One of the great things about the sport of sport of pickleball is its appeal in popularity to everyone. Originally conceived as a baby boomer/retired generational game, the sport has won the hearts of athletes of all ages. I am seeing more and more players in their 20s, 30s and 40s attending my beginner clinics and actively taking up the sport.
In one of my previous columns titled, “The Sport of a Lifetime,” I discussed how Generation Alpha is now beginning to make pickleball the sport for their lifetime.
Academy of Southwest Florida instructor Sharon Brown’s 11-year-old daughter, Morgan Brown and her doubles’ partner, 12-year-old Alec La Macchia, competed in this year’s Minto US Open Pickleball Championships in the juniors division. These very talented Generation Alpha-age players are helping prove that pickleball has become a competitive sport for players of any age.
Coach Sharon is the Activities Director and Pro Shop Manager at Veterans Community Park, which is the location of The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida’s Juniors Academy. The kids attending the Academy not only learn the fundamentals and competitive strategies of the sport, but also discover the social aspects of the game.
In addition to the range of age of players now participating in pickleball, the sport also provides a great format for adaptive sports athletes.
My good friend and avid pickleball player, Mike O’Leary has been a competitive athlete his entire life. As a former professional downhill ski racer, Mike is a driven individual. Four years ago, Mike was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.
Being the driven individual which Mike is, he accepted and conquered this challenge and continues to compete and win medals in the US Open Pickleball Championships.
Mike has not only turned this challenge into an opportunity to do positive things for himself, but for others in our community as well. He and his wife Cindy have donated two sports chairs to East Naples Community Park and one to The Marco Island Racquet Center. This generous donation will allow these facilities the opportunity to encourage people to use this equipment, (free of charge) and make the sport of pickleball a part of their life.
Mike and Cindy teamed up with David Monceaux, who is the Rehab Regional Sales Manager for a company called Invacare and Katrina Piparo, Director of Marketing at Top End Sports Chairs.
Invacare is the parent company of Top End and they manufacture and market a variety of equipment specifically designed for adaptive sports athletes. Invacare’s motto is “Yes, you can!”
As a player and a coach, I am always in search of learning new ways to improve my skills and knowledge. The motto, “Yes, you can” inspired me to ask Mike to be my coach and instruct and enlighten me in the aspects of competing in the sport of pickleball as a wheelchair player.
I am looking forward to having the opportunity to gain a bit of insight and understanding of the challenges which confront (and are conquered) by adaptive sports players every day of their lives.
The donation of sport chairs to East Naples Community Park and The Racquet Center just adds more credibility to Naples and Collier County now being referred to as, “The Pickleball Capital of the world.”
Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.