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Pickleball Mania

Where Health, Community, and Joy Intersect in New Braunfels

Article by Sarah Mottu

Photography by Christine Scott of Lomonico Photography

Originally published in NBTX City Lifestyle

Ever heard of Pickleball? Chances are, you've played it, seen it, or at least heard someone rave about it - perhaps even inviting you to give it a try! But why has it become such a sensation, hailed as the fastest-growing sport in America? Melyn Gregorio, an Athletic and Fitness Specialist and Pickleball instructor at Das Rec, and Freddy Stone, Pickleball Director at John Newcombe Country Club, unravel the allure of Pickleball, especially in New Braunfels, where its popularity has taken root and flourished.

Stone attributes the surge in Pickleball participation in New Braunfels to a blend of social mixers, family events, and work gatherings. He notes, "Pickleball has helped bring people together," creating a tight-knit community. Additionally, the accessibility of the sport, with numerous clubs and the ease of setting up home courts, contributes to its popularity. He adds, "It is a very social sport which brings the whole community together and gives you a sense of belonging." Unlike other racquet sports, Pickleball is not just about the game; it's a communal experience, fostering inclusivity and a shared sense of joy.

Gregorio echoes the growth witnessed in New Braunfels, acknowledging a core group of early enthusiasts. With the addition of facilities like Das Rec, Pickleball's visibility has increased. The pandemic further fueled interest, attracting a younger generation of players. She attributes the sport's popularity to its accessibility, diverse programs, and community initiatives. She also celebrates the sport's universal appeal, stating, "This sport has been the sport for the active older adult for several years. In recent years, interest has grown to the Boomers, the Millennials, and the Next Generation of youth." The ease of learning and the minimal athletic requirements make Pickleball an inclusive choice for a diverse range of players.

Stone also highlights Pickleball's unique appeal to seniors, stating, "Pickleball has provided a major benefit to the older generation physically and mentally." The sport's friendly nature to all age groups, coupled with smaller court dimensions, makes it less intimidating for older individuals. It provides a controlled environment for staying active without overexertion. Stone emphasizes the fitness benefits of Pickleball, saying, "So many people don’t realize they have been working out until they get 2 hours in and then it hits them." The sport enhances coordination, balance, cognitive thinking, and overall footwork, turning a fun pastime into an effective workout.

Addressing misconceptions, Stone and Gregorio both dispel the notion that Pickleball is exclusively for seniors, emphasizing its accessibility for all ages. As Pickleball instructors, they navigate newcomers through potential challenges, ensuring a smooth introduction to the sport. Stone also elaborates on the sport's social aspect, stating, "It is easy to use Pickleball as a way to bring the community together," with events like Dink and Drink clinics fostering connections and active socialization.

Gregorio emphasizes Pickleball's social draw that goes beyond physical fitness. Pickleball becomes a source of respite, recovery, and renewed purpose for players facing various life challenges. Gregorio finds joy in witnessing families play together, as Pickleball creates a unique and uplifting atmosphere for players of all levels. "What an honor it’s been to become a part of bringing joy and hope to someone’s life," she shares. She also views Pickleball as a catalyst for invigorating sports and recreation programming. "It is definitely easy to create in any space, indoors or outdoors, from a financial standpoint," she notes, emphasizing Pickleball's versatility and cost-effectiveness.

Pickleball's versatility shines through as Stone notes, "Pickleball is easy to learn, it can be played at many different levels regardless of age." Whether you're a seasoned player or a newcomer, Pickleball accommodates all skill levels. It breaks age barriers, with 60-year-olds competing with 20-year-olds, and vice versa. The sport's adaptability allows players to choose their level, whether recreational or competitive.

In New Braunfels, Pickleball transcends being merely a sport; it is a dynamic cultural force that seamlessly combines the benefits of health, camaraderie, and pure joy. As players step onto the courts, the rhythmic exchanges of Pickleball dinks mirror the harmonious blend of fitness and community, a testament to the sport's enduring popularity.