Former professional croquet instructor and Siesta Key resident Ken Scoggins only began his pickleball journey about seven years ago. He had previously been a lifelong tennis enthusiast but when pickleball changed all that, it became his dream to make pickleball accessible to everyone on Siesta Key.
Action Was Required
He was not happy with that arrangement and decided that action was required to encourage the officials of Sarasota County to up their pickleball game and make its sporting facilities more attractive to players.
The way to do that turned out to be relatively straightforward: “About a year ago, I decided to start a Facebook page called Siesta Key Pickleball,” Scoggins told Siesta Sand. “The courts needed repair and you really had to bring your own net.”
“I hoped to get 100 people to sign on,” he said. The response was immediate, and the campaign brought a bunch of new followers, with members posting left, right, and center.
Scoggins knew that although his idea was gaining momentum, it needed even more exposure, so in an inspired move, he posted the details on the Pickleball Forum Facebook page. With more than 123,000 followers, it was the right kind of platform to give Scoggins the exposure he needed, and it took off… big time.
“The county was watching,” Scoggins said. “They started saying to themselves, ‘We’ve got to do something.’”
Springing Into Action
And he was right — the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department did react. In fact, on September 18, it announced it was going to create six new pickleball courts out of existing tennis courts.
“The county gave up two of the four tennis courts and created six new pickleball courts on that space,” he said.
Six newly resurfaced pickleball courts and two newly resurfaced tennis courts opened less than a month later, all with pristine new nets. As an added bonus, the courts even had outdoor lighting, meaning the courts were good to use until closing at 9 p.m.
In the meantime, the Siesta Key Pickleball Facebook page continued its impressive growth and had 1,300 followers at the time of writing.
“Players at the Siesta Key courts are welcoming to each other,” Scoggins told Jane Bartnett. “It’s the most accepting crowd I’ve ever been around.”
Scoggins’ pickleball game is pretty impressive but he says he’s more than happy playing against players with a lesser level. “I just play my soft/dink game,” he said. “I don’t coach unless they ask me to.”
He also wanted to reiterate the community aspect of the courts where he plays: “Here, people just show up to play,” Scoggins says. “Those who want to have a competitive game can find it, but it’s also a welcoming place for those who are new to the game or play an intermediate game. You put your paddle down and meet new people.
The Sarasota County Rule
“Pickleball is played casually here. You play to 11 points — that’s a Sarasota County rule. It’s four people on and four people off. Each game runs about 20 minutes. It’s a friendly crowd.”
Scoggins ended up in Sarasota after living in various spots around the south of the U.S. “The arts and the beaches were a big draw along with golf and national croquet competitions,” he said.
As we mentioned earlier, he was an accomplished tennis player for many years until he discovered pickleball,
“It’s an easy game to learn and it’s easy to improve as you keep playing,” he says. “The older crowd started it but it’s going strong with young people, too.”
As Good As It Gets
As for Scoggins, playing pickleball on the courts of Siesta Key is about as good as it gets. He enjoys the social aspect of the game, the people that he meets, and the fun.
Now, nothing brings Scoggins greater joy than playing pickleball on the courts of Siesta Key. He fully immerses himself in the holy trinity of the sport: the social contact, the people, and having fun.
“We’re bursting at the seams here already,” he said as he scanned the bustling courts. On a typical day, we have 57 people playing and waiting to get on the court.
“I love Siesta Key – it’s a flip-flop kind of place. How can you be angry and mad here? We’re at the No. 1 beach in America.”
Click here for another of our articles about pickleball in Sarasota, Florida.
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