BRATTLEBORO — As a beginner pickleball player, I have noticed that our group tends to have more fun than the advanced players. I could be wrong, or I may be biased.
We laugh a lot and get excited over even the slightest victory, clicking our paddles in acknowledgment. Our infectious laughter and occasional spontaneous dancing make for a lively and enjoyable game. In contrast, the advanced group plays in silence, focusing solely on the game.
Having fun! Isn't this what recreational pickleball is about?
Playing outdoors on a public court during the cool evening hours is a delightful experience. The surrounding trees emit a unique and pleasant fragrance, while the breeze carries the fluff from the cottonwoods. The sound of plastic whiffle balls popping adds to the serene atmosphere.
Despite the cracks and uneven surfaces on the court, the joy of playing pickleball is all-encompassing. Even though we play on an old tennis court and use its original net and markings, we are grateful to have such space.
We also feel grateful that our bodies support us to play, and we are going to play for as long as we can.
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Recently, we hosted out-of-town pickleball players and pros who caught our attention with their stylish outfits. They looked sharp. The story was that they had gone around the entire USA just to play pickleball.
Later, two pro players came to conduct a clinic. One wore a black skort with ruffles and a black top with the company logo. We were impressed by these women's skill sets and techniques and further intimidated by their looks - fit, pretty, and well-coordinated from head to toe.
Somehow, I felt like meeting tennis or golf celebrities whom we see only on TV.
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We seniors come in all body shapes and physical conditions. The body types of pickleball players can sometimes be deceiving. However, the most amazing and skillful players in our town are often those who dress simply and comfortably.
What we all have in common is that we have salt-and-pepper or silver hair, worn as a badge of honor. We may walk slowly, but we know how to return a drop shot, lob, or are even able to return a top-spin ball in front of us. But we can be slow-moving.
I wear what is comfortable.
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Pickleball for seniors is not just about physical fitness. Having fun serves as a part of mental stimulus.
I must remind myself that playing mixed doubles is a team sport. As a team player, I must consider some strategic moves, such as shot placement, anticipation, and teamwork beyond just returning the ball over the net.
It is no small activity to keep seniors mentally sharp and engaged. We challenge ourselves both physically and mentally, leading to improved cognitive abilities and overall well-being.
Lately, I find myself playing pickleball while silently deep in thought about dinking and volleying. No time to laugh. What has become of me?
Overall, pickleball should be enjoyable, whether playing with a beginner or an advanced group. While it's important to take the game seriously, it's equally important to have fun and enjoy the experience while we can.
Shin (Sue) Freedman is an author, writer, and educator.
This Voices Essay was submitted to The Commons.