Pickleball advocate receives award for popularizing sport in Columbia

Saturday, October 22, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Skip Deming reaches out for the ball while playing pickleball doubles with partner Jennifer Lincoln on Wednesday at New Haven Elementary. Deming received an award from the city for physical fitness. His pickleball teammates nominated him for for bringing the sport to Columbia.

COLUMBIA — Skip Deming has been an MU student, a soldier in Vietnam and a school principal.

Now retired, he has taken up another calling — sharing the joys of pickleball with others.


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Last week, Deming, 65, was given an award for his pickleball mentorship in Columbia by the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health.

Deming brought pickleball to Columbia four years ago and has been a key player — literally and metaphorically — in helping pickleball become what he calls "the fastest-growing sport in the country."

He was in Arizona with his wife, Jerri, one winter when he was first exposed to pickleball. Deming said he and his wife walked by people playing at an RV resort and he had no interest at all when some players tried to convince them to join.

"If I ever have to play that damn game," Deming, an avid tennis player, said to his wife, "just shoot me!"

But things changed for Deming when he tore his rotator cuff and could no longer play tennis. Pickleball is easier to play than tennis, Deming explained, because it involves a more natural motion — almost like bowling — and serving isn’t as demanding.

Deming found that pickleball wasn't so bad after all and has helped it gain a following in Columbia. Hugh Curry also discovered pickleball in Arizona and sought to start a club in Columbia — only to find that Deming had beat him to it.

"He does a lot of the work for the club," said Curry, who nominated Deming for the mentor award. "People do good work, you try to repay them."

Curry wrote and submitted the nomination, emphasizing how much work Deming contributed to the sport in Columbia of his own accord. The nomination entry notes how Deming "took on assembling unique equipment, setting up courts with specified dimensions, and found places to play in all kinds of weather."

On Sunday and Wednesday evenings, Deming, Curry and a handful of other devoted pickleball players use the resources that Deming organized to socialize and stay active.

On Wednesday at New Haven Elementary School, following the award ceremony at City Hall, a number of people clad in bright pink and green T-shirts with a pickle and the words "Show-Me Pickleball" on them gathered to play, just like every Wednesday evening.

They play doubles games, mostly, and Deming knocked his black plastic Mizzou paddle anxiously against his knuckles as he awaited a serve. When it is his turn to serve, Deming calls out the score:

"Three-eight? Three-seven? Three-eight. I'm the one," indicating the score and that he was the first to serve of his team. The serve is underhand but looks slightly more polished than some of the other players' serves.

"You watch Skip, he's got the good ole tennis follow-through," Curry said, chuckling.

Throughout the matches, there is laughter and joking. Curry said he doesn't go "all-out," and said that opposing teams and teammates touch the ends of their paddles after a game so that "every game is a good game."

"I'm just glad I found something I can be active in a social setting with people I enjoy," Deming said.

Once the rally started between Deming's team and the opposition, they lost a ball under some of the mats in the gym. Deming and his partner waited patiently while the others searched for the ball and joked that they were just trying to stop their rally.

Because of Deming, pickleball has been a part of the Show-Me State Games for four years. Community members enjoy their time together and staying active and healthy.

"If it wasn't for Skip, I don't know if pickleball would even be here in Columbia," said Kiki Lovig, a pickleball player for the past two years and a Show-Me State Games gold medal winner.

Deming said that being retired and a grandfather is everything he thought it would be and "worth waiting for." His three granddaughters are all under the age of 6, and he hopes to share his passion for pickleball with them soon.

While he was apprehensive about pickleball at first, Deming is now one of the biggest advocates for it in Columbia, and that doesn't seem like it will change anytime soon.

"It's a game I just fell in love with," Deming said.

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Brandon Rottmayer October 23, 2011 | 1:31 p.m.

I have never heard of Pickleball so I think it would have been cool to see a graphic on how to play the game. Rules, terminology, etc. Lauren, do you have a resource for more info on how the game is played? Thanks.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 23, 2011 | 1:57 p.m.

Maybe even let us know what kind of a ball is used.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer October 23, 2011 | 7:57 p.m.

Brandon and Frank, thanks for reading. Intriguing game, eh?! I passed your questions on to the reporter.
— Joy Mayer, director of community outreach, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Lauren Quick October 24, 2011 | 2:14 p.m.

Brandon and Frank--

Pickleball is very similar to badminton and tennis. The ball they use is a perforated plastic baseball--much like a whiffle ball, but slightly smaller.

The USA Pickleball Association has a website and a factual bit on the sport, including a video of it being played:

The Missourian also has a some media featuring a pickleball game:

We may actually have a little bit of a pickleball infatuation here at the Missourian, because all of these stories have a pickleball angle:

Hopefully that helps clear up burning pickleball inquiries! Let me know if you have any further questions.

-Lauren Quick
Reporter, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer October 24, 2011 | 4:59 p.m.

We also have a graphic that just published about how to play. Fellas, this might be more than you wanted to know!

— Joy Mayer, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Keener Tippin October 25, 2011 | 9:45 a.m.

What time do they play on Sundays and Wednesdays?

(Report Comment)
Lauren Quick October 25, 2011 | 9:58 p.m.


Here is what Hugh Curry, one of the pickleball players, said about when they play:

"Unfortunately, there is not a specific answer at this time of year. We will play outside if weather permits. If not, it is into New Haven. Skip makes that decision a day or two before the actual date and emails each of us. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, he has notified us we will be playing in New Haven Gym at 6:30 p.m. since rain is in the forecast. Sunday is still to be determined. Also, due to security at the school, we will likely play there on Wednesday and Friday nights when we can no longer play outside. A bit confusing, but it seems to work.

The best way to keep up-to-date is to get on Skip's email list. If anyone wants to get on the list, send an email to either Skip or me ( and we will get them on the list."

I hope that helps! If anyone is at all interested in playing, Hugh is very friendly and checks his email just about every day.

—Lauren Quick
Reporter, Columbia Missourian

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