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Pickleball takes hold in Las Cruces

peter goodman

  Commentary: With so much to say this week about Climate Change (100 nations at COP 26 vowing to cut methane emissions sharply) and education (public comment period on teaching social studies ending on 12 November), I’ll ponder pickleball.

A lifelong basketball addict grown old, I play pickleball frequently. So do about four million people in the U.S., and many elsewhere. It’s our nation’s fastest-growing sport. One Hollywood producer won’t vacation anywhere that lacks pickleball courts, per a Vanity Fair piece, “How Pickleball Won over Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to your Grandparents.” (I know folks in their eighties who routinely beat folks half their age.) National TV caught relief pitchers playing in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen; and pickleball addicts include Russell Wilson, DiCaprio, George and Amal Clooney, Bill and Melida Gates, and Phil Mickelson.

The City has turned Apodaca Park tennis courts into eight pickleball courts, newly refinished. During construction, when we played at Lions Park, I often looked from our two tennis courts (eight pickleball courts, with sometimes two dozen people on them, 16 playing, others waiting) at the other ten courts (boasting six or eight tennis players, perhaps).

We also have the Organ Mountains Pickleball Club; and an excellent pickleball instructor, John Allevi, has relocated here. Clinics for beginners and intermediates are offered Thursdays at 6 p.m., for a nominal charge. (For info, Google “Organ Mountains Pickleball.”) Early in 2022, Allevi, who’s certified by three different entities, will instruct public school phys-ed teachers on teaching pickleball to kids. Local players he coaches recently took first place in an Albuquerque tournament.

A family invented pickleball on Bainbridge Island during the summer of 1965, answering a teenager’s complaint regarding boredom. The court is about 1/3 the size of a tennis court. Easier on the legs. Mostly people play doubles, though some of us play singles too. The hard plastic ball has holes in it, like a wiffleball, but doesn’t behave like a wiffleball. The paddles are solid, the size of a smallish racquetball racquet.

Folks play daily at Apodaca and Meerscheidt, and elsewhere in and around Las Cruces. It’s a quick, competitive sport, providing vigorous exercise and lots of laughs. There’s little arguing, as long as we stay off politics while waiting to play.

Pickleball is healthy outdoor exercise; it’s cheap and fun; no long runs or physical contact with opponents; and although it’s easy to learn, you can keep improving your skills for a very long time. As Allevi points out, the whole family can play.

The only downside is whatever’s left undone while I play for hours. Or ego damage when I play badly. “I know exactly what to do and how to do it, so how did I just #@&%*©$ screw up again?”

We have a welcoming pickleball community, too. People help and instruct each other. Some local tournaments have raised money for charities, notably Mission 22. There have also been special events for July 4th and Halloween. This Halloween, one player wore a wedding dress of which and had to hold up the rain as she ran and hit the ball. (She and her partner still whipped my butt.)

Pickleball is an increasingly important part of quality of life, for residents and visitors.

Join us! Relax while improving cognition, then return to the problems of climate change and education refreshed and strengthened.

In these times, it can’t hurt to bring people together in a non-divisive way.