Jim Buice column: First-time pickleballer gets hooked on the new Joanie Moser courts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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After several years of watching pickleball take over the local tennis courts, I finally decided to adhere to the old phrase: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

The timing seemed to be ideal. My daughter, an accomplished tournament pickleball player, was coming to town for what we considered to be the perfect doubleheader — show dad how to play pickle and make the short drive over to the Winston-Salem Open to see a world-class professional tennis tournament.

Deep down, I have always been intrigued by the world’s fastest-growing sport, but with a bad knee and sometimes balky back, the last thing that I probably needed was to add a third racquet sport. This comes after a lifetime of playing tennis and then being introduced to racquetball by the same daughter just after the turn of the century in 2001 and banging the fast-moving ball and walls for now more than 20 years.

She has long since given up racquetball and now plays tennis sparingly these days because of an ailing shoulder, but she has totally embraced pickle. So, upon her arrival in town, we headed over to the shiny new blue pickleball courts at Joanie Moser Memorial Park in Lewisville — which replaced two tennis courts (where I once frequently played on) and a basketball court. It is truly a pickleball palace.

Again, perfect timing.

And as I had already predicted, like most everyone who has ever played pickleball, I knew in the first game I was hooked.
I had seen enough to know I had the strokes to play because of my experience. It was a matter of figuring out the much shorter paddle compared to racquetball and even more so for tennis.

So between that and the much slower plastic ball with holes in it not bouncing up as high, I was constantly coming up short in not bending over enough and stepping up to hit it in the right spot. And when I did and moved toward the net, I had to worry about staying out of “the kitchen.”

What? I’ve always had a hard enough time of doing that with the various diets I’ve been on, but now I had to deal with it in pickleball.?
We hit and played games for almost two hours. She taught me a lot but wore me out more. I slumped over on one of the shaded benches as she went to the car and returned with our picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches and grapes before we headed over to see the pros at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.

We thoroughly enjoyed seeing many of the 15 or so of the world’s top 60 players in the field, including getting a glimpse of Argentina’s Sebastian Baez, who went on to win the ATP Tour 250 Series event on one of the outer courts.
It was a great day all the way around.

We went back to Joanie Moser the next morning for Day Two, where I was introduced to doubles with some accommodating participants and started learning about positioning and serving with a partner — along with keeping score.

I immediately got confused when they started calling out three numbers for the score instead of two. I then found out the third number simply tells you which player is serving.

Still, that’s better than the goofy scoring system in tennis, where the first four points of a game are love, 15, 30 and 40. Really logical, right? Then, if it’s tied at 40-40, it’s deuce and then ad, which is short for advantage.

However, I’ve never given that much thought since that’s been my forever sport.

Anyway, back to pickleball. In singles, I had my daughter on the ropes at 10-9 in one game before discovering she had to win by two, so I eventually lost 12-10.

I admittedly have a long way to go, but the biggest challenge will be trying to fit my new favorite sport into the schedule — along with figuring out “the kitchen” and how to keep score in doubles.