Building a Pickleball Community
Bring up pickleball in a group setting and you will get one of two reactions. The first type of reaction is an enthusiastic response from a person who is familiar with the game and wants to share everything they know about it. The second reaction is curiosity. People will say they have heard about it, but they want to know more. Both types represent people that want to play, but for the most part they are not familiar with how to organize to form, gather, and engage in a community of players that can grow into a fun and cohesive group on and off the court.
Find a Core Group
Whether new to the game or an established player, it is always nice to have a core group of players that are about the same skill level as you and who you enjoy spending time with. This is crucial for a couple reasons. First, it helps you become comfortable with the game and your play because you can feel comfortable being yourself. The relaxation of friends that accept your bad shots and concentration lapses improve learning. Then, beyond this comfortable familiarity, good people know other good people. This is how we begin to make the leap from a core group to the next stage of building a community.
Venture Out – Open Play
Right now, you are probably thinking, what does venturing out on my own to play pickleball, sometimes with strangers, have to do with building a community? There is a method here. First, being confident enough to play outside of your core group is a big leap. Going from playing with people that know you well to people that don’t know you at all is intimidating. It affects your play, which represents an opportunity for pickleball growth. If you haven’t attended open play, you are missing out on growth opportunities.
The main reason you are missing a huge opportunity is that open play is a great way to meet a lot of amazing people. There are a lot more wonderful pickleball enthusiasts out there, just like you. Open play brings strangers together all with a common purpose, to play with and enjoy the company of other like-minded people. If you attend the same open play regularly, you will see a similar, yet much broader, group of people. You’ll build relationships with these players, and before you know it some of them will become new pickleball friends. Surprise! You’ve just expanded your community and grown as a player all by just taking a little personal risk and jumping in on open play.
Create Your Community
If we look at your core group and add it to your new friends made through open play, you’ve begun to form a good size group. From there, these people have other people they want to introduce to the game and friends that are part of their core groups. You can immediately see the multiplication effect that starts to occur. Before you know it, the group starts to grow and you begin to open larger groups of pickleball friends, new and old. You now have a good community of players, but there is one catch to all of it. This catch is simple but also challenging at the same time.
Someone must lead this group of people. When it is just a core group of four to six, simple text messages asking when people are available to play are all it takes. Open play is listed at specific times and players just show up. Now that we have our own large group, they need to be organized and someone needs to step up to lead them. Keep in mind, organizing this new “club” requires some modest effort.
This is where you might say, just pick a time and tell people to show up. If your new extended community of players is good a size, say 20 players, this will probably work just fine, but of course you need to pick a day(s)/time(s) that will work for the majority. If your new group is a little bit smaller you will have to find tools to help keep it organized. There are apps that can help, but free tools, like the Google suite of products will also do the trick. Google Sheets and Groups can help with availability and communication. Perhaps, you will have other familiar tools that will work for you. Nothing is off limits when it comes to keeping things organized. The biggest thing is that you want enough people to regularly show up, with or without the leader present. At some point, the goal is for the group to take on its own identity.
The thing that makes pickleball the fastest growing sport is the fact it is a social and competitive experience. Building up a community that you enjoy playing with and socializing with is a common and wonderful experience. It’s great when strangers that start with a common interest become friends. Pickleball creates that magic. Don’t be afraid to be the magician that creates that social magic for people. You will find it exceptionally rewarding
Written By: Christopher Amidzich