From School Gymnasium To Pickleball Court: KaSandra Gehrke’s Unconventional Rise

KaSandra Gehrke, a former PE teacher and volleyball coach, now excels in pickleball. Her journey showcases the transformative impact of determination and facing new challenges head-on.
KaSandra Gehrke

KaSandra Gehrke

Photo : Instagram/kasandramariepickleball
KaSandra Gehrke, a previous physical education teacher and volleyball coach, became passionate about pickleball and rapidly improved her skills from a beginner to a 5.0 level. She also established her own pickleball business, EmpowHer, during this journey. Despite her background in sports, she was not skilled in racket sports.
“I grew up playing softball, baseball, basketball, and volleyball,” said Gehrke. “I played everything but racket sports.”
She had experienced playing pickleball in gym class before, but it was with poor-quality equipment like a wiffle ball and wooden paddles. The ball would bounce off the paddles, so she didn't enjoy it at that time, Gehrke explained.
However, things took a turn when she started working at the gym in her neighbourhood. It is the traditional story of a trio in search of a fourth member.
“I was watching these 70-year-olds play and they needed a fourth. They asked me to play, and they absolutely whooped me,” said Gehrke. “My competitive nature kicked in and I was like 'Okay, no! I’m not going to get my butt kicked by older people.' I went home, bought a paddle, and just kept coming back.”
Before long, she was ready for her debut tournament.
“I entered into a small local event with a 75-year-old guy named Jim. We ended up winning and I loved it. My competitiveness was back. After that, I wanted to play more,” explained Gehrke. “Then, I entered in a bigger tournament at 3.5 and that’s all she wrote. I just kept entering tournament after tournament and really became obsessed with the sport.”
As Gehrke progressed in her skills, she was eager to start playing full-time.
“I was a teacher back then and my mom encouraged me to go full-time with pickleball for a year and try it, and if it doesn’t work out, I can just go back to teaching,” mentioned Gehrke.
Becoming a professional was definitely the correct decision. Over the years, she has acquired an impressive understanding of the game and enjoys participating in every chance to grab a paddle and compete. However, teaching is her real passion.
Gehrke stressed the value of watching and listening when asked how she gradually improved her gaming to reach a professional level.
“It’s about checking your ego and becoming a sponge of knowledge. When people are offering advice, you take it and you ask questions. You have to really learn to take advice and assess if the advice works for you,” advised Gehrke. “Try it, then you can create your own map for yourself off of what you learn from others.”
If you ask her, the secret is to consider feedback and decide whether it applies to the games you play.
“It puts it all in perspective because you can’t always be the best player on court and get the best players around you,“ noted Gehrke. “But, there’s always something you can do to have some success and have a good time.”
So, next time you step onto the pickleball court, remember KaSandra Gehrke’s remarkable journey—from PE teacher to pickleball pro.
End of Article
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