Pro Pickleball Sensation Tyson McGuffin on the Sport That’s Swept a Nation

Audio Description

Are you of the 1M Americans who took up pickleball during the pandemic? Pro pickleball phenom Tyson McGuffin’s skills on the court rival only those of his energy as a person!


This transcript has been generated by an A.I. tool. Please excuse any typos.

00:11 - 00:30

Hi everyone and welcome to The Big Stage where we talk to athletes, artists and entertainers about their legacy and impact. I'm your host, Adam Sansiveri, managing director and co-lead of sports and entertainment at Bernstein. Back with me today is Grammy nominee, former music manager and Bernstein advisor Dan Weisman. Thanks for being here as always, Dan.

00:31 - 00:31

Thanks, Adam.

00:32 - 01:18

As many of you likely know, Pickleball has taken the nation by storm, with over 1 million Americans taking up the sport during the pandemic alone. Our guest today has taken the sport of Pickleball by storm. He's a five time grand slam champion, four time national champion and holds the number one ranking in men's pro doubles and number two ranking in men's singles. For the past four years, he has been one of the top five pickleball players in the world. And Barstool Sports recently dubbed him the most electrifying man in sports. Wow. What a descriptor. We are thrilled today to have Tyson McGuffin on the big stage and we're looking forward to talking all things Pickleball. Tyson. Thanks so much for joining us.

01:18 - 01:20

Adam and Dan. Thanks for having me.

01:20 - 01:50

It's so great to meet you in person or over Zoom I guess as we are and and I can't wait to dig into all of this and hear your story. But first things first, Pickleball has a pretty unique history. The story goes, or at least as I've heard it, that in 1965, three dads desperately trying to entertain their bored kids after a golf game invented pickleball in their driveway in Washington. For our listeners, Tyson, who may not be, let's say, fully up to speed, how do you describe the sport?

01:51 - 02:32

Yeah, it's a it's a crossbreed of various racket sports. We see a lot of racket sport athletes coming in the game. I think the best way to describe it is it's like ping pong and steroids. You can essentially put four pickleball courts on one tennis court that's making tennis courts fun again. You know what I mean? That's that's the kind of the thing and pickles that pickle courts are making tennis courts fun again. There's a lot of tennis facilities nationwide that are fully embracing pickleball. They're stand alone pickleball facilities being built nationwide. There's a pretty cool tour that I play on called the PGA Tour that just got bought by a gentleman named Tom Dundon. He owns the Carolina Hurricanes and is a pretty well-known dude. And then the sport's taken off the fast growing sport, North America. I teach camps nationwide. I have a podcast and I'm holding it, brother.

02:33 - 02:34

That's awesome. I love it.

02:34 - 02:45

Tyson You were an avid wrestler in high school and I read that your dad was actually your coach, but you developed a love for tennis and played tennis in college on a tennis scholarship. When were you first introduced to Pickleball?

02:45 - 03:24

So yes, I'm the youngest of seven. Dad was the wrestling coach for years. My oldest brother wrestled at Boise State. Kind of a funny story about growing up in the wrestling family and being the youngest. My dad used to shove us all in a van and take us to Pocatello, Idaho, or Butte, Montana. And his deal was we'd all have our sweatsuits on. We'd all be cut weight, you know, drive an 8 hours to a location. And his deal was, he'd say every 200 miles we'd have to get out and run a mile. So every 200 miles, he'd say, Get out. So here we are on the freeway. All the McGuffin boys are running a mile, and if we were acting bad in the car, he'd get to that mile marker and then he'd just and take off again anyhow.

03:24 - 04:07

So growing up in that rough and tough wrestling family, being the youngest of seven and kind of my, my dad wanted me to pursue the dream like my oldest brother. When I found tennis at the age of 12, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is my out. I don't have to wear a singlet. I don't have to suffer anymore. It can better dad and I’s relationship. We don't have to butt heads anymore. So I ended up playing a couple of years of college tennis, junior college tennis, and I taught tennis for about ten or 15 years, worked as a head pro, then worked as a director of tennis. And in 2015, this silly game called Pickleball got thrown in my lap. And there's a gentleman at my tennis club named Bill Schott. We used to watch a bunch of UFC together, and he kept bugging me about playing this silly game called Pickleball.

04:07 - 04:28

And I remember I kid you not. I remember going out to a local YMCA first time and they always saying, go like don't judge a book by its cover. And I got my ass kicked. Like, you know, there's, there's level base cards. There's like a30 court, there's a35. You guys are like familiar with with ratings or levels? The ratings are levels goes all the way from two out to six.

04:28 - 05:21

So anyhow, I thought I'd be a hot shot. I thought I'd jump on the four plus court and I had no idea what I was doing. I got royally beat up by a couple of six year old dudes who were talking trash, and I remember going home that night. I did some research on Pickleball A via YouTube and came back a week later and put it on him. And ever since then I've had the bug. So many tennis players say once you go to the dark side, you don't come back. And it's so true, man. Once I got a taste of the dark stuff, I never went back. It's kind of funny to like there's this collision with tennis and pickle right now. Tennis players think they're up to your Pickleball players think they're down here. I'm trying to marry the two anyhow. Yeah. So 2015 and you have been on the tour of the last seven years. And just recently, the last year and a half, the pro tour has gotten pretty real. Bigger sponsors coming in the game, professional tour, pros again, appearance fees, contracts being thrown around. I just signed up for head to toe deal by Skechers just built my own shoe.

05:21 - 05:32

As a former competitive tennis youth tennis player myself, I've gotten to pickleball. But what? What got you so into pickleball right off the bat what it was it scratching the tennis wasn't.

05:32 - 06:13

Beat up on old timers charges kids making bad light goals and beating up on all the camaraderie how like embracing it is. I mean, I taught tennis for ten or 15 years, meaning like, you know how it is like in order to take somebody who can barely walk and chew gum and tennis, it takes eight months in order for them to hit five balls in a row. And after eight months, it probably has been around five or ten. Okay. And lessons were in pickle. I can teach a two day boot camp and within 10 minutes, Sally, who's 72 years old, you can barely walk and chew gum, is having a ten ball rally and she's having a killer time. Yeah. I mean, learning curves a lot quicker. Easier to play and it's funny, you know.

06:13 - 06:56

That's great. Yeah. It feels like the Pickleball game itself has completely gone viral and I think it was over 5 million pictures are now playing. And as you alluded to, it's the fastest growing sport in America. And you've clearly demonstrated why it's tangible to a lot of people and why so many people are getting excited by the game. I know Dan and I are both really intrigued by you being the face of this frontier market. You've gone pro, you're making your living playing pickleball and teaching and coaching, as you alluded to. And it's now your own personal business venture, if you will. You're you're 100% all in, it seems. It's not an overstatement to say that you're a pioneer in this nascent industry. So what excites you about the actual position that you find yourself in today?

06:57 - 07:43

Yeah, well, I mean, what really excites me is that next year I'll be going into my first year on two or eight years end where I don't have to grind and hustle so much. And then there's some extra sponsor revenue coming in, you know what I mean? So next year, like, I can be like a real athlete and I have to do 20 camps a year, do all the above. Even though I love leading camps next year, I'm going to have my other leads, lead stuff for me. We're going to do 50 camps. I'm going to try to be a savage and try to be be 5% better and be in the gym and and just put myself in that in the right situation so I can be the best athlete that I can. But yeah, I mean, like the position that I'm in right now, like I get seen at airports, you know, I get I see it's kind of funny. Like a couple of years ago, nobody knew me now. Like, you know, restaurants, airports, hotels, I'm getting to be a little bit, but I'm still a big fish in a small pond, you know.

07:43 - 07:50

What do you think needs to be done on your end to make you a household name, given that you're the key face behind the best growing sport in America?

07:50 - 08:22

So there's three tours. Essentially, there's the PGA, there's the ATP and there's the MLB and nobody really likes each other. But I play the PGA. The PGA is kind of considered like the majors of Pickleball has better TV deals. Ron Fox Sports to run ESPN. They just got a deal with Tennis Channel so the people trying to get extra exposure for others players, bigger brands coming to the game and stuff like that. So I'm just trying to align myself with big brands. I'm trying to be larger than Pickleball. I don't take myself too serious. I think people appreciate me because I'm super authentic.

08:23 - 09:04

Well, Tyson, I know Dan and I are both trying not to, you know, make you blush here. But I want to reference and go back to that recent profile which described you as the most electrifying man in sports. The article boasted obviously about your athleticism, but largely focused on your star appeal. And for our listeners who can't see Tyson's coming is, I don't know, what would you call your mullet? I know what you want to call that, Tyson. I love it. Well, look, after discussing your hairstyle, your mustache, your tattoos, the journalist wrote, you take one good look at this stallion. And, you know, we're witnessing greatness. I mean, come on. It does not get much better than that.

09:05 - 09:06

The article was legendary.

09:07 - 09:22

I mean, it clearly, clearly was. And this brings me to the name, image and likeness and endorsement deals that you've had. You mentioned Skechers. So what are some of the companies you're proud to partner with or are there any out there that you're hoping to partner with in the future?

09:23 - 09:59

I probably leave the game in just marketability, exposure or social media content, being a hustler, all that. But some of the bigger brands that I'm with right now is Selkirk. I actually live in beautiful Courtland, Idaho. Do you guys ever get a chance? It's pretty clear Selkirk is actually based out of North Idaho, based out of Cortland, one of the leading manufacturers in the world. So I have my own Senator Paddle with Selkirk. I've been very loyal for the last seven years, just recently signed with Skechers. Probably one of the larger head to toe deals in pickle built my own shoe first time in Pickleball where we're a player, got to engineer their own shoe. And then also to you guys know what chicken and pickle is?

09:59 - 10:01

No, no, stop it.

10:01 - 10:20

Stop it. So there's there's seven locations nationwide. It's like an adult playground where they have indoor outdoor. All high end food and beverage. The headquarters is in Wichita, Kansas, but I teach chants at those locations. They have a concert venue, they have a cornhole ping pong, but it's just a place to party, place to hang out.

10:21 - 10:21

I love it.

10:21 - 10:31

Right. And yet a couple of sponsors that I would love is a car sponsor and a watch sponsor. And if it was Cadillac and Rolex homerun.

10:32 - 10:33

I love it.

10:33 - 10:34

Huge fan of Liquid. That too.

10:35 - 10:54

Since 2020, the pro scene has been accelerated by the ATP and the tours, which run more than 50 tournaments a year. Sponsorships augment the prize money, but given that this is a new sport, some currently on the pro circuit earn like you, while many others end up losing money. You see moneymaking potential changing as the sport grows.

10:54 - 11:24

Yeah, I mean, if you're top three, you can make a living. It's very top heavy. But I mean, I mean, even guys that are like four through eight or four through ten, like they're scraping by, guys that are ranked ten to 10 to 25, nobody's making anything I'll be losing. Now, the PPA just recently started paying per round, which is helping recently, you know, they were not paying for round. Danny, obviously, I'm sure you're watching the U.S. Open right now. You know that if you lose first round yourself and you get AJ.

11:25 - 11:26

Yeah, I didn't know that.

11:26 - 11:43

Come on, baby. That is that is currently not taking place in Pickleball. I mean, when's the top ten, the top 25 to be taking care of where they can actually make a living? I have no idea. But it's definitely headed in the right direction, as we all know. But there's there's still a lot of missing pieces. We need to really kind of figure out the governing body's situation.

11:44 - 12:00

So you alluded to this at the beginning, but anyone can walk out and play pickleball within 5 minutes. And I'm curious how one becomes great at this sport that has such a low barrier of entry. You mentioned that tennis, it takes eight months to even get to a rally. But is there any one thing you can really attribute your secret to your own success?

12:01 - 12:07

Yeah, the quote is, it's easy to get good. It's time to get great, right? Danny, you mean like as like a tennis player coming in, like, high level, like.

12:07 - 12:11

Yeah, yeah. Just, you know, how does a great tennis player become a great big ball player?

12:12 - 13:05

Yeah, for sure. I think understanding their identity, kind of wrapping things around their strengths, understanding what they do well, like playing within themselves, you know, singles as we're starting to see, there's a lot of like top 500 guys in tennis that are starting to come over and play on the PGA Tour. And they're finding success and beating top ten guys in singles like within eight months now, for them to play doubles and to be halfway decent, it takes about a year and a half doubles know is very different. It's dumbed down. There's a lot of thinking. There's this cat mouse and like there's this art to slowing things down. It happens. And so yeah, if there's, if there's one thing I would say technically less is more done stuff down like you don't have to overdo it. The paddle technology is nothing like racquet technology. You cannot crank your grip over and like close your face on your pickleball paddle and get lots of topspin. Honestly, it's kind of like kind of like tennis, like in the eighties where like you guys are playing and Continental, they're not getting a whole lot of spin.

13:05 - 13:28

So yeah, I'd say tactically less is more, and then tactically don't judge a book by its cover. It's teams that make the podium. Teams that are successful are teams that put a lot of balls in play. And I mean, even at the highest level, like the percentage of points being won by unforced errors, unforced errors is probably 5050. So like it doesn't have to be that good. I understand what you're good at. Play within yourself. Quite like a dog. It's it's it's kind of it's kind of my mentality.

13:28 - 13:34

Actually. I want to ask somebody an expanding on that like tennis is one of those sports where you have to be great at everything to be great.

13:35 - 13:35

That's true.

13:36 - 13:42

And Pickleball like do you feel like it's maybe easier to hide behind weaknesses that you can maybe overcome with athleticism or something like that?

13:44 - 14:20

I mean, it's small court, right? Mean like for example, you know, I spent my whole tennis career never hitting a back. I just chip my back in. I'm scared to hit it. I run around some forehand and people call me the Washington State nightmare because I would just swing and hit forehands and like pin myself in the corner. Now, you know, when I was playing on a court that's 72 by 36, it was tougher to find forehand. So now I'm playing on a court that's 44 by 20. It's a hell of a lot easier to fight for it. So now I can be one dimensional, or I guess people can be one dimensional at the baseline because they have time very, very difficult to be one dimensional when you're at the kitchen line and you're 40 feet away from your opponent. So that makes sense.

14:20 - 14:21


14:21 - 14:30

Well, Tyson, I happened to be playing pickleball for the second time ever tomorrow. So to continue this theme. Any personal advice you'd give me for tomorrow?

14:32 - 14:35

Start off by making some bad line calls. If you're not cheating, you're not trying.

14:37 - 14:40

That's great. I love it. I love it. Now I.

14:40 - 15:15

Go. So seems like most beginners like when they feel pressure like they want to over swing. Something I say is like you know when you're off balance, when you're in deep water. I talk about like the red zone. Like your red zone is like your knees and below yellow zone is knees to hips. Green zone is like hips are above. So if you have a ball in your red zone or if you're playing defense or if you're just not in a position to be aggressive, don't be afraid to use the kitchen like you can use the. Kitchen is like a neutralizer, and it only takes one softball when you're on defense to put in the kitchen and now you're back to neutral. So premature ejaculation.

15:17 - 15:18

That's good.

15:18 - 15:27

Tyson can you share with us your sort of vision board on on your future around this sport, what your specific goals are and what you're. Invision AP in next 5 to 10 years for yourself.

15:28 - 16:16

Specific goals. Yeah. So I'm married to my beautiful princess. I've got four children. I'm only getting older. 32. I'm looking to pinch as much money out of the sport, give back as much as I can be the ultimate king on YouTube with the best content. With the best podcast, the best educational videos. Crush it with camps. I guess it's just be number one in all categories. Be number one is an athlete, be number one on the camp site to be number one. You know, with with the YouTube channel and try to get as many subscribers as I can. But yeah, just keep improving, keep getting better, keep educating myself, waking up, striving to be better. And any time that I find myself getting too comfortable, I try to make myself uncomfortable. As I grew up youngest to seven, dad was super tough on me. So that like wrestling mentality, the character that is built through wrestling and like the toughness that's built, the wrestling is kind of stayed with me today.

16:16 - 16:19

You reference your your wife. Is it true that you were her coach?

16:20 - 16:26

I taught tennis 15 years and I met my wife here in court. One thing led to another, and.

16:26 - 16:28

It seemed to all worked out just fine.

16:28 - 16:29

It all worked out.

16:29 - 16:56

And all worked out just fine, you know? But yeah, we have four beautiful children. Sky is a complete stud that just loves to chat, loves to hang out with adults. We have an eight year old named Ty. He's the spitting image of me for ADHD. Just runs runs wild. And then. And then we have a baby girl who just turned two her name's Banks. She completely runs me over. And then we have a baby boy named Mac. I got a tattoo for. For all the kids, so. Yeah.

16:57 - 17:03

Great names. Great names. Yeah. And our our listeners can't see your tattoos, but that's it's an accomplishment in itself.

17:03 - 17:08

Tyson, you mentioned the podcast and the YouTube channel. I think the podcast called The McGuffin Show, right.

17:08 - 17:23

Called the McGuffin Show. The YouTube channel is called Tyson McGuffin Pickleball. I also have educational videos on there, and then I have another segment called Boiler Room Breakdown. I'll take match highlights and do commentary, added some humor and give out some education and kind of have some fun with it.

17:23 - 17:34

Oh, that's fun. Well, I'm sure our listeners would love to go check that out. So everyone, the McGuffin show for sure and Tyson, what's what's been the most rewarding part about that, you know, running a podcast and doing all that side of the business?

17:34 - 18:33

Great question. I used to be known as the athlete. I do a ton of stories and I kid you not. People see me at tournaments now and now they now they see me as the athlete, the dad and the coach. But now I'm just seen in a much different light where I kind of use the YouTube channel and use the podcast as a as a feeder program for the camps. Right. People are on the fence about paying 700 bucks to hang out with me for two days. They can they can go to my YouTube channel. They can get run over by a bunch of content and then sign up for a camp. So I kind of used it for that. I used it to build up my the pros. I have a co-host the same style. Mackenzie He's like a top 30 guy, super knowledgeable, but not known as a player. So I put him on my pod as a co-host to kind of build him up so he can lead camp for me. So I kind of use it for my own stuff, use it for camps, and then really kind of use it to build other, other people up. And then also to, you know, like I'm pretty transparent. My podcast is super authentic, so just being real and like not taking myself too serious and kind of letting people like see the enemy is then, you know, to as well.

18:34 - 18:44

I love hearing all this and I think our listeners can appreciate how much of a business mind Tyson that you you have as an athlete, how you've tied this all together. It's really cool to to hear.

18:44 - 18:57

And as we come to the end of the show, I want to shift gears a little bit. So we always like to talk about legacy and impact. Is there anything in the community that you're involved with or philanthropic causes you're really passionate about?

18:58 - 19:27

Yeah. So my son has Seth McGinnis, so we have a foundation for Smith McGinnis. I also do a ton of free kids camps. I do free kids camps locally. I also do free kids camps when I'm on the road during PTA events, I try to give back as much as I can. There's there's so many people that DM me on, on Instagram and stuff like that for panels or discounts and stuff like that. So I'm definitely known to like send paddles out and kind of like randomly like surprise people with, with merch or hats or you know, paddles and stuff like that.

19:27 - 19:44

That's great. It's always fun to hear how people in the spotlight are using that to to help the community. So appreciate all the work you're doing. And finally, because we always benefit from the answers our guests give to this final question, can you please tell us what's the best financial advice you've ever received?

19:46 - 20:07

Let your wife deal with it. I'm the entertainer. I'm the energy guy. I'm the athlete. My my wife has a very strong grip on our finances, doing things the right way. And we have a couple investment properties here in Cortland. So honestly, I fully trust her and I. Space.

20:07 - 20:10

So what you're saying, Tyson, is let the experts deal with it.

20:11 - 20:13

Tyson Stay in your lane. Stay in your life.

20:13 - 20:29

Man, This was so much fun. Thank you so much for joining us on the big stage today and having this conversation with Dan and I, we learned a lot. I think our listeners are going to love here in this episode and we can't wait to watch you continue to dominate in this sport and see all that you're going to continue to do.

20:29 - 20:29


20:31 - 20:51

Thank you all for listening. This has been the big stage. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to subscribe, please go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please email us your thoughts, questions and any feedback to insights at Bernstein dot com and be sure to find us on Twitter and Instagram at Bernstein p m.

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