For Scott Crandall, Pickleball Is More than a National Craze. It’s a Career and a Passion

Game on.

With pickleball mania surging in the South Bay, one man suddenly finds himself in huge demand. Scott Crandall, nicknamed SoCal Lefty, is a professional player and El Segundo Pickleball’s pro instructor. Despite a busy schedule helping other “picklers” improve their game, he also makes time to compete in the pro tours of the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

Scott is a 50-time professional medalist, recently winning his third consecutive bronze medal at the US Open Pickleball Championships in Florida. Currently World Pickleball has ranked him as third in the men’s senior pro doubles and fifth in mixed senior pro doubles. Certified as an instructor by the Professional Pickleball Registry, he is also the coach of the Bay Area Breakers, ranked #1 in Major League Pickleball.

Pickleball is a fast-paced, competitive game that combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton. For a sport not well known before the pandemic, pickleball courts have since popped up at schools, parks and courtyards—from The Strand to neighborhood cul-de-sacs.

With almost 9 million players, pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2023 State of the Industry Report.

“Pickleball is life! It’s what I do for fun. It’s what I do to earn money. It teaches me about myself as a player, as a competitor and as a coach,” says Scott. “Immersing myself into pickleball has been a blessing in ways I never could have imagined.”

“Pickleball is life! It’s what I do for fun. It’s what I do to earn money. It teaches me about myself as a player, as a competitor and as a coach. immersing myself into pickleball has been a blessing in ways I never could have imagined.” 

Scott explains that the difference between pickleball and tennis, which he grew up playing, is that the best player does not always win. In fact, the “kitchen”—the front area of the court—neutralizes more athletic players, and the game becomes more about strategy.

“Scott is one of the best minds in pickleball to date,” explains Julio Rivera, head pro at the Santa Monica Pickleball Center and head coach of the Orlando Squeeze. “He is a real student of the game and has projected himself as one of the top senior pros.”

The game presents a myriad of challenges both internally and externally for players, and there are a wide variety of strategies and tactics to choose from. Each game presents different conditions. “Every opponent has a unique set of skills to deal with, and it’s constantly a big puzzle to solve—including all the changing emotions going on within myself and my partner,” shares Scott.

He admits that he does not like to lose, and for a period he experienced defeat playing mixed doubles. “The very best women have the most success, and if you don’t have one of those women, it can be challenging,” he explains. “I spent a lot of time losing mixed double games, and for some players they might be able to handle that along the way. But I’m not one of those people.”

Feedback led to Scott’s name being put on a “list” of partners you might not want to play with in mixed doubles. This didn’t seem to bother him, because he likes to win and it was just part of the process of getting to where he wanted to be in that category.

Scott got to coach with former tennis player Jessie Irvine, an incredibly talented pickleball player who is currently ranked in the top five of all three women’s divisions, according to the PPA Tour.

“Scott is not only a fierce competitor who gives 100% every time he steps on the court whenever he competes, but he is also a great coach,” says Jessie. “He’s very good at being able to see what a player needs to play well. He is also good at picking up on strategical tendencies and patterns, which is extremely important in pickleball.”

As a highly sought-after pickleball coach, he is known for being frank with a dry sense of humor. “Scott has been invaluable in making my game better. Understanding strategy and shot selection has been a game changer,” says Beth Drayer, one of his students. “His style of coaching allows us to play and break down points in real time. It’s immediate feedback, which is super helpful for me.”

Lee Zellweger, president of InPickleball Media, believes the popularity of the game has been driven by its community, which is inclusive, supportive and social. “Pickleball is a way to meet new people and make new friends. It’s keeping all of us entertained, in shape, engaged and connected.”

Adds Scott, “When I see a new pickleball addict, I just smile and nod in understanding because I know the joyful path they are about to embark upon.”

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