Speak to Christine Best for long and, if you haven’t already, you just might feel the urge to take up pickleball.
The Westfield resident’s outgoing nature and enthusiasm for the nation’s fastest-growing recreational sport are apparent and would seem to make her perfect for her new part-time job.
Best was recently hired by the Carmel-based Amateur Pickleball Association as a national ambassador for the game. As such, she will travel to APA tournaments across the U.S., where she will facilitate the events, make players feel comfortable and welcome, address issues that arise, hand out medals and share her love of the game.
“I was kind of waiting for my dream job to show up, and it did,” said Best, 62, a divorced mother of an adult daughter and an entrepreneur who describes herself as semi-retired (she invented the FidoRido, a car seat for dogs, and licensed it for retail sale).
Tom Davidson, CEO and executive director of events for the APA, said the organization was fortunate to connect with Best. She possessed the qualities the association was looking for, including pickleball knowledge and the willingness to travel. Best has already visited Newark, N.J.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Napierville, Ill., to work tournaments.
“She knows the sport, she loves the people, she smiles 100 percent of the time, she genuinely cares about the game and the people playing it, and she makes people happy,” Davidson said. “She has that personality that’s hard to put into words. She’s someone you want to be associated with and have a part of your adventure for sure.”
Best has been active in sports throughout her life. Before she moved to the northside nine years ago, she regularly played racquetball at Baxter YMCA on the southside. A friend suggested pickleball then, but Best wasn’t interested.
When she moved to Hamilton County to care for her ailing mother, she took pickleball classes at the Monon Community Center in Carmel. She’s been hooked ever since and plays nearly every day. Describing herself as a social butterfly, Best enjoys the camaraderie (at the Monon center, she’s the pickleball party planner, organizing events and trips) and how the game helps her stay in shape.
“I’m not a person that likes to work out,” she said. “I have to be playing a game.”
Although pickleball – a game in which players use paddles to hit a perforated hollow plastic ball over a 36-inch-high net on a court less than a third of the size of a tennis court – has been around since 1965, its growth has taken off in the past five years. An estimated 4.8 million Americans play pickleball, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
That growth has not been without growing pains. The biggest challenge, Davidson said, is having enough facilities to meet demand. More indoor facilities are needed in central Indiana, Best said, where fickle weather limits the use of outdoor courts.
“We’re underserved, pun intended, in this area,” she said.
Best wants to advocate for more indoor facilities as she promotes a game she loves. Her experience thus far as an APA ambassador has been exactly what she had hoped for.
“I’m so grateful to have this job,” Best said. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing at this time in my life.”