Most top pickleball players, naturally, have a tennis background.
Not Marilyn Reichardt.
The Spring Lake resident always played basketball, but when she started playing pickleball a few years back, she took to the sport like a duck to water.
Reichardt and her doubles partner, Margo Faust of Mona Shores, recently won the bronze medal in the 65-plus Women’s Doubles competition at the Meijer State Games, held at MVP Fieldhouse in Grand Rapids.
Spring Lake’s Judi Lubbers and her partner, Paula Martin of Muskegon, won gold in the same category.
“For us people over 65, it’s tough, because a lot of these people we’re playing are former tennis players,” Reichardt said. “I was a basketball player. But I heard about pickleball during the Coast Guard Festival a couple of years ago. I always wanted to play, but I was a workaholic.”
Reichardt eventually read an article about a pickleball gathering in the Grand Haven Tribune and began running out during her lunch hour to play at Norton Pines Athletic Club in Norton Shores.
“It was such a stress reliever, and I became addicted to it,” she said. “I retired the following July, so now I could play five days a week. I had surgery on my knees and hands, and still, it’s hurry up and get back on the court.
“I lost 40 pounds and four dress sizes since I started playing. I really like it.”
Reichardt has enjoyed tremendous success in the sport. She’s qualified to play in the national Senior Olympics later this summer in Cleveland.
“I’m representing the Women’s Doubles 65-and-older, and also in Mixed Singles 60-and-over,” she said. “The people I qualified didn’t want to go, so I’m playing with David Sabino from Rochester, and my female partner is Karen Siemans from California.
“To me, it’s an honor just to do this.”
Pickleball has grown in leaps and bounds the past several years, and is especially popular among seniors because it’s a low-impact sport that doesn’t require a lot of explosive movement.
To meet the needs of local pickleballers, Kevin Curley and a few others joined forces to create tricitiespickleball.com. The website began as a way for pickleball players to find out when and where they could show up and play.
“We have a mailing list of about 300 or so people in Muskegon, Holland, Grand Haven, and we’re starting to get a lot more exposure in Grand Rapids,” Curley said. “People really like the website, especially during the winter, when they can see that they can play at this location.”
Many West Michigan athletes enjoyed success at the Meijer State Games. Local winners include:
• David Rogers (Grand Haven) and Paula Martin (Muskegon), silver in Mixed 65-69;
• Faust and Tim Karppinen (Muskegon), bronze in Mixed 70-74;
• John DeHoog and Alice Dodgson (Mona Shores), gold in Mixed 75-plus;
• Rochella Cooper (Grand Rapids) and Bob Yonkers (Spring Lake), silver in Mixed 75-plus.
For those interested in learning the game of pickleball, a pair of clinics will be offered in July.
A beginners strategy class will take place from 10 a.m. to noon July 10 at Ferrysburg Community Church, 17785 Mohawk Drive.
On July 17, an intermediate/advanced strategy clinic will be offered from 7-9 p.m. at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, 973 W. Norton Ave. in Muskegon.
Both clinics are free, but organizers are asking participants to bring a nonperishable food item for donation.