Story told by Skylar and written by Jonathan
Tennis was the one thing constant in my life
As I drove home from work on a Friday evening, looking forward to my usual weekly game of tennis at the neighborhood park, my jaw dropped to my steering wheel as I witnessed two of the four neighborhood tennis courts I played on every week being demolished to bits.
A bright neon sign read: “4 pickleball courts, coming soon!”
And in my head, all I could think was: Is this a joke? A mistake?
At that point, I had never heard of pickleball before and couldn’t accept what I was seeing. But little did I know, this unfamiliar game was about to become a major part of my life.
My Journey with Tennis
I have been playing tennis for the past 20 years, and I must say that it has truly been the only constant in my life. It first started in junior high when I made the junior varsity team. And in high school, I traveled the state of Ohio to compete in matches against some of the best players in the state.
Tennis was also a family affair for my family and me. Every weekend, we would have early bird morning games followed by lunch at our local Olive Garden. On days where it was either too cold or rainy, we would visit our local community center and pay a few dollars to play.
When I went off to college out of state, my tennis journey did not end. In fact, it was what helped me make many of the friends I have today. I believe, in all honesty, that tennis was the reason I was able to get through school without going crazy.
Now that I’m in my 40s, tennis has come to my rescue once again. Since going through a divorce, learning about my parent’s passing, along with accepting many unwelcoming cards dealt to me, I’ve relied on tennis to help me get through the tough times.
So when I saw that the tennis courts at my neighborhood park were being turned into pickleball courts, you can now better understand my frustration. Tennis wasn’t just tennis to me.
The 3-month hiatus
For three months, I avoided the neighborhood courts entirely. Yes, there were still 2 courts up and running, but in all honesty, I was just too angry.
My passion was so deep that it even drove me to write a very nasty email to the neighborhood board demanding an answer and for them to replace the tennis courts once and for all, but of course, I was unsuccessful.
I later learned that the decision to build the pickleball courts was decided on during a neighborhood town hall meeting. One that I did not attend. Oops.
A Reluctant Yes
One day, a couple of my neighbors showed up at my door, asking if I wanted to join them for a game of pickleball because they were short on players. Of course, I said no. There’s no way I could give up on my silent protest now.
But after a bit of convincing from both my wife and my neighbors, I reluctantly agreed to try it just this one time. Afterall, I had noticed my belly getting bigger with each passing day.
I received a quick 10-minute overview of the rules, grabbed a paddle, and played my first game.
If it isn’t obvious already, I let my guard down, and I fell in love with pickleball almost immediately and have been playing it ever since.
Improving My Pickleball Game
In the first few months of my pickleball journey, I focused on the following things:
We all know the beauty of a Serena Williams-style power serve, and I like to think that my own tennis serve is quite powerful as well. So when I transitioned to pickleball and started learning how to serve, it was definitely an adjustment.
First, I had to understand the correct form and posture for a pickleball serve. Then, I learned about different service strategies like the power serve and the centerline serve. It was all about finding the right balance between power and precision, all while keeping my serving hand below waist level.
Soft and steady
One mistake I often make when I move to the kitchen line is trying to hit my dinks too hard. They end up sailing over the net, giving my opponents the opportunity to slam the ball back in my face. So, to improve my dinking strategy, I started practicing against a wall. This way, I could tell if my hits were too powerful, because the ball would easily get away from me. It’s been a helpful for me to learn to control the power of my dinks and keep them low over the net.
Moving to the kitchen line
If you’ve ever watched a tennis match, you might have noticed that the players tend to run from one end of the court to the other, staying far away from the net. That’s because tennis requires a lot of power, and players need to build up speed and momentum to hit powerful shots.
Pickleball, on the other hand, is a different game. It requires quick movement to the kitchen line to start the volley play. It’s much more about strategy, slowing down the pace, and conserving energy. In pickleball, it’s important to be smart and think ahead, rather than relying solely on raw power.
Remember how I told you about missing the neighborhood meeting last year and not getting a chance to vote on the pickleball courts? Well, this year I made sure to be present at the meetings. And for 2023, our neighborhood will be turning another tennis court into two more pickleball courts. And this time around, I’m fully on board with the decision.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love tennis and play it from time to time. But as I’ve come to realize, pickleball is a completely different sport. It’s easier on the joints (I might be getting up there in age), and it’s brought our neighborhood together in a way that I never could have imagined.
We have mothers joining who want a fun way to get into shape and even ex-tennis and table tennis players all getting in on the fun. Our neighborhood BBQ in 2022 was even centered around pickleball, and it was the best one yet!
It’s amazing how this little game has transformed our community into one big pickleball family.
My Message to the Tennis Community
Before you accuse me of being a traitor to the tennis community, let me just say this: tennis is tennis and pickleball is pickleball. They are two different sports, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy both.
So don’t be afraid to keep an open mind and try something new. You never know, you might just end up loving it. And if you don’t, well, at least you can say you gave it a chance.
Don’t knock it until you try it, or you might end up looking foolish, like me.