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Combining passions through pickleball--a side note from the Editor-in-Chief

Combining Passions through Pickleball

Sometimes life serves you lemons. It’s what you do with the return that matters. This is a brief account of how pickleball and the community around it has been helping me make lemonade out of the lemons (or pickles out of the cucumbers?).

The day after the excitement of registering for my first US OPEN Pickleball Championships on Jan 10, 2018, I got a late evening phone call from my doctor. A week earlier, a routine physical indicated that something might be wrong. But I felt young-ish, healthy, athletic, and inspired. Surely they were mistaken.

But then the anxiously anticipated call, and three little words that hit hard. I had invasive lobular carcinoma. It couldn’t be. I had just set myself a goal…I would be turning 50 at the US OPEN, playing a sport I discovered a few years ago. I never imagined I would so eagerly be entering the second half of my life (I am an optimist), but I was ready to up my pickleball game and test my abilities. I was looking forward to finding a way to increase my opportunities to play and travel and meet other awesome pickleballers, like those at my local YMCA in Central Pennsylvania. Pickleball had started to frame my ideas for what life could look like when I reach retirement (like most of my morning dinking crew already had). Suddenly there was something that threatened to take it all away.

From the first day, I had the incredible support of all my Y pals. They took me out for breakfast the morning before the surgery, a little over a week later. They welcomed me back on the court two weeks after surgery and celebrated each good bit of medical news with me as it came in.  When I posted a short note on the pickleball forum on Facebook, others echoed the positivity they experienced from the pickleball community when they were going through their own issues. I felt like I was part of a greater good.

Then someone on the forum mentioned another woman talking about cancer and pickleball, Chris Powers. She was asking if there might be interest in a special Women Beyond Cancer retreat that also included pickleball. Suddenly, I was invited to join. Again, welcomed and befriended by the greater pickleball community.

Shortly thereafter, I awoke one Sunday morning with a flash of an idea. My life for the past decades has been pretty intense…being self-employed as a struggling publisher of children’s books, translating to fund my family’s life and the developing business, and raising two bi-cultural girls while splitting our time between Central PA and Berlin, Germany, where I volunteer with refugees (and shared pickleball with them). I love my life; I am passionate about the books I create, about my children, about the families I have gotten to know and love from around the world. I started an awareness campaign to share the common humanity of the kids seeking refuge in Berlin with my US community. I helped create a non-profit to help get good books to more kids. My life is very fulfilled, but also quite overwhelming at times. The cancer diagnosis made me stop and think for a minute about whether this pace of life was working well for me. 

So in a flash, I thought, is there a way I can combine my love of pickleball, travel, and contributing to the greater good? I had a sudden idea to help promote the networking of pickleball players across the USA and beyond by creating a website to share homes among traveling players.  The idea was to make it easier and less expensive to travel to tournaments,  or to simply add pickleball stops to any trip, whether it is to see friends and family, head south for the winter, or travel for business. If I could stay with other players, I thought, I could afford to tour the country, meet nice people, and play some pickleball.

Within the week I found a tech company to help develop a new website called Pickleball Guesthouses. It will provide a registered list of homes where you can find a match to stay for free with just a nominal $10 booking fee. For every night of hosting, the booking fee is waived for one night of the host’s travel. And best of all, people will be coming together, getting to know one another, sharing both the court and the breakfast table. They will be able to share stories from the road through a guest blogging section, and through these stories, others may be inspired to hit the road and get playing, according to the motto: Drive – Sleep – Dink!

Another important part of the site, however, will be links to causes that I and other members of the Pickleball Guesthouses community support. For me, the first ones I will be sharing will be Women Beyond Cancer, so more pickleball retreats like the inaugural one before this year’s US OPEN can take place; my literary non-profit, Random Acts of Reading, so I can someday give away more books than I sell; and to the refugee awareness project we started in Berlin, called They Have Names. But the range of causes will be as diverse as the members of the community.

Suddenly, with this idea, all my varied activities seemed to have found a common thread. So now all that is left is making it happen. The site is almost ready for the beta stage, and with the support of the pickleball community, it will soon be filled with a wide range of listings of rooms available to share with traveling players. I am excited to start exploring pickleball beyond my own community…starting with a few days at the Women Beyond Cancer retreat in Aikens, SC and then moving directly on to the US OPEN.  My cancer treatments are now completed, my body is getting stronger, and I’m ready to taste the courtside lemonade.  For I was given a bag of lemons, but I feel like they have sweetened my life with a great new endeavor, and I cannot wait!

 I hope to see you on the road!

Penny Eifrig