Pickleball by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche


Steve” is an odd duck, and the first time Dave and I handed in our paperwork to join the Mazatlán Pickleball Club, his bossy, no-nonsense quack got on my nerves. As the group organizer, however, Steve deserves credit. He brings the six portable nets, keeps track of the paper work and dictates the times of each game. Lots of busy work that I would not enjoy doing.

This week Dave and I were ten minutes late arriving to the courts, at which time Steve used his 50-yard voice to boom to all 30 players, “Please arrive before 10:00 so the teams can be organized. Keep your masks on if you aren’t playing. And only if you are married can you stand closer than six-feet with each other. We socially distance here.”

Dave and I were sent to the beginner side of the courts but soon were told that we needed to go to the “other side” where the more advanced players competed. Pickle ball players recognized our skills. I was pumped.

Which didn’t last. We arrived just in time for new teams to be assigned, and guess who I got! Yep, bossy Steve. Fine, I thought. Now you’ll see that I know what I’m doing and I’m not a five-year old who needs to be scolded.

And for the next 12 minutes, I learned that, no matter what I did, it was wrong. WRONG– announced with that same, overbearing 50-yard voice. Even the team opposing us grimaced with every “teaching suggestion” Steve used to let me know how much I had to learn.

Hit and advance.

You’re lagging. Hit and advance.

Toes two inches from the kitchen line.

You didn’t hit and advance.

Let me tell you again—toes two inches from the kitchen line and no more. You’re about three.

I will tell you this again…hit and advance.

There are seven reasons you must be two inches from the kitchen line. I will explain those to you later.” (Which he did).

Even when I made a good shot, according to my know-it-all partner, I made a bad choice. “Well, you got the point, but that wasn’t the wisest approach.” About six minutes into the set, I was shaking like the tail of an agitated rattlesnake. How dare he humiliate me in front of all these people! It was all I could do to not pinch Steve’s lips into a knot and share my expertise in how to communicate effectively. Even Dave later said that he felt sorry for me as he listened from the sidelines.

Following that game, one of the players apologized for Steve and then added, “You know he’s autistic, right? That’s why he has no social skills.”

And suddenly, I saw bossy Steve in a different light. He was functioning with a serious handicap. Granted, he could use some behavior modification techniques, but this wasn’t his fault. It was, however, my fault I was acting with such pride. Philippians 2:3 tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility we are to value others above ourselves. I was not valuing Steve above myself.

That was about to change when, two sets later, he was on the other side of the net. I was able to praise him for his good shots, knowing that he surely enjoyed the compliments. I didn’t need Pickleball to be validated. What I did need was to learn that judging others based on how they make me feel is selfish, pointless, and prideful.

Steve had an excuse. What was mine?

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