More Fifty-Something Residents Are Here to Play Pickleball

Jen Wilken and Lexi Philips

Raymond H. Goettsch

Many members of the SaddleBrooke Pickleball Association (SPA) are youngish, that is to say, in their 50s, or even 40s. In talking to more of these members, you learn that they chose to relocate to SaddleBrooke for the express purpose of playing pickleball.

Jen Wilkin, age 58, and her husband, Jim, a golfer, spent about 800 hours researching which area to retire to. After selecting Tucson, they looked at active adult communities within a 70-mile radius of Tucson. Then they visited the seven communities that seemed best suited to meet their needs. For Jen, the number one “must have” was pickleball. Jen had recently lost 100 pounds, and she had decided that pickleball would be a catalyst for a healthy lifestyle in retirement. She had only played pickleball once before, in 1979, but she was convinced pickleball would be good for physical activity, as well as socialization. When Jen and her husband decided on SaddleBrooke as their retirement community, pickleball was as important an amenity as golf to them.

According to Jen, she initially played drop-in pickleball, and she found all the players were very accepting of her limited experience and were generous in providing suggestions as to how she could improve. She said that she has participated in the clinics provided by SPA and that she played six days a week. Jen reported that she has advanced from a 2.0 rating to a 3.0 rating, and that she is looking forward to playing level play at this higher level. She also wants to pay it forward by acting as a coach for newcomers to pickleball.

Lexi Phillips, age 54, has lived in SaddleBrooke for four years. Within the last year, she was encouraged by Jen Wilkin, her friend and neighbor, to try pickleball. Lexi now plays three or more times each week. She explained that pickleball provides a mental and physical skill set to hone. She is now in the process of improving her skills to get a 3.0 rating. She is playing “skinny singles” with her husband Stephen and hitting on the tennis backboard at The Preserve. Lexi reported that when her mother visited, she noticed so many other residents smiling and waving as they passed by, and she asked Lexi why. Lexi responded that it was because they chose to live here.