Loida Medina has always been active. She used to play golf regularly. Before that, it was tennis. But these days, the 83-year-old doctor of medicine is most likely to be found playing pickleball.
“It’s really very addictive,” says Medina, who lives in Berrien Springs, Michigan. After picking up the game about six years ago, she now plays three times a week just because she loves it—the movement, the physical benefits, and making new friends on the court, too. The owner of a local urgent care clinic, Medina also has a penchant for turning others on to the game, sometimes even her clinic patients, and certainly her own children, two of whom became such devoted players that they now serve as ambassadors of the sport.
When Ernie Medina Jr. paid his mother a visit in 2016, just a few months after her pickleball discovery, the eldest of her four children didn’t know anything about the sport. “Picklewhat?” Medina recalls her son asking when she first suggested a friendly game. But it didn’t take long before he, too, was hooked. “I fell in love with it right away,” says 56-year-old Ernie, who in addition to being an International Federation of Pickleball Ambassador based in Loma Linda, California, where he lives, serves on the board of USA Pickleball. But he’s not Medina’s only offspring to become a pickleball devotee. Medina’s daughters play as well, and her other son is an International Federation of Pickleball Ambassador living in Japan and serving on the board of the Japan Pickleball Association.
Medina is frequently the oldest player on her community’s courts, and she still spends two days a week in the clinic. She also takes full advantage of her local wellness center’s amenities: Two or three times a week she swims, works out on a treadmill, practices a strength-training routine that targets her entire body, and enjoys a relaxing visit to the sauna and whirlpool.
Despite playing at the USA Pickleball Great Lakes Regional Championships in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last year, where she walked away with a 3.0 rating, Medina insists she’s just a recreational player. Don’t let her humility fool you, though; she’s definitely driven. “You want to win,” she says. “Even if you think fun is the number one [reason for playing], you still want to win a game.”
Asked if his mother is competitive, Ernie doesn’t hesitate: “It’s in her DNA,” he says. “She will play her best, but she does it in a healthy way.” And he confirms that she’s a good sport who takes losses in stride. Ernie sees enough potential in his mother’s pickleball game that he’s continuing to encourage her participation in tournament play, especially since she’s in such good shape. “She moves like a 60-year-old,” he says, acknowledging pickleball’s role in her fitness.
Playing does a mind good, too, explains Medina, who points to the way focus and concentration are integral parts of the game. One of the problems with aging, she
says, is that memory can be a challenge, and “[pickleball] is really good training.”
Medina’s deepest gratitude for pickleball, however, is the way in which it brings players together. “We have people who we do not know come to us [to play], and when they leave, even after the first time, we’re friends,” Medina says. The avid pickleballer has a piece of advice for people looking to make some new connections: “Ask them to come and play pickleball.”