Our dear friend, Diane Reynolds contributed this guest post while we are vacationing in Europe. She offers an interesting perspective on pickleball…a magic bullet for the slippery slope we call aging.
Mag-ic Bul-let [ˈmajik ˈbo͝olət]: A quick and simple solution to a difficult problem
Slip-per-y Slope [ˈsli-p(ə-)rē ˈslōp]: A situation in which events readily progress from one to the next
Finding Pickleball…A Magic Bullet
You are 65. You have retired recently from forty years of working long and hard. Sure, you have some hobbies and want to travel. Time with the grandkids sounds good. Fitness is important but walking is boring and those weight rooms stink. So you hit the senior center on a Monday morning and stumble into some kind of game with a flimsy looking net and a ball riddled with holes. A real old guy hands you a wooden paddle. You learn a few rules… go over a few skills. Play a game. Get caught trespassing in the kitchen. It is fun! Wow! The definition of Magic Bullet becomes reality. In a few short weeks, you become “addicted” to pickleball. You purchase a state of the art paddle, and your entire view of the retirement world goes into overdrive. In a few short years later you medal at the Huntsman World Senior Games and achieve fame at your senior center—–a genuine hero to that real old guy who taught you the basics.
The Inevitable Slippery Slope
Pickleball was invented over fifty years ago but has exponentially exploded in the last ten, primarily in the over 60 population. Thousands of seniors have learned of this “Magic Bullet” and acknowledge its power when “events” progress on the Slippery Slope spiral. Age 60 morphs to 70 in one lightning bolt. Pain stabbing at a knee and becomes a joint replacement. A few more medications join the daily regimen. Stronger reading glasses…a hearing aid…a cane? So? Walk to the courts with the damn cane, lay it down, and commence play. Indeed.
It is 8:00 AM at Pimlico, one of the myriad venues for pickleball in The Villages, a huge retirement community in Florida. The eight courts are filled with smiling picklers, kidding and ribbing each other. John sports not one but two artificial knees plus a fake hip, Steve is back after recovering from lung surgery for cancer, Sue has a heart problem and sits out frequently. People wear braces, elastic wraps. The smell of horse liniment permeates the humid air. Some players are obviously former athletes; some began at age 72; almost everyone is over 65. A kaleidoscope of physical abilities and disabilities combine in the amazing dance of older participants doing the best they can to find traction on the Slippery Slope. And, they are having a blast!
The Pickleball Revolution
Pickleball is not merely a game with a crazy name. It is a revolution. The Villages boasts over 200 courts and is only one of many communities offering the sport. There are thousands of places to play in the USA, not to mention Canada, Mexico, and countries across the ocean. To become an athlete for the first time, to find a new game to add to a lifetime of athletic prowess, to forge deep friendships, to compete in tournaments like the ones now offered by SSIPA for players over 65, such are unexpected, cherished gifts at a time when life narrows for many.
No matter how steep and greased each person finds the inevitability of the Slippery Slope, the sport of pickleball has become the Magic Bullet for countless legions of senior players who “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas) It gives people a reason to rehab, recover, and hit those courts one more time.
Mary Oliver writes in her poem, “Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you will do with your one wild and precious life?”