My Badminton to Pickleball journey

Casey’s story, written by Jonathan


Badminton was my first love

Before I discovered the sport of pickleball, badminton was the only activity that had ever been able to truly capture my heart. I was passionate about it and couldn’t imagine ever finding another sport that could replace it. So, if you would have told me that someday another sport would replace the love I had for badminton, I would’ve laughed in your face and wouldn’t have believed you.

However, life throws unexpected curveballs, and the impossible happened when I was introduced to the sport of pickleball. Here’s the story.

More than 30 years ago, I made the journey to the United States with no more than a couple of dollars in my pocket, a job at my relative’s restaurant, and no understanding of the English language. It was a scary, but hopeful time. I had been given the opportunity to move to the United States and create a better life for myself and my husband, and I knew I had to take it no matter what I was leaving behind.

Moving to a new country was daunting

At first, it was overwhelming to step into this new, unfamiliar world as a foreigner. I had only ever heard about the United States in my elementary school text books, and now that I was actually here, I felt tiny and very much out of my element.

But ever since I was young child, there was one thing that gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort: the game of badminton.

After my first month in the US, I remember walking past a community gym one day on my way to work an evening shift. It had a large glass window, and as I glanced inside, I saw people playing badminton. Since I touched down in the US, my goal was to find a place to play, so to my surprise, I had no idea I had a court just a few blocks away from where I worked. So the following day, which was my day off, I returned to the gym to take a closer look.

The moment I entered holding my racket in one had, the players at the net waved for me to join them, and long story short, that was the beginning of many friendships, and how I went from being a lonely, non-English-speaking immigrant to learning English and making so many connections in just a few short months. All thanks to the shared love for badminton.

The End and The Beginning

Now that I’m in my 60s, my love for badminton remains as strong as ever, but my joints have begun to feel the strain of all the games I’ve played over the years. On top of that, I’ve had spine surgery and knee surgery, so naturally, I thought my days as an athlete were long behind me. I figured my sports days were over and that it was time to hang up the racket.

That is, until my good friend called me one day and said, “Hey, come and play pickleball with me.” At the time, I had no real idea of what pickleball was. All I knew was that it was a racket sport played on a smaller court. But given my current physical limitations, I knew I needed to find a different form of exercise. Sitting at home and doing nothing wasn’t going to get me anywhere. So, I decided to give pickleball a try.

Not Love at First Sight

To be honest, I didn’t fall in love with pickleball right away. It was hard to replace the love I had for badminton, and at first, I only played pickleball because I thought it was better than doing nothing. But as I continued to play, my perspective began to shift.

As a badminton player, I was known for my powerful shots and slams. There was nothing quite like the thrill of hitting the birdie over the net and watching my opponent scramble to return it. Pickleball, on the other hand, is played at a more moderate pace, with fewer opportunities to slam the ball at the kitchen line. At first, I found this frustrating, as I was used to the fast-paced nature of badminton.

But as I learned the ins and outs of pickleball and began to master the game, everything started to change. I discovered that pickleball had its own unique set of strategies and challenges, and I began to appreciate the sport in a new way. Before I knew it, my love for pickleball had grown, and I was just as passionate about it as I had been about badminton, maybe even more.

The Growing Love for Pickleball

After just one year of playing, my love for pickleball had grown significantly. As someone who is a hands-on and visual learner, I took the time to observe and understand the strategies and techniques of the sport by watching the pros and watching Youtube. I learned how slowing things down could add to the excitement of a dink-off or a long-court rally, and when I finally grasped the concept of an overhead slam, it was like being transported back to the badminton courts.

But beyond just the fact that I have come to enjoy playing pickleball, there are some very important reasons why I now prefer it to badminton. For one, I no longer wake up feeling the same level of pain and soreness that I used to after a two-hour game of badminton. As someone who is in my 60s, and for anyone who wants to play a sport that is less harsh on the joints, pickleball is a fantastic option. It’s a great way to stay active and have fun without putting too much strain on your body.

All My Badminton Friends became my Pickleball Friends

So what happened to all of my old badminton buddies that I used to play with? Well, it’s a good thing you asked. As it turns out, they have all transitioned to playing pickleball as well.

Like me, many of them have developed joint problems from playing badminton for so many years, so it wasn’t difficult to convince them to switch to pickleball when the opportunity arose. Now, just like before, we have a group of about ten people who get together nearly every other day to play pickleball at one of the more than twenty courts in our neighborhoods. We’re early risers, so we usually make it to the courts around 7:00 in the morning. It’s a great way for us to stay active and have fun together.

My Future with Pickleball

Over the past three years, I have become completely obsessed with the sport of pickleball. It’s my new fixation, and I spend all my free time either playing it or watching it on television. Whether it’s live or prerecorded coverage of pickleball competitions, that’s all I want to watch.

I’m determined to improve my skills and become the best pickleball player I can be. To that end, I’ve signed up for classes with a professional player who can help me fine-tune my techniques. My goal is to eventually participate in a tournament in Las Vegas, and then celebrate with a delicious buffet, win or lose. Maybe that dream will become a reality in 2023. Fingers crossed!

Casey's badminton to pickleball story



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