Pickleball Reports from the Field: Being social on and off the court

Reports from the Field

A new monthly feature on ThePickleballGuru highlighting activities of my students who are working to develop a strong pickleball culture and supporting community.

Friday afternoon “Play & Party” summer pickleball events a hit in West Michigan

Carrie Jermstad, a USAPA District Ambassador, has never been JUST A PICKLEBALL PLAYER. She’s never been the player who comes and goes without anyone noticing. She’s never been the one who simply plays the game. She’s always going above and beyond “the call of duty.” As the local “social” ambassador of the tri-cities area just west of Grand Rapids, Michigan, her goal is to extend the good times she has on the court with her fellow players. A lifelong resident of the small, lakeshore town of Grand Haven, Michigan, she is all about friends and family. Read how she continues to build community with the pickleball players of the Lakeshore Pickleball Club in West Michigan (and beyond). Here is her Report from the Field.

My husband and I are very active in the community; not necessarily involved to the point that we sit on all of the public committees, but we love spending time outdoors. My father (and his cronies) have always played pickleball; my husband and I only started playing in 2013. Since then, it has been a great addition to our very active lifestyle. We noticed often that the great sense of camaraderie was confined to the courts; with players straggling off the court after a few hours of play and heading their own way. I wanted to extend the good times.

This past summer, we started Friday night Play & Eat socials. Our outdoor courts are within striking distance of the local American Legion post, which opens its doors to the public every Friday night for a burger barbecue. Many of our pickleball club members are tied to the Legion somehow, so it seemed a natural fit. What started off as a small group of 5-10 players grew to almost 30 by the end of the summer.

Interview with Carrie Jermstad, USAPA District Ambassador

Carrie and her husband John live in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Some in your club consider you the “social coordinator” for the group. What do you think about that?

I love it – when a friend taught me the game a few years ago the first thing he said to me was “it’s a social sport;” it’s a great way to meet so many people that you otherwise wouldn’t. I look forward to seeing our club members at play times and organizing fun social activities like Burgers at the American Legion on Friday evenings in the summer. It’s a great way to get all different people together for some fun and support our local vets and really get to know the players outside the courts. Many friendships have been made.

How important is it to you to build the camaraderie between players in your local club?

Camaraderie is important in every club; it helps grow the club and the sport we all love. It’s important for everyone to remember that we were all beginners once. It starts with making the new people feel welcome immediately and cultivating their comfort level both socially and competitively. In my early days I kept coming back because I felt so welcomed and comfortable. This is why I strive to make sure that all new people start out with a good experience.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing pickleball today?
I think it’s keeping up with the growth and continuing with viable and active quality venues. Also making sure all levels have challenging play with players with similar skills, but at the same time getting the more skilled players to mentor those that are still learning.

What is the biggest challenge in trying to connect with players off the court?
Keeping updated and accurate communication sources such as Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting. Sometimes it is difficult for the average player to know when and where to play especially in the winter months during indoor playing season. In our area this info comes from different people and this sometimes causes confusion. To be more useful there needs to be more cooperation from the different sources of communication. [The Lakeshore Pickleball Club relies on a centralized website for updated playing times]

What would you suggest other clubs do to build upon the social elements of pickleball
Organizing fun tournaments with all skill levels, ladder leagues, post open play Pickleball get-togethers. Gleaning successful and fun ideas from other clubs throughout the country. There are a lot of shared posts on the USAPA’s Facebook page (USAPA Pickleball Association) and this is a tremendous source of social pickleball activities.
We would like to interview other social ambassadors throughout the country to hear how they build upon the pickleball culture in their community. If you’re interested, comment in the form below.

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