The pickleball craze hit our small and relatively new community like a Nor’easter. And much to my surprise, I have given it a try – and love it.
Despite absolutely no experience with a sport that involves an apparatus in my hands other than a mean spatula, I’m suddenly hooked. Maybe it’s an unspoken satisfaction with taking it out on the flying plastic ball, or maybe it all has to do with the laughter and camaraderie that is innate in the sport.
I have two brothers who made it difficult for me as their kid sister to find confidence in hitting a ball all of those years ago. Hand-eye coordination has never, ever been my forte and still isn’t. I seemed to always be the one to run home and make the sandwiches for the neighborhood kids instead, hiding my lack of ability to strike a ball of any kind: baseball, golf ball, tennis ball…name it, and I didn’t hit it.
Fast forward to now, when I live in a senior community. Turns out, I’m not the only one in that category, but suddenly I’m in a loosely formed “league” of sorts with self-proclaimed klutzes just like me.
Laughing is more the sport than competitive pickleball, although I have to admit that each of us has improved quite a bit. Some have quietly graduated to the next levels up, but tell me every once in a while that they miss our group of newbies because of the comedic atmosphere.
Sure, we are a bit competitive, keeping score and correcting each other on swings and the odd scoring and rule system. But in my group, no one plans to register for the senior Olympics any time soon.
We are still learning to serve, to aim, to return after the required bounce on the first two balls in play, and adjust to the seemingly endless coastal winds that can send your ball unwillingly into another court or out of bounds.
And oh, that laughter! We are a jovial group, poking fun at each other and more importantly – at ourselves. The intermediate and advanced intermediates within our neighborhood have just as much fun, but in my opinion, it’s far more intense and sometimes rancorous – not out of any kind of vengeance of course – just a game at a higher level with plenty of jabs involved.
Sure, I’ve competed for years in sports (that don’t involve something to aim with), and I do find myself reigniting that urge to win that has long been dormant. I was primarily a swimmer and runner, sports that encourage teamwork of course, as any sport does. But you are also swimming or running against the clock and yourself, and I’ve never seen a swimmer start laughing in the middle of a race. (Not a great idea.)
I would encourage anyone of any ability or lack thereof to give pickleball a try. I believe it is important to play with those on your level. It is a game, after all.
Occasionally, I will get an invitation to jump into a game because they need another player. And you know what? They go easy on me and do nothing except encourage me to become better.
Give it a try. There are plenty of neighborhoods, community groups and private lesson opportunities that will teach the game. More importantly, the friendships that form are unexpected and fantastic.
Keep it up, Delawareans. A smile goes a long way, even all the way up the coast to Maine.