We hadn’t been out on the court for five minutes and already I was on the sunbaked concrete up against a chain link fence that cushioned my headfirst crash.

“Are you alright?”

My husband bent over me but I couldn’t yet answer. I was stunned. And rewinding the last few seconds.

SWISH!

Thought bubble, “Uh-oh.”

SLAM!

“I think so” I managed, and then took inventory.

Bruises on my right shoulder, hip and thumb already started to swell and my knee was scraped and bleeding.

“I need a Band-Aid. Like I’m five”. My attempt at humor signaled permission to laugh, sealing an unspoken agreement that we will chuckle about this for years to come.

All because I wanted to try pickleball.

I couldn’t wait to try America’s fastest growing sport because it looked like a combination of tennis and ping pong, both games I love and can play fairly well. As a former high school varsity tennis player, I felt confident pickleball would be easy to learn.

I had just read an article in the NY Times about the frequency of emergency room visits for seniors injured playing pickleball. And there I was. Taking up pickleball. And a senior. On the ground.

I don’t feel like a senior. But my movie tickets are discounted, and my physical (before my tumble) included questions about my fall history. When filling out online forms that have a wheel for choosing your birth year, I scroll and scroll before selecting 1959.

But slumped on the side of the court, I felt every bit my age. Who did I think I was running to hit a ball with an anemic bounce, lunging for it with a momentum I couldn’t control? At least I think that’s what happened. All I know is that one minute I was determined to make the shot and the next I was listening for the snap of a brittle bone.

The smart thing would’ve been to gently ease into the sport, learning how a miniature version of tennis is transformed by a hollow plastic ball with forty small holes. How a pickleball paddle is an oversized ping pong paddle, leaving balls out of reach when you’re used to the length of a tennis racquet. But no. I take full responsibility for my fall. I imagined my body was thirty or forty years younger and could make these adjustments on the fly.

Note to self. It can’t.

At least not anymore. I used to be athletic. As a child, I never got out of a pool until my fingers shriveled and I rode my bike for hours with thigh muscles that never gave up.  As an adult near forty, I cracked a rib and a bone in my foot sparring and breaking boards during a multiyear obsession with martial arts and still enjoy yoga, although I can no longer get into the twisted pretzel poses. I thought I’d easily be able to add pickleball to my catalogue of sports.

Apparently not.

I picked myself up off the court. Took a few sips of water. Checked to be sure I could walk, bend and stretch without pain. Then I retrieved my paddle and resumed playing. Like an athlete.

This time though, I played with a new respect for the sport and for the limitations of a body that now surprises me. Case in point: My husband now brings the Chewy order into the house because I strained my back lugging the 40lb bags of cat litter. And getting up after sitting cross-legged on the floor is now a multistage process instead of the unassisted spring to vertical I used to execute.

I’m not alone in overestimating my body’s strength or coordination. How many seniors fall off stepstools or chairs they were standing on? What were they doing on that chair or stepstool in the first place you might wonder. I’ll tell you. They were remembering how easy it was to change that lightbulb or put that dish on the top shelf, never imagining that subtle shifts in balance are now problematic, or that the reach of their stretch isn’t what it used to be. I’m sure they were as shocked as I was on their way down.

Our bodies surprised us and sometimes embarrassed us as we went through puberty and here we are again. Full circle.

So I sit with multiple ice packs, nursing injuries to body and pride. Some of the ache and stiffness will be due to pickleball. Some to miscalculation and foolishness.

But I’ll be back on the court again, remembering to sacrifice the point instead of my body because the THWACK and POP of the ball on the paddle is oddly satisfying. I see the game’s appeal.

Except for the falling down part.

Pickleball Fall But I’m Not Done Yet was last modified: by

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