Pickleball is big in the seniors’ world.
I’m not there yet but I thought I’d give it a try last Thursday – me and a few, ahem, older ladies.
We listened attentively as Marge Mitchell, head facilitator and pickleball instructor with the South Cariboo Rec Centre, gave us the basics.
Don’t white-knuckle your racket. One bounce only per side. Keep the ball inbounds. Serve at the baseline and don’t land it in “the kitchen.”
“Pickleball is way easier on your knees and your shoulders than tennis because the racket’s smaller and the courts are a quarter of the size,” Mitchell said. “It’s also a lot more social than tennis.”
After drilling the technique into us, Mitchell split us into pairs. As most of the pickleball players in the South Cariboo are over 70, my partner Donna was excited.
“Oh I got Patrick, this is going to be good,” she said, thinking my youth would give us an advantage.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
I’d never played tennis before. Admittedly, I was nervous and tried to show off, thinking of the pickle ballers I’d watched last week.
I rushed at the ball with a flying leap and missed it entirely. I tried to spike it, as if it were a birdie in badminton, sending it flying out of bounds. My racket was being throttled in my hands, a distinct no-no.
Mitchell kept an eye on us, giving us pro-tips from the sidelines.
Her advice helped but it wasn’t enough for me and Donna.
Mitchell switched us up for the next game. By then we had figured out the technique, somewhat, and we actually rallied, watching the ball bounce across the net and back again. I’d assumed the game was about power and batting the ball across the net. But it’s really strategic: once you learn your opponent’s rhythm, you can take advantage of it. The game is meant to be low mobility, after all.
I took her advice and stayed in place rather than running up to swat at it like a fly. It seemed to work.
And even when it didn’t, my partner and competitors didn’t seem to mind, keeping up a friendly banter. Mitchell was also right about that too: the sport was really social. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Even when my team lost again.
Third is the charm, I figured. By then, we were all getting tired as we swapped over to other partners. Let’s just say it ended 11-2 and not for my team.
I’m sensing a pattern here.
Still, as I limped away on my sore legs, I was happy to have given pickleball a try.
I would even be willing to play again, but maybe when I’m older.