This is what it’s like to encounter pickleball
Knowing that our local pickleball courts would be closing as autumn wanes, forcing us to go elsewhere to get in our shots and dinks and rips, we were determined to find somewhere else to play outdoors, winter be damned. Having played in cold weather before, why wouldn’t we bear it again? That in mind, my wife and I decided to journey to Morris Plains, New Jersey, to see other courts.
What a beautiful Saturday—warm, comfortable, the sun shining like it’s game point. What more could anyone ask for? As we walked our dog, Murphy, around the park, taking in the pond, the playground, and a medley of seasonal smells, a familiar sound—two six, something like that, not gibberish, but a pickleball score—was hollered, pulling us toward it like metal to a magnet.
Then, more sounds: pop, crack, pop, crack, paddle-strikes, an intense rally, sneakers scuffing the court, players panting, scrambling—a firefight—gamers laughing, harmless name-calling. Point won.
Every pickleball player gets it, whether you are a pro or just play for fun. Those sounds, those moments on the court–they just draw you in. Running late? Whatever it is can wait, we tell ourselves. Almost always a crowd will form, an onlooker will ask to rotate in and, with luck, good conversations begin and friendships break bud. Once you start playing pickleball, the game becomes a part of you, addiction a matter of time—an addiction that, for some, is just the refresh and escape we need from the workaday world.
Adjacent to the courts, on a bench in the distance, a family was sitting, having stopped playing just moments ago. My wife and I soon found ourselves chatting with them—the husband, a tennis player, new to pickleball. He, his wife and young son seemed loose and relaxed. Our dialogue drifted among topics, the man inquiring about the kitchen, about the non-volley zone, about rallies and other things. I answered in detail; my wife too. Discussion done, the family said goodbye, clutched their paddles, and moved toward the court, while we went back to the car.
On the other court: two girls at the net, engaged in battle, another girl acting as referee and line judge, her posture soldier-like, although smiling and giggling as her pals countered and moved and covered court, scrapping for a put-away. This is pickleball! No wonder there has been a worldwide wish to make pickleball an Olympic sport. So long as passion, enthusiasm, and respect for pickleball continue their upward swing, that wish will no doubt be granted. Courts are materializing left and right, much like here; enjoyment coming even when having a bad game, even when getting pickled!
Funny, I had not had interest in sports in maybe ten or fifteen years. Then, one day, my wife came home a new woman, pickleball the reason, not the pro players or the tournaments, just the activity, the group, the unforgettable sword fights. And then—I myself took a paddle in hand, stepped on a court, drank in the energy, an energy that rushed through me and now here I am writing about pickleball again. Writing about such adventures allows me to relive the sights and sounds and happenings of the pickleball crusade, all for your reading pleasure and for your entertainment.