You have heard it before… pickleball is more than a sport. And, one pickleball player from the Delray Beach, Florida community is proving that to be true. In fact, she is proving that pickleball is the vehicle to find and build a community.
Daniella Niss started playing pickleball a few years ago with her husband, Michael, as a way to do something fun together and exercise. Through playing at different courts in the South Florida community, Daniella mingled and played with a group of people that were so warm and welcoming that she felt as if part of a community from 0-0-2—which is a familiar feeling for many players in the pickleball community.
The more Daniella (and her husband, Michael) played, the more Daniella felt that this community was becoming like a second family and the more that second family grew. It was at that point that Daniella knew how powerful this pickleball community could be to the larger Delray Beach community. The sport of pickleball is more than just fun and exercise; it is community. And, Daniella wanted to help the pickleball players of South Florida share that community.
So, about 3 to 4 years ago, Daniella decided to become more involved by joining the board of the Delray Beach Pickleball Club. She wanted to encourage and rally the Club to do something for the larger community and not just pickleball. It was at this time that:
- Achievement Center – The Delray Beach Pickleball Club adopted a classroom of kids in the local Delray Beach community. The Club takes care of all the classroom’s needs and, in fact, the Club blew away the teachers when they had to make five trips to carry all of the orange PickleballCentral bags jam packed with school supplies.
- Make a Wish – The Delray Beach Pickleball Club hosted a pickleball event to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation. The Club had a goal of raising enough funds to grant two wishes. The pickleball community (amateurs and pros alike) showed up in such support that the Club was able to make three wishes!
- Gift of Life – The Delray Beach Pickleball Club helped arrange a booth for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry at a local pickleball tournament. This booth led to finding a match for someone in need.
- Pickleball Tournament – The Delray Beach Pickleball Club hosts one of the largest pickleball tournaments in the country (with over 800 participants). The Club focuses this tournament on the community, as they feel it is important that the players of Delray Beach and the broader South Florida community have their own tournament. The inclusivity of the tournament, and the efforts of the board members of the Club (which include Daniella (and Michael), Debi Dorne, Norm Dickman, Pam Garcia, and others), certainly are the recipe for success for this event.
- Free Pickleball Clinics – The Delray Beach Pickleball Club holds free pickleball clinics for its members. For instance, Michael leads a 10-week intermediate clinic for club members for free, which has a 60-person wait list! The Club is also going to host a beginner clinic starting in 2022.
- Appreciation Day – Prior to the COVID pandemic, the Club also held events for members to play and interact. The Club is hoping to bring these back in 2022.
Looking back on the experience with pickleball to date, Daniella notes that pickleball has brought her so much purpose (especially after initially feeling lost in retirement). Pickleball is everything that she loves in life—her passion for teaching (which was her career prior to retiring), being outdoors, and family (as she is able to share the sport of pickleball with her husband, Michael, her daughter and her future son-in-law—as well as her second family of pickleball players). In fact, she notes that “pickleball is life”!
When asked about her advice to others, Daniella emphasized the importance of just being out there. This is true of playing pickleball for yourself, but also the person that may be next to you on the pickleball court. You never know what people are going through, and how you treat them in a simple moment of a pickleball game, could really make a difference. Pickleball may be an outlet, a community, or even life to the person next to you. So, you have a chance to make a positive impact with every point you play. Plus, you could be part of a community that could turn pickleball into a vehicle to do good for others. What is more powerful than that?!
And, if you are considering running a pickleball tournament for your community, we grabbed some good tips from Daniella, who helped manage one of the largest pickleball tournaments in the country for the Delray Beach community:
- Don’t be afraid of technology and pressing buttons; and
- The real key is having strong leads and volunteers – you are nothing without your volunteers!