When someone asks me what pickleball is, I look them in the eye and tell them plain and simple, "It's the game they play in heaven." For the record, I also say Vegemite is what they eat in heaven so don't quote me on anything when you meet the Director of Sport and Rec beyond the pearly gates. Pickleball means so much to so many; for some, it's just a hobby, for others, a way of life. For me, pickleball was a second chance.
I spent much of my early life wandering the earth and using my work as a tennis coach to see the world while I was young enough to enjoy it. Once I started living in the US in early 2014, it marked the first time in almost 10 years that I was prepared to call a new country 'home.' It didn't occur to me that culture shock was going to be the least of my problems, the bigger problem was my inability to give up on the transient lifestyle I had become so accustomed to. Immediately, I felt trapped, I knew I needed to find a new challenge and a way to explore the land of opportunity. Along came pickleball. Along came the solution to my problem, a vehicle to channel my need to escape and mask my various commitment issues. "Sorry, Sweetie, I would love to meet your folks but I have a tournament this weekend."
What started as a brief acquaintance – with pickleball not ‘sweetie’ -- over a few months, quickly became a full-blown love affair, an addiction to top all others. After a summer in Seattle, I knew that my life would never be the same and tennis, my former love, would soon find itself relegated to the early chapters of my upcoming tell-all, ‘3rd Balls for Life.’
Pickleball for the whole family. The recent Nationals saw Rob Elliot team up with daughter, Rachel, in a valiant bid to topple the Dawsons and Moores as the first family of pickleball. Watching them play was both inspiring and educational, a fun-filled lesson in how a sport can be used to tighten family bonds.
It was my own brother, Caerwyn, who first introduced the game to me, and in so doing, changed my life and our relationship. We were never able to compete safely on the tennis court; our competitive natures would trump brotherly love too often. Pickleball, however, is perfectly suited to amicable play so we have now found a sport that lets us enjoy each other’s company without needing a first-aid kit on standby.
Two years ago, I introduced pickleball to my mother, Gabi Plumm. Since then she has worked tirelessly to ignite the Pickleball wildfire in Australia. We now have something wonderful in common, our joint concern about her inability NOT to volley inside the kitchen ;-) … sorry Mumsies!
The game wears many faces, but my all-time favorite is how pickleball acts as a bridge. It joins generations together that otherwise would struggle to find a place to unite on a field of friendly competition. What other sport can allow the best players in the world to still have a fun match with the weekend warriors at a local park? I still pinch myself when I am having the time of my life on court with players of a decidedly Sun City variety. There is always something to learn, and I know that the moment I stop learning, will be the moment I'll stop leading. Thanks, pickleball :-)