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Passion for Pickleball

A Game Changer in Memphis

Article by Margaret Ledbetter

Photography by Izabella Sandoval, Bella Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

A variation on tennis, ping pong and badminton, pickleball was invented in 1965 and has more recently become America’s fastest-growing racquet sport according to reports by Sports Illustrated, CBS and NPR. Even with a goofy name, pickleball is a serious sport that appeals to all skill levels and age groups with interest accelerating during the pandemic. According to the United States Pickleball Association, 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021. With courts going up all over town in public parks, schools, clubs and driveways, this fun and social game is wonderfully accessible with a low-entry level compared to other racquet sports.

Much of the enthusiasm in the River City is the work of Taylor H. Taylor, a former tennis instructor at The University Club and The Racquet Club and a highly regarded junior tennis player. Taylor picked up pickleball five years ago and saw great potential for the game. She is an accomplished competitor, participating in national pickleball tournaments, but she has bigger plans for the game. In 2019 she founded the non-profit organization, PickleMania to provide pickleball programming for under-resourced children, families and communities.

With support from the Boys & Girls Clubs, charter schools and donors, PickleMania has more than 250 kids participating in pickleball camps this summer with plans to grow. The camps have multiple facilities with their own equipment and trained staff. Taylor even created her own curriculum, Pickleball With Purpose, to teach skills on the court and beyond. This course is intended to build confidence and teach life lessons such as communication and impulse control.

“Through Pickleball with Purpose, everyone, regardless of age, race, size, level of experience and/or athletic ability, is able to come together for a meaningful, social, healthy experience,” says Taylor who also has a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Tennessee School of Social Work.

“The learning curve is so small,” Taylor says. Of course, mastery is another issue, but PickleMania can teach someone to play in two hours. In fact, the scoring is probably the hardest part of the game for beginners. Taylor believes that this “mental and physical activity” can even be therapeutic.

As her campers, their families and volunteers will attest, Taylor’s enthusiasm is infectious, but she is just getting started. “I want to share my love of pickleball with everyone on the planet,” she says.

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