Gary Brown: Dealing with an addiction to Pickleball

·5 min read
Gary Brown
Gary Brown

I play Pickleball.

Now that's a sentence I never anticipated writing 50 or so years ago when I started preparing for a life in journalism.

I play Pickleball.

There, I've admitted it, again. And, as goofy as the name of the game sounds, I feel good getting the words out. They say that the first step toward addressing an addiction is to admit that you have it.

And I am addicted to Pickleball.

I find it difficult to get through a day without hearing the "pock-pock-pock" sound of a plastic ball being batted back and forth over a net by composite paddles.

I look forward to the social contact, the sense of belonging that comes from seeing the same people, day after day, as though you still were working full time.

I appreciate getting the kind of quality exercise that strains your muscles and tests your joints to the point that you feel the need to take a day off from playing, but don't, until you're forced to because your doctor's appointment conflicts with your playing time.

And, I certainly enjoy the competition afforded by competing in Pickleball. There is nothing quite so satisfying as beating a cherished friend 11-0 – "pickling" them, in the terminology of the sport – proving for the moment that you are at least 11 points better than them in life.

Try not to smile too broadly at that outcome as you tap rackets in "good game" congratulations over the net. New friends appreciate confidence more than cockiness. Nevertheless they'll accept either as a future partner, when, together, you can "pickle" someone else.

Fastest growing sport?

Even though singles Pickleball exists, most people play Pickleball with a partner. But, since Pickleball is said to be the fastest-growing sport in the country – I'm depending on other people's statistics here; I haven't gone community to community and counted – I shouldn't have to tell you much about it. You've probably heard of Pickleball.

Regardless of your level of knowledge about Pickleball, however, I'm going to tell you about it anyway because that's what Pickleball players do. We go on and on, endlessly, talking about our activity. We drone on about it to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers until those people either take it up themselves or they admit, "Hey, I get it, I golf," but they still hustle away to their course shaking their heads.

Around since the 1960s, when the seed was planted on the northwest coast by parents who wanted to keep their children engaged with their families in the summer, it has blossomed on the retired people's recreation scene in the past decade or so. As it turns out, we old people have the time to gather from 9 to noon on weekday mornings, when all the young people are working.

Pickleball is played on a court that is much smaller than a tennis court – about the size of a badminton court – on which participants hit a hole-filled plastic ball – think of it as a heavy-duty wiffle ball – over a net with rackets that are more like large ping pong paddles than tennis rackets. In fact, I've read the description of Pickleball that asks people to think of the game as something like "table tennis, if you're standing on the table."

In fact, a lot of the players who become avid Pickleball participants are people who don't have the energy or the urge to play tennis anymore, aging parents who have piled stuff on their pong pong tables, and racquetball players whose regular opponents have started passing away.

Almost all of them immediately become addicted.

A few final admissions

Yes, I play Pickleball avidly.

I am truly and completely addicted to the sport.

There are those Pickleball lovers who might claim that their sport is not a true addiction because addictions are bad and Pickleball has been nothing but good for their lives. These people, of course, are not those increasingly irritated residents of homes located near Pickleball courts, who in communities throughout the country are beginning to protest what they say is the unending noise that is disrupting their lives.

Of course, I sympathize with those people. Nobody should be terrorized in their homes. Still, fortunately the different sets of courts at which I play – three or four locations during different parts of the season – are in parks that are nowhere near residential areas. As a result, I don't feel the need to defend the activity by saying something stupid and insensitive to irritated individuals, such as, "If you just take up Pickleball, you'll begin to love the sound..."

I do love the sound of Pickleballs being hit.

Also, I fondly fight through the near-relationship-ending disagreements with my loved one over who should be hitting hard shots down the middle, the stronger forehand striker or the detestable weaker backhand shot poacher. Knuckles have been bruised in the process of settling this argument. So far, the wounds have healed.

And, I enjoy beating young people who more and more often are showing up at the courts on weekends – you know, during their first couple of games, while they are learning the rules, before their youth and athleticism negates my ability achieve victory.

So, I play on. I play enthusiastically. I watch videos and take clinics so I can play better. I play often. I'm old, and, relatively speaking, I haven't got much time left. I want to get in as many games as possible.

I would ask if there is a support program I could get into to help me fight my addiction, so I could leave time in my life for other avocations, but I believe it would be useless.

Knowing the way Pickleball players think, I figure we'd just hold our meetings at the courts, fitting them in between games.

Reach Gary at gary.brown.rep@gmail.com. On Twitter: @gbrownREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Gary Brown: Dealing with an addiction to Pickleball