The Boca Raton Masters took place in none other than Boca Raton, Florida this past weekend. Although the event is sanctioned by USA Pickleball, this event is not on any PPA or APP tour. Nevertheless, the event pulled in over 1000 registered players and included a decent pro pickleball draw. This pickleball tournament is notable for its size, notwithstanding being on any major tour, and, personally, for being in my own backyard in South Florida.
Typically, when I attend a pickleball tournament, I am on the court. This time, I went as a fan. My most striking takeaway was this… The most incredible quality of the sport of pickleball is the sense of community it provides. This was evident from the:
- Passion of the organizers and volunteers;
- Pickleball referees, who may even share their love for pickleball and the rules of pickleball with their spouses;
- Spectators, who showed up whether or not they were playing (like myself). And, more notable, these spectators watched the pro pickleball players, but even more so, watched their friends in every amateur skill and age bracket; and
- Players, who competed on the court and connected with friends off the court.
Now, this quality—the sense of community—is not new. I joined the world of pickleball in 2017, and this sense of community was prevalent then. (I even wrote an article about how “Pickleball Changed My Life.”) In fact, one of the original founders of the sport of pickleball, Barney McCallum, even identified this trait at the sport’s humble beginnings and used it to help market the sport in its early days, as he marketed the sport of pickleball as a “way to get off the sidelines of life.”
Since then, others have described pickleball in the same vein. For instance, PickleballTournaments.com President, Melissa McCurley, who has been around the sport for a long time, described that, from newly retired folks that are looking for meaning in life, to young junior players looking for a purpose in a different way, like having a career in a sport, pickleball is for each of them and everyone in between.
But, what is incredible is that pickleball continues to carry this culture from 1965 into present day—even with exploding participation numbers that are just shy of 37 million players. I believe it is the grassroots—the local clubs, the local park open plays, the local tournaments like the Boca Raton Masters—that keep this culture alive.
And, I, for one, am incredibly grateful because, as I noted above, pickleball changed my life. But, it has not just shown up in a singular moment. Pickleball—and by that, I mean the community that the sport offers—has continued to show up. From bringing me out of stressful work days to difficult relationship break-ups, and from celebrating marriages, kids, and other life accomplishments (which certainly include winning the cheap, but priceless medals at the local pickleball tournament), the pickleball community is, and will continue to be, there for it all.
So, my advice to you is to lean into it. Be the member of the pickleball community that you may want or need on the court with you that day you need it. Show up to your local scene—whether it be as a player, fan, organizer, volunteer, referee, etc. Show up and become a part of the most incredible community there just may be out there.
As one of the pickleball founding fathers put it, show up “to get off the sidelines of life.” What could be more powerful than that?