This week, I took time to reflect on all I have to be grateful for: Family and friends. Pickleball. Pain-free knees after a decade of excruciating pain. After a plate of leftovers, I sat down and wrote this article.
With Thanksgiving Day just completed and the holiday season fast approaching, you might be thinking about some pickleball gifts for that special person, or — let’s be honest — you. Perhaps you might scribble some notes in the margin of this week’s Coastal Point and leave it around for the family to discover.
Let’s start with a thoughtful, yet inexpensive, gift, which would be a pledge to pick up a Coastal Point each week and dog-ear the weekly “Pickleball Points” column for your favorite pickleballer.
A step up in expense would be a few outdoor pickleballs to keep available in that old pickleball bag. For about $10, you can get three, and they come in a variety of colors. Most pickleball venues provide pickleballs, but keeping a few balls in the bag is helpful when just a few folks come together to play a pick-up game.
Speaking of that old pickleball bag — perhaps a new bag, which is always appreciated, since the sun is destructive on most of them. The most popular bags cost about $20 and can be slung across the shoulder. A good bag will hold three or four paddles, keys, phone, etc. The larger pickleball bags with more pockets, such as an insulated food pocket, cost anywhere from $50 to $90.
A relative inexpensive but thoughtful gift is several pairs of quality padded ankle- or crew-length socks, which help absorb some of the shock from running around the pickleball court. Two pairs of quality padded socks might cost $25 to $30.
There isn’t exactly a proper pickleball uniform to go with those socks. Almost every athletic brand sells some version of stay-dry shorts and shirts, and for those players who play outdoors year-round, full length sweat/training pants and long-sleeved tops are appreciated. Think about paying $50 or more for a top/bottom combination.
If you do decide on a clothing gift, do the rest of us a favor and throw away those 40-year-old shirts and shorts some folks still wear. Buttons, when they no longer can withstand the pressure of an expanded waistline in motion, could become lethal projectiles.
A useful gift for every pickleballer is to buy a book of passes to indoor pickleball. For example, Northside Park in Ocean City, Md., sells booklets of 10, 20 or 50 passes. Sports at the Beach offers both a five-session individual pass and a four-clinic pass, which would save you $10. The cost can vary from $50 to $100, but the real gift is the convenience of not having to remember bringing money.
Athletic footwear for pickleball is another option, and I will discuss shoes in an upcoming article, but quality court shoes are in the $75-to-$100+ price range. New Balance in Rehoboth maintains an inventory of court-approved shoes for pickleball.
That brings us to the most obvious gift: a pickleball paddle. The prices of paddles have risen the last several years, and you can now expect to pay $100 to $150 for a performance paddle. Beware: Just because it is expensive does not ensure that is better.
But I have tested some of these more-expensive paddles, and some manufacturers have established new performance thresholds with these latest composites. Each offers something slightly different for various playing styles.
As an example, there is very lightweight, or lightweight with power, bigger sweet spot and longer handle for control, skinny handles, larger handles, powerful graphite, longer paddles, red, blue, yellow, etc.
Unless you know exactly which paddle is desired by the recipient, you would be much safer awarding a gift card or create a Pickle IOU so they can get exactly what they desire. I maintain a variety of demo paddles so players can first play-test them to see which they most enjoy. Some mail-order firms offer demos by mail.
A final gift consideration might be a gift certificate to a top-of-the-line restaurant that offers healthy cuisine. This could well exceed $150, and you should want it to be top-drawer — especially if you plan to accompany the recipient.
Besides being so much fun, pickleball is good exercise, and the health benefits are outstanding. Investing in a pickleball gift is like investing in the health of that person you enjoy spending so much time with.
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.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point