Pickleball offers SoCal veterans sense of community, access to resources

Irene Cruz Image
Monday, July 17, 2023
SoCal veterans find sense of community in pickleball
The increasingly popular pickleball is helping SoCal veterans find a sense of community and gain access to resources.

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Pickleball has quickly become one of the most popular hobbies in the country.

And now this sport is helping veterans in Southern California by giving them a sense of community, camaraderie and an opportunity to access resources available to them.

When army veteran Ernest Fox III got an invitation to a pickleball event in Glendale, at first he didn't want to go.

"I don't want to go out. I don't want to be around people. People scare me. People make me nervous," said Fox. "My mother died this year, I'm going through a divorce, I lost my son. I got PTSD, I got all kinds of stuff that I'm going through. I'm hurting."

He knew he needed to get out of the house. And when he found the courage - driving two hours from Barstow to Glendale - his smile lit up the court.

"My guard is down, which it never is. I can dance around, I can be me," Fox said.

Glendale pickleball put on an event for combat veterans like Fox. It happened at Pacific Park and community center to introduce them to the booming sport.

Pickleball is a low-impact activity that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Brigitte Baker Snyder, one of the event organizers, says it encourages social interaction plus exercise - and is easier on the body than other sports.

"If there's anyone with disabilities that needs some adaptive rules, we can do that with pickleball," said Baker Snyder.

"It's just a good all-around sport. It's not as hard on your knees or elbows or rotator cuffs as tennis is," said Navy veteran and retired nurse Relinda Beesemyer.

Marshall Pura, 81, has been playing for 13 years, and now teaches the game. He says many vets suffer from something.

"Bad knees, bad elbows, depression anxiety, you make your choice. This game seems to appeal. Takes you to a different world," said Pura.

Fox won a $250 paddle during the event and says pickleball has made him feel less alone.

"People aren't as scary as you think if you give them a chance," said Fox. "If you just sit there and do something fun with them like pickleball, it's fun."