For those of you who don't know Michelle, she is the best. A tennis coaching friend of mine recently said to me, that out of 100 people you meet (and teach), 10 of them are going to be great people, 10 of them are going to be horrible, and the other 80 are just people. Michelle Greco falls into the top 1% of the great people.
I was fortunate enough to have been connected with Michelle when I had just moved out to LA about 2 years ago, as I was trying to open a multi-sport racket and paddle sport club called Swyng. Looking back to the time before we met, I was a bit intimidated by her resume: a former star point guard for The UCLA Bruins, a WNBA veteran for the Seattle Storm and a champion Pop Tennis player in countless tournaments. Then, we met and I got to know Michelle, both on and off the Pop courts. While she has lethal strokes and is a fierce competitor on the courts, she is incredibly humble, has tremendous passion for people, and is just an absolute sweetheart with a heart of gold. Her infectious smile, easy going demeanor and her joie de vivre makes her shine and it's no wonder everyone wants to be around her.
I sat down with Michelle to talk about the state of Pop Tennis, her bike rental company Joyride Santa Monica and her life in LA. Here we go!
Let's talk about running a small business during Covid
Q: You are the owner of Joyride Santa Monica.You were coming off of a banner year in 2019. Covid hits and you have to shut down operations. Walk us through this time period, the trials and tribulations, and how you adapted through these super challenging times.
A: It was a difficult year. As you mentioned, we came off a record setting 2019 and then due to COVID we were forced to close the 2nd week in March of 2020. We had to remain closed until mid-May, but even after we reopened we had to close again the July 4th week due to a state wide closure of all beaches in California. Needless to say, it was a rollercoaster of a ride. Thankfully, we were able to pivot our business plan a bit. We started selling used bikes, offering monthly rentals for locals living in a 10-mile radius of Santa Monica and slowly we started opening on weekends for regular business. Sadly, we lost staff during our business closures and of course we had a huge financial loss of revenue. Fast forward to 2021, we’ve hit the ground running better than ever. We’re now crushing numbers from 2019, I was able to hire an amazing new staff and we’re setting records every month. We couldn’t be more thankful for this huge turnaround and I credit the locals from Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area for their support of small businesses. We greatly appreciate our loyal and amazing Joyride customers!
Q: What do you like most about running Joyride?
A: I started Joyride because I love being outside at the beach, I have a great love for bikes and I really enjoy meeting new people. Customer service has always come natural to me and something I truly enjoy. Also, I love the challenge of running my own business and turning a creative vision into a reality. It gives me great “joy” when I see my Joyride bikes riding along the beach path in Santa Monica and Venice.
Let's talk Pop
Q: Seriously, did you put the Pop in Pop Tennis? I have had the honor of playing some pop tennis with you over the past couple of years. I’m feeling like they named the sport after you as every time we have played together, you are pretty much a rock star down at the Venice Beach courts. But seriously, tell us how you were introduced to the sport, what hooked you in and what you enjoy most about it.
A: I was introduced to the great game of Pop Tennis in 2013 when my Uncle Bill invited me to play in a mixed doubles tournament in Palos Verdes. At the time, I was just transitioning from playing professional basketball, so I was in dire need of a new sport to spark my interest and feed my competitive fire. Immediately, I was hooked! The game is fast, aggressive and athletic, and my skill set seemed to fit in nicely. I also met some amazing new friends playing at the Venice Beach and Culver City courts. Before I knew it, I was playing and traveling to tournaments in Florida, New York and Ojai. I just couldn’t get enough!
Q:I know you play a little tennis. How’s your tennis game these days and do you find playing tennis helps or hurts your Pop tennis game?
A: I don’t play much tennis these days but the last time I was on a court was just before the start of COVID. To my great delight I felt like my tennis game was actually better. I couldn’t get over how big the court was! Since I’m used to the smaller Pop court, everything I hit seemed to stay in and it was amazing. Getting used to the overhand serve as oppose to underhand was a change but I definitely felt like Pop improved my overall tennis game.
Competition & Training
Q: You have competed in countless tournaments and have won something like (a dozen of them?). For starters, Do you prefer doubles or singles?
A: I prefer doubles for competition and singles for a great workout, and to improve my overall game.
Q: When you train, you train hard! Walk us through your typical training day. How many hours on the courts, off the courts?
A: Depending on how busy my week is, I try to get in at least 3 to 4 pop tennis sessions in the morning. Normally when I get to the courts, I have a scheduled opponent for singles or doubles. Ideally, I try to play for at least 2 hours with at least 30-45 minutes of drilling and then over an hour of competing in sets. I also try to sneak in 1 sand workout or a stair/walk workout to mix up my routine.
Q: I know you are not so into tennis skirts. What do you like to wear on the courts and are there any brands you gravitate towards?
A: This question made me laugh. I played high school tennis and my freshman year I was forced to wear a skirt because that was the team uniform. After putting up a stink the entire season I got the “okay” to wear my basketball shorts while playing. Phew! Such a relief not having to wear that skirt. I felt so free to compete harder with my shorts on. Ha. Now, I love to wear my Lululemon, 2xU tights when I play. The material has to be the thicker, stretchy type (not the yoga pant material). I’m very picky with my tights and I also have to have a cool, flowy tank top to go with my pants. Let’s not forget my signature trucker hat to go with those items. ☺
Q: What are you eating pre and post workouts?
A: I have a consistent breakfast every morning before I play or workout. I first start with a banana, walnuts, blueberries, Cocoyo yogurt and a glass of pineapple/ginger juice. After letting that settle for about 20 minutes I then have either oatmeal or cereal depending on what I feel like. For hydration I’ll bring 1 smart water and 1 Health-Ade ginger Kombucha to the courts.
When I finish playing, depending on how much time I have, I’ll either have a yellow diamond smoothie with maca protein powder from Kreation or I’ll make a veggie filled salad with albacore tuna.
Q: Speaking of food, I know we both enjoy a great meal after we play hard. It has become our thing to meet up at Kreation and get their $20 Prosperity smoothies. I am craving one right now. As a Santa Monica resident and lover of our little City by the Sea, tell us about some of your favorite local spots to dine, perhaps some that you frequent while training and others on more "cheat days".
A: Ahhh, those Kreation smoothies are so good aren’t they? The $20 Prosperity smoothie is worth every penny and I also have a new favorite from a friend who just started a mobile smoothie/juice shop on Ocean Ave and Montana. It’s called The Juice Shop and William is the owner. My favorite smoothie is The Grateful and I like to add Kale and Bananas. I’ve joked that the smoothie should be renamed "The Greco" since I’m his best customer and I get it all the time. Ha! A few other favorite lunch/dinner/ice cream spots I love to frequent are below:
Back On The Beach Café at The Annenberg. Get the veggie power bowl and add chicken if you’re really hungry.
Rosti’s on Montana. I love the beef meatballs as an appetizer, the spinach/cheese ravioli’s and the chicken marsala.
Dagwood's on Wilshire. Can’t go wrong with this local Italian spot. I love the house salad, spaghetti with meat sauce and pizza with pepperoni, olives, mushrooms and basil. Yum!
Prima Cocina on Montana. Get the veggie bowl and prima burrito with steak. Don’t forget the guacamole!
Q: Where do you see Joyride going in the next 3-5 years?
A: I’m not exactly sure. I’ve looked into expanding to new locations, acquiring store fronts and offering new services but for now I really like where we’re at. We’re just coming off a great summer and we’re hoping to continue with a decent fall and winter. Fingers crossed that nothing changes with Covid, our country and the world can continue to heal.
Q: Do you think the bike riding craze will last?
A: For the time being, yes! I think Covid has changed the way people think and how they exercise. Fresh air, exercise and amazing scenery can’t be replaced by being inside a gym with a mask on. There is a freedom that is associated with bike riding outside, especially at the beach.
Let’s talk basketball
Q: We've got a series of questions here for you:
- Is basketball your favorite sport and talk to us about the similarities between playing basketball and Pop Tennis.
- How often are you playing basketball these days?
- I know you also do some private coaching. Tell us about that a bit and how fulfilling it is for you. How good are the youngsters these days?
- UCLA men’s and women’s team predictions for this season.
- Top 5 NBA and WNBA players. Current and former.
A: Growing up, soccer and basketball were my two favorite sports with tennis being a close second. I played mostly organized soccer with basketball and tennis being sports that I played with family and friends at the park or at home. By the time I got to middle school, it became evident that basketball was my ticket to college and possibly a dream of playing professionally. So I focused on basketball, and from the age of 15 to 33 it became my passion and obsession. Competing at the highest level in college at UCLA, the WNBA for the Seattle Storm and in the EuroLeague for Cras Basket Taranto in the south of Italy were absolute highlights and experiences that I’ll never forget. It’s crazy when I think about where the game of basketball took me. I played for international professional teams in Israel, Greece, Turkey and Italy. During my seasons playing overseas we’d travel for games to Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, France, Croatia, Romania.. the list goes on and on. I literally have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about all the amazing places I got to visit because of basketball. Being able to experience different cultures, eat amazing foods, hear new languages and just see the day to day life in new locations was such a blessing.
Now, I rarely play, but I coach a lot of basketball. I currently coach the 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls basketball teams at The Village School in the Palisades. I also coach a free basketball clinic every Wednesday at the Boys & Girls club in Santa Monica. Additionally, I do private basketball coaching in the Brentwood, Palisades area. Coaching is something I love and it’s a great feeling being able to transfer my knowledge of the game to the youth. Some of the kids I coach are ballers! I’m super excited to see some of them continue to grow and progress through the years.
Speaking of exciting... my UCLA Bruins are going to be tough this year. Both the men and women are going to be at the top of the Pac 12! I’m predicting Elite 8 appearances from both the men and women this year. Watch out for Johnny Juzang on the men’s team and Charisma Osborne on the women’s squad. They’re both incredible players and I’m predicting more record breaking seasons for them!
The WNBA has been really cool to watch recently. The playoffs are always the best time to tune in and right now I’m loving seeing Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker both one win away from taking their teams to the Finals! I’d love to see a Phoenix Mercury vs Chicago Sky Finals. If that happens I’m rooting for Diana, So Cal native from Chino and amazing person and mother!
I can’t wait for the NBA season to start! Anyone who knows me well knows how big of a Laker fan I am. Growing up in the Los Angeles area during the 80’s I got to witness Laker championships during the Showtime Era with Magic and Kareem. Gosh how spoiled are we Laker fans?! We then got to welcome the greatest Laker of all time Kobe Bryant (RIP Kobe, still doesn’t feel real) and Shaquille O’Neal. Now, we have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook (Go Bruins!) and Carmelo Anthony… gosh we really are spoiled as Laker fans! I’m expecting a great season and another Championship banner! Let’s go Lakers!!
State of Pop Tennis
Q: I have heard rumblings that Pop Tennis may become an Olympic sport. Thoughts on this?
A: Similar to how there was 3on3 basketball as a spinoff from the regular game of 5on5 in the Tokyo Olympics, I think it’s time to add a new version to Tennis. The world is looking for new fresh and exciting sports. Everyone loves tennis but it’s time to mix it up… my vote is for Pop!
Q: So, not into Pickleball yet/ever?
A: I can honestly say that I have never played Pickleball. Kudos to those who love Pickleball and are obsessed with playing like I am with Pop. For me, I’m still trying to understand the kitchen and how to keep score. Ha! I’m not a hater though. Racquet sports are so much fun and if you’re routinely exercising, enjoying the game with friends and competing I applaud you.
State of Michelle Greco
Q: I have gotten to know you pretty well over the past couple of years. You are kind, sensitive, a good listener and a good friend. "The People" also love you. As we just witnessed the recall election, have you thought about getting into politics?
A: Political Science was my major at UCLA but no, I don’t see myself running for Mayor or the local city council anytime soon. Ha Love the question though! ☺