Pickleball Magazine 1-3 | Page 45

dad has a life of his own and my only sibling, a brother, is married and lives two states away. Bottom line — I’ve been a loner, and not always by choice. I just never found a place to fit in. While attending the US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, I met dozens of people from all across the United States who have also found a heartfelt love for this game we’re addicted to.  I’m certainly not the greatest player, and take the court each time with having fun as my only real intention. I’ll laugh at myself if I make a dumb play or be the first to congratulate an opponent who kicks my butt.  Winning has never mattered, but being part of a community has. One thing pickleball players all seem to have in common — we are friendly. We know that people often laugh when they hear that we play a sport that sounds ridiculous, and even looks like some sort of circus event at first glance. And how many times have we had to hear someone ask us why it’s called “pickleball”? There’s a certain bond all of us have because we’ve all had the same conversations with friends and family who have never heard of it. We’ve all seen the eye rolls from acquaintances who have no intention of accepting this mix of ping-pong and tennis as a legit sport. Even as complete strangers, because of our interest and similar experiences, we are a real family and a welcoming one at that. Playing pickleball several nights a week in my hometown has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. For the first time in a long time, I feel part of something. I have something to look forward to and, quite honestly, it cured what could simply be called depression. I feel healthier, I can see a difference in my professional life, and I am genuinely happy — for the first time in years. I’m hopeful that as a lover of pickleball — no matter how skilled you may be — you’ll continue to welcome new players, both good and bad, with open arms. Be kind, embrace them, teach them and make them feel welcome, at tournaments or on your own local courts. You could very well be saving their life.  • JUNE 2016 | MAGAZINE 43