I was reading the most recent USAPA Pickleball newsletter and I came across this fun story and I know some of you will enjoy this!
Musings of a Young Pickleball Player
Submitted by Bob Klarich and Jed Christensen
A couple years back, we had our first SunRiver (UT) open and we had a sizeable group attend from Tremonton, Utah, a town that is 5 hours away by car. They are a great bunch of people and most were young by SunRiver standards (20’s and early 30’s). Their recent visit reminded me of the Facebook entry that Jed Christensen had shared with a few of us after that first tournament. If you’re like me, you appreciate having young people playing our great sport and sharing a good story.
Here is Jed’s Facebook entry:
So, as you know, my family and I recently attended a pickleball tournament in sunny Southern Utah. I learned quite a few things and not all of them had to do with the game.
First, yes we got creamed. By creamed I mean mutilated to the fullest extent. Going into the tourney the only thing we had to rate ourselves by was pickleball videos on the Internet. These are deceiving because pickleball is not necessarily a fast sport. You cannot tell a difficulty level from an online video. Our honest opinion was we were either going to be really good, or get humbled. Believe me, by the end of the day we were ready to throw up from humble pie. If this isn’t bad enough, most of the people we played were well above 60. One team member of the particular duo that gave Lance (23) and me (28) an old-fashioned schooling was 75. His partner was not much younger.
Bob Klarich, the tournament director, had called my mom when he received our entries. He wondered how we had heard about the tournament, how we would rate ourselves, and told us that the players were very good in St. George. After this phone call we naively thought, “maybe he is nervous that these young players are coming to hustle them.” Now, we know he was just trying to look out for us. He didn’t want us to drive 400 miles for a beating when we could just stay at home and jump in front of a semi . . . he knew the outcome would be the same. In our defense, we hadn’t been practicing the scoring right. It is harder to score in tournament play than what we had been practicing at home. Mom and dad spent their first four games trying to figure it out. That was about the only rule we didn’t have down though.
So there we were, lined up, one by one, like laboratory tomatoes waiting to be tested in a new high-speed blender. And one by one we jumped in, got pulverized, then scraped ourselves up and limped off the court. In fact, come to think of it, lab tomatoes don’t make the choice to be in a lab. So who is smarter?
Now, what I learned on the courts outside the game. The tournament is held in a planned retirement community. These people wake up, get on their golf cart, and drive to the pickleball courts. They play from seven to nine o’clock in the morning six days a week. It is a thin slice of heaven if you ask me. I am already trying to figure out how to retire in the next year.
During our off time we associated with and became friends with many of the players. My mom was thinking about how many 75 year olds she knew that were so active and healthy – not many. I watched all of them in a row sitting and talking and do you know what I didn’t see? Not one cell phone. I was amazed – nobody sitting with their face glued to a 1×2″ screen texting every thought that crosses their mind. When you have a conversation, you are met with a friendly face and eye contact. Yes, this tournament was an eye-opener in more ways than one. There was an atmosphere present that is almost lost to our current generation. It was one of manners, courtesy, and respect. There was competition, but you let your skills show on the court, not your mouth.
My brother-in-law and I both work with youth. We have both tried to get them into pickleball. Sometimes it seems they can’t put their phone down long enough to even hold a paddle. It was refreshing to associate with this group of people and I felt welcome. I don’t know of any similar paddle sport that a 23 year old can play against a 75 year old and have age difference play no advantage. Maybe that is why I like this game so much. I can see myself playing it for a long time.
Will I go back? Of course. We are already planning on attending the tournament in Mesquite this November. We know what to expect now and hope that in two months we will get beat a little less. Had we never entered a tournament we never would have known what was out there. We would have stayed in our little bubble of bliss. We may never get to the top of the rankings, but we all had a great time and met many wonderful people.
Being a part of this tournament has helped me realize that getting old is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean sitting in a wheel chair or on the front porch complaining about how things used to be. Getting old can mean going to the courts and beating the crap out of some kids less than half your age with no assistance but a knee brace. It makes me excited to retire, that’s for sure. But for now, at age 28, I think I will enjoy being the young punk on the court.
Follow-up note: The play of Jed and his family and friends has improved. They win a few games and still have fun. It’s been noted they are very good at winning tournament door prizes.