Email from Chris Beal to Ken Marquardt
August 22, 2012
History of Pickleball in the Metro Area
I had taught pickleball in my high school physical education classes at the end of a badminton unit. We used wooden paddles and only played a couple of days. This was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
I discovered years later that pickleball was being played competitively at the Huntsman World Senior Games. The following year 2005, I competed at Huntsman in pickleball. Then in 2007 some friends asked me to teach them to play pickleball and so I met them at the Whitlock Recreation Center in Lakewood and began to introduce Denver to the fastest growing sport in the nation. I started teaching about 4 friends how to play and then they would bring a friend along and we got around 10 - 12 people who knew what pickleball was during the first year but averaged only around 5 or 6 players coming at one time. The director at Whitlock, Sara Livingston, had watched us playing pickle ball and suggested that we schedule a set time two days a week at Whitlock to play and she would block that gym time out for us. We were and continue to be grateful to Sara for her support and little did we know that this was just the beginning of establishing pickle ball in the metro area. Sara listed pickleball in the Lakewood Parks and Recreation booklet and on the web site. Folks would stop by to see and learn about this funny sounding sport and of course we encouraged them to “just try it” and before long our group had grown to a steady 15 – 18 players. We only had 2 indoor courts at this time in the whole Denver metro area. The real growth in pickleball players occurred when the “snow birds” experienced pickleball in the retirement areas in AZ, FL, CA, etc and then they wanted to play when they returned “home” to Colorado. They would call Whitlock to ask about pickleball and some would see on the USAPA web site the places to play link that we were playing in Lakewood and would stop by to join in the fun and all of a sudden we had 35 players waiting to take their turn on the 2 courts.
One of those inquiring people in 2010 happened to be Ken Marquardt and the world of pickleball in the metro area has not been the same since. We often tell new players to really think about their goals and life plan before they finish their third day of pickle ball because we have found that if a person plays this crazy sport 3 times, they are pretty much addicted to it from that point on. Many weaker souls found themselves “hooked” after only one day of playing and that my friends is where the “Pickleball Ken” story begins……
Email from Pete Sullivan to Ken Marquardt and Chris Beal
March 30, 2011
The sport of pickleball was invented in the northwestern section of the U.S. almost 50 years ago. Since entirely new sports are rarely embraced by the masses, pickleball is considered a "new" sport. Chris Beal, a lifelong physical education instructor, was among the earliest devotees when she tried to introduce the game to Denver in 2004. Playing mostly at the Whitlock Recreation Center in Lakewood, the game slowly grew to 60 players when Ken started playing in 2010. Ken loved the game and decided to help Chris promote pickleball. In the last 6 months, the number of active players has quadrupled to over 250!
Westminster, Broomfield, West View, and Evergreen recreation centers have provided more courts and times to play, but more facilities are needed. Westminster recently had 4 courts filled with 16 players, while 30 more awaited their turn on the sidelines.
The author, Malcolm Gladwell might suggest that Denver area pickleball has reached "The Tipping Point" with Chris and Ken serving as the primary connectors. Baby boomers, those born in 1946 to 1964, are becoming a significant part of the recent growth. Many have reduced their participation in the sports of tennis, racquetball, volleyball, basketball, and softball in favor of pickleball, which is often perceived as less stressful on aging joints.
Ken, 70, is able to compete after 3 major surgeries, while another man remains competitive after 10 surgeries. The oldest active player is 87 and the majority of the players are over 60. Chris, a young looking 63, used to struggle to find players. Now, with Ken's help, they struggle to find enough places for them to play!