Thankful for Health from Pickleball

With Thanksgiving brings the yearly reflection of thankfulness and health generally is one of the top things people are thankful for. For many, pickleball has become the force multiplier for better health—physical and mental. I wanted to share why I, and so many others are thankful for health from pickleball.

I can’t tell you how many personal stories I’ve heard about how “pickleball saved my life”. Many express improved physical health but following closely are the social aspects that improve mental health. For me, this is one of the best things about pickleball. It’s particularly special, knowing that the inventors wanted to create a social sport based on a level playing field so that people would get off the couch and get active—it worked! Actually, it’s been working for 50+ years!

Here are a few excerpts on this topic from my book: History of Pickleball – More Than 50 Years of Fun! These are just a few among the thousands of stories of how pickleball saved or extensively enhanced one’s life:

Kandy Evers from Vista, CA, shared her journey. Get ready to be amazed:

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I, like others, have had obstacles in my life; this hit me like a ton of bricks. One day, I was a strong athletic female; the next, I was in need of a wheelchair. I have had multiple neck and back surgeries, two vascular strokes, a staph infection, which almost took my leg, and the biggest hurdle of them all was losing my eyesight for eight years. About now all of you along with myself are saying NO WAY; one person just can’t go through all of that. Well, I did. Now begins my journey into this addicting, adrenaline-rushing sport of pickleball that I not only love, but also owe my life to.

2009, I remember the day I heard that pop, pop noise from the tennis courts like it was yesterday. I knew it was not tennis they were playing because of the sound, so what was it? Well, my morning walks to the gym with Maggie, my guide dog, just took a detour. Little did I know the major impact that detour would have on my life. Imagine explaining pickleball to a blind person; well, my friends took on that tall order. Every day after my workout, Maggie and I went to the courts. I listened, learned, and I was hooked.

I promised to myself if my eyesight ever returned enough to see the ball, I would be on those courts! I’m humbled to say I MADE IT!!! Life is short and so precious; I try not to sweat the small stuff. I have been told you CAN’T have it all, but I do. Pickleball is the icing on my cake. Since playing this crazy, amazing, addicting sport, I’m challenged every day to get up and be the best person I can be. I’m so blessed and grateful. If just one person is inspired by my story, another goal is achieved. Thank you, pickleball, for being a major influence in and on my life.

I met Gary Penfield, a New England native, at a camp in North Carolina where I was teaching. I was impressed by how effortlessly he moved on the court and was always up for competition. Gary is an amputee (LBKA, left below knee amputee) and found pickleball in 2014 at the young age of 70. Gary shared his story:

The benefits an amputee will get from this game are amazing. The social interaction with wonderful people alone would be enough. The greatest benefit an amputee will receive is improvement in movement and balance. Lateral movement will improve dramatically‒that’s the movement that improves the quality of life more than anything for an amputee.

On April 26, 2016, the Naples Daily News quoted Gary: “I want them to walk off the court saying ‘I can’t believe that one-legged guy beat me’” he joked. “That’s always a pretty satisfying feeling.”

John Gullo from Utah had congestive heart failure and five bypass surgeries. John shared:

I spent the next year with a personal trainer (you see, if you’re smart, you only almost die once). I began my health journey doing all the boring stuff like treadmill, rowing, and biking, but I kept seeing the sign for pickleball. And I kept asking myself, “What the hell is pickleball?” Well, in January 2009, I finally tried pickleball and I got addicted and played six days a week, 2-3 hours a day, bending, stretching, and moving like I never did before. Pickleball has given me health to live a longer life and made it fun on my journey down to 235 pounds and perfect vitals. But the best selling point of pickleball is much more than health‒it made me feel ALIVE and gave me a whole new tribe of friends.

10 comments on “Thankful for Health from Pickleball”

  1. Yes, I agree. Pickleball is and has been a life changing sport for many. I started playing 4 years ago at 72 when I was spending 8+ hours a day in front of a computer. Now, I am experiencing the physical, mental, and social benefits and feeling great. Pickleball is important to the lives of many seniors. Let’s keep it going.

  2. Great blog and sharing of stories! I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis four years ago. Fortunately at present my disease appears to be stable. I’ve played pickleball 3-4 times a week for four years and love it! I treasure the friendship of other players and hope to play for many years to come!

  3. I’ve heard several other PB players with IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis) talking that the game helps them cope with this fatal disease by pushing their lungs and their muscles to the maximum capacity for as long as possible. Muscles that are in good condition do not take as much oxygen. In my case, I’m in my 14th year of a disease that often takes the life in 3, The statistic isn’t solely due to PB as there are about 200 variations to this group of diseases. I’m just one of the lucky ones. However, PB has undoubtedly had some affect allowing me to push my lungs and muscles as much as possible. Pulmonologists encourage just what PB is providing, and like every other negative condition of the body, the more one pushes against the limits, the more one gains for today and tomorrow.

  4. I was diagnosed with cancer in July and have since had surgery and I am currently undergoing chemotherapy. Pickleball makes me want to get up out of bed onto the courts. Many of my friends say I don’t know how you do chemo and play pickleball and I say, I don’t know how I could do chemo without Pickleball. Thanks Jennifer for your support, and for your teaching, and for your blogs.

      1. Hey Alex, she is a ROCK STAR! I met Teena on the Japan tour and this girl can travel. She’s been everywhere and not afraid to go solo.

  5. Thanks for the inspiration, Jen. When I started playing pickleball in the late 70’s, it was the fun of the game that attracted me. 40 years later, I am appreciating the social interaction more and more. The stories you share illustrate both sides of that joy. :-)

  6. Thanks Jennifer that was great to put pb into perspective. Pb is so much more then having great games and winning.
    You know me from Happy Trails. I am still addicted to pb and passing on this addiction to players here in Canada in our little town Comox.
    Great blog
    Sjoukje (SJ) Lehmann

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