ARVADA, Colo. — Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and Colorado is no exception. It's risen to the level where niche groups like the Lavender Pickleball Club -- a group of LGBTQ+ women -- can grow the game and prosper.
"Lavender Pickleball Club is a group of women who are having a great time through Pickleball," co-founder Kim Copeland said.
The club created some indelible bonds through its one year of existence.
"The most beautiful thing about this is it formed some incredible tribes," founding member Dawn Cerrone said. "It's taken people who would've never met before and created families for them. It's amazing."
Co-Founder Susan Swern said the word 'family' struck her.
"That's actually one of our mottos is, 'more than pickleball friends, we're family,' and it just seemed to be a huge yearning in our community and particularly among women," she said. "We don't exclude men, but it's mostly the women who feel the same sense of collaboration and community. They just bring it all to life."
Creating community through competition, while ensuring that inclusivity is the paramount of priorities.
"The rules and the equipment and the size of the court, they really blur the boundaries between gender, between age, and the technical demands of the sport are not as challenging as maybe tennis or golf, so the learning curve is extremely fast," Irina Tereschenko said.
Tereschenko, a top-10 professional pickleball player, put on a private clinic for the Lavender Pickleball Club in Arvada. She held three sessions for different levels of play, as well as a "beat the pro" active scrimmage.
"Having Irina Tereschenko, who is a back-to-back national champion and a five-time national champion, be interested in creating a clinic just for our club, in the first year that we've been around, was a huge boon to the fact that we knew we had something here."
It proved a level of legitimacy, Susan said, and Tereschenko also provided some levity to some of the most competitive women on the Front Range.
"To be honest, a lot of people say once they've played pickleball, they're addicted to the sport, and it's one of the healthiest and one of the best addictions I've seen so far," Tereschenko said.
A healthy addiction, and perhaps the great unifier.
"I believe that pickleball is going to unite this country. I truly think it's going to!" Cerrone said. "I think it doesn't matter your ethnicity, your political views, it doesn't matter your gender, it just doesn't matter, and I think that's what makes it so incredible and so powerful and so beautiful and what makes a situation like Irina showing up here in Arvada, Colorado and putting this clinic on. It's because it is going to be bigger than all of us."
The Lavender Pickleball Club currently has more than 1,400 members across Colorado and Arizona, and has hopes for expansion across the country and internationally. With representation overseas, pickleball can be eligible for the Gay Games, an Olympic alternative that promotes inclusivity and competitive spirit across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
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