Turn on the television or log onto a streaming service, and chances are there will be a reference to pickleball. It’s even getting attention in the reality show space. Now, the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. has gone from the court to the courtroom, thanks to reality TV.
Louis and Anne-Marie Elliott have been together for 31 years. They met in 1992 while attending the University of Maryland after being introduced by a mutual friend. Their first date took place at a political rally off-campus.
“Anne-Marie invited me, asked if I was interested in going. I was like, ‘heck, yeah, I wanna go’.”Louis Elliott
The couple married four years later and now live just northeast of Raleigh, North Carolina. They have four children ranging in age from 14 to 24. Like many couples, they approach life at a different pace.
Louis, 54, a behavioral health technician, enjoys reading, walking the dog, and spending quiet time at home. The 56-year-old Anne-Marie, who works as a clinical project manager for Duke University, loves being on the go.
“I’m the engine, he’s the rudder.”Anne-Marie Elliott
A Pickleball Problem
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Elliotts set up a pickleball net and began playing as a family in their driveway. With three children having been sent home from college and another still in the nest, it was a great way to pass the time during the shutdown.
Anne-Marie, who had wanted to learn pickleball for a long time, became hooked. Louis enjoyed a game every now and then but wasn’t passionate about the sport.
The trouble started about a year later when Anne-Marie’s love for pickleball took on a life of its own. Her time on the court went from a few games here and there to seven days a week, and she became involved in as many as four different leagues.
Friends and even total strangers were constantly calling and texting, wanting her to attend week-long tournaments and camps. With Louis’s rotating work schedule and a child still at home, this meant virtually no time for husband and wife to do things as a couple.
That was the tipping point for Louis.
“It was getting out of hand,” he recalled. “She considered it to be perfectly normal… That was the point where I said, ‘just so we could at least spend some time together, you gotta cut back some.”
Anne-Marie tried to placate him by suggesting he plan things for them to do. Walking the dog and reading books just wasn’t her idea of fun.
“He would say, ‘OK, I’m gonna plan something,’ but he never would,” Anne-Marie explained.
Here Comes the Judge
One day while browsing through an online forum, Anne-Marie came across a post asking if anyone had ever been involved in a dispute related to pickleball. Not realizing who it was at first, she responded with a quick summary about how she and Louis differed over her time spent on the court, often playing with people she barely knew.
As it turned out, the post was from a casting agent from the Judge Steve Harvey Show. The agent invited the couple to film an episode and air their grievances.
Louis and Anne-Marie were intrigued by the idea and eagerly agreed. It was decided that Louis would be the “plaintiff”. He sued for $1,200 in expenses related to an upcoming pickleball camp and $500 for, in his words, “leaving me lonely.”
On the show, Anne-Marie and Louis each stated their case, with Harvey interjecting comments tailor-made for reality TV. At one point, Louis referred to his wife as the equivalent of a “pickleball escort,” and they could be spending time planning a vacation. Anne-Marie countered she would like nothing better, but he hadn’t planned one the entire time they were married.
Finally, Harvey announced his ruling. He dismissed Louis’s case, but gave the couple $7,500 to take a vacation—together.
The episode was filmed in August of 2022 but didn’t air until almost a year later. During that time, the couple flew to Costa Rica. They spent time at the beach together, and Anne-Marie attended a pickleball camp. While she played pickleball, Louis lounged by the pool, took walks, and read a book.
It was the best of both worlds, and they each got to do what they enjoyed. Being on the show gave the couple some perspective on how to strike a balance at home.
“He’s trying to be a little more instigative when it comes to activities together that are not pickleball, so I have a positive alternative,” Anne-Marie said.
When asked if the show may have strengthened their marriage, Louis paused for a moment.
“It probably has. Certainly, we got some memories we could not have had if we had not been on the show,” he said.
It definitely makes for a great story to share at social gatherings. You can watch the entire episode featuring Louis and Anne-Marie here.
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