James H.

Tom Taylor Family YMCA

As James will tell you, "every blind squirrel finds an acorn eventually, but sometimes it takes getting into a pickle to gain the right perspective on life or regain momentum toward personal success, and sometimes the circumstances that lead us there are out of our control."

James speaks from experience. A self-described control-freak, his world got turned upside-down five years ago when a bad Lasik surgery left him with a severe retina tear in one eye and impaired vision in the other, thus ending his 30-year career of high level sports officiating. Life, as he knew it, came to a screeching halt, as his livelihood and passions were replaced by cataract surgeries, medical procedures, and five years of frustration. His sudden inactivity carried the additional challenge of an unexpected 30-pound weight gain. James needed an outlet, or, as he would say, an acorn.

And in January of 2015, that's just what he found. Shortly after joining the Y, he stumbled upon a game of pickleball in progress. "What struck me was the fun everyone was having and how diverse the players were from skill level to age," he recalls. Unable to play racquetball anymore due to issues of depth perception, he wondered if just maybe he'd be up for the challenge of pickleball.

No sooner did he wonder than he received an invitation to join a game. "I was hooked from the first serve," he reports. "(The players) were patient, gracious, and I felt an instant acceptance. It gave me an understanding of what it like to play something for the pure joy of participation." 

James has made tremendous progress and has done pretty well for himself. He even participated in his first tournament in Centralia recently and reports that he performed beyond his personal expectations. And not only has James reclaimed his joy and found an athletic outlet, he's also lost over 25 pounds in the process, playing three or four days every week.

"Pickleball has given me back more than I will ever be able to repay it," said James. "I will try, however, to keep looking for more acorns as I continue to play a sport that allows me to keep the human condition of perseverance in play."