I retired to Wichita 5 years ago from Atlanta Ga. I was born in Salina, KS, and wanted to return home to be with my family.
In Atlanta my life sport was Volleyball. I played competitively and officiated for many years. When I moved out to Wichita I needed another sport that I could play that would help keep me active in retirement. I heard about Pickleball thru friends and went to Edgemoore Rec. Center to check it out. On the very first night, I knew that Pickleball was going to be my sport. I tried out several paddles from a good friend Bob Jackson and actually bought my first paddle that night.
From then on I was addicted. I played as often as I could and quickly got up to four days a week. I persuaded my brother and sister to start playing and they both have become as addicted as I am. It is my belief that their playing will benefit their health and keep them around longer so I can spend more time with them. A definite win-win.
Shortly after starting to play it became apparent that there were not a lot of people who wanted to host Tournaments. I had a good deal of experience with volleyball tournaments in Atlanta so when my friend Bob Jackson died unexpectedly I helped organize a Friendship Tournament in his memory. Since that first Tournament, I have hosted eleven Tournaments in four years and am currently working on the 4th Annual Bob Jackson Tournament.
Since I have hosted so many tournaments I have not had time to get into the officiating end of it. That and the fact that I was an NCAA Volleyball Referee for so many years, I am probably done with it.
Two years ago, a small group of pickleball players got together to try to get lights put up at Edgemoor Rec. Center and get more courts built in Wichita. Wichita is the largest city in Kansas with a population just shy of 400,000 and we only have fifteen public pickleball courts in the city. We have formed a group of pickleball players who are committed to getting more courts built and converted and we call ourselves “Light Up Edgemoor,” We have become part of a 501 3 c Foundation to enjoy their tax-free status and are currently in talks with the Wichita Parks and Rec. Dept to build and convert more existing tennis courts around the city.
We have proposed adding fifteen more courts bringing the total up to twenty-one courts at Edgemoor Rec. Center, complete with separate restrooms and parking. This would make two separate pickleball centers to Wichita, one at Edgemoor Rec. Center and one at Riverside Tennis Center.
We have also made a Facebook page called Wichita Pickleball and have a membership of 1,100 in only fourteen months. This next school year a group of us will be conducting in-service training for two hundred public school teachers in the Wichita School system.
Probably the most challenging part of being an ambassador is the rating system used by USAPA. There are too many people out there who may not ever play in a sanctioned tournament with ratings that are all over the place. Newer guidelines are making it easier but I think a “Regional Rating Process” would greatly help us at the local level.
Pickleball is here to stay and I want to be a part of it. Spreading the word on this awesome sport will certainly change more lives for the better than any other sport in the modern era.
USAPA Pickleball Ambassador