a paddle and a little hand-eye coordination. “I can play with my mother and grandmother and have a pretty good rally,” she says. 

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