Mike Miles

Mike Miles works and plays at Apex

How Pickleball Changed My Life

By Mike Miles, Executive Director of the Apex Park & Recreation District

I’ve been in the parks and recreation business for 43 years, but I hadn’t heard a word about Pickleball until about three years ago when Ken Marquardt walked in the door. Through Pickleball I’ve met some amazing people and learned about a really neat game and had some opportunities to provide additional facilities and service for the community. It’s made me a lot more work. At key points Pickleball has taken up 30-40 percent of my time, for example, when we were developing the grant process and designing the outdoor courts. It must be around 10-20 percent of my time now.

When we started at Apex with tape on the gym floors to mark the courts and the first few people playing, I experienced something that I’ve only seen twice in my career. I realized that I was seeing the potential for a huge impact on our programs and our business and the community as well. I saw that 40 years ago when youth soccer became popular and then I saw it with Pickleball. The more work that Ken and I did together, the more I saw that this was the real deal. You have socialization and you have activity and both of those things keep you much healthier and well as you grow older.

One of my mantras for the operations of the Apex District is “We touch lives every day and we make them better.”

We are at a point in the history of this country that we have a huge wave of Baby Boomers settling into the 50s-60s-plus age range and approaching retirement and they are an active group of people. Pickleball is also bringing in people who’ve already gone past 65, and people with disabilities, families, players of all ages.

I have at least a dozen staff members playing Pickleball now and I see them bringing in their parents and their kids. This fall, two of our staff members will be making a presentation for the fall conference of the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association. Both the Apex Center and the Simms Street outdoor facility are showing huge results, positive results and I think that will continue to get better as we go along, so the presentation will show other state agencies what we’ve experienced here.

We have ideas for the future, including having some district invitational events eventually. We’re interested in hosting a Wounded Warrier Event next spring. I want to get the new site finished, cleaned up, before we host anything of that magnitude.

With the outdoor courts, we have more and more players and I know it’s going to be tough when winter comes. The problem with the indoor courts is that we have so many demands on our facilities, and we have an obligation to keep gyms open for drop-in basketball and volleyball. I joke that we’re going to have to draw lots for who gets into the Apex Center in the winter. I know there are times when players take one look at the crowd waiting to play and turn around and leave. Unfortunately, we can’t set up more than four courts indoors, but I think there will be some hard core folks who will play outdoors even when it’s cold.

I know I’d play outdoors in cold weather when the courts are dry. Right now I usually play over a lunch hour, once a week. I’ve taken my wife outdoors a couple of times on weekends. I grew up with racquet sports including tennis, table tennis and racquetball, so it came pretty natural for me. In more than one way, Pickleball has changed my life, and you could say it’s all Ken’s fault.

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