Pickleballers from Delaware are competing in the 19-sport National Senior Games in Birmingham, Ala., this week.
As pickleball explodes, so does the quality of players competing in the nationals. So, special congratulations to Pearl Morris and Diane Milam who ended up in sixth place in the Women’s Doubles 55-59, coming back via the losers’ bracket after a second-round battle. Marion Lisehora, the “queen mother of Delaware pickleball,” and Judy Lang ended in fourth place in the Women’s Doubles 80-89.
The men fared similarity. Rick Bell and Bob O’Malley, in the Men’s Doubles 55-59, lost in the second round in a very long match. They dropped into the losers’ draw and battled their way back all afternoon, through five matches, before they met up with the same team — a Nevada /Iowa team that barely ousted them in the second round.
In their eight match of the day, they returned the favor and dispatched that team fairly easily before they took on a Florida team in their ninth match of the day. After putting the Florida team’s sunshine back into their bottle, they challenged a team from Tennessee, Davy Crockett’s old stomping grounds, for the bronze medal.
As evening approached, Rick and Bob finally ended in fourth place in the National Senior Games. Join me in congratulating them as well.
Before he left for the games, I asked Rick how our Delaware pickleball players do when they play in national events. As he took off his pickleball sneakers and put on his flip-flops with that unique smile only Rick can generate, he began to brag about Delaware.
“Delaware has been well represented over the years, and we are gaining momentum. Across the United States, many Delawareans have competed in ‘state’ games and have medaled quite frequently. Oftentimes, we may not place at the national level, but we sure know how to battle,” he said.
“I do remember Cleveland’s National Senior Games, as First State Pickleball, in men’s doubles, walked away with the gold and silver. There were other medals and ribbons as well. Our ‘Queen of Pickleball,’ Marion Lisehora, has medaled in multiple sporting events every time we go out.
“Many folks just seem to look at our ‘crew’ and say, ‘Here they are again — we’ve got a battle ahead of us.’ We will not back down or roll over. We fight to the bitter end.”
Where do the better players go to compete? This week they are in Birmingham, but to get there, these players had to qualify. There is almost a pickleball tournament every week somewhere in America, and some of these are qualification events.
To give you an idea, there was one last fall up in Portland, Maine. A large tennis club there taped 24 pickleball courts on their six tennis courts, and more than 300 players descended on that town. They and their spouses booked hotels at off-season prices and ate wonderful seafood in their restaurants. Hotel and condo owners were delighted, and the tennis club realized significant income, I am sure, to upgrade some facet of their facility with this newfound source of revenue.
Pickleball is becoming a real national sport and touching players, retailers, developers and the hospitality crowd.
Back closer to home, last Saturday, Steve Donohue of the Bay Forest community, located in Ocean View, organized a pickleball introductory clinic for their residents. With help from members of the Ocean View Crew, the clinic was sandwiched with the tennis program organized by tennis chair Howard Bernstein for the convenience of residents.
More than 70 residents attended and were able to briefly learn about the history of the sport and rules of the game, and ask questions prior to hitting dinks, volleys and serves with the help from the OVC members. Residents were enthusiastic about learning more about this fast-growing sport.
Pickleball is now alive and growing in Bay Forest, and a follow-up pickleball clinic for residents is scheduled Saturday, June 17.
The participants had a million questions, and I explained that I plan to address all their questions in “Pickleball Points.”
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.