Pickleball has seen a significant surge not just across the United States but also in New Braunfels, Texas if the emergence of so many new courts throughout the town is anything to go by.
You can trace this trend back to the early 2000s when Jack Danielson, a Canyon Lake resident originally from Alaska, introduced pickleball to the area.
Laying Out Orange Tape
After retiring in 1993, Danielson and his wife spent five years traveling in a motorhome before settling in Canyon Lake. During their odyssey, Danielson learned the game from a couple from Idaho when visiting the Gem State.
Upon moving to Clearwater Estates in Canyon Lake, Danielson kickstarted pickleball sessions with neighbors on a cul-de-sac within the subdivision.
“We would lay out orange tape, and we just put rocks on it or whatever, and we played there for an hour or whatever it was,” Danielson told Hannah Thompson of The Herald-Zeitung. “We started with about, someone will tell you, six people, but always we had four, and we played two, three times a week for an hour and a half or something like that — of course, the wintertime stopped that … but then we decided we’ll come down here and approach Kristi.”
“A Bad Joke”
Kristi Broadway, who was working at the Canyon Lake Resource and Recreation Center (CRRC), became friendly with Danielson and Carl Torlseff after they approached her to bring pickleball to CRRC due to the absence of courts in New Braunfels or San Marcos.
“When they came in, and he asked me, ‘Have you ever heard of pickleball?’ Well, I knew it was gonna be a bad joke or something because I’d never heard of pickleball,” said Broadway.
“When they explained it — the minute we started playing, we ended up playing every single day. It’s the most addictive sport.”
Keeping The Door Shut!
In its initial phase at CRRC, pickleball took place on a concrete floor with marked lines and lacked air conditioning – a major problem as the facility’s garage doors had to remain shut to prevent the ball from escaping outside!
The primitive setup included Home Depot buckets filled with concrete to hold up the original net poles, one of which remains outside the recreation center today.
Broadway explained how much of a problem the rudimentary playing surface was: “I am the type that I would die for any ball — I didn’t care — and at one point I’m like, ‘This is gonna kill me.’ So I went and got knee pads. Well, you know what? It’s concrete. I realized the knee pads are not helping me at all.
“Now we have a rubberized floor. So I was out there – well, these people don’t know me – and the first time I threw myself on the floor, they all came running over.”
Inclusive For All Skill Levels
Over time, CRRC upgraded, offering four indoor courts – all with rubberized flooring – and outdoor basketball courts featuring painted pickleball lines.
Broadway emphasizes that pickleball, especially at CRRC, is inclusive for all skill levels.
“In the beginning, everybody was really good about … teaching new people how to play and how to do the scoring and all that.
“When I came back here to start playing, (I loved) to help people learn the game of pickleball because, for me, it’s all about having fun. That’s how I was taught, and that’s the way I want.”
A Staggering Average
That emphasis on inclusivity remains evident with dedicated courts for beginners during specific days, attracting a staggering average of 20 newcomers every Tuesday, as per A’Dina Elliott, the recreation director.
“I will tell you we’ve had some young people come out, teenage, college age, and our older players love playing with them.
“They’ve advanced enough that they give them a good game because we have some players that are up there that (are) impressive.”
New Braunfels can certainly claim to be a pickleball center of excellence, seeing as two of the game’s top competitors – Hunter and Yates Johnson – are from there.
“Short, Fat, Dumpy”
While the indoor pickleball season has concluded, enthusiasts can continue playing at the outdoor court or book indoor sessions starting January 2 through playtimescheduler.com.
Danielson takes his mind back right to the very beginning of his pickleball journey for his final comment: “What I learned really quickly on pickleball, playing in Idaho, it didn’t matter what you look like.
“You can be short, fat, dumpy. The one thing is physical activity, and that’s the name of the game.”
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