It’s been a few months since I started playing this recently incredibly popular game called pickleball. I agreed to start playing more as a social thing – as opposed to a sport that might excite me. It’s something different for my wife and I to do with friends to break up the monotony of our usual social activities here in the suburbs.
Played on a shrunken tennis court with an almost dead Wiffleball type ball and a light paddle, pickleball has a strange set of rules governing the angle and height of the paddle on a serve and the rebounds required at certain points of play. a volley. There’s also the ‘kitchen’, an area around the net that you can get in to hit the ball on the rebound, but never on the volley, then you have to quickly get out – or it’s a foul.
Keeping score also involves keeping track of which server is serving, and the serving team’s players rotate sides after each serve, forcing the other team to switch positions as well, moving forwards and backwards but to the same side . That’s a lot to digest, so we took a few lessons to master the basics.
I’ve been a paddle ball player since I was a kid and have always enjoyed slamming a small, hard, lively ball against the wall with varying degrees of power and finesse from all angles to block my opponent or place them where he could not be reached. So pure and simple and so “city”, perhaps attributable to my “borough rat” roots.
But as an “older guy” in the suburbs – where racquetball and tennis are the dominant sports but neither do me anything, and the former makes me claustrophobic – it’s always been paddleball, basketball and tennis. softball. And I’ve always felt confident in my skills when I step onto any of these courts and pitches. The confidence I would gain was uncertain as there were always first impressions of the other team’s physique.
Pickleball is another story. While I’m able to volley, score runs, manage the kitchen, and generally keep score properly, I haven’t brought the same killer instinct to the game. Maybe because I play with my wife and my friends, maybe because I don’t really like it. I am not sure.
But I play, sweat a little and laugh a little. A great social experience.
Another friend recently dragged me into an open play in a nearby park where the backyard dwellers, despite the lack of an intimidating physical presence, were probably more experienced. Despite my lack of experience, I firmly believed that my physique and the effort of my will would allow me to compete, even win.
We were beaten twice and were barely competitive in a third game. And then I played with another guy against an older couple who looked like they had just returned from winter in Florida – we were crushed again.
I couldn’t believe it or accept it. I was embarrassed and beside myself with anger. I lost against all of them?
So I decided to continue having fun with my wife and friends, but I will sharpen my knives and skills for the next visit to the park.
More nonchalance, more arrogance and more books to judge by their covers. Old guys who look beaten cause the most pain when they return the ball and you can’t reach it.
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