“SOMETIMES A NOISY flyover happens,” says Bob Haskin, president of the Lakewood Ranch Pickleball Club. The notoriously vociferous sandhill crane graces the club’s logo and is the namesake of its popular Sandhill Classic tournament. But the bird and the club share another distinction: They’re not tied to any one part of Lakewood Ranch, a sprawling, 51-square-mile planned community on Florida’s Gulf Coast, 45 miles south of Tampa and 20 minutes from downtown Sarasota.
Established in 2018, the nonprofit club has more than 500 members—but, sadly, no dedicated court to call home. Instead, members often meet at the five pickleball courts at Lakewood Ranch High School, where the club hosts 20-minute round-robin sessions that focus on specific techniques and skills and holds occasional free clinics for all experience levels.
Even without a home court, pickleball enthusiasts from across the area consider the club home. “Players from all over Lakewood Ranch want social as well as competitive play opportunities,” Haskin says. “Even residents of developments with private courts want to meet and play across our broader community.” Though the club’s initial demographics skewed toward the over-50 crowd, players of all ages are now driving club membership and overall awareness of the sport.
With that momentum in mind, the club has prioritized four goals for 2021: Create more opportunities to play pickleball, increase awareness of the sport and the club, develop competitive pickleball in the area, and increase the number of dedicated public courts in the community. “Plus,” Haskin adds, “our mission is to be the best pickleball club in South Florida.”