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»ANNOUNCER: Last time on “I Heart Pickleball” we met the Earley’s in Georgia.
This month we head west to hear the unique story of Chris Thomas
and how tennis pros and their clubs are fully embracing pickleball. ♪♪ energetic music ♪♪ ♪♪ energetic music ♪♪ ♪♪ energetic music ♪♪ »”I Heart Pickleball” is powered by
Hyland’s Leg Cramps, proud supporter of pickleball
players everywhere. »CHRIS: I’m Chris Thomas. I’m both
a local ambassador in Palm Desert, but I’ve been the Western
Region Director for about six years now. In terms of
the evolution of the sport here in Coachella Valleys, it hasn’t
always been people coming to me. It’s been in the beginning
myself going out to country clubs, RV parks,
tennis facilities and saying, “Hey! There’s a new sport. Would you
mind if we come in and introduce and do a free clinic? We don’t charge anything.
We’ll bring the balls. We’ll bring the nets. We’ll bring the paddles.”
»BARBARA: I’ve lived in Palm Desert for five years. That’s where I met Chris Thomas.
And we call him Mr. Pickleball. »MARCIN: He would invite everybody to play.
It doesn’t matter if you have a great rating or no rating or good play or
bad play or whatever. He would make sure that you tried this pickelball.
And he would make sure that you like it. »RYAN: Fourteen years ago when
I first started with the city, I knew nothing about the sport of pickleball until we met
Chris Thomas. Chris is passionate about the sport. Came and introduced
the city to the sport of pickleball. And we owe a lot to his
advocacy on pickleball’s behalf. When Chris first began
coming to the city commissions meetings, the city dual striped a
couple of courts at each location. And quickly found that demand was exceeding what
we had out there. We started looking at our facilities, identified
an under-utilized Freedom Park for tennis. And we converted the
two tennis courts there into 8 pickleball courts. »CHRIS: It took
about 5 years to get dedicated courts in the city of Palm
Dessert and to have 8 of them. It’s public, it’s free, and
we’ve seen new players everyday come up there and play.
»BLAKE: I think the growth of the pickleball in Coachella Valley
is just growing by leaps and bounds. I mean, Freedom Park is
becoming very well known. They’re getting waiting
lines of 20/30 people just to get on a court.
»CHRIS: In terms of the relationship with the tennis community here,
I would say it’s been a very positive one.
It has not been antagonistic. It’s taken some time for the
pickleball community to get into certain tennis areas
and country clubs and everything, but for example, Marcin at The
Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert. We had a demo there years ago.
He invited us in. And now he’s got several courts there.
He is playing pickleball in tournaments now. He could
see right away the benefits of pickleball as a sport, not
only for himself, but for all the people that he teaches in the country club.
»MARCIN: My name is Marcin Rozpedski. I’m a sports director at The Lakes
Country Club. My whole life I’ve been playing tennis. I started playing tennis when
I was six. Played Davis Cup for my country, for Poland. And now this
whole new obsession is pickleball. A lot of the pros
are looking down at this pickleball. I have four or five
guys going, “Marcin, I’m worried that my members will not
like this. That this is a step- child kind of sport.” And I keep
telling them and I keep promoting this sport saying, “No. You can
turn this into a beautiful department. You can turn this into an incredible
event that your members will love.” It’s been very successful.
We have 50 players playing every single day. Some
of the tennis players are going into playing pickleball.
So it’s a big plus for our community, for our
tennis center here at The Lakes. »BLAKE: My name is Blake Wilcox. I’m the
director of tennis at Andalusia Country Club in La Quinta, CA. I’ve
been playing tennis my whole life. I’ve switched over to pickleball just
because it’s quick, it’s new, it’s fun. I got involved with pickleball maybe 3 or
4 years ago through Chris Thomas who is the ambassador.
He came out to Andalucia, did a couple demos for us here.
The members loved it. I loved it. The owners and management of the
club were very willing to try it out. We put in a couple
courts and the rest is history. What we have today is “party
on the East Side”, meaning we have all sorts of fun on the
east side of the club. I’ll probably have three or four tennis courts going
as well as four courts of pickleball with maybe 15 people
waiting to get on the courts. I’ve got a stereo going. Yes, it’s
loud, but the people enjoy it. »CHRIS: So the tennis/pickleball
relationship even between the college, College of the Desert,
where we introduced pickleball there as a PE class four years
ago. It’s been sold out every semester. And here’s
another guy, for example. Morgan Evans is one of the tennis teachers
at Shadow Mountain. That’s also in the Palm Desert area.
»MORGAN: At Shadow Mountain Resorts it’s been a very successful tennis club and
resort for many, many years. And over the last few years we have embraced
pickleball, trying to promote the idea that the two sports can
co-exist safely together. They can test your movements, burn
calories, but more importantly it’s a great tactical workout. And I see
a lot of players being able to beat younger stronger, faster players
with just more sound tactics, good touch and feel. And often those
players are still playing tennis. And they see the effect
one sport has on the other can really be beneficial. »CHRIS: This is one
of the things I want to emphasize about the tennis players that have embraced the sport
and the Pros. They’ll come over to Freedom and they won’t be off
in a corner playing another 5.0 person. They will mix and
integrate and play with anybody. And they have a lot of fun.
»KIM: All of our players from our 3.0’s to our 5.0’s just love watching and/or playing with them. And
they’re super generous. They play with everybody. »CHRIS: That’s the culture of
pickleball is being with others of all different skill levels and playing and
just having fun. »RYAN: So the City’s very pleased with what we’ve
done out at Freedom Park. The users are very happy with the facility.
We have an open line of communication with them. We’re constantly finding out new ways of
improving that facility in the way that we use it and the way it looks. It’s a
growing trend, it’s a growing sport, and it’s done nothing but good things for
our community. »CHRIS: In the end, pickleball will succeed because the
sport sells itself. And, no, it hasn’t always
been right off the bat successful. But now, I myself as an ambassador and all the other
local ambassadors, we don’t even have to go and promote pickleball.
The clubs, the tennis facilities they’re coming to us and asking
us if we would come out and demo the sport.
»KIM: I love the competitiveness of pickleball. It brings me back to my professional volleyball
days and my coaching days and, you know, always being in that competitive environment.
»KAREN: All ages can play. It is a friendly, competitive game. You get to
play with a lot of different levels. And even the higher levels
of players really want us to learn the game. »BLAKE: If
I could talk to any director of tennis, at another facility, I would
definitely have them give pickleball a try. It just opens up so many
new avenues, so many new people, and so many new functions you can
put on your courts. »MORGAN: I’d say jump straight on in, head first. It will be great
for the members. It’s such a social sport. It makes use of the court
space you’ve got. And they love it. »CHRIS: You just can’t help but love the
sport once you start playing it and being around the people who play it.
»ANNOUNCER: No matter where you are, pickleball can bring us together to
celebrate community, learn new things and have fun. If you know someone we should feature on a
future episode, we would love to hear from you. All you have to do is send us
an email and tell us your idea. This episode of “I Heart Pickleball” has
been brought to you Hyland’s Leg Cramps, America’s #1 over-the-counter leg
cramp medicine. For more information, go to Hyland.com.
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