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A group of four individuals smiling while playing pickleball.

Pickleball has exploded in popularity over the past few years, with players of all ages and abilities choosing to spend their time on the court. So, what is it about the sport that people enjoy so much?

“People are simply obsessed with pickleball,” says Ajay Pant, senior director of racquet sports at Life Time. “And there are three reasons: First, the ease of learning. Typically, even someone who has never played a racquet sport can learn and be playing within 10 minutes. Second, ‘picklers’ are arguably the friendliest and most welcoming group of people ever. Everything is social and inclusive, irrespective of the level of play. And third, it’s a great, low-impact workout. Players can burn about 40 percent more calories than they would walking.”

We asked five Life Time members to share their experience with the sport, including what keeps them coming back to the court day after day.

David and Mary Naimie, 58 and 56, respectively

Members at Life Time in San Clemente, Calif.

When did you start playing pickleball?

Mary Naimie | We live walking distance from Life Time Rancho San Clemente, which used to be a tennis club before it was turned into a Life Time in 2020. Around 2016, when we heard Life Time was buying the property and completely remodeling it, we went up to the next closest Life Time (Laguna Niguel) to sign up and were members there for a few years.

When the Rancho San Clemente facility was completed and opened in 2020, we were thrilled to find out they had pickleball courts because we’d heard about the sport, but never had played it before. After trying it, we were hooked instantly.

David and I have played golf together for years, but this sport is different because we can play together competitively as a mixed double team. We’ve played in eight tournaments together since March 2021.

David Naimie | Neither of us had much paddle-playing in our backgrounds, for example tennis, racquetball, or even ping pong. That makes this interesting because pickleball is not only a good thing to do together for our marriage, but we’re learning how to work together on the court given our different sports backgrounds. Mary was a soccer and volleyball player, and I grew up playing basketball and running track and field. Bringing our unique sports backgrounds and experiences into this new sport and trying to learn it together has been fun.

Why do you enjoy playing pickleball?

DN | Playing pickleball makes me feel like an athlete again. It’s been decades since I’ve been able to be on the basketball court, and so long since I was in track. I feel like I’m limited in how much I can improve with my golf game, but with pickleball, I keep getting better and better. I can bring my existing sports abilities to the court and physically compete and constantly improve.

It’s also been a blast playing with athletes of all ages. We’re in our late 50s and we play with people who are quite a bit younger than us — maybe even 20 years younger. They’ve told us how fast and good we are at the game and that makes us feel really good.

MN | I love it because, being in our 50s, there aren’t many sports you can take up new and get really good at. Pickleball is different. We genuinely feel like anyone can pick up this game at any age and become good at it. If someone does have a paddle-sport background, that’s obviously an advantage. But, if you’re a good athlete and have good hand-eye coordination, it’s not too late to start playing.

How does pickleball fit into your fitness routine?

MN | We typically play pickleball five to six times a week. David and I have different groups that we play with on a regular basis — sometimes we’re together and sometimes we’re with different friends. We can stay at the courts for hours. Usually on Sundays we’re there for four hours. We only leave because we’re hungry and our feet hurt.

Gavin Getchius, 11

Junior Member at Life Time in Eden Prairie, Minn.

When did you start playing pickleball?

I’ve been playing pickleball for about three and a half years at the Crosstown club location. I started playing this sport because one time when my dad and I were at Life Time playing basketball, we saw people playing pickleball on a neighboring court. In between games, someone put a paddle in my hand and encouraged me to hit a few balls back and forth before the next game started. I enjoyed it!

Why do you enjoy playing pickleball?

I love that I can play with friends, meet people younger and older than me, and have a good time. There are not a lot of kids my age who play pickleball at my Life Time club; I mostly play with adults, and we have a great group of people that we’ve met at Crosstown over the past few years. I used to play with them regularly in the mornings between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., before school started. Now, school starts for me at 7:45 a.m. so we typically play on the weekends instead.

How does pickleball fit into your fitness routine?

Pickleball is great exercise. I don’t get much recess time at school, so I look to play pickleball whenever I have free time. I’m glad that Life Time embraced pickleball early on and offers open play at Crosstown.

I was very fortunate to play at the AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas, in August 2021. I took silver in the boys’ doubles and bronze in the mixed doubles. The next Junior Olympics is taking place in Greensboro, N.C. and I can’t wait to play.

Ali Sorour, 74

Member at Life Time in Plymouth, Minn.

When did you start playing pickleball?

I’ve played sports all my life, ever since I was 8 years old. Whether it was soccer or volleyball, I loved playing sports. But now, ever since I injured my knee, I have to stay away from impact sports. Therefore, tennis and pickleball will be my sports for the rest of my life. I play pickleball three times a week at the Plymouth club, and then one night a week at the Crosstown club.

I first played pickleball in February 2021. Back in 2020, when the pandemic hit, my friend and I started playing tennis together. But when my knee began bothering me too much to play, she said, “That’s OK, I started playing a new game called pickleball — we can play that.”

I did not know what pickleball was. She introduced me to the sport, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos, which really helped me learn the rules and the techniques. With tennis, I knew I had to use my mind and my body, and it’s the same with pickleball.

Why do you enjoy playing pickleball?

I enjoy meeting new people and building relationships — I’ve met so many new friends! At this point, it feels like I know everybody at my Life Time club; it was really fun meeting all these new friends when I first started playing. Everybody knows each other.

I also enjoy playing this sport despite the condition of my knee. These friends care about me and ask for updates on my knee surgery schedule (which has been rescheduled twice). For now, I continue playing pickleball with my knee brace on. Once I have my knee surgery, I’ll be able to play tennis again, but I’ll always want to play pickleball too. I love the game. It’s very fun.

How does pickleball fit into your fitness routine?

My wife and I used to go to Life Time together, but in 2017, I lost her to cancer. After 44 years, I lost her and my mind was going crazy. But this sport is now a part of my life and it can help me have a better lifestyle. Pickleball helps me meet other people.

I’m going to the club almost six days a week. I play pickleball, then I work out. I have a routine of biking on the stationary bike for an hour, then I use controlled weights to keep myself in shape. 

Lorna Stoecker, 62

Member at Life Time in Peachtree Corners, Ga.

When did you start playing pickleball?

I started playing around May of 2021. Kevin Cardone, a personal trainer at my Life Time club, had pickleball paddles and balls and just started asking members if they wanted to play. I figured I’d give it a try. I had never seen or heard of pickleball before, and I just loved it. I was hooked. The group started with just a few of us, and Kevin created a group chat for us to coordinate times to play.

Why do you enjoy playing pickleball?

I’ve met a lot of new people through playing pickleball. For example, today during the lunch hour we had three courts going, so there was 12 of us. Kevin is really great about organizing the games and moving us around. He’ll ask who wins the game, and the winners play the winners, and the losers play the losers — although he doesn’t call us losers!

How does pickleball fit into your fitness routine?

I play for about an hour when I play over my lunch hour. I’m 62 years old and I like to be active. There’s something about getting out of the office, going outside, having fun, and getting some exercise.

I like group team sports like this. I enjoy getting together with a group of people who are active. I’m not the type who likes to go jogging by myself, so this is a good and fun way to move around every day.

Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

Thoughts to share?

More From Life Time

Man playing pickleball

Pickleball at Life Time

Part tennis. Part badminton. Part ping pong. All around fun. Included in your membership are pickleball courts and open play time so you can join in on this fast-growing sport.

Pickleball Open Play Schedule for Members

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