My Mom Told Me So
If you ask any weightlifter who enjoys lifting 300+ pound weights 4-6 times a week to willingly partake in any form of cardio, you’ll most likely receive a squinty side eye, a flex of a bicep, and a firm “no, thank you.”
When I first heard the term “pickleball” during a pre-dinner conversation with my mom, I’ll be honest: I couldn’t stop laughing. My mind flickered into Wonderland, and all I could imagine was people hitting a pickle-shaped ball. How did the name make any sense?
…so, here is my Pickleball story.
The year was 2019, and my mom was already a regular at a pickleball club, and like any good mother who wants to share the fun things of life with her son, she invited me to join her. My response?
It was an unequivocal NO. (Didn’t I warn you?)
First off, I was a weightlifter. Cardio was my kryptonite. It would poison my body. Second, it wasn’t my sort of crowd. (Yes, I am guilty of attributing pickleball to the mature folks. Clearly, I was wrong.)
So why would I waste an afternoon hitting around a ball when I could be at the gym lifting weights with me, myself, and I? But, like any good son, I told her, “Yes, I will go watch you play and see what it’s all about.”
Well, that was the biggest “mistake” I made, because the instant I strolled onto that court with my $10 wooden paddle in hand and a strange cheddar-cheese-like ball in the other, I knew I’d have to sit in silence on the car ride back home and listen to my mother tell me,” I told you so”, while doing her little dance that she thinks pairs so well with it.
Honestly, it was worth it. Because at that point, I was head over heels in love with pickleball, and the smile plastered all over my face could not hide it.
Going All Out for the Perfect Pickleball Paddle
When I am obsessed with something, I spend a minimum of 30+ hour researching whatever it is taking up my headspace. Finding the perfect pickleball paddle was no different.
For the next 7 days post discovery, I set my eyes on becoming a pro-pickleball player, so naturally, I would need a pro-level paddle suited for a future pro, right? Anything less than $125 dollars was immediately taken off my imaginary list. (Forgive me. I was still in the honeymoon phase.)
Here’s what I had to consider:
Light-weight vs. heavy-weight. Short handle vs. long handle. Spin vs. power. Fiberglass vs. graphite.
After reading countless pages of pickleball paddle content, watching all the YouTube videos I could find, and deeply taking to heart the 2,001 customer reviews I read on Amazon…
I ended up picking up the Gamma Shard Sports NeuCore Poly Core Pickleball Paddle. (Graphite. Light, yet powerful with extra spin.)
After my mom “borrowed” it one day to “test it out”, I never touched that paddle again.
Pickleball vs. Weightlifting
Playing pickleball for the past three years has changed my overall attitude towards exercise.
Since weight lifting is a pretty solitary sport in general, I forgot what it was like to be on a team and how much fun it can be. Sure, I get the occasional gym buddy who wants to lift with me or requests for me to train them, but for the most part, I go in knowing that for the next hour or so, I’ll be working out alone.
Pickleball, thankfully, does not operate in this fashion. Instead, it is a sport of cooperation. Whether I am playing singles or doubles, I’ve trained myself to become hyperaware of my opponent’s presence. If I’m playing doubles, I’ve learned how to rely on another human being in order to win. Most importantly, I’ve learned the art of non-verbal communication using a wink, an eye-roll, and a nod.
I’m happy to say I’ve found a good balance between the two.
When it comes to Pickleball…Practice Makes Permanent!
With a sprinkling of ping pong experience from back in my high school years, I’ve noticed many parallels between the two games. So yes, I must admit I had a bit of an advantage when I first began playing pickleball. But all of that “experience” was swiftly washed away when I mistakenly agreed to challenge a semi-pro.
Anyways, here are a few things I’ve done to improve my skills:
- I’ve discovered that stretching improves my mobility and reachability significantly. It has also kept injuries from becoming more serious than they could have been.
- Watch the pros
- YouTube is a gold mine when it comes to learning how to play pickleball. There are pros demonstrating technique and form as well as real pro-level games showing you how it’s done at the elite level.
- Learning from my peers
- Truth: there is always someone better than you. I find myself constantly observing people on the court and going up to them to play a game or two. This has helped me adapt to different styles of players as well as learn where my weaknesses lie in comparison.
- Practice alone
- While pickleball is a social sport, there’s nothing like being able to evaluate and perfect your movement without the distractions of others. I’ve found that merely practicing dinking at home or alone on a court has been beneficial.
Spreading the Word about Pickleball
From the gym, to work, to a simple conversation with a stranger at the grocery store, you can bet I’ve mentioned pickleball to anyone and everyone who would listen. I truly believe pickleball is all-inclusive.
So much so that I’ve been in talks with my gym’s manager about investing in pickleball and potentially building a couple courts behind the gym to attract a more diverse crowd.
(Fun fact: It was recently reported that LA Lakers Lebron James is investing in a pro-level pickleball team. How cool is that?)
As of 2022, there are now 118 managed pickleball courts located in Columbus, Ohio. That doesn’t include privately owned courts or the new bar/pickleball combination courts opening up all over Columbus!
I’d like to say I’ve played a small part in making that happen.
Rapid-Fire Questions about Pickleball
- How long have you been playing?
At this point, I have playing for around 3 years.
- What level are you?
I am at a 3.5-4 level. Sort of in between.
- What is your favorite shot and why?
My favorite shot has always been serving. A good serve sets the tone for the rest of the play.
- If it wasn’t called Kitchen…what would you call it?
I’d call it the No-No Zone. Clear, concise, and easy to understand.
- What do you prefer…singles or doubles? Why? Doubles! Because there is always someone there to jump up and down with when you win a play or a game.
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