Simone Jardim has seen a number of changes in her sport as pickleball’s popularity has exploded over the last few years.
One of the biggest has been an influx of younger players who have helped drive this growth. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball participation almost doubled in 2022 to 8.9 million players over the age of 6, up from 4.8 million the previous year. Players aged 18-34 now make up the largest percentage of pickleball players at 28.8% nationwide.
That youth movement has also been evident on the professional circuit, where the 43-year-old Jardim has been a dominant force since she began competing in 2016.
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“It’s faster, not just the speed of the game but the rhythm of the game,” said Jardim, a Naples resident and the world’s No. 1 women’s player from 2016-20. “You have people that can cover the court a lot better.”
Parris Todd is one of those professional pickleball newcomers. The 24-year-old former tennis player picked up the sport about two years ago and, at least initially, experienced a bit of a learning curve.
“When I first started playing, it’s very humbling,” Todd said. “I came out on the courts and I’m losing to 60-year-old women. It’s really a confidence killer.”
Todd soon picked up on the nuances of the game and started competing on the pro tour in early 2022, winning seven singles and doubles gold medals last season. Last September, days before Hurricane Ian hit Lee County, Todd moved from her native Newport Beach, California to downtown Fort Myers in order to greater immerse herself in the pro pickleball community, which has a solid footprint in Southwest Florida.
“There’s really a good group of players here in the Fort Myers and Naples area; I wanted to be closer to just better training for me,” she said. “The level was so different from what I had back home in Newport Beach.”
Todd is off to a scorching start so far in 2023, with five gold medals in the season’s first four events. Her best performance came at the Association of Pickleball Professionals’ Punta Gorda Open in January where Todd became just the third player – and second woman – in APP history to earn a Triple Crown with three gold medals (women’s pro singles, women’s pro doubles, mixed pro doubles).
Todd will be among four local pros, along with Jardim, Kyle Yates and Brendon Long, competing in this week’s APP Mesa Open at Bell Bank Park in Arizona. Here’s a quick look at the quartet.
Lives: Fort Myers
About: Won more than 20 medals at APP and Pro Pickleball Association tournaments in 2022, her first season as a professional. A former tennis pro, the Newport Beach, Calif. native started her own contemporary sportswear company – Waisted USA – before returning to the courts, this time as a pickleball professional.  
Lives: Naples
About: Brazilian native who moved to the U.S. as an 18-year-old to play collegiate tennis. Was a two-time collegiate All-American in doubles at Fresno State and head tennis coach at Michigan State University for eight seasons. Moved to Naples and started full-time pro pickleball career in 2016. Was the world’s No. 1 ranked women’s player for five consecutive years (2016-20) and holds the record for most women’s PPA titles with 32.
Lives: Naples
About: Earned his first-ever gold medal at the pro level at the APP Daytona Beach Open in February, winning the mixed doubles bracket alongside fellow Florida resident Bobbi Oshiro.
Lives: Fort Myers
About: A 12-time major champion and former No. 1 ranked men’s doubles player in the world, Yates won gold in men’s doubles in his first pro tournament in 2014. This season, Yates teamed with fellow Florida resident Andrei Daescu to win men’s doubles gold at both the Punta Gorda and Daytona Beach opens.



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