How covering a story led to my first pickleball experience

Before moving to Bainbridge Island, I did some research on the history, culture and what the city is known for. As a sports lover, I read about how some locals invented pickleball.

I knew what pickleball was, but the closest I ever played to it was paddle tennis in high school P.E. In paddle tennis, we had plastic paddles but played with tennis rules and nets.

So, I never really played pickleball until the recent Founders Tournament.

When I first arrived, every court was filled. I began walking around taking photos and talking to some of the campers and coaches. I began taking photos of Theresa and Marty Collier and Tim Phillips. Their fourth partner left the camp early.

They began scrambling to find a fourth before Theresa and I locked eyes. She yelled, “Hey! Do you want to hop in and play?”

Within seconds, two thoughts came to mind. First, I was excited to run out there and begin playing. Second, I was nervous about messing up.

I jumped in after borrowing one of Battle Point’s paddles I told them it was my first time playing the sport. All their faces dropped and their blood went cold. However, they were welcoming and let me play.

The first thing I learned was “hitting in the kitchen.” After hearing that, I began thinking of what I was going to have for dinner. However, I refocused and learned how to hit “dinks.”

The sweat and nerves running through me were nearly unmatched. I kept thinking how I could keep up with my fellow partners. If that was not enough, we began running drills where someone had to call each shot strategically, position ourselves for any type of return and practice third shots.

I barely knew the rules and had to perform higher-end strategies. However, after running drills, my confidence skyrocketed. My confidence flew out the window when the first actual game began.

I played the first two games with Theresa, Marty and Tim. At the beginning, I hit every ball over the net well. However, after a decent rally, I would either mess up a call with my teammate or lob a ball up that would be smashed right back at my face. All I could think about was I felt sorry for Marty because he was my partner, and I barely helped earn any points for our team.

I lost the first couple of games with him before flipping to another court with some older players. My team was down 5-1, when all of a sudden, a rush ran through my body and I took over the game. In my final game, I had two aces, a few smash hits and even hit the ball in the kitchen too. My team ended up winning 10-8.

At the end of the tourney, I sat down with Theresa, Marty and Tim. They told me the clinic was meant for players in the 3.0 to 3.5 skill range. Therefore, they may not win tournaments but they are competitive players who understand the game.

In addition, they gave me some compliments. “I thought you had played before.” Phillips said. “One of the hardest things is hitting it over the net. You did great because people usually hit it too high or all over the place.”

Marty said, “When you told us you only played once before, it is fair to say we were all shocked. Hopefully, they will give you a pickleball beat and cover us.”

Although basketball is my favorite recreational sport, I will definitely start playing pickleball more often.