LIFE LESSONS COME FROM ALL PLACES—EVEN UNEXPECTED PLACES, LIKE THE PICKLEBALL COURT.
One of the best attributes of the sport of pickleball is that anyone can play it, including those who have spent a lifetime playing, or even trying to make a career in, another sport. For many long-time tennis players (like most pro pickleball players, such as Leigh Waters, Jessie Irvine, Matt Wright, Simone Jardim, and others), and many long-time “name any sport” athletes, pickleball offers a second chance to be competitive. This can be immensely valuable and life-changing for athletes that love to compete—especially because sport is a powerful vehicle to so much more than competition (e.g., friendship, team work, belonging, purpose, etc.).
For instance, using myself as an example, I was a high-level softball player, and I devoted my entire life to the sport in an effort to play in the Olympics. With a career that spanned about 20 years from the time I was 4 to 24, my identity was so intricately involved with being a softball player. I was not a daughter, a friend, a student, a good person, or any other identifier. I was not even Stacie. I was a softball player. Who I was, was so intricately intertwined with the sport that I played. Plus, I craved the rigid structure of the game, which included early morning workouts, individual training sessions, team training sessions, a fulsome travel and game schedule, recovery sessions, media training and exposure, etc. My days were filled for me, and every act was geared toward excelling at the highest level in the sport.
But, when the unfortunate stars aligned to remove softball from the Olympics, being a softball player was not a realistic path any longer. Further, after competing at multiple world championships, it honestly was not even desirable to stay the course. So, with a dead dream, I decided to step away from the game.
In that moment, when I realized this may be the last time I take the field, I vividly remember feeling like I had lost my identity. What would I do, or even be, without the sport? I remember calling my mother who, like mothers do, give motherly advice. She started in a story… “I remember when you were first born, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the best phase ever.’ Then, you started walking and talking, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. No, this is the best phase ever.’ Then, you started playing softball, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. THIS is the best phase ever.’ And, you know what, I think the next phase will be even better and be the best phase yet, too.”
The Next Phase: The Pickleball Phase
So, flash forward a few years, I have found the sport of pickleball—thanks to my mother—and I have to say, I think she was right. Pickleball—with its ability to provide a fresh competitive outlet and new friends that will be around for a lifetime—has brought about the best phase yet for me.
And, this is not an uncommon story. The sport of pickleball has given, and is still giving, players from beginners to pro players a second chance to be active, to be competitive, to make friends, to feel a sense of community, to feel a sense of purpose, and more.
We encourage everyone to share the sport of pickleball with everyone in their networks. You never know who might need a second chance, and pickleball might be the perfect avenue to get it.
LESSONS FROM THE PICKLEBALL COURT
Read past blogs from the "Lessons from the Pickleball Court" series:
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Integrity Is Everything
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Go Down Swinging
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Read the Room (or the Pickleball Court)
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Always Be Prepared
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Referees Are Impactful
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Never Judge a “Pickleball Book” by Its Cover
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Encourage the Kids to Play
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Learn to Share “Small Spaces”
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Strangers Become Quick Friends
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Pickleball Culture to Workplace Culture