#HealthyMe: Playing Pickleball Like a Pro (Someday)

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

“We’re sponsoring a what kind of tournament?”
I’ll admit, that was my first reaction to our BCBSM sponsorship of the Great Lakes Open Pickleball Tournament held recently in Traverse City. Nothing against the sport, I’d simply never heard of it.
Researching the story of the pickleball community in Traverse City led me to the USA Pickleball Association’s website. With a few clicks, you can find places to play near you. Curiosity, and the fact everyone I’d talked to had raved about the sport, made me click and led me to the Allendale Sweet and Dill Pickleball Club (second on the list).
On a recent Monday evening, one of the regular nights the club plays, and welcomes newbies such as myself, I met up with club members to try it out at the Allendale Township Park.
I didn’t feel race-day nervous shuffling out to meet club members and introduce myself, but maybe first-day-of-school level nervous. My bashfulness was quickly put to rest. Everyone welcomed this first-time pickleballer with open arms and lots of good humor. The Sweet and Dill club likes to play pickleball, and they do so with a lot of laughs.
I was advised that taking my hand out of my pocket might improve my game. This was wise advice.
A few members started out by showing me the ropes and teaching me some pickleball basics and fundamentals. I won’t bore you with those details since the USAPA already has a really great summary of the rules.
The game combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The ball is harder and smaller than a wiffle ball and the paddles remind me of really sturdy table tennis paddles. You serve underhand cross court and volley back and forth. Most clubs play doubles and the Allendale club I was playing with, prefers rally scoring to keep the game moving quickly.
I’m not especially coordinated when it comes to hitting things with other things. That’s a big reason I never felt a need to try tennis or softball in school, and gave up volleyball and basketball for an after-school job and cross country running, respectively.
That hesitation contributed to my initial nervousness about playing. The good news? It’s really fun! The bad news? I’m still not that coordinated. I missed that ball a lot, and club members were definitely taking it easy on me. However, I liked it enough that by the end of the night, I was asking where I could buy paddles locally. (Dick’s apparently has a decent selection.)
I think with more practice to get comfortable with basic ball-hitting skills, pickleball would be a really fun way to get a good workout in. Club members who’ve perfected that aspect of the game were really whizzing back and forth, sprinting and lunging to get the ball. Volleys were as fast and furious.
Despite not being able to contribute to a lot of those back-and-forth volleys, I was still moving a lot and worked up a bit of a sweat. The pros on the court were quick to point out that they’d all been at the same level I’m currently at. Sticking with it was how they make it look so easy today. Perhaps with a little one-on-one practice with my husband, pickleball could be a new activity to add to our family fitness routine. With some work, I’ll be serving and hitting with the best of them.
Photo credit: Joe Bitely
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