This article was originally featured in Pickleball Magazine.
For most of my life I’ve been somewhere in the spotlight. I started doing ads on the radio when I was 13. I was always on stage doing variety shows or hosting events in my hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri. I’ve been on the radio in some capacity for almost 20 years and the last three as host of a syndicated travel show called “Bill On The Road”.
Being able to work a crowd or say that witty line at just the right moment – didn’t always equate to having a happy, full life.
Discovering the game of Pickleball and more importantly – feeling part of a special community of people that love the sport just like me – saved my life.
Being an “old soul” growing up, it was always hard to fit in with people my own age. At 36, I don’t have any kids – so as an adult, I can’t relate to most of my friends that have young ones. I don’t belong to any social groups or clubs – mainly because I can’t stand parties and rarely drink. Don’t dare ask me to ever attend a meeting, of any sort because I don’t have the patience. My Dad has a life of his own and my only sibling – a brother is married and lives two states away. Bottom line – I’ve been a loner and not always by choice. I just never found a place to fit in.
While attending the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida I met dozens of people from all across the United States that have found a love for this game just like me. I’m not the greatest player and take the court each time with having fun as my only real intention. I’ll laugh at myself if I make a dumb play or be the first to congratulate an opponent that kicks my butt. Winning has never mattered – but, being part of a community has.
One thing Pickleball players all seem to have in common – we are friendly. We know that people often laugh when they hear we play a sport that sounds ridiculous and even looks like some sort of circus event at first glance. There’s a certain bond all of us have because we’ve all had the same conversations with friends and family that have never heard of our game. We’ve all seen the eye rolls from acquaintances that have no intention of accepting this mix match of ping pong and tennis as a legit sport. Even as complete strangers we are a real family and a welcoming one at that.
Playing Pickleball several nights a week has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. For the first time in a long time, I feel part of something – I have something to look forward to and quite honestly, it cured what could simply be called depression. I feel healthier, I can see a difference in my professional life and I am genuinely happy – for the first time in years.
I’m hopeful that as a lover of Pickleball – no matter how skilled you may be – you’ll continue to welcome new players – both good and bad – with open arms. Be kind, embrace them, teach them and make them feel welcome, at tournaments or on your own local courts.
You could very well be saving their life, too.
Thanks again to Pickleball Magazine for asking me to write for their publication. It’s a must for all Pickleball players and can be purchased (hard copy) through thepickleballmag.com