Monday, May 27, 2024

Writer Joy on the Pickle Ball Court By Robert Ronning


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Along about midday I crave escaping from my desk, acutely aware that a static writing life could lead to a shorter life. I’ve tried aerobics and weights, golf, cycling, and just plain walking, all in quiet desperation to complete another novel or two before I drift off to join carefree writers in the great beyond. I’ve tried alternative writing stations: standing desk, treadmill, a laptop actually on my lap in an easy chair … alas, all roads lead back to a standard chair and desk.

Yet the writer body cries out for movement, which drew me to pickleball. If you’re from Planet Wack-ado and you haven’t heard about pickleball, here are a few words about this fastest growing sport, with courts sprouting in converted mall space, abandoned tennis courts, and HOAs. They are popping up everywhere to accommodate a tidal wave of retired boomers, including those nursing old sports injuries and looking for less demanding exercise. (Warning: Pickleball is demanding; urgent care clinics are treating eager older players suffering a variety of court injuries—I’ve got a drawerful of ACE wraps for securing a limb or a hinge during play.)

Once I was a jaded golfer carrying a heavy handicap, begrudging the time spent hitting a little white ball until I found a new passion in pickleball. In only half the time I spent on golf, I could duck away from my desk for a few rounds of hitting a plastic ball with a paddle.

As writers are wont, I imagine pickleball as an action-filled venue with compelling characters, my chosen site being the Y’s basketball court. Action unfolds through a variety of plot lines; dramatic faceoffs easily stray into comedy or slapstick. As for characters, the game has its usual suspects—think of childhood back on the school playground at recess. Now, it’s bickering and clowning adults, player cliques, and much laughter. As the sport has flourished, the only real drawback is the waiting time between games. Still, idleness offers a chance to socialize—the buzz of voices trading gossip and backstories is usually worth the time. 

I’ve cautioned newbies to the game that pickleball is quite addictive. There’s always a core group of intense competitors who get an extra high on the sport. At a game’s end, panting foursomes usually walk off the court with smiley faces, win or lose, as if they’ve just returned from a ticket to paradise. Gathering together to play a few times a week, there’s mostly an aura of joy and camaraderie.

Crucially, I don’t think the game would be half as much fun without the gender mix. An agile or athletic woman will play the game at a high level against a macho man who just hates being scorched by the opposite sex. 

Enough said. Now I’m off to play a few more games and escape the paralyzing stasis of the deskbound. 

Robert Ronning writes about wildlife and conservation, and published his adventure novel, Wild Call to Boulder Field in 2023. He and wife Kathleen live in Tucson and summer in a cabin in Arizona’s White Mountains, a few minutes daily dog walk from National Forest and wildlife. He considers his proudest achievements rescuing and assisting the rescue of lost dogs. A recovering golfer, now an avid Pickleball player, he likes to unwind with a crossword puzzle. See 

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