Well I’ve been in Salida one week now. During my time here I’ve been to barbecues, soccer fields, and a bunch of public restrooms. But what has really dominated my time here, and you may have picked it up if you’re a die hard Chris Daniel Club fan and you read my Daily Interests page every day (Hi Mom!*), is that I have joined a pickleball community!
If you haven’t played it, it is super fun. Imagine giant ping pong or tiny tennis. And from my experience it seems like the people who play it are either below the age of 12 or above the age of 60. Either way, I pretty consistently get my butt kicked.
In Salida, there’s a group of senior players that play 7 days a week for three to five hours at a time. They’re incredibly warm, generous and patient people that have put up with my lack of ability and supported me throughout.
But don’t let the age fool you. These people mean business. Pickleball is a game played in short, quick bursts in close quarters. Numerous times I’ve ended up on the ground because these old people just thwack the ball right at me. They play for keeps.
The idea is to take the ground in front of the net as quickly as possible. If the first few hits go well, both teams end up about 5 yards away from each other smacking the ball back and forth. It really does remind me of a duel between two Jedi Masters.
Meanwhile I’m over here like:
The devotion that this community has to the sport is phenomenal. They’re constantly talking about what strategies to use, what kind of paddle works best, and what type of ball is superior.
And these people come prepared. They bring sustenance to stay energized for every one of the 300 minutes that they play. They make sure they have plenty of water and spare paddles in case something goes wrong. There’s Advil, grip tape, and electrolytes in powdered from. I’m convinced someone brings a bag of blood so they can do some doping on the side.
Whether there’s cheating or not (and there’s really not) there’s no better way to start the day than by getting on the courts for a few hours every morning. I get some fresh air. I get some exercise. I have a few laughs and a few hearty cries of terror. And who knows. Maybe by the time I leave here they’ll have actually let me win a few games.
I’m convinced the sport attracts good-natured, friendly people (I mean it’s called pickleball). These people have lent me paddles for the time I’m in Salida, they’ve offered jobs to me,** they’ve even offered to let me stay in their houses.
If you’re interested in playing pickleball check out the American Pickleball Association website. They have a list of all the official and pickup pickleball games that people can play in. I guarantee you’ll be accepted and have a good time.***
*I’m just kidding. My mom can’t read.
**This is a good example of weak ties which I wrote about here.
***I’ve become an evangelist.