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6 min read

Pickleball Changed My Life

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 02-21-2020

Circa Early 2017: Before Pickleball.

My name is Stacie. In early 2017, I was a 28-year-old single woman living in West Palm Beach, Florida, and working full-time as a business lawyer, which means that I was available 24/7/365 to help clients buy and sell businesses, enter into multi-million-dollar relationships, and otherwise make money and stay out of trouble. It is an exciting job with lots of moving parts, but, on most days, the early mornings, late nights, quick turnarounds, constant deadlines, and high stakes led me to a relentless state of stress.

Prior to being an attorney, I was an international and professional softball player striving to play in the Olympics Games. Stress came in a very different form measured in the score after 7 innings of play. But, the stress was managed simultaneously with high-level physical and mental exertion at all times. Fast forward to my desk job as an attorney, I dealt with stress in a very different way—mostly eating, rarely running, and sometimes a glass or 3 of wine. I think it goes without saying that there were definitely healthier options.

I was working all the time. I was stressed. And, I was generally unhealthy. What I haven’t mentioned so far is that I was also isolated. Transitioning from a team sport like softball, where you have a group of 15 to 20 of your best friends constantly around you, and even at times living with you, to a desk in an office alone, in a city by myself, was a challenge. I made some local friends (of course, through softball), but I really lacked a community that I could identify with and belong to.

Circa Late 2017 and Beyond: After Pickleball.

Around late 2017, I was now a 29-year-old single woman living in West Palm Beach, Florida, and working full-time as a business lawyer. I was dealing with the same constant pressure and stress. However, how I dealt with the pressure and stress completely changed. Now, my outlet at the end of a hard day or hard week was to play pickleball.

As a quick aside, I was introduced to pickleball by my parents, who had recently found the game and were constantly talking about how much fun they were having with their new friends. For those new to pickleball, pickleball—commonly described as a combination of tennis, table tennis, and badminton—is a game in which players use a paddle to hit a wiffle ball over a net, with the idea of winning a rally by being the last person or team to hit the ball over the net and within the defined court. At a rudimentary level, pickleball can be thought of as mini-tennis, but with a few unique rules, such as an underhand serve and the concept of a Non-Volley Zone (affectionately called the “Kitchen”). With that said, pickleball is easy to learn, easy to have success on the court and get relatively good quickly, cheap to play, and, most importantly, FUN!

So, after work or on the weekends in mid to late 2017, I would walk up to a pickleball court and shyly put down my gear, as I was a beginner player who did not know any of the dozens of pickleball players around the courts. Nevertheless, every time I would arrive at the pickleball courts, handfuls of strangers would introduce themselves and ask me jubilantly to play pickleball with them. No matter the day, time or which court, I always was welcomed on to the pickleball court with happy players and smiling faces.

Beyond the welcoming community, one of the real reasons I wanted to play pickleball is that it seemed like a fun option to stay in shape. When asked to play, I would grab my pickleball paddle, jump on a court, and, just before serving up the first point, I would always turn on my Apple Watch to make sure my exercise counted toward my daily steps. After an hour or two of play, with too many laughs to count, I was always pleasantly surprised to see how quickly I could burn 800+ calories. Talk about a workout!

After an hour or two of playing pickleball, I would have had a workout, laughed with friends, and really engaged with my community. This continues to be true today.

With that said, what I found by playing pickleball since 2017 is:

  • Better physical fitness (you can burn 600+ calories per hour playing pickleball);
  • A stronger, more positive mental state (endorphins, baby!);
  • A great stress reliever (who doesn’t like to whack a ball around?!);
  • A community that welcomes everyone (the sport of pickleball loves every player);
  • Friends for a lifetime and that extend well-beyond the pickleball court (authentic friends with real connection beyond the computer and phone screens);
  • Laughter until my stomach hurt (laughter is the best medicine!);
  • Friendly competition (as a former high-level athlete, I love a little friendly competition);
  • A family-friendly game that is fun and competitive for all ages and skill levels (what a gift that I can do this with my parents and friends!); and
  • Something that I look forward to 24/7/365 (in other words, pure FUN!).

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, play pickleball, and your health, wellness, and life may change, too!

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