Ivy League Pickleball
Rudy Meredith introduces the sport to Yale University
BY CAROLYN MILAZZO
Pickleball is now in the Ivy League . Yale University ’ s women ’ s soccer coach Rudy Meredith loves pickleball so much that he brought it to the hallowed halls of the Payne Whitney gymnasium in New Haven .
Since the pickup games began between Yale soccer and tennis coaches and a few administrators in January , there has been no shortage of players lining up to play . Among them is Yale women ’ s tennis coach Matej Zlatkovic , who beat Meredith , a 4.0 player who has competed in 4.5 money tournaments , the second time they played . Meredith , 48 , still bristles at losing the singles match to the 28-year-old newcomer , but noted his ultimate goal is promoting the game and recruiting younger players .
“ It took him one day to beat me , but that ’ s what I want . I want more people playing so there is better competition ,” said Meredith , who is in his 21st year coaching at Yale and is the most winning coach in university history .
Meredith ’ s attempt to grow the sport and improve competition along the Connecticut coast is not restricted to Yale . After he noticed that several players in his weekly pickup games at the Guilford Racquet & Swim Club in Guilford , CT , had reached a plateau , he began offering 90-minute boot camp‐style drills complete with medicine balls , kettle bells and agility ladders .
Lesly Wagner , Director of Pickleball at the Guilford Racquet & Swim Club , said the club is lucky to have someone with Meredith ’ s coaching background conducting the boot camp , noting , “ We ’ ve got the cream of the crop coaching us . He ’ s taking all his expertise of coaching Yale women ’ s soccer to pickleball . I think we ’ ve got something brand new here . I don ’ t think any other club is doing it , but I don ’ t think that ’ s going to be for long .”
Meredith invited some club players down to Yale to watch the coaches play , hoping to inspire them to improve their games . The games are played on a wooden floor on the 5th floor of the gym on two courts usually reserved for badminton . It may be one of the most upper crust places to play in the northeast ; high ceilings with leaded glass windows surround the sunlit space .
At this point , Meredith is just playing with coaches as an alternate workout , but he said the sport may gain intramural status among students , and Yale could be a possible tournament site .
Meredith admits that he brought the sport to Yale for partly selfish reasons , saying he was looking for more opportunities to play . He fell in love with the game as a student at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven , CT , but hadn ’ t