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How Michael Botterill Uses His Pro Football Experience to Grow Pickleball

Michael Botterill | Competitive Pickleball Player | Pickleball International

For many of us [playing organized sports] gives us purpose. It brings people from different backgrounds and experiences. Learning this through football and other sports has really helped guide us in our pursuit of growing the sport we love now.

Michael Botterill

Competitive Pickleball Player

Pickleball International

× The interview with Michael Botterill was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

How did you get involved in playing pickleball competitively?

I began playing competitively 3 weeks after being introduced to the game. I was immediately drawn to the entire dynamic of the game.

I was hooked after my first day on the court and it has been very cool seeing this up and coming sport get the recognition it has been getting these last few years.

The growth and excitement surrounding pickleball are felt around the world and I just haven’t been around anything quite like it.

But it is simple to explain. It’s just fun!

During your career in the CFL, what were the three most important things you learned that you have taken with you to this next venture?

Playing sports growing up has instilled a lot of great things in me. I was lucky growing up that I had a chance to compete in many different sports and that has provided me with a very positive space for me to stay active and keep myself competitive.

Over my CFL career, I was able to learn how organizations operated at the professional level.  I believe that experience helps guide me in our pursuit of building and growing Pickleball.  I am thankful to have had that experience.

The top 3 important things I learned from my football career are as follow:

The Eye in the Sky Don’t Lie

As a Linebacker playing football I learned that being studied from a top-down camera gave me a different way of looking at things.

Ultimately, the eye in the sky or the camera filming for review shows all mistakes that occur.

In football every step matters and at the professional level each step you take on the field is filmed, reviewed, and acknowledged in a positive or negative matter.

This idea that I learned from football and the “Eye in the Sky don’t Lie” motto has helped shape me throughout my Pickleball Journey from looking at the game film.

This has helped me look at things throughout my life good and bad experiences from this same model and has helped me stay accountable and guided in the right direction for growing Pickleball in Canada and beyond.


Together everyone achieves more. Having this mindset that we are part of something bigger than all of us individually drove home a lot of hope for me throughout my life during sport and now that I am growing pickleball, I try to best utilize this concept.

Pickleball is a social game that brings people together and it is remarkable when you look at the pickleball projects currently underway. It’s great to see so many supporters of Pickleball.

At the end of the day, it is just fun, it keeps you moving and there is no better game for self-development than Pickleball. I truly believe that. It’s just fun.

Show Up for your Teammates

Playing organized sports brings a lot of different people together and I like that. For many of us, it gives us purpose. It brings people from different backgrounds and experiences together. Learning this through football and other sports has helped guide us in our pursuit of growing the sport we love now.

Pickleball is a game that anyone can play and it is so much fun. It is fitness disguised as fun.

Most importantly it’s a game of inclusiveness, it’s social, affordable and the health benefits are the most rewarding.

It’s the cribbage of the future. My grandmother taught me cribbage and now I see all these grandmas teaching their juniors pickleball. It’s a game the elders teach the young.
The future will be great to see.

What is your long term goal in terms of playing and coaching the game of pickleball?

I have only been playing for 3 years now and I have seen massive growth in the game now that people are realizing how much fun it is and that some can even set up a court in their driveway or backyard.

I predict a very solid growth in this area of the game. Most people want to play for the recreational side of it and that area will grow the most in the future.

Playing provides me with the opportunity to keep my competitive juices flowing as I get older and coaching gives me an avenue to share my passion with others and help grow the sport organically. It has become a real win-win.

The community we have built through playing this game has been remarkable, to say the least.

Where do you see the sport fitting into the latest trends such as spikeball for example?

I see much younger skilled racquet players from tennis, squash, ping pong, and badminton playing pickleball.

The game and the way it is played is constantly changing and with the next generation of pickleballers getting introduced to the game it will continue to change the dynamics of the game. It will be interesting to watch.

Why should people try playing the game of pickleball?

Pickleball provides players with a support system. It motivates players to stay engaged, driven, and to improve their skills.

Everyone I know that plays just can’t get enough of it. For a lot of people, it provides a variety of great things. It’s a game that brings people together and it doesn’t matter what level you play at.

Playing pickleball is about personal development in a group dynamic. It gives a lot of people purpose.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

It was definitely fun to interview competitive pickleball player and former CFL linebacker Michael Botterill. I have enjoyed the work he has done on the football field and now in the game of pickleball so far and it was excellent to see how his experience as a pro football player has transcended lessons from the CFL into a new up and coming sport. Sports can be used as a vehicle to help foster personal development, help people find their purpose, learn valuable life lessons, and of course, to stay physically healthy. Michael has definitely been able to take his experience as a pro footballer player and continue to use the lessons that he learned throughout his career and use that knowledge to help grow another game and his new passion, where I’m sure he will continue to learn and grow both the sport and himself!

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