It’s Addicting

It was the first warm Saturday in February. We’d been waiting. We’d been hitting a wiffle ball around in the racquetball court, trying to get a feel for the pickleball paddles and the ball. We didn’t have a pickleball, but they’re similar enough to wiffle balls. We were anxious to try it out on an actual pickleball court with a net.

When we showed up though, on that first warm Saturday afternoon in February, the courts were full. Doubles were being played on all four courts at Lincoln Park. And several other players – twenty, perhaps – were standing on the sidelines waiting to play.

I immediately sensed a party atmosphere. I felt we should enter the gates, stride on in, and introduce ourselves.

But we didn’t. Jim and I leaned on the fence, fine with just watching to see how the game worked. After a few minutes, a tall, long-legged woman, wearing jeans and a long sleeve cotton t-shirt came over. Long, thick hair, blonde, oozed out from beneath the navy blue cap on her head.

She was, hmm, I’d guess about 60.

“You see that guy there?” She nodded toward an older guy on the court closest to us. “He’s 80.”

I watched him play for a few seconds. He was agile, smiling, obviously having a wonderful time.

“And his partner?” she continued, giving us time to notice him. “He’s 87.” When I glanced at him, he was running into the kitchen – the area closest to the net – trying to get a dink. He got it.

She asked us if we played and we explained that we were just starting, just learning.

“Careful,” she warned, “it’s addicting.”

A game ended on one of the courts and all four players went over to the group of bystanders and asked who wanted to play next. Everywhere I looked it seemed like everyone was having a great time, whether playing or just watching and waiting for a court to open.

The blonde woman came back over and said, “You know, I’ve seen beginners use those kid-size tennis courts over there, when the courts are full. You could do that, if you’re just wanting to hit the ball around.”

Were we ever just wanting to hit the ball around!

We spent a good hour hitting the ball back and forth to each other, making up some rules since we only knew the basics. It was glorious being outside enjoying a beautiful late February day.

We returned about a week later, this time on a Monday after I got done teaching. The courts were empty except for a friendly player named Larry. He seemed to be waiting, hoping that someone would show up. He gladly taught us the rules. We played our first real games. He was probably close to 70 and, yes, he beat us, the both of us against just him. He had to leave around 6:00. Jim and I stayed, excited to play singles now that we knew most of the rules.

We played till past dark, melancholy when we could no longer see. I noticed the big lights above the courts and wondered when the park would start turning them on and how late they’d leave them on.

The next day I got an email from the pickleball group (I’m on their mailing list) and I replied with a question: Does anyone know when the city will start turning the lights on at the court?

The reply: You turn them on yourself. There is a small box on the southeast corner of the court.

What? Wow! That meant we could play anytime. And that was going to be important with how popular pickleball is getting.

We were back again two days later, this time a bit later in the evening. Now that we knew about the lights, I didn’t feel like I had to rush over there the minute I was done teaching.

The last time we played we had to quit when the sun went down. This time, we just kept playing, and playing, and playing. Like the blonde woman said, “It’s addicting.”

This past Sunday, we went to the courts at 1:00. It was a beautiful day and the same scene – about 30 people there, all interacting, all willing to play with whomever and, likewise, all willing to sit out for a bit to let someone else play.

Jim and I looked at each other with the same thought. It’s time to jump in, time to figure out how to join games, time to figure out the rules and where we were going to fit in.

We played several different doubles games, including a few that were competitive. The reason I call them competitive is because a guy called out to us, “Hey, do you two want to play competitive?” It was getting late in the afternoon, you see, and most of the other players had gone home. These two guys were serving it hard and spiking it over the net.

We did alright.

Two hours later, I was done. Tired. And behind on my list of everything else I needed to get done that afternoon.

Like she said, it’s addicting.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cupitonians
    Mar 13, 2014 @ 05:09:10

    Oh wow. Will you go back?


    • randee
      Mar 13, 2014 @ 06:33:19

      Will I go back and play pickleball? Absolutely! I’m addicted! It really is fun and I’m looking forward to playing in the early mornings this summer before the heat of the day and then again in the balmy late evenings.


  2. Deborah
    Mar 14, 2014 @ 17:31:34

    I love this account of your pickleball experience! I think it’s awesome that you turn the lights on yourself. Thanks for sharing his. I’m sitting her smiling from ear to ear picturing you and Jim build your skills and confidence through that amazing day. There are certainly things in life that are worth letting the to-do list slide for the duration. 🙂


    • randee
      Mar 14, 2014 @ 18:09:37

      I know! I was so excited about the lights. The courts and the lights are all brand new. I’m thrilled that I’m making such good use of these things that my tax dollars paid for.


  3. betunada
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 12:31:06

    nice to hear of and know the various ‘fun’ interactive venues in our area !


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