Since she was old enough to hold a racket, Florida Gulf Coast University sophomore Miranda Cabieses had a dream. She was going to become a professional tennis player. She would win titles, make her family proud and bring a legacy to her home country of Peru.
But when she was 9 years old, she dislocated her hip falling down a set of stairs at school.
“When I had my accident,” Cabieses says, “All the doctors said, ‘Forget about sports.’ My body couldn’t handle training at that high of a level, seven hours a day, anymore.”
Despite this early setback, years later, the management major has parlayed her natural athleticism and personal drive into a rewarding role in the world of pickleball. Cabieses competes professionally in the sport sweeping the nation and serves as an international ambassador for the game. She also launched a foundation to enable more children in Peru to play.
If there’s one thing not in her vocabulary — and she speaks Spanish, German, English and French — it’s any version of the word “quit.”
“A lot of doors had closed to me, so everything I do, I give it my best,” Cabieses says. “If you really want to do something, do it anyway — a lot of people are going to say no.”
She left tennis behind and went on to achieve new dreams: excelling in school, winning awards for her writing and drawing, and planning to study architecture in Germany.
It was when Cabieses was getting ready to look at universities in Germany that COVID-19 hit. She chose a school closer to her brother, Hercilio, in the U.S.: Florida Gulf Coast University.
Hercilio introduced her to pickleball, a sport she took to quickly and could play well without experiencing the high pressure that tennis puts on the body.
Cabieses started competing in pickleball tournaments — and winning. Most recently, she and her brother took silver in the Pro Mixed Doubles Bonus Draw of the 2023 Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championship in Naples, Florida.
She has been named a World Pickleball Sports Ambassador by the International Federation of Pickleball and has assisted with clinics across Latin America, including Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Ecuador.
“It really changed my life,” Cabieses says. “I can travel, I can compete, I can represent my country.”
As her pickleball interest grew in 2021, Cabieses found herself in a modeling class. Her mom had sent her there to improve her posture, but Cabieses was quickly scouted to compete in Miss Teen Model Peru. At first, she was uninterested, saying, “This is not my thing; this is not my world.”
But the challenge of a new competition quickly drew in the lifelong athlete, and she has since gone on to win pageants, including Miss Teen International in 2023.
Cabieses says she loves the international travel she experiences with the “Miss” competitions, as well as the platform to show “how you are as a person and what you want to do for your community, your country or the world.”
The work Cabieses is focusing on now for her country is the Fundación Cabieses — a foundation she launched with her brother to promote pickleball in Peru. The foundation has donated an estimated 5,000 pickleball paddles, along with balls and nets, to children across the country.
The foundation has also held exhibitions where the Cabieses siblings show children how to play the game and help local communities launch pickleball clubs.
The foundation’s mission is to bring pickleball to children in low-income or disadvantaged communities. Cabieses says it’s an ideal sport to promote because it’s relatively easy to implement.
“Tennis is super elite in Peru and in America as well. If you don’t have the resources, it’s really hard to have some opportunities,” she says. “I don’t want that in pickleball. When we brought pickleball to Peru, we didn’t go to the country clubs – we went to rural places and public schools.”
The success of the Cabieses Foundation is not surprising to people who have worked with Cabieses, including Yvonne Goodson, an FGCU student success counselor.
“She’s super self-motivated, humble and culturally aware,” Goodson says.
They worked together to arrange for Cabieses to attend virtual classes from Peru in the spring 2023 semester so she could locally manage her foundation work. “Her leadership is unique,” Goodson says.
Cabieses’ dreams look different now than when she was younger, and she says she’s grateful for the opportunities pickleball has brought to her life. The foundation is now focusing on fundraising opportunities and looking for a chance to sponsor young pickleball athletes from Peru to compete in professional tournaments and achieve their own dreams.
- It’s commonly referred to as a mix of tennis, table tennis and badminton.
- The number of people playing pickleball (“picklers”) grew 159% over three years to 8.9 million in 2022, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a trade group.
- The name is “a reference to the thrown-together leftover nonstarters in the ‘pickle boat’ of crew races,” according to USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body.
- University Recreation & Wellness will offer a Pickleball Club league competition starting mid-October; students can register through the FGCU Go app or the Rec Store.
Source : FGCU 360