Pickleball Points: Survivor charity and human clarity

For those of you simply looking for an actual pickleball tip that will dramatically impact your game, here it is: Begin jumping rope, or shadow-boxing. Perhaps you might do as I did when prepping for a national tennis tournament — jog with 50 pounds of sand in a backpack, 5 miles along the beach every other day. Footwork and leg strength is king!

So, there is your tip. Now let’s talk about neighbors and ailments.

Stan Piesla, representing the captains of the Coastal Communities Pickleball League, stepped up to the plate to help me organize the upcoming Cardiac versus Cancer Survivor team competition, and I thank him immensely.

Another person who I think the world of but wants to stay anonymous stepped forward to help defray a significant portion of the rental cost of the Ocean City, Md., Northside Park facility, and Coastal Communities Pickleball League took the remainder.

Graphics guru Sandy Pinder, a recent recipient of a silver medal at Ocean City, is a retired mathematics teacher and spent much of her career teaching kids how to bake “Pi.”

Rusty Ruszin, a cancer survivor, still surfs at age 68. This quiet and respectful surfer was previously a member and crew boss of the National Interagency Wildland Fire Mobilization Team designated to assist in western states including Wyoming or Montana. He now spends hundreds of hours with others from the Ocean City Surf Club, helping youth in Worcester County, Md., in an award-winning “Surf Into Integrity” program.

In his real life, as a mental health clinician, pickleball titan and survivor Rick Bell deals with children in Sussex County, and although he cannot speak in detail, I have been with him after he had to talk a kid down from suicide. It is heartbreaking.

How did we get here? How did we retired folks end up mixing with so many wonderful people. The answer of course is pickleball. Although the typical pickleball format gives us plenty of time to talk, why do we know so little about one another? I pondered this for some time and then I finally realized it is because we spend all our time talking about our ailments.

I have an idea!

Remember those old movies where reporters put “Press” tickets in their hats? Well, I am going to ask Coastal Point to print Ailment Tickets that we can tick off each morning and then clip on to our hats or jerseys. Better yet, maybe they will print them in multiple colors so pink means ‘Hurts like heck” and yellow means “Much better.”

We can even sell advertising space on the back of them for the Coastal Communities Pickleball League charities. This way, we can all spend less time talking about our ailments and more time learning about one another.

Meet Stan, Kathy, Sandy, Tom, Rusty, Rick and hundreds of others at the Thursday afternoon June 6 Fun Raiser at the Big Chill Beach Club. It is from 4 to 6 p.m. in the afternoon, and many of us will stay for dinner. Big Chill is located on the beach on the south side of Indian River Inlet.

You simply need to show your pickleball paddle to gain admittance. It is a cash bar, and we have a $1,000 raffle led by a cooking lesson and then dinner for two with television super-chef Kevin Reading, one of our top pickleballers. Expect everyone in pickleball to visit.

We know firsthand that many in the beach business and medical community have ignored pickleball. We apparently haven’t made ourselves known, and we get no respect! That ends on Thursday, June 6! We have proven that we are the Poster Kids of Retirement Living, so join us at our Fun Raiser because we plan to change this respect thing!

And since it is going to be so crowded, please leave the backpacks of sand home.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.


By Vaughn Baker

Special to the Coastal Point