A dog named Pickle chased the ball. So the founders named it “Pickleball.” I doubt if they had any idea it would become this big. Goggle it, if it hasn’t gotten to your area yet. It is coming.
Soon. Particularly if you live in a retirement area, or where it is warm, or near the beach. One facility in Florida features 104 courts specifically for Pickleball. They are packed, dawn to dusk.
As a “tennis person” I hear the grumbles. Much like the football people were (some still are) about soccer. Takes their people, business, fans.
I recently convinced our retirement community to line off two tennis courts with Pickleball boundaries. Easy, inexpensive. I can hear play from my kitchen window at those courts. Pickleballs make a louder sound. I’m hearing that sound a lot recently. I went there last week when I heard them playing. I inadvertently heard one player tell another, “…that’s the old coach who got them to line these courts!”
Funny what you become. At Elon University I convinced the school to dye a campus lake that was, well, just brown. At first they called the new color “tidy bowl”. Soon it was praised. Did the same thing at Wofford College, simply mentioning the weak beer-colored entrance lake there to then Athletics Director, Danny Morrison.
“The man who dyed the lakes”. “The man who brought us Pickleball!” Positive up to now?
Forty years ago as the director of a local junior tennis tournament I backed my van over the trophies. Coincidental, but girls only. Little skirts and breasts everywhere. Still today some middle aged woman is apt to bark at me: You are the guy who ran over our trophies! Male chauvinist pig was popular among 12 years old then.
When I moved to that town there were 5 tennis courts in the town. Twenty years later there were seventy four. At one point there were forty ranked juniors from that village. Now there are none. During that time Cary, NC featured no ranked juniors. Now there are nearly 100. What a community tennis effort by that city.
My tenure at Elon in Alamance County in NC was blessed with the new friendship of Jim Toney. There are “tennis angels”, living and dead. Jim just changed courts. Over twenty years there were some 3 million dollars worth of tennis facilities built throughout the county. From schools to clubs, indoor and out. Good job, Toney.
The University’s tennis center, The Jimmy Powell Tennis Center, became the blue print for a dozen new arenas in the southeast. And dictated that they were built in a much more attractive and functional way. A man leaves his mark. Or, in the words of the great philosopher, Pogo, “…it happened during my administration.”
An established church my friends help found, just closed. They got down to eleven members, one who still worked. Churches are struggling. Country clubs, and golf courses. The kids have had to move away to get jobs. Sunday fried chicken after church? Civic clubs, and on and on.
Things change. I fear for tennis. High schools and juniors striving for excellence. “I can play tennis on a video game and not have to run”, Oh yeah?
Tennis shored itself with the development of the league players; frankly, led by women. Golf can’t seem to understand that development of women and children’s play may be the only wise business choice. A “fun” course, or modified easier course, a course for women that the average woman can enjoy without listening to the dying throng gripe about them spending being “in the way.”
“Adapt or perish” true today? Is hard work passe for the masses.
The truth is tennis IS a lifetime game. For many. My friend had a tee shirt that said,”…if you ain’t got a limp you ain’t done nothing”. Lot of old time tennis people have kept the bone doctors hopping. The reasons for this new tennis-like game’s success are manifold: Easy to learn, inexpensive, no lessons needed, kids learn to play in 30 minutes, courts are easy to build. But the best of all is the value to the AARP crowd. Older people can stay active much longer. The workout is strenuous, but restricted movement will yield longevity that doesn’t cause the joint damage of tennis, jogging, and other activities.
Here’s a thought for young turks who want to work and make some money. Any condo developer will put a minimum of two tennis courts on his property. Has to. Why? Because the competition has as least two.
You ride by them daily. And no one is playing on them. Owners don’t keep them up. How about this: Learn how to line a Pickleball court on those two virgin courts. Go from hell to Dixie convincing owners to stripe them. Put some pickleball rackets and balls (they are inexpensive) and leave them at the courts. Get some volunteers who know how to play on your courts at prime times and watch. “If you build it they will come”.
PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS.
Burn all the health books. Diet and Exercise, nuff said. Tennis? Fine, but don’t knock anything that keeps you going.
One of many conversations with Mr. Toney ended with him looking me in the eye and saying, DON’T YOU QUIT.