Exclusive: How a fun game of pickleball led Darrian Young to a world championship title

Oceanside, California - With a career older than the Major Pickleball League (MPL) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour, world champion Darrian Young is an up-and-coming legend in professional pickleball. The 22-year-old athlete sat down with TAG24 NEWS to discuss his unique journey to the pros.

After a 10-year-long intensive career of tennis, Darrian Young picked up a pickleball racquet in 2018 and began a journey he never imagined!
After a 10-year-long intensive career of tennis, Darrian Young picked up a pickleball racquet in 2018 and began a journey he never imagined!  © Collage: Screenshot / Instagram / darrianyoungpb

As a middle child growing up in Spain, Young wasn't just any ordinary kid!

Super competitive at heart, he picked up a tennis racquet at the tender age of four and began exploring the sport as a child like many pickleball pros of today.

Learning the game of serves and aces, Young played in Spain's junior tournaments before taking his talents and athleticism to the US. He moved with his family to San Diego at age 13, developing a strong game on the court under the coaching of Steve Dawson.

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But after an intensive 10-year career of volleys, the current pickleball professional decided to move on from tennis in high school with no plans for his future.

"When I started going to the Bobby Riggs Tennis and Racquet facility and in high school, I began playing in (US) nationals, sections, USTA – all that good stuff," Young told TAG24. "Then I kinda just quit. I didn't really wanna go to college, so I was just going to see where everything goes."

Unsure about his next steps, Young received a phone call one day that changed his life forever.

After nearly two years without speaking with Dawson, Young found himself on the phone with his former tennis coach, who encouraged him to pick up a racquet again – this time a pickleball racquet!

From the practice courts to the professional tournaments

Darrian Young quickly fell in love with pickleball and eventually decided to become a professional player full time.
Darrian Young quickly fell in love with pickleball and eventually decided to become a professional player full time.  © Screenshot / Instagram / darrianyoungpb

Taking to the pickleball courts for the first time, Young wasn't as smooth as he thought he'd be.

While pickleball shared similarities with tennis, the difference between the two sports was enough for the youngster to get shown up by his dad, whom he initially thought was too old to play a singles match.

"He beat me up so bad. I was so upset, so upset!" Young revealed. "So, I started going because I didn't want to lose to my dad. But the better I got, the more fun it became, and I just got super hooked."

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Young began practicing on the court daily, initially just with the intent of becoming a better player than his father, but he soon developed a love for the sport and eventually started competing in tournaments.

"Steve [Dawson] and Callan Dawson helped me learn how to play," Young reflected. "Those were my role models when I started playing pickleball and I just tried to get better and better."

Playing against the best players of that time, Young started building a name for himself in the pickleball community. Then a PPA Tour was finally established in 2018, hosting its first traveling tournaments in 2019.

There, Young stepped onto the court as a professional, making arguably one of the greatest impacts in the sport.

Young aces his way to the 2021 Pickleball World Champion crown

Darrian Young and Callan Dawson defeated Patrick Smith and Jay Devilliers to become the 2021 Pickleball World Champions.
Darrian Young and Callan Dawson defeated Patrick Smith and Jay Devilliers to become the 2021 Pickleball World Champions.  © Collage: Screenshot / Instagram / darrianyoungpb

With a high-quantity training schedule and the attitude to win, Young practiced relentlessly to become the best player possible.

"I want to be the best version of myself I can be," the 22-year-old pro said. "I'm so competitive that I just want to win. My mind isn't anywhere outside of wanting to win and be the best!"

The attitude of ambition and discipline helped Young smash his way to the 2021 Pickleball World Championships, where he found himself standing on the court in the title match.

In an intense battle with professional players Patrick Smith and Jay Devilliers, Young and Dawson played in one of the most grueling world title matches of the sport.

Young and Dawson lost the first set and just barely won the second. They entered a tie-breaking third round with the world championship crown on the line.

Led by his fiery competitive nature, Young was determined to give the final round of the title match his all like never before!

"You either have it or you don't," Young said about the strong desire to become a world champion. "I've been around Kevin Durant, I've been around James Blake, Robert Machado, and I've talked to them about it here and there. You either want to win at everything or you don't. I wanna win!"

Young dug deep to lead his doubles team to narrowly defeat Smith and Devilliers and become a world champion!

"It was pretty surreal," Young recalled. "Winning it was extremely fun! I was just shocked and extremely happy to win it with one of the best friends in the pickleball world."

Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot / Instagram / darrianyoungpb

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