Not An Athlete? Play Pickleball

Thank you for reading on despite the title. When I watch ESPN’s Cross Fit Games, my knees hurt. No really. I need to get off the couch, stretch out for a minute, then of course I’ll sit back down to watch and critique their Herculean efforts.

I just can’t do what they do. Maybe I could have in my twenties. Maybe. But that sport wasn’t around and I was too busy playing pickup basketball once a week. Wait… what? How could I be “busy” doing something just once a week? Because that’s all I could do. It’s all my body would allow.

A million years ago I played football at the University of Hawaii. I was a quarterback. Want to hear something crazy? Hawaii is probably the easiest place in the world to grow grass. Specifically, the kind of grass you run and play on, just to be clear. That’s not the crazy part. Here’s what is… we practiced on Cooke Field, which was covered with Astro Turf. That was the crappy precursor to the infinitely better artificial grass that teams play on today. For Astro Turf, you’d take a cement slab, then roll a thin layer of hard plastic over it. That’s it! It wasn’t hard, it was ridiculously hard. The impact destroyed your knees, and wreaked havoc on your ligaments. And oh yeah, it repeatedly would rip the skin off your elbows, knees, forearms, shins, and any other exposed part of your body that slid on it. So, it sucked and UH chose to cover our luscious grass fields with it.

Sorry for the rant but that’s what prematurely ended my football career. My dreams were not fulfilled, and my parting gift was a severe case of tendonosis in both knees. Tendonosis is what you get when you have tendonitis, keep playing on it, and it becomes chronic, never to completely leave you pain free. Had to hang up the cleats.

Competition is fun and I needed to do something physical that was challenging. Thus, pickup basketball filled the void. Loved it, even though I’d pay a price with swollen and aching knees for 5 days. Then just when the sharp pains in my knees would start easing to normal pain, it would be time to play again. Did that for years.

Then kids came along, there were businesses to run, and I couldn’t afford to be in second gear with aching knees or sprained ankles, so then I had to throw out the high tops too. More years drifted by. I took up golf, which I still enjoy today. But I’ve never looked at golf as a cardio workout… and neither should you.

It was probably about a year and half ago that some neighbors invited me to play pickleball with them. My first reaction was, “It’s a whiffle ball game?” Gotta be honest, it sounded kiddish. Thank goodness I decided to go. Instantly, I was hooked!

The learning curve to competency is so short. Athlete or not, you will get it quickly. The most difficult thing to master, wait for it… is learning how to keep and announce the score! Hitting the ball is a natural motion that everyone will intuitively understand. The immediate mental challenges are staying out of the kitchen and not hitting the ball out of the air on the return of your team’s serves. But all of that comes with practice in short order.

I came home that first night and told my wife, “Babe, I found my new thing!” I loved the fact that I could play hard, since I was typically only moving for about 3 steps at a time. Pickleball is physical, without being overbearing. It’s strategic and artful. Though you will become proficient quickly, it will continue to challenge you physically and mentally. The better you get, the better you realize you can become. You keeping “getting there,” but you never arrive. There is no ceiling. But man, it’s fun trying to get there!

If I had found pickleball when I was in my physical prime, I think I would have loved it. Look at the trend on public courts, the average age is getting younger and younger. But I was introduced to it in my post athletic days, and I must say, “I love it now!” I’ve been on both sides of that fence, or in this case- net. So, whether you consider yourself to be an athlete or not, give pickleball a try? You might find a pickler in you that you never knew existed. For great pickleball games come check us out at

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