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How Pro Pickleball Tournaments Transformed My Love for the Game

two pro players in mesa az
PPA Mesa AZ (Picture Kerry Pittenger)

In a scene from Harold Becker’s “Vision Quest” J. C. Quinn (Elmo), remembering a soccer game, encapsulates how I feel about pickleball and about the athletes who play in pro tournaments, while also reminding me of my beginnings in recreational ball.  Back then, I played for fun.  Now, years later, yes, I still play for fun.  And unlike other recreational players, whether or not my game has improved is inconsequential, for I have no ingrained need to prove something. Why? Well, several reasons—chief of which is revealed by Quinn in the before-mentioned dramatic clip.  To see it for yourself, search Youtube for “Vision Quest six minutes.” 

Upon seeing professional pickleball players in MLP/PPA tournaments, I couldn’t believe the talent: the shots smooth, grooved, and graceful, players covering court, hustling to wherever the chase demanded. I’d never seen—and still haven’t seen anywhere—such dazzling pickleball.

pro pickleball athletes
PPA Mesa, AZ 2024 (Picture Kerry Pittenger)

Pro matches, to my mind, are a combination of dancing, gymnastics, and ballet, with paddles, a ball, a net, judges. Unusual interpretation, but honest and clear-eyed. Dinking is mesmerizing, never tiresome: rhythmic back- and-forth and side- to -side movements, precise drops, cat-and-mouse action, suspense rising before speed-ups. Beyond dinking we find constant shifts, mid-point, from offense to defense, meticulous point construction, changes of pace, strategy, style–reasons why I and many others enjoy watching top athletes play, much like Elmo watching Pele, slack-jawed in appreciation of others’ gifts, others’ competitive spirit, others’ dreams. Same for you? 

I’ve never been much of an athlete, never been competitive, never brooded over losing a game, a match, a race, anything.  Nor do I get upset or frustrated when I  get pickled or make a lousy shot. Instead I laugh at myself, mock myself, make faces, gestures, sounds.  I like playing to my potential and seeing what happens, how it feels when mind and body become a force. No pressure. No tension. No expectations.  How about you?

What I enjoy most about pickleball, though, is watching MLP/PPA players give all they’ve got that day. Win or lose, they make it look choreographed and flawless.  Agree?

As far as recreational gaming goes, I’m pleased with my level of play, with my frequency of once or twice a week, every once in a while a decent shot coming off my paddle. What fun it is when my teammate and I have chemistry and our playing styles entwine. Although I’m never going to reach tournament level–not an ambition of mine–I can watch professionals and admire, dream, imagine, cheer, applaud, predict, think, write and post.  Good enough for me.  Pretty goddamned glorious!

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About David Boyle

A versatile and diversified writer, David Boyle has written three short story collections, published by independent presses. Though he earned his readership by writing reality-based fiction, Boyle has gained a reputation for literary stories, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, analyses, travel writing, reportage, and poems, a good number of which have appeared in both print and online magazines. Inspired by his wife's passion for the sport, David now loves pickleball and aims to illuminate current pickleball events and subjects with a fresh, creative perspective, offering readers something they can't find anywhere else. | My website | boyled411@gmail.com | My Pickleball Journal

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