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Pre-school Pickleball? Finding a Place for Grandkids on the Court

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 06-12-2024

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket are solidly within the cranky get-off-my-lawn cohort of pickleball players.

We see the pickleball courts that used to be filled with people who knew the differences between parts A, B, and C of Medicare, but are now being populated by Zoom-educated youth who appear to imagine that the object of the game is to hit the ball so hard that it breaks.

Yes, I’m cranky. Guilty as charged. But lately, and much to my surprise, a lot less cranky due to the arrival of two grandchildren during the past two years – including a little guy who was born this month.

Here he is, thinking about his third-shot drop.

I am firmly convinced that my grandchildren will play pickleball because my daughter and husband both play, and my daughter played pickleball through her ninth month of pregnancy both times, right up to the day before giving birth the first time.

Because of that, it’s possible that my grandchildren have the distinctive “thocking” sound of a pickleball being hit by a paddle imprinted in their in-vitro memories. They just might be hard-wired for pickleball. 

And like those giant sea turtles that know exactly what beach to return to, my grandkids will have an innate yearning to return to the pickleball courts of their prenatal selves.

So, yes, they’re going to play. The question is, will I, as a guy turning 70 next year get to play with them? Or will I … um, er … what’s the gentle way to put it? … time out?

Clearly, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for them to be teenagers. By the time that happens, I’ll be in my 80s. And as mediocre as I am today at the game, it’s not a stretch to imagine I’m only going to get worse as an octogenarian. 

I’m going to need a few solid years of being able to play better than my grandkids. It would be awful if they could beat their “teacher” the first time we step on a court together. 

This has had me researching just how young can children be taught to play pickleball? 

I’d like to think that the E-trade commercial on TV that shows the two toddlers playing pickleball is a documentary, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a joke.

I think I should calibrate my expectations to something a little more mature, but not too mature. I’m thinking of that sweet spot that is the post-diaper phase for them, but the pre-diaper phase for me. 

Paddletek, a pickleball gear and apparel company, has advocated bringing kids out to the courts to play during their early elementary school years. 

“The universality of pickleball is its true charm, a sport that a 7-year-old can enjoy just as much as a 70-year-old,” a Paddletek blog states. 

Paddletek endorser Anna Leigh Waters, the top-ranked woman in the world at the age of 17, turned pro when she was just 11 years old. 

So, if I can lay off the sugar and eat more vegetables, while not doing something physically destructive to my shoulders, knees and ankles on the court over the next several years, I just might get my wish.

Pickleball posts on social media claim that some children start learning at age 4. And manufacturers are making lightweight junior paddles now to meet the expected new demand for the younger players.

The Qyntelix children’s paddle, a smaller lightweight paddle (6 ounces), says it’s good for ages “3+”. It comes in either a mermaid or astronaut paddle-face design and sells on Amazon for $25.

The trend of younger and younger players on the court is going to continue. Especially, once pickleball becomes more widely included in school physical education classes.

So, I tell myself to be patient. Don’t rush things. Keep healthy, keep playing. In the meantime, enjoy the grandkids at every stage.

And no more Mr. Grumpy about all those young people showing up on the pickleball courts. 

MURMURS FROM THE LOSERS’ BRACKET

Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including:

Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank’s newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino

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