This past summer I was directing a tennis tournament at the Mercer County Tennis Center where I have worked for seven years now. In an early round singles matchup, one of the players was clearly bothered by noise up on adjacent courts. Before the words even came out of his mouth I knew his complaint would not be about the noise on the other tennis courts...
He, like many other players at the tennis center, have had a hard time adapting to the four pickleball courts built at the entrance to the tennis center two summers ago. Since the inception of pickleball in Mercer County there has been a few reasons for tennis players to gripe. Most notably they can’t stand the noise from freshly struck pickleball, the social aspect of the game, and when it really comes down to it, the fun.
I cannot hate on tennis players too much though, because for most of my life, I was one. I started playing tennis around age seven or eight when my brother went out for his high school team. As I matured I was fortunate to develop enough skill to become a quality county player in high school and play D1 tennis for Rider University. To put it simply for nearly 15 years tennis was my life. It was the first sport I ever really loved and my time was devoted entirely to it. With that being said I never expected to fall so hard for a sport; a second time.
During winter break my senior year of college, my brother told me about his growing obsession with this crazy sport we all love. My brother is a stereotypical tennis nut, he loves everything there is about tennis whether it is playing or coaching so I knew his fascination with this sport had to mean something. With plenty of free time off from school and practice I finally let him drag me off to the pickleball court. He was kind enough to let me use his spare paddle, a GAMMA Atomic 2.0 paddle.
In those early days of my pickleball journey I took many losses trying to foolishly play tennis on the pickleball court. My brother constantly chastised me for not “dropping it in the kitchen” and when he described my game to other picklers he said, “This is my brother, he is a banger.” This is the kind of pickleball language I have grown accustomed to, but had no clue what he meant at the time.
To make a long story short, I quickly began trying to play as much pickleball as I could before I had to go back to playing out my final year of college tennis. A few months of tennis flew by at school and after one tennis tournament in the summer, I knew my days of competitive tennis were numbered. During my summers I have a nice job of teaching summer tennis camp and directing tournaments at Mercer County Park. Days can be long teaching outside in the New Jersey heat, but I grew accustomed to stay out even longer if it meant I could hit some pickleballs. I quickly got myself back into playing pickleball (And actually learned about dropping it in the kitchen and not always banging) on those summer afternoons after teaching tennis in the mornings.
A part of me will always love tennis for the experiences I had, but with pickleball I see great opportunities for the future. I have been fortunate enough to travel around and compete in five tournaments across New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in my young pickleball career. On top of that I have been even luckier to rack up some nice hardware along the way. Becoming a GAMMA Brand Ambassador this past January has further helped me in my attempts to grow my own game as well as the sport for others. Gamma even made an awesome tennis racket like paddle (The GAMMA Compass LH) with a long grip that allows me to rip shots just like I am still on the tennis court. So the next time there is a tournament at my local park and I hear a tennis player shouting “PICKLEBALL!” in vain, I will get a good laugh out of it from the adjacent pickleball courts.