By Christopher Mulder, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative Member

My mom was a trendsetter when she picked up and started to share her newfound pickleball game approximately six years ago, well before the current pickleball rave. While celebrities are pickleball influencers and investing in pickleball in heavily populated areas, rural America is picking up the sport, too.

The first place mom introduced pickleball to my family was during a Tuesday morning game at a local church’s indoor multiuse court. We were on Christmas break, visiting my parents from Texas, our latest Air Force assignment at the time. My family of five played with young and old alike, building community, embracing light competition, and raising our heartrate. We were hooked.

Over the years since then, we have played wherever we could find court space—back at the church, close-by community center, or Village of New Era’s pickleball court, which it has thanks to a grant. Playing the game with our school-age children is always a highlight.

The most recent and significant pickleball playing event occurred this past summer. We put together a small but competitive pickleball tournament at New Era’s pickleball court. After clearing the water from the court following an overnight rain, it was time for opening ceremonies—invocation, national anthem, and tournament rules. Over the next few hours, the six teams aggressively competed for the title of inaugural champion, but of course only one team can come out on top. That team was composed of my two teenage sons; they played with heart and poise, defeating my wife and me in the final round. Of course, in this house, we haven’t heard the end of their big victory.

Rural America can offer excellent pickleball play with friends, family, and even strangers. Our goal is to have an annual pickleball tournament in the Village of New Era. Even beyond this tournament, I hope to continue making memories well into the future while playing pickleball in west Michigan and other locations around the state.

About the author: Christopher enjoys playing pickleball, making maple syrup, and traveling. He is a United States Air Force Officer and F-16 pilot. He once wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal suggesting we send a president to space.