The first mistake was going on a date to play tennis. Neither of us were tennis players and it was all in good fun...till it wasn't. Hitting the ball back and forth was fine but Bill put some crazy spin on the ball and when I went to connect, I completely whiffed. Feeling foolish I threw my racquet down (we were newly dating, why he stayed with me I don't know!) and vowed never to play with him again. And I didn't.
Over the next 25 years, I cheered Bill on in his basketball and softball games and encouraged him to try curling, volleyball, and other various sports. We raised 4 amazing kids and drove them to countless and varied sporting events and loved cheering them on while sitting in the stands together. Bill and the kids played sports and I watched. We settled into our roles with Bill as the athlete and I as the cheering section (ok, sometimes I wasn’t cheering I was feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t have the same confidence to try something too).
It wasn't until a dinner and pickleball event with a group of friends (that we unknowingly bid on at an auction) that things began to change. On the way, I said, "I'll eat dinner and visit but I am not playing pickleball, whatever that is anyway". Unbeknownst to us the couples were separated for this tournament-style event and the man I was teamed with had his heart set on playing, and without me, he couldn't. Nervously I took the court. I felt silly and was completely confused by the rules but was surprised when I connected with the ball. I also noticed that a lot of time was spent laughing.. Bill and his partner were out early in the "tournament" and my team came in second! It was just a few days later that I saw an ad for a pickleball league through our Parks and Rec. I barely got the question out before Bill cut me off and said, "Yes, we should play!".
We joined the City League and played together. For the first time in 25 years we weren't just supporting each other's hobbies, we were doing one together! We were exercising, laughing, and meeting new people. I like to joke that pickleball saved our marriage and while I'm not sure that's exactly true it definitely changed our marriage for the better! We've played in tournaments together, we are both certified pickleball coaches, we started a pickleball group at our church, we volunteered with the PPA Tour and we even watch pickleball on TV together (I have never voluntarily watched sports on TV, EVER!).
If you had told either one of us 30 years ago on that tennis court that we would find common ground and a new lease on love and life through a sport we played together neither one of us would have believed it. Pickleball has connected us in a new way and we are all in, on and off the court!
- Madeleine Lapke (Seattle, WA)
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