Beverly and Earl Schalin have amassed a collection of medals from pickleball tournaments across the nation, achieved national senior rankings, and gained recognition in various newspaper and television features.
Nevertheless, their greatest source of fulfillment lies in imparting their passion for the sport to others. Whether it be their fellow residents at the retirement community in San Diego, vacationers sharing timeshares, or even the photojournalist assigned to capture their image, the Schalins eagerly provide newcomers with paddles and guide them onto the court.
“Teach Us How To Play”
“At one point, a group of ladies must have been watching or something because I didn’t notice them, but they saw me and said, ‘Will you teach us how to play? We don’t know anything about athletics,’” Beverly recounted to Karen Price of Red Line Editorial. “I got them on the court, and they didn’t want to go home. They were out there for two hours. I was pooped!”
Earl Schalin has celebrated his 95th birthday, while Beverly approaches her 90th. Both were once competitive tennis players who transitioned to pickleball approximately 12 years ago, a few years following their retirement and relocation to Sun Lakes, Arizona.
They discovered that pickleball was gentler on their bodies – Beverly had recently undergone rotator cuff surgery, and Earl had been grappling with back issues – and they relished the ceaseless action.
“Gradually, we played less tennis,” Earl noted.
Triumphing In Pickleball Competitions
Before long, they were participating in – and triumphing in – pickleball competitions. They also commenced efforts to persuade the mayor of Chandler to incorporate pickleball lines on local tennis courts, and they had their inaugural teaching experience after volunteering to host a series of introductory clinics.
Amidst their daily play, involvement in events like the World Senior Games, and their teaching endeavors, pickleball assumed a prominent role in the Schalins’ lives.
In fact, when their three sons proposed they relocate nearer to one of them, the Schalins resisted for four years.
“We were having too much fun playing and teaching pickleball,” Earl reflected.
Moving To San Diego
Five years ago, they relocated to be closer to their son in San Diego. They estimate that during their time in Arizona, they instructed over 400 individuals in the art of pickleball.
It didn’t take long to start adding to that number in their new community.
“When the people at Covenant Living at Mount Miguel found out we had won all these medals playing pickleball, they asked us if we would be willing to teach it to the residents and their families,” Earl stated.
Often, those they instruct possess some familiarity with tennis, Earl observed, but tennis demands a protracted learning curve and an even lengthier path to competitiveness. With pickleball, they can impart the essentials within 15 to 20 minutes.
“And if they’ve played ping-pong, they’re actually hitting balls back and forth,” Earl added. “Maybe they’re not playing and keeping score, but they’re keeping the ball in play for two, three, four hits. The expression on their faces when they realize this is something to behold.”
Always Someone To Introduce The Game To!
Not too long ago, the San Diego Union-Tribune featured the Schalins in a story. The accompanying photographer was about 27 or 28 years old; they recounted and had never encountered pickleball prior to the assignment.
He had roughly 45 minutes of free time after completing his work, so they handed him a paddle.
“After about 15 minutes, he was already sweating,” Beverly recalled.
Six or seven years ago, the Schalins were at one of the Lawrence Welk Resort Villages and decided to engage in a match. They stepped onto a court and drew the attention of the athletic director, who was scheduled to lead a pickleball class shortly but was new to the game.
“We took charge and instructed all these people who’d gathered there, and they had their kids and grandkids and, boy, people didn’t want to leave,” Earl recounted.
“We returned there a year later, and the gentleman was still there and came over and embraced us, and another couple was there who’d been there the year before.
They were from Pennsylvania, and they dashed over and embraced us and shared how much fun they’d had over the past year teaching everyone back in Pennsylvania how to play pickleball.”
The Schalins ceased participating in tournaments about five years ago, partially due to the extensive nature of high-level tournaments and partly because they encountered a shortage of competitors in their age group.
Some of their present opponents are slightly younger, they remarked, while others are significantly so.
They now adhere to some modified rules to ensure the game is safer for older participants. One such rule is the prohibition of lobbing.
They want to avoid situations where individuals have to retreat, as it poses a heightened risk of falls. They also refrain from charging up to the net.
“We mosey,” Earl quipped.
Accessible To All Ages
Yet, both Schalins concurred that one of the wonderful aspects of pickleball is its accessibility to individuals of all ages.
“We converse with many people, and they’re ambulatory, but they mention having knee issues and an inability to pivot sideways,” Beverly shared.
“So I encourage them to simply come and observe and determine if they think it might be feasible rather than assuming they can’t do it.
“We have numerous friends who’ve undergone knee replacements, and they’re out there participating and enjoying themselves when they previously thought they couldn’t.”
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