Hello. I’m Jim Ludwig, Executive Director of Pickleball For All, a non-profit organization to introduce the sport of Pickleball to kids and adults. Welcome to our website. Our goal is to instill encouragement, integrity, strength of character and a strong sense of self in mind, body and spirit.
Pickleball is easy to learn. It requires a paddle and a whiffle ball. It’s played on either ½ or 1/3 of a tennis court with a shorter net. Games are singles or doubles. Since the surface area of the court is smaller, there isn’t as much running so it’s easier with less stress on joints. Yet it offers a good aerobic workout for all ages. The beauty of pickleball is you can walk onto a court and start playing right away. People are always welcoming and you’ll find players of all levels. If you aren’t familiar with pickleball, click on the link on this website and watch it being played. But I warn you: you will want to play it.
I am also the District Ambassador of USAPA (USA Pickleball Association), an organization with 14,000 members currently. Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sport in America. There are 3 million people playing pickleball now. We anticipate that within two years we will have 8 million people playing pickleball.
I have been playing pickleball for about five years. When I retired I played a lot of pickleball and I still enjoy it, but I soon realized that I needed a new mission in life. I decided to use my love of pickleball to help children and adults. We started with a program at Avalon Elementary School in East Naples. We gathered 25 retired teachers, all with background checks, and over a two-week period we taught about 90 kids how to play pickleball. They loved it. But the school didn’t have the funds for the equipment. So we donated it to them. That was when my wife, Carol, and I decided to organize Pickleball For All, a non-profit organization to get the funding to go into schools, bring equipment, teach them the game and then leave the equipment behind.
Through pickleball we met Jan Kindl, an excellent player and president of Teksoft Ventures in Chicago, who found out about our project at Avalon and made a donation. Jan asked if we could also help AMI Kids in Big Cypress, a center for troubled teenage boys in the middle of The Everglades. I contacted their director and he invited us out. I gathered up seven pickleball players: including one of the top-rated pickleball players in the nation and a Ft. Myers native, Kyle Yates: also a good friend, Paul Leeder, one of the top players from Canada; and four other top-notch players. We drove into the Everglades to visit AMI Kids Big Cypress.
But when we got there the boys were on lock-down. The director told us to go ahead and set up and start playing. We marked off lines on their basketball court and started playing. We could see them watching us from their windows. Once lock-down was canceled, they started coming outside. One kid asked, “Whatcha doin’?” We told him about pickleball and invited him to play. One by one they came outside and about 24 out of 32 of the boys played that day. Again we left the equipment behind and they are still playing pickleball today, along with basketball.
The word is spreading quickly about our mission to get kids out of the house, off the couches and away from video games. Fortunately many other people also believe in our mission to help kids and adults do something physical and be healthier. We are now working with the Director of Physical Education for Collier County to introduce all of the P.E. teachers to pickleball. We have met with the Athletic Director from Manatee Middle School as well. We have been contacted by a developer, who is building an Eco Friendly Village in Belize, to help support their efforts to bring pickleball to the village’s children.
We are currently in the process of setting up a pickleball court at the David Lawrence Center in hopes of helping residents there channel their addictions into something positive. . In addition, we hope to someday purchase some sports wheelchairs so that people who are in wheelchairs can play pickleball. We even met with Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala, who is a pickleball advocate and wanted to be on board because she sees the positive benefits of Pickleball For All
Our plans include a scholarship program for students that need another opportunity to obtain a high education.
One of our goals is to build a state of the art, indoor multi-purpose sports complex which will include pickleball at the East Naples Community Park, which currently has 13 pickleball courts. Upcoming events there include a Pickleball Tournament in February of 2016, sanctioned by the USAPA, where members of all ages and skill level will compete. And in April of 2016 we will host the U.S. Open Pickleball 2016 Championships, an international event bringing in an anticipated 1,000 competitors to compete for a $25,000 purse.
Obviously we can’t do this alone. Like many other charities and foundations we rely on the time, talent and treasure of the community to move our cause forward. If you are a pickleball enthusiast and are retired, semi-retired or just want to give back with your spare time, we need you. If you are a teacher or feel you play pickleball well enough to instruct others, we need you.
Or, if you believe in our cause and want to help us with a donation, big or small, we would be most grateful. Your welcomed donations to this 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation will support individuals and organizations that share our passion and believe in our mission by providing training, equipment and facilities throughout the United States and beyond.
Pickleball For All has given me a new purpose and makes me feel like I am giving back to the community I love. I promise you that at the end of the day you will feel blessed too.
Give me a call and let’s talk. Now, come on….let’s play some pickleball.
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