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Allyce Jones Beats the Odds and the Competition on Her Pickleball Journey

by Maryann Castronovo on

According to the NCAA, less than two percent of collegiate athletes are able to circumvent the dreaded day job and move on to play professional sports.

Most athletes grind out their four years of eligibility and never get to experience the glory of playing under the lights at a competitive level ever again. Such was the case for the No. 8 female pickleball player in the world, Allyce Jones.

Allyce was recruited out of high school to play Division 1 volleyball. Although 5’2 and much shorter than most collegiate volleyball setters, Allyce made up for her size in raw talent, determination, and grit. At a young age, her father had told her, “You are smaller than everyone else, so you are going to have to work twice as hard.” With the odds of getting playing time against her because of her stature, she showed up with a champion mindset, believing she could beat the odds. 

Recognizing that Allyce could defend powerful spikes, her coaches quickly moved her from setter into the "defensive specialist role," where she racked up multiple accolades as the Western Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, Utah Valley University’s Female Athlete of the Year, and UVU Crowd Pleaser of the Year. Both spirited and gifted, big crowds taunting “Oompha Loompah!” and the pressure of nailing and defending championship game-winning serves were no match for her focus. In fact, she thrived in those situations.

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After graduating from college, like many collegiate athletes, she never thought in a million years she’d be able to compete at such a high level again. She shed her elite player identity and married her college sweetheart, had three kids, was teaching high school, coaching volleyball, and was settled in her life in suburbia in Pleasant Grove, Utah. She was happy.

Then the pandemic hit, and the high school where she was teaching shut down. Classes went online, and Allyce transitioned into teaching over Zoom ... and sitting all day. For someone who is constantly on the move, it was brutal. 

Luckily, Allyce and some other teachers were allowed to use the high school gymnasium, at a safe distance, to exercise. At the same time, Allyce’s mother showed her a YouTube video of Pickleball, and she thought, “Pickleball looked like fun, like a smaller version of tennis.”

Soon after, Allyce began to play pickleball in earnest. What started as a couple of days after school quickly turned into playing every day and on weekends with her family, parents, and school staff. Allyce excelled quickly. She easily read the angles and the direction her opponents were going and was crushing everyone. 

Allyce was tapping into her past volleyball experience, and it was working.

When her birthday came that year, Ryan, her husband, organized a private pickleball lesson with their local pro, Callie Jo Smith. Allyce was excited to get professional tips. After the lesson, she thanked her and mentioned to Ryan, “It was kind of weird, I could actually hang with her pretty well.” 

Ryan’s plan worked. He had purposely set up the pickleball lesson so that Allyce could see that she had real talent and potential in pickleball.

With encouragement from her family, Allyce entered local pickleball tournaments and began taking the podiums by storm. She embraced the familiar Division I state of mind, woke up when everyone slept, and trained. At 5 a.m., 10 minutes away, Club Pickleball USA in Orem was open. There, it was quiet and she could focus. Her kids were asleep, so she could work on her skills and get her training in so she would have time for them after school. Before her kids woke up, after she worked and was there for her kids extracurricular activities, and then after her kids went to sleep were the only times she could practice. 

The thrill of playing competitively returned swiftly. Allyce began branching out to tournaments beyond Utah. And the more tournaments she entered, the more tournaments she won. She quickly moved up the ranks with her partner, Megan Dizon.

Allyce Jones
Allyce Jones picked up pickleball quickly getting exercise during the pandemic.

Soon after, they wanted to play where the best were. She and Megan took their tournament accolades and signed with the PPA. Once proven and professionally tapped, they quietly climbed the ladder and earned top-10 status. 

It was official, Allyce was a professional pickleballer. 

At this point, most would stop their day job, but Allyce kept teaching high school and her training routine. It was no longer a hobby, but “I still wasn’t sure what playing professionally was. I didn’t want it to affect my family’s finances, so I kept teaching high school to pay for the expenses of being a pro.”

Like other professional players, she had to “train on the court, do physical training off the court and recovery work to keep my body healthy.” So she was back in the grind, only this time, with bigger responsibilities.  It wasn’t until 2022 that she stopped teaching. 

Since then, Allyce has constantly been on the podium and is widely known as one of the most dynamic, exciting players to watch. She’s back in her element, diving, lunging, chest-bumping, and celebrating points. It’s what she did as a collegiate athlete and it’s part of her DNA.

Jones is now part of that 2 percent who gets to play sports professionally. She achieved this in her 30s, with three kids, and in a different sport!  We believe she’s an inspiration.

With so many former collegiate athletes taking up pickleball, maybe we will see them beat the odds, too.

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