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I’m going to take a wild guess that if you’re reading this, pickleball has changed your life. Maybe not in a massive way … like maybe you’re just spending your active time playing pickleball instead of some other sport. But if you think about it, even if that’s the case, you’re probably happier now and have many more friends than you did before you began playing – an unintended benefit of pickleball! (Love it, btw!!)
Even if we look at the pro’s on the tour … Other than a couple of the very young ones it’s certain that none of them had their original career path as “professional pickleball player”. And yet here they are! Definitely a change in their life as they’re now making a living and supporting themselves from tournament winnings and various sponsorships. (Of course some also teach pickleball to supplement.) And sure - many of them came from a similar tennis path, but as we know – pickleball isn’t tennis 😊
The really interesting stories, to me, are about pickleball saving lives. I’ve certainly had many (many!) people share their stories with me of how pickleball saved their life in one fashion or another. But I wanted to share some of the stories that were expressed to Barney McCallum who, I hope you know, was one of the game’s founders.
For background of where these stories came from, my doubles partner, Jennifer Lucore, and I were good friends of Barney’s. One year, for Barney’s 93rd birthday, Jennifer had the good idea to request birthday wishes from our social media sites and her blog followers. We gathered and organized the hundreds of responses into a sort of booklet to give Barney. It was really cool that people from all over responded – not just North America but even some from the UK, India, Hong Kong and more! These stories bring tears to me eyes, they are so great … And thus I went back and gathered some excerpts from a few of them:
From Utah: “Pickleball has been a lifesaver!... Although my family thinks I love pickleball more than them, which may be true...?!?!?! The friends and laughter and exercise and something-good-to-look-forward-to it's given me is priceless! Cheapest and healthiest anti-depressant out there!”
From Canada: “After my wife died in 2005 I was super depressed for years, simply wanted to die. Friends dragged me out to play pickleball in a local church and frankly I believe it saved my life. I got hooked on the game and have been playing steady ever since, 5 to7 days a week for up to 2 hours or more. I am now 83 years old and I really do owe it all to PICKLEBALL.”
From California: “My daughter turned 40 and was recently divorced. Life was hard adjusting to being a single mom of two kids. She was asked by a friend if she wanted to go play pickleball at a local gym. When she got home (4 hrs later) she called me with excitement I had not heard in a long time. Fast forward 4 months - she has lost weight, gaining the confidence that had been lost. This sport changes lives.”
From Mexico: “You are bettering lesser served communities bringing economical and sustainable good tourism to our small little communities and that is what is important. Bringing good to community.”
From Virginia: “It was a lonely time, until I saw a front page article in the local paper about pickleball at the local YMCA. I joined, I played, I made friends. Pickleball saved my life.”
From Texas: “My husband began playing and lost over 30 lbs, lowered his blood pressure and his cholesterol levels. I now teach pickleball and am a USAPA Ambassador. Pickleball has changed my life, and I get to see other people’s lives change also. One player regained the use of her arm which had been almost severed in a car accident. Another woman’s bones began resurfacing and she is no longer in active stages of osteoporosis because of pickleball! I love this game that families can play together, and no matter what level it’s always fun!”
From Georgia: “Pickleball saved my life. I have become fit again at the age of 59, made very close friends, lost 15 lbs and have joy back in my life all from playing pickleball.”
From Papua New Guinea: “Just wanted to let you know that discovering pickleball gave me a new lease on life and the opportunity to be involved with a sport at a social and competitive level after 15 years. Managed to destroy my knees in my 20's and was banned from competitive sport in my 30's. Pickleball has changed all that as I now play through my 50's.”
From Illinois: “Thank you for inventing this magical game. I am only 16 but this game has changed my life. My whole life I honestly hated sports until I found pickleball. I enjoy spreading the game to the younger community and want to continue it for future generations.”
And of course there are more, but I can only cry so much while writing one article. But, if you have a story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it!
Team Vulcan Pro Alex Hamner was inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame in 2020, noted for her 21 gold medals from USAPA Nationals, the US Open Pickleball Championships, and Tournament of Champions. She and her partner, Jennifer Lucore, have earned more gold medals than any other women in pickleball.