Passionate about pickleball

By Anthony Welch

A handful of pickleball players all agreed on one thing – it’s addictive.

The racquet sport, played with paddles a whiffle ball on a scaled down tennis court of sorts, has gained popularity amongst players of all ages. Here in Colorado Springs, it’s no different as the area pickleball club, the Pikes Peak Pickleball Association (PPPA), has seen its numbers increase drastically.

In September, association members Steve and Ramona Boone hosted nearly 500 pickleball players from 23 states and from Canada and Mexico. The Boones are directors of the USA Pickleball Association Great Plains Regional Tournament. Of those who played in the tournament, more than 350 players were over the age of 50, according to Steve.

“As our bodies get a little older and we get a little less mobile, it’s really easy to play this sport compared to the ones we used to play,” he said.

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Theresa Melius

The Boones, both retired military, took of the sport years ago when they saw an ad for pickleball lessons at Monument Valley Park. They quickly became addicted to the sport, formed a club and things took off from there.

The couple hosted their first tournament in 2012, and 85 players took part. The Boones took the money raised and gave it to the Colorado Springs parks and rec department. With each tournament that followed, more and more money was raised. Then an anonymous donor stepped in, and with the park and rec department’s match, $600,000 had been raised for the construction of 15 brand new pickleball courts which replaced the dilapidated tennis courts.

“We told city if they built courts would bring regional to city,” Steve said.  “The courts are used all year-round and are full every day. This has been a very successful story.”

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Nancy Steffy

The association started with just 40 members but has exploded to 800, according to Ramona. She likes the fact that pickleball games are short and that people of all levels can play. There are great benefits of the sport for seniors as well.

“Isolation and loneliness are the biggest problems with seniors. Because it’s a social sport, that really helps them to interact with others and get a little exercise,” Ramona said.

The association includes players as young as 8 years old and as old as 90, Steve mentioned.

“It’s really easy to get into this sport. That’s another thing that makes it so inviting, it’s easy to play,” he said. “As long as you can still walk, you can play this sport. It’s the fun part, that really appeals to all ages.”

Nancy Steffy first got involved with pickleball in 2010 while visiting her parents in Green Valley, Ariz. Steffy had taught pickleball in her physical education classes in Florence but had no idea adults were playing the sport until a friend in Arizona encouraged her to play.

“I love the social part. Anybody and everybody can play it, whether it’s competitive or non-competitive,” she said.

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Randy Beaubein

Fellow former physical education teacher Theresa Melius also taught the sport to her students for year, but didn’t actually play herself until eight years ago. Now she can’t stop playing. During warmer months she plays here in Colorado Springs daily, if possible. During the winter, she keeps busy playing in Mexico.

“This sport is a great physical activity. It’s a great way to meet new people,” she said.

Theresa is a member at-large and tournament coordinator for the PPPA. She said the sport is a fun activity for those who are retired or thinking about retiring.

“It’s a good cohesive group of people. It’s very all-inclusive,” she said. “Once you start playing, it’s addictive. I’ve met a lot of great people that have become friends.”

Randy Beaubien took up the sport just a few years ago. Some friends of his returned from Phoenix raving about the game.

“I thought the name of the game was so silly, I thought it was some kids’ game or something,” he said. “I took to the sport like fish to water. I can’t imagine playing anything that’s more fun. Anybody who’s played any racquet sports can transition to pickleball easily.”

As the association continues to grow, there’s rarely a time when the pickleball courts at Monument Valley Park aren’t packed. The city has expanded with a handful of courts at other parks, but more are needed according to Steve.

“We have so many people playing the game, that we have to take turns,” he said.

While a majority of the association’s members are retired (“because they have time to play every day,” according to Steve) more players of all ages are always welcome. There are never any judgements, and players are always willing to help newcomers with the sport.

“We have open play every day from 9 a.m. to noon,” Ramona added. “You really get addicted to it.”

For more on the association, https://pppa.wildapricot.org.

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