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Pickleball Is a Universal Language – Steve Rose’s Story

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 03-16-2020

Steve Rose, a passionate member of our pickleball community, is an avid surfer. He has been going on surf trips with his brother for years, which, in recent years, has been mostly in Nicaragua. Steve and his brother ventured into the remote, lower-income areas of Nicaragua, rather than the city or tourist areas, in search of great surf. The locals spoke only Spanish and no English, which made communicating with the locals difficult for Steve and his brother, who spoke only English and no Spanish.

In order to connect with the locals, Steve would generally do three things: (1) bring gifts; (2) play and spend time with them; and (3) take pictures. For instance, in one of the early trips to Nicaragua, Steve brought his son, some of his son’s friends, and a soccer ball. One afternoon he ventured away from the ocean and into the open field in the local town. Steve then asked the local boys that lived on the other side of the open field to play “futbol” with him, his son, and his son’s friends, who, to no surprise, stood out as “gringos.” Nevertheless, the group bonded over a friendly game of soccer and ended the outing with a group picture. Since that early trip, Steve would always brings gifts to the families that lived on the other side of the field, and always bring back a picture that he took with the families the year prior (so, after a few years, Steve would have pictures with the locals holding the prior year’s picture, holding the prior year’s picture, and so on).

Later, Steve went back to Nicaragua for another surf trip. This time, Steve brought pickleball paddles and pickleballs as gifts for the families that lived on the other side of the open field, as well as the picture from the prior trip. Steve ventured to the other side of the open field and found the local kids playing soccer with the same soccer ball as he had given to them on the prior trip—except that the leather cover was kicked off of the soccer ball from overuse! Steve gathered the local kids around, found flat ground and a piece of string to use as a net, and played pickleball on the makeshift court with them, who could not stop smiling and laughing with their new sport.

Before Steve’s next trip, he recruited the help of his local pickleball friends in South Florida in order to bring even more pickleball to the local town. Steve organized a round robin, but instead of paying money to play, pickleball players were encouraged to bring new or used pickleball paddles, pickleballs, bags, clothes, and other pickleball gear. The round robin resulted in Steve having to carry an additional suitcase to Nicaragua—jam packed full of pickleball paddles, pickleballs, and gear.

Steve carried all of the pickleball paddles, pickleballs, and gear to the other side of the open field, just as he did every trip. However, no one was home. Steve checked the time and realized that all of the local kids must still be in school, so he ventured over to the local school and arrived just as the local kids were being released. Steve asked the teacher if he could teach them pickleball before the kids went home. Soon enough, Steve found flat ground and a piece of string, and made a makeshift pickleball court. He then rallied the 30+ boys and girls into groups of four. The kids would play to a game to three, before Steve would shout “CHAMPION!,” and get four new pickleball players onto the court. Needless to say, yet again, the local kids immediately identified with Steve and connected with Steve, despite not being able to communicate the same language with him.

The power of pickleball is on full display with Steve Rose and the local Nicaraguan families. Pickleball crosses borders and crosses cultures, and pickleball is a universal language that connects people who seemingly have nothing in common.

Steve vows to always bring pickleball paddles, pickleballs, and gear to Nicaragua on his surf trips, which he continues to take with his family and friends. He has even taken the great pro pickleball player, Kyle Yates, to Nicaragua—to both surfing and playing pickleball—and he mentioned that there are a handful of local Nicaraguan kids running around with the infamous orange PickleballCentral tournament bags on their backs!

Thanks for sharing our great sport with the world, Steve!


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