A fun story about Kerry and me learning the sport of Pickleball….
Let’s face it, 2020 and 2021 were challenging for a number of reasons. But we found ourselves increasingly looking at all the positives that are rooted in what so many of us focus on as “challenges.” First, never wish your days away; “next year” – like “tomorrows” are always on the horizon and hold no promises that it won’t be full of its own challenges. But why not wake up each day and choose this to be the first day of your next year. Life is a series of choices after all!
With that in mind, I wanted to share my own little 2-4-1 experience. One of the joys of our camp is watching a child be introduced to a new sport. Our model is to introduce just enough — the basic rules, the object of the game, any nuances that would be important to know — and then get kids playing as soon as possible. That’s where the fun and the magic happen. Well, this past fall, we connected with old friends who excitedly told us about a sport they had recently begun playing together as a couple and how much fun they were having. Kerry and I were intrigued. When we first met in the early 1990s, we found that we both loved playing tennis together. Her dad was a tennis teaching professional and Kerry, when in elementary school, was ranked in the state of Maryland but found herself more drawn to team sports as she got older. I had played little before we started dating, but we found it something we both enjoyed and would play for hours on the weekends. They were truly play dates:-). I’ve now known Kerry for 31 years and we’ve been married for 28 of them. We probably played more tennis together in our first year of knowing each other than in all our years together since. We of course both still play a lot of things and are forever active, but tennis has only sporadically been part of that equation.
Fast forward to this past fall when our friends asked us to join them at their local park for a funny sounding game — pickleball.
Of course, we were excited to try this new sport! After being handed what I could only equate to a Kadima paddle (that I’d used on the beach over the years), and the equivalent of what looked like a wiffle ball, we started to “rally” back and forth. It took us a short while to judge the length of the paddle relative to our arm and hand (much shorter than a tennis racket) and to judge the bounce of the ball (much less than a tennis ball, but surprisingly more bounce than we expected). After a short while, our friends told us the basic rules, the object of the game, and a few nuances they thought important for us to know — and then we started playing. They had turned our model on us! At the time, we were unknowingly experiencing our own introduction to a brand-new sport in the same way that our campers do. We were using our own knowledge and experience of other sports we’ve played and were quickly applying them to this new game. There were the lateral movements and eye-hand coordination needed in lacrosse and basketball that came in handy. There were net game strategies of sports we were both familiar with like badminton, volleyball and table tennis. And, of course, it was easy to draw parallels between real tennis — especially doubles with so much action close to the net.
Kerry and I are both in our mid-50s and we were having the fun of our 20s and experiencing the excitement that so many of our campers have reported to us over the years after having been exposed to a brand new sport for the first time. And before you go thinking Kerry and I are talking about an “old persons” game that we’ve been introduced to heading into our golden years, the eight courts in the park where we were playing were filled with every age: college kids on the court next to us, elementary-aged children on the court across from us and a young family of four with a grandparent subbing in a few courts down. More importantly, we’ve gotten the itch to start playing tennis again. What a glorious thing!
About Steve Boyle
Steve is the Executive Director of 2-4-1 CARE, Inc and Co-Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports -- a signature program of 2-4-1 CARE-- whose flagship program is held at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. but now has locations throughout the United States and Canada. 2-4-1 was recognized by the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC as one of eight model programs in the United States for its approach to anti-specialization in youth sports. This led Steve to form the National Association of Physical Literacy – of which he is now Advisory Board Chair. Steve is also a founding member of the Quality Coaching Collective – an international group of activators around sport, movement and mindfulness. Lastly, through his role at CCG, Steve was the two-year Global Lead on Physical Literacy and Athletics for Whittle School & Studios (2018-20), which currently has campuses in Shenzhen, China and Washington, DC.