Pickleball – Intimations of Mortality

Here is a great read from my new friend Keith. We had been pen pals (yes emailing) for the last six months and since my travels took me to the Seattle area last week, I had to make sure we met up. He lives in Gig Harbor which also has a beautiful YMCA, so I taught a pickleball class there and got to meet and play with Keith…. priceless!

By Keith James, Gig Harbor, WA

Why do older folks play pickleball?  The court is smaller than a tennis court, allowing them to cover enough shots to be competitive even with much younger players?  Yes, of course.  The paddle is smaller than a tennis racquet, allowing older players to manipulate their strokes quickly and with less strain on their battle-scarred bodies?  Yes to that, too.  The ball is made of light plastic with holes in it, allowing for spin and pace with less strain on muscle and tendon?  Yes, certainly.  The play requires more short bursts of speed than does tennis, but allows a bit more reaction time than does ping pong, again giving older players a greater chance to compete with players of all ages?  Yes.  The social aspect of pickleball affords older, retired people the opportunity to meet new people living through similar life challenges and dealing with similar health and body strength issues?  Yes, yes, and yes.

“But always at my back I hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” John Donne.

The real, unspoken reason older retired people play pickleball is because with less time remaining in their lives, they need all the more urgently to play at something, to excel at something, to focus on something purely fun that makes each pickleball session seem like the finals at Wimbledon, but without the pressure.  Nearly everyone with whom I play forgets who won what game with whom five minutes after playing.  What really counts is spending time with wonderful people, united in a passion for the pursuit of excellence, in the face of decreasing time, to master a game suited for older players, many of whom play with debilitating medical conditions and pain that would leave many less motivated folks glued to an easy chair.

Do not misunderstand: older people play pickleball not in spite of being old, nor because they are old.  No, they play pickleball because they burn to live life to the fullest, even if their skills diminish.  Most of my friends play with the full intention of playing as hard and as well for as long as they can because doing so is an affirmation of life and a celebration of the human spirit.

Gig harbor YMCA



4 comments on “Pickleball – Intimations of Mortality”

  1. I’ve played competitive sports most of my life. I really enjoy pickleball because I enjoy the competitive play and for being 76, I feel I still do okay. My male ego doesn’t get in the way when a lady makes a shot that makes me look bad – yes, many of these ladies are excellent pickleball players. Most of the people that I have met while playing pickleball are quite nice. I hope to be able to play for many more years, maybe into my 80’s if I don’t suffer any serious health issues.

  2. Keith James, what a brilliant dude–and so handsome, too!

    Seriously, Jen, thank you so much to you and to Alex for visiting Gig Harbor, playing two games with me, and teaching a terrific clinic.

    You and Alex are the greatest.

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