Pickleball? Who Me? How I was Introduced to this Crazy Addictive Sport!
By: Robin Yoder, Sportable Athlete
In April of 2021, I participated in the Sportable running program. We were still very much dealing with COVID but this was an outdoor program and for the first time it was being held in Chesterfield County near my home, at Swift Creek Middle School. I hadn’t done much running but I was ready to get outside and be around people so the timing and location worked out for me to get back involved and to get myself moving.
After one of the training sessions, the opportunity was presented to check out Pickleball up on the Tennis courts. I didn’t know anything about Pickleball and I wasn’t really interested in learning either. I am very rarely intimidated to challenge myself or to try new things but for some reason, I was intimidated.
But, it was unavoidable – the tennis courts were positioned between the track and my car. Because Amy and Forrest and all the volunteers had done such a super job organizing the running program and were kind enough to offer to us an opportunity to try something new and different and supposedly, popular, I felt as though I couldn’t say “no thank you.” So I timidly walked through the gate of the tennis courts and stood up against the fence nervously trying to come up with a polite escape plan!
And about that time, Forrest put a paddle in my hand and hit the ball to me. And much to my surprise, I made contact and hit the ball back. At some point Amy approached me and started hitting to me and educating me on the rules. And before I knew it, all that intimidating stress melted away and we were playing Pickleball!
In September of 2021, I was named the National Recipient of the HCA Healthcare “Frist Humanitarian Award” and with that award came $5000 to the charity of my choice. I decided to use half of the award so that Sportable could officially start a Pickleball program. Thanks to Sportable, Amy Smith, Chesterfield Pickleball Association Founder, Linda Scott and the awesome volunteers, this program has been a big success! I learned so much and have gained much confidence on those hot summer nights.
I have come to really love this sport and am beginning to believe that I really can play with most people, able-bodied or otherwise. But recently, I was faced with that similar feeling of intimidation. Every Saturday, I know there is open court play. I don’t know anyone who plays on Saturdays but I wanted to play. One Saturday morning, I woke up early, got all my stuff together and decided I was going to go insert myself in the pick-up rounds and play. And again, I became my own conflict – I felt intimidated – AGAIN!
So I paced around my house and found a million and one excuses to stay home. And then I thought back to that initial day when Forrest put a paddle in my hand and Amy started hitting the ball to me. And somehow, I mustered up the courage to get in my car (two hours later) to simply show up. I didn’t know how the rotations worked but I noticed one open court and three guys sitting in the shade. I took a deep breath and I walked up to them, introduced myself, telling them I needed a partner and a team of two to play with me. They instantly stood up introduced themselves and off we went. Three hours later and many games with many different people in the hot sun, I called it a day! It was a good day for me and I held my own and played well.
Thank you Sportable for pushing me on that very first day at Swift Creek Elementary School and for starting this Pickleball program. I have a new found confidence because of the opportunities provided to me by Sportable. Friday, August 5th marked 12 years since the day of my amputation because of cancer. It was an unbelievably scary time for me and my family yet at the same time, I had to completely embrace the horrible decision I was forced to make for a chance to live. Sometimes in life, you have to take a chance to get a chance.