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Pickleball is not just a fun sport, it's a new journey with many benefits.

Leah, my wife of 31 years, and I began our journey quite innocently last spring on a peninsula at Mark Twain Lake. As enthusiastic campers, we ran into work friends at Mark Twain who, in turn, introduced us to their friend, Kurt Dudenhoeffer. Somewhere in the organic conversation, pickleball came up.

Leah jokingly mentioned she heard that's what the cool kids play. And who doesn't want to be a cool kid? Kurt was swift to invite us to play and lauded the many wonderful aspects of the sport. He presented his eloquent case in this column, recently. I won't cover the same points but instead, I will tell you about our brief journey since that conversation by the lake.

First, we showed up for our introduction to the sport. Our instructors loaned us the equipment and patiently guided us through the rules of the game. Somehow, they did not giggle at our first-time shenanigans of wild hits and wrong declarations of the score.

But we were hooked.

We had met new friends (not always easy in mid-life). We had found something new to us we both could share. It provided exercise and skill without being draining or too embarrassing.

The next thing you know we are off buying our own paddles and trying to figure out how to practice so we could get better. Without hesitation, we joined the local pickleball association and started attending open play events at Lincoln University's tennis courts. There, we met even more new people and everyone displayed the same friendly, patient and inclusive demeanor to us.

We learned there's no "sorry" in pickleball. We learned to bump paddles after every game and we learned to stay out of the kitchen (you'll learn about that). We also learned there's some local talent and fierce competition to be seen. It motivates us to get better, but never once did we feel inadequate.

Now, we were rolling. We played as often as our knees and time allowed. We blabbered about our new hobby to anybody who would listen. Sure enough, our good friends from Columbia came down to check it out and they were warmly welcomed and instantly converted as well. Then we kicked off the Fourth of July with some games and social liveliness with our new pickle friends. When our adult son came home for the holiday, he was more than happy to join us and show his expertise honed while taking endless PE classes at Jefferson City High School.

Where will our journey lead next? Who knows, but I hope to see you along the way. It's a minimal investment with a big upside. There's room for all ages and talent levels. It produces more than sweat and furious rallies. It builds community. It makes you want to share with others.

It's the pickleball vibe.

Catch it!

Paul Roberts works for the Missouri Dental Association. He and Leah have resided in Jefferson City for 17 years where they raised two sons. Paul likes to golf and camp when not playing pickleball.

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