It’s been 63 days since I’ve stepped foot on a pickleball court. It feels like a lifetime.
Before the coronavirus crisis I was playing 3-4 times a week. It was March and my mixed partner and I had just won gold in a tournament and were feeling and playing at the top of our game. I had plans to continue training and scheduled 3 additional tournaments lined up before the U.S Open in Naples where I got into 4 events. Driven by a combination of excitement and love of travel, I had already started packing my suitcase just a few months early.
My partners and I were playing amazing and we were all ready for some great competition. My calendar was full of colors marking the different tournaments and I loved seeing its rainbow filled pages.
Funny how everything can change in a heartbeat.
How does one cope without pickleball? My favorite hobby and pastime, my main source of exercise and stress relief, not to mention one of my favorite ways to socialize with my friends, suddenly had been stripped away. The surrealism of it all makes me feel like I’m in a dream or a movie, or more like a nightmare or a horror film, like a zombie apocalypse.
In an effort to not completely lose myself in a depression of eating and creating an imprint on the couch, I have found creative ways to stay busy. I’ve read 11 books and painted some whimsical canvases to decorate the new nursery. I baked some homemade sourdough bread, cakes, cookies and soft pretzels. My garden is full of freshly planted herbs and strawberry plants. I don’t sit still very well if you can’t tell.
I miss pickleball. I’ve had at least 3 dreams about it. In one dream I won the semi-finals at the U.S Open and was getting ready for the final match but couldn’t find my shoes. In another dream I was surrounded by my friends and just remember how happy everyone was to be together and playing.
Unfortunately the weather in my home state has been less than optimal (i’m talking rain and snow in May), and I feel like most days I’m a prisoner in my home. In hopes of maintaining some kind of athleticism, I walk, bike, and stretch as well as lift weights. Thank goodness for pickleball videos because I have been living through the players I watch online from previous tournaments. I love to analyze doubles play and strategy, especially mixed doubles. Each point is like a chess tournament, setting up for future plays and looking for weakness. Although entertaining, watching is still not the same as playing.
My daughter, Isabelle (aka Izzy), and I hit balls in our living room as I’m secretly training her to be my future women’s doubles partner (watch out team Waters!). She loves pickleball and is my little shadow. For Izzy, Coronavirus probably seems like a holiday since she gets to have her once busy bee of a mother spend an exorbitant amount of time with her, which I haven’t been able to do since she was born. It has definitely brought my family closer, even if I feel isolated at times.
Yesterday I drove past some courts on my way to my local grocery store (curbside pickup) and Izzy asked me if I was going to play pickleball. She just turned 3 and already recognizes what a pickleball court looks like and associates them with my presence. My heart associates them with loneliness. I miss my friends. I miss teaching lessons. I miss competing. It does help that as I write this, it is pouring a cold rain outside.
As the weather is slowly getting warmer here in Michigan I can’t help but wonder when I will return to a pickleball court in these unprecedented times. My state is currently still on a lock down with a ban on almost everything social. Tennis and pickleball courts have no nets up. A few players have been playing on private courts, however most players I know recognize the risk of any type of crowd and haven’t played in 2 months. Whenever my local courts do open, I plan to start drilling and doing some singles.
It seems pickleball players, like our nation, are divided on whether the right answer is to stay at home or to continue living their lives like nothing has happened. I see the appeal to both sides, but mostly lean towards the cautionary side of social distancing, if not for my own health and well being, then for the sake of others I could be a carrier to. Personally, I do not plan to return to group and match play until the coronavirus numbers in my state have gotten under control and we as a community can handle the responsibility to interact in a safe manner.
No one can predict what the future holds, but I am hopeful for the return of pickleball, if not this year, then next year. There are some tentative tournaments scheduled in the next few months near me, yet some have already cancelled. All the gyms and courts are still closed currently, yet might reopen in the next few weeks. Everything is up in the air, like the world is holding its breath, and maybe it is. Maybe we all are.
It’s getting harder to watch these pickleball videos. My calendar is wide open and colorless, yet not everything is black and white. I’m just trying to take each day one at a time, and tomorrow is another day. Once this storm clears, I’ll be there on the court, and hope to see you there!
But as for now, I can still dream.
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
~ C.S. Lewis