Pickleballers Tell Us: “I Can Remember the First Time I…”


We asked players across the country to share their memories of the sport


“I Can Remember the First Time I…

“…got a job so I could play pickleball!”

I played pickleball for the first time on my birthday last year. My mother-in-law gave me a paddle as a birthday present, and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. In the winter I got a part-time job at Club Pickleball USA so I could go play pickleball every day!

Courtesy Rosita Simkins

I’ll play from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., help people check in, work my shift, then go home to make dinner and spend time with my son. Once he’s in bed and my spouse takes over, I come back to play from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. My friends tease me that I’m addicted to pickleball, but I just say it’s better than being addicted to something worse!

—Rosita Simkins, Orem, Utah

Courtesy Joseph Santoro
“…founded a pickleball tournament.”

I was introduced to pickleball in February 2015 in Florida. When I came back to my New Hampshire home that May, I learned pickleball had been going on here—I just didn’t know it. I started playing in my town, Wolfeboro, and in a nearby town, Moultonborough. As summer came to a close, I thought, Maybe we could have fun if we had a little contest.

I went to Moultonborough and said, “Can you come up with 20 players to compete against folks in Wolfeboro?” We had our first tournament with 40 players, with the winning team buying ice cream for the losing team. It turned out to be so fun, everyone agreed we needed to do this every year. That little contest grew into the NH Lakes Region Pickleball Tournament. This September, we had over 300 players from across the United States! But we still make sure to do a
local tournament every June.

—Joseph Santoro, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and Bonita Springs, Florida

 “…saw a pickleball court.”

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to move up here from New York City with our two children. We looked at several different houses, and at one I saw this weird court painted on the driveway. I thought, It’s too small for tennis. What could it possibly be? Our real estate agent explained that it was a pickleball court. I had never heard of the game! She said the owners had painted it on the driveway so that they could play with their neighbors. When we ended up buying the house, that couple gifted us their net and set of paddles and balls. Now my family and I play together, and when friends come up from the city and have no clue what pickleball is, we tell them, “It’s easy to learn! You’ll enjoy it!” Sure enough, they
have fun too.

—Jenny Mueller, Katonah, New York

Courtesy Jenny Mueller

Courtesy Cityview of Fayetteville/Jayshawn Campbell
“played in a pickleball tournament.”

I’m in the Air Force. In 2017 I was stationed near Las Vegas. One of the guys I played with locally invited me to a tournament in St. George, Utah. It was huge! There were people everywhere: seniors, young people, from all different ethnic groups. The courts were beautiful, with mountains in the background that made everything seem even more spectacular. My partner and I ended up taking home a bronze medal. I’ve competed in more than 20 tournaments since, and now play at 5.0, sponsored by Gamma Sports. Competing helped me take the sport more seriously—and fall in love with it even more.

Jayshawn Campbell, Tampa, Florida

“…taught someone how to play—and love—pickleball.”

In one of my first classes as an instructor, I had a couple who were 72 and 76 years old. The wife was enthusiastic about learning to play; her husband not as much—he did it for her. At the end of four sessions, I asked, ‘Do you think you’ll continue?’ She said, ‘Definitely! I’m not sure about him yet, though!’ Six months later I ran into them. They’d been playing twice a week ever since and have become local advocates for the game! A lot of older people think they’re past learning a new sport. But 90 minutes of playing later, they leave the gym eager to come back for more. That’s what I love about teaching—being able to witness that excitement.

Emer Daly, Gaithersburg, Maryland

Courtesy Emer Daly