Archive | May, 2023

Pickle– WHAT?

21 May
Photo by Joan Azeka on Unsplash

Since moving to Richmond last summer I’ve been excited to get into pickleball. Alan and I were first exposed to it a few years ago when we visited my former boss in Tennessee and she and her husband took us to a court. If you’re not familiar, it’s played on a court that looks a lot like a tennis court but is quite a bit smaller; it uses paddles similar to table tennis but a bit larger/heavier; and the ball is approximately the size of a tennis ball but made out of open plastic like a wiffle ball. Think of it as the Frankenstein of racquet sports.

But here’s the thing: it’s fun, easy, and social, which is why I thought it would be a great way to meet people and stay active. The challenge is that the scoring is complicated and the rules are not at all like tennis, so it’s kind of confusing for a newbie.

All of which is to explain why I was standing on a court with eight strangers in oddly hot (90 degree) temperatures the first week of April. Richmond hasn’t provided the overall cost savings you might think – housing is much less expensive here than DC, but most other things are about the same – but the one place where I’ve found a deal: the Parks & Recreation offerings. I signed up for beginner tennis lessons: $25 – for SIX lessons, which is insane by DC standards; and pickleball lessons – FREE for what was originally supposed to be six hours of instruction but actually ended up being eight! I’m something of a bargain hunter, so don’t be surprised if I join a soccer league or some equally random shit in an attempt to make my tax dollars work for me here.

The best part about pickleball lessons? The instructor, Diana, who told us on the first night that she’s 75 years old. Good thing she disclosed her age, because I would’ve guessed her to be much younger. She’s spry, sassy, and delivers a mean serve. She reminds me of my mom: short white hair and a bit of a tough-love/smart-ass vibe to her coaching that has big “gym teacher energy” to it.

On the first night, she asked each of us to share what previous racquet sport experience we had. Some people had none, others had played tennis or pingpong in years past. I was last to go. “I just started taking tennis lessons two weeks ago,” I shared, thinking this might accidentally brand me as an over-achiever.

“Oh Lord,” she responded. “Good luck.”

As it turns out, while both tennis and pickleball use a ball and racquet/paddle, the strategies are very different, the scoring is very different, and the rules are very different. Among other things, I was cautioned that I’d probably miss the ball a lot because the racquet is much smaller. Good news? Not a problem on that front. Turns out, I’m still pretty coordinated. Bad news? The rules and scoring are as tricky as advertised – at least to a new person who has just learned about deuces and add-in/add-out.

Of course, I claim I’m coordinated and a semi-decent athlete, but it’s now been a month since my lessons ended and I might need to walk that back a bit. I’ve been playing regularly with two women from my class and if nothing else, my ego is certainly getting a workout: the last two times I’ve played, my *70 year old* opponent has absolutely mopped the floor with me.

I actually just signed up for the beginner’s tennis league, not because I’m itching to play more tennis (it’s exhausting!), but mainly so I’ll have a viable excuse in case I continue to get trounced on the pickleball court. As I tell my clients: it’s all about controlling the narrative. I mean, maybe the real miss here is that I haven’t yet found a ping pong class to join.

And with that, let me go consult the Parks & Rec catalog…