By: Bob Nibarger and Laura Gainor, USA Pickleball
This Junior Spotlight shines a light on a young athlete that loves to inspire other youth. Emma Iacono, an 11th grader from Northwood High School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, has been playing pickleball since she was 13 years old.
She first picked up the game when her family was introduced to the sport while on vacation in Georgia. Her mom was inspired to go home and order paddles, study how to play by watching other athletes’ YouTube videos, and set out to the courts for the family to learn how to play together.
“We went to our local elementary school to play and everyone there was really amazing, and I immediately loved the game.” Said Emma. “I picked it up a lot quicker than tennis. The social aspect was really great and the people I played with helped me improve my game.”
Emma’s younger sister Addison, a competitive tennis player, has also contributed to helping her improve her game by providing some pointers on the court.
“Her coach gave me a few pointers to use on the pickleball court,” said Emma. “We all play as a family and have a lot of fun together.”
One of the family’s favorite courts to play at, and one of Emma’s goals to play in a future tournament, are the courts in Hilton Head, SC. Emma got the chance to watch players at Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center and was impressed with their strategic play, studying their every move, to try to incorporate their shots into her game.
Outside of pickleball, Emma is an avid musician. She has played piano for the last nine years, composes music, teaches other neighborhood kids how to play piano and also enjoys playing the flute and piccolo. She is proud to have been a part of the National Honor Society since her freshman year and hopes to attend North Carolina State University to have a career with NASA one day.
Emma looks forward to inspiring other younger people to play pickleball and has connected with the athletic directors at her school to get some leagues started soon.
When asked what advice she would give to other youth thinking about learning how to play: “Give it a chance. Once you learn how to play the game it’s something that is really interesting and fun to participate in. It’s a great sport. You don’t have to particularly be athletic in other sports. It’s a really inclusive sport and I really enjoy it.”