Pickleball Points

This is the fifth year of pickleball at Seagrass since they over-painted four pickleball courts on one tennis court. Their community is closed to outside guests because of COVID, but they now enjoy pickleball seven days a week among their home owners.

Michael Siegert, who has a lacrosse background at Johns Hopkins, and his wife, Maryanne, working around several of their environmental passions (monarchs butterfly or inland waterways), organize much of their community play. Retired submariner Art Fitch, and John and Suzanne Chilton joined them in their effort, and that group has created a lot of excitement.

They play pickleball there seven days a week. Every other day, they play recreational pickleball, and on the alternate days they have competitive play. It apparently is a good combination, because they are developing players with nice, solid fundamentals.

Here is what two of their players, Suzanne Chilton and Maryanne Siegert, had to say about pickleball in their community, in an essay they called, “Life is Like a Game of Pickleball”:

The wind can shift
The momentum can change
For those who stay in the game
There are bigger wins than getting to 11 first
Practice, learn, ask questions, then listen
And, except, for special occasions, stay out of the kitchen.

What is this crazy game called pickleball and why has it become so important to us and to the community of Seagrass in which we live? To understand our passion for this sport, you have to understand how we got started.

In 2015, 10 Seagrass homeowners attended the introductory session given by a local higher-level player. They immediately were drawn in by its simplicity and inclusiveness. This core group of players got together a couple times per week over at Clayton Elementary School, since there were no courts at Seagrass at the time.

As the enthusiasm in Seagrass grew for the sport, more people began to participate. Something special started to happen. As we looked for ways to socialize, exercise, take advantage of the outdoors and find creative ways to compete, we found that pickleball checked all of the boxes.

Now there are over 40 people in Seagrass that regularly play and have become far more than just acquaintances. We have become true friends who talk about what’s going on in our lives, take care of each other, and who look out for each other. We also found that this extended to pickleballers outside of Seagrass. As we participated in Coastal Community Pickleball League (CCPL), we developed friendships with folks in other communities.

Invitations from different players and communities became common practice. And then COVID hit. Everything changed. … Courts shut down, indoors and out. … Social interactions ceased. We were forced to find other creative ways to practice and keep our pickleball skills as sharp as possible. We started dinking over Adirondack chairs, set up old nets in cul de sacs, allowing family-only play, and volleying over anything available in our garages.

It’s absolutely true that you don’t know what you have until it is gone. However, as restrictions eased, players within our community could, once again, play together, outside, following CDC guidelines as closely as possible. Things began to feel a little more normal. At Seagrass we were so excited about being together again that the only things that stopped us from playing outdoors all winter were rain, wind, and snow — but snow was never an issue.

In fact, we organized our first Seagrass Ladder League, in which 35 players participated. We also offered a two-part Drills & Skills event where 39 people of all skill levels participated. These opportunities brought the Seagrass pickleball community closer than any of us ever expected. We often talk about how pickleball became a true lifesaver during COVID. It allowed for safe and fun socialization and exercise during very trying and uncertain times. We are now in the midst of organizing our popular Second Annual Ladder League.

As restrictions ease further, we are able to get on the courts with pickleball friends from other communities that we haven’t seen during the pandemic. We found out that quite a few of our players suffered from COVID, some had joint replacements and other had heart issues. It makes all of us acutely aware of the importance of good health. How grateful we are for the camaraderie we share on the pickleball court.

Some of the greatest joys in pickleball go way beyond playing the game… and we all love to play the game. But helping others learn the game of pickleball makes it more fun for all players. And despite all of our differences, pickleball provides a common thread that unites us. We believe that “Life is Like a Game of Pickleball.” There are ups and downs, twists and turns, and obstacles that block our paths, but even if you are down 10 to 1, you are never out of the game.

There is not much I can add to their wonderfully written essay, other than:

When you come home after three hours of pickleball play,
Face red from exertion and a cold wet windy ocean spray.
Smiling as you reflect on all the laughter shared that day,
No idea how many winning games that went your way,
Tired, A nice tired as you prepare your kit for another day.
If there is a more pleasurable game, I really can’t say.
But I bet you would like it, that’s what I aim to convey!
Especially on a warm beautiful day, let’s say in late May.

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.