Pickleball friends: Making it work on and off the court

The Secret: It doesn’t always work…

Submitted by Kelly Stauffer, member of the Lakeshore Pickleball Club in Grand Haven, Michigan
I met Kim 11 years ago while we worked together in the same building for Grand Rapids Public Schools. She is a teacher and I am a school social worker (we currently still work together). I had learned about pickleball several years prior while away on spring break. I was eager to share the game, and told Kim about pickleball.

Kelly, a friend, and Kim (Left-Right) pose for a picture at the popular Mac Woods Dune Rides along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Mears, MI.

Over summer break that year we played periodically, mostly singles, and once in awhile doubles, with some other friends that we introduced to the game. Because we both have summer breaks off, we do lots of fun things together, away from pickleball, from kayaking, camping, and going to the beach, to name a few. There is always an adventure with Kim.
In the summer of 2012 we learned of the Grand Rapids Pickleball club and began playing a couple nights a week at Belknap Park. This is when we first started to figure out the strategy of the game. We became addicted, and joined Lakeshore Pickleball that winter so we could play year round at their indoor venues. When we first joined these clubs, we were able to compete with the mostly guy groups, but we got beat a lot. We continued to study strategy individually, and together.

We would be at our own homes watching video after video and reading strategy, and would call one another and say “Hey, let’s try this”. That year (2012), when we played year round, about 4 days a week, was when we really got the “pickleball bug”, became very competitive, and with the help of our pickleball elders, advanced our game. We’ve played in a few skill-rated, sanctioned tourneys, but not as many as we would like. While we’ve played with many different mixed doubles partners in tourneys, we’ve only ever played with each other in doubles. We feel there is a huge advantage to only playing with each other. We seem to always know where each other is on the court, and our individual strengths complement each other. Kim has a killer, two handed, laser-like backhand at the net and all the patience in the world. I am a bit less patient, which probably lends to my more aggressive style and ball anticipation.

Kelly and Kim (closest to the net) with some of the highest rated players in West Michigan.

When we were asked to give some insight as to how we make pickleball “work” for us while spending so much time together as good friends, co-workers, and pickleball partners, we kind of chuckled. It doesn’t always “work” for us. Sometimes, we argue like sisters during club play, while trying to figure things out. And often leave steaming mad at each other. Since we usually drive together, it can be a tense drive home.
The secret is (something my grandmother told me when I was young), it doesn’t matter how many disagreements you have, as long as you can find resolve in each one before moving on. Fortunately, this is something Kim and I have been able to do, and at tournaments we are a united front, each others’ biggest supporter. I am most humbled and complemented by others’ telling us that we are fun to play with and against. I’m happy to know that our intense, competitive nature with each other doesn’t take away from this great game of pickleball and the main goal of having fun. I envision Kim and I, 45 years from now, playing in the 80+ division.

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