Pickleball is a curious sport. It’s a jumble of several sports with a set of unique rules. The origin of the sport dates back to the 1960s when the game was cobbled together using a badminton court, ping pong paddles and a plastic wiffle ball.
The game was born when two families vacationing at Bainbridge Island in Washington used odds and ends to pull together a game to entertain their bored teen children, according to USA Pickleball.
Since then, the pickleball has grown from a pastime in vacation communities and retirement parks to one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Pickleball courts are now a fixture in large and small communities across Oklahoma.
Participation in pickleball nationally has increased by more than 150% in the past three years. Nearly a third of players are between the ages of 18-34, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
For the past two years, Club 29 has hosted a pickleball tournament as a way to get know fellow Rotarians. In 2024, the tournament will be Saturday, Jan. 27 at Chicken N Pickle. I would encourage you to consider about playing or coming out to support the tournament – regardless of experience. Our tournament attracts players at all levels.
As a novice pickleball player, sometimes the competition is intimidating. I began serving on the tournament committee in 2021 – my first year in Rotary – thinking it was fun and easy way to be of service to the club. I didn’t realize serving on the committee also meant you had to play or know anything about pickleball. Minor details, I suppose.
My 6th grade tennis lessons didn’t prepare me for the wicked backhand and dink shots of my fellow competitors. In those early matches, my ever-patient partner repeated the scoring rules to me on every serve. I baffled by many of the essential concepts of the game.
I’d like to say my pickleball skills improved in my second tournament appearance – only if you count not falling on the court as progress. As professionals, we are good at a lot of things – leading people, companies or community efforts. But its human nature for all of us to gravitate towards what is easy and comes naturally to us. What we sometimes forget is how to learn new skills. But that challenge is vital and rewarding.
Learning new things force us to use new muscles, have patience with ourselves and stay focused. In sports and life, the concept of keeping your eye on the ball rings true. We can get frustrated, miss shots or get stuck in our head replaying mistakes. To thrive, we need to know our goals and continue to strive for them. In the discomfort of learning new skills – sometimes all you can do is take a breath and keep your eye on the ball.
Physical activity and enjoying friends help us be in top condition for the challenges that come our way in life. I intend to be back in the tournament in January solidly anchoring the novice bracket with a few more matches and practice under my belt. I would encourage fellow Rotarians to keep an eye out for additional information on the January tournament or any Rotary opportunity that will charge you to stretch, grow and connect you to your community.