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Pickleballers Tell Us: “I Can Remember the First Time I…”

Pickleballers Tell Us: “I Can Remember the First Time I…”

  • We asked players across the country to share their memories of the sport
PEOPLE
chose pickleball over racquetball”

“From college into my early 30s, I was a competitive racquetball player. In July 2015, I was at a racquetball tournament when I noticed a guy pull some paddles out of his bag. He said they were for pickleball, and when I asked what that was, he taught me the game. By 2019, I was loving pickleball more, largely because of how strategic it is: In racquetball, when you serve, if you get a weak return, you kill the ball. Pickleball is more like chess. You have to set up your next shot in order to deliver a good one. Today, I’m a level 2 instructor, I compete in tournaments at 5.0, and pickleball has become my 12-month passion.” 

—JOHN KLEINSCHMIDT, Columbia, Illinois

Courtesy John Kleinschmidt

Courtesy Jeff Jolly
realized pickleball could change a person’s life.

“I grew up in a small town in southern Ohio. In high school, you were either a nerd, a jock, or invisible. I was the latter. I knew the pain of not being big, fast, or super smart, and how it can echo throughout your life if you don’t find things that make you feel good about yourself. I’m a health coach and sculptor, but I never thought I had athletic abilities until I started playing pickleball at age 60. It’s given me confidence that I never had before, plus a supportive community of friends.

I’m now a board member of the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association, and we’re working to create pickleball programs for youth. I want to give kids who feel invisible something that makes them feel empowered. Pickleball doesn’t cost a lot, so kids of different socioeconomic backgrounds can play. And because it’s more about finesse and strategy than strength and power, pretty much any child can excel. From there, it becomes a domino effect: They can think, If I can do this, then I can probably succeed at other things. How great would it be to help every child gain the admiration of others, develop confidence in their abilities, and begin to shine?” 

—JEFF JOLLY, Seattle


moved so that I could play year-round.

“I’m from Louisiana originally but moved to Seattle about five years ago. After a couple of years, one of my neighbors asked if I wanted to try pickleball. I’d never heard of it! She explained it was a fun sport that was invented on Bainbridge Island and got this guy she knew to teach us. I was hooked right away. The problem is that in Seattle, land is at a premium; there aren’t a lot of places to play. Plus, it rains—a lot. And I prefer playing outdoors. Between the weather and Covid, which cut down on the indoor locations, I knew I would go crazy not being able to play regularly.

Courtesy Sarah Webb

In December 2020, I decided to come to Rancho Mirage, California, for a couple of months so I could play outside. It was so beautiful and sunny and the pickleball was so great that I ended up staying for four months. Last year, as I faced another winter, I thought, You know what? I’m just going to move there. I moved in December and am renting a place in a development that has 12 dedicated pickleball courts for residents. We have open play every day and we’re starting a league. I was made a captain even though I just moved here—that’s how bossy I am! I can’t help it: Pickleball is my life.”

—SARAH WEBB, Rancho Mirage, California


got married on a pickleball court.”

“I’ve been playing pickleball for about 33 years. For years I only played singles. Then one day in 1998, I got a call from the commissioner of a local tournament saying that there was this fella looking for a partner for mixed doubles. That’s how I met Barney. We didn’t see each other again for a couple of years. Another tournament came up; I got another call saying a guy was looking for a doubles partner. It was Barney again! We played in that tournament together; after that, we began to carpool to play at the local community center. Eventually, we started dating. 

In 2001, we decided to get married on February 20, the two-year anniversary of our first date. Then we realized that we were going to be playing in the mixed doubles matches at the Arizona Senior Olympics that day! We called the commissioner to ask when the event might finish so we could drive somewhere to get married afterward. He said he’d call back. Within the hour, he was on the phone asking, ‘Why don’t you guys get married on the court during the tournament?’

Courtesy Fran Myer

So at two p.m. on court number 2, on February 20, 2002, Barney and I got married. He wore black shorts from his closet, a T-shirt with the design of a tuxedo printed on the front, and a cap with Groom written across it. I wore white shorts, a white T-shirt with little embroidered flowers, and a white cap that I tied tulle onto. They had a pastor waiting behind a pickleball arbor the local club had built for us, and there was a violinist off to the side playing the wedding march. After the ceremony, Barney and I walked through a gauntlet of pickleball players with their paddles held up in an arch. Barney passed away in 2014. He was an extraordinary individual and we were together for 14 wonderful years. We were both charter members of the USAPA (now USAP) board when it was formed in 2005. I was the secretary and Barney was the director of tournaments; and he was director for the first USAPA National Tournament (now called the Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships). We were partners in the first online pickleball retail website, Pickleball Stuff, a business I started in 1999, selling equipment from all known paddle and ball makers. Because I was the first online pickleball retailer I became the first woman inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame in 2018. Pickleball has provided me with many firsts.”
—Fran Myer, Kenmore, Washington

Learn more about Fran and Barney at pickleballhalloffame.com/fran-myer.


Courtesy Mike Hoxie
learned how to run a great tournament” 

“I used to compete in tournaments, but when I started helping out behind the desk, I realized I enjoy being an organizer. I apply the same process I saw at nationals to smaller tournaments, because I believe pickleball is meant for everyone: A 70-year-old player deserves the same great court as a 19-year-old 5.0+ player. I’ve now run hundreds of tournaments and focus on getting people to love the sport, play the game, and then have fun afterward. I always joke that my tournaments start and end on time so everyone can get to happy hour!”

—Mike Hoxie, Portland, Oregon


A Good Time for a Great Cause
CantaMia/Goodyear Firefighters Outreach Pickleball Tournament

The CantaMia Pickleball Club of Goodyear, Arizona, is making sure 2022 lives up to its city’s name: The club is the cohost of what members hope will become the first annual CantaMia/Goodyear Firefighters Outreach Pickleball Tournament.

The event, which honors the city’s firefighters and the charities they support, will be held this year on February 26 and will feature a very special guest: world-class pro pickleball player J “Gizmo” Hall.

A former firefighter and paramedic, Gizmo will be there to offer his support to both his pickleball and firefighter communities, plus have a little fun. “I love what they are doing for the community, and I think you should always support those who support you,” he explains. The tournament is open to the public and will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the CantaMia pickleball courts located at 17635 W Tanglewood Drive, Goodyear, Arizona. For more information on the club, go to cmpickleball.com.

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