The rechristened Pickleball Federation of the Northern Mariana Islands last week donated pickleball equipment to the CNMI Center for Independent Living as part of its community outreach to introduce the sport to local people with mental and physical disabilities.
PFNMI president Nelson Krum said they donated a portable pickleball net, six pickleball paddles, and a dozen balls “so they can start playing right away.”
Aside from the equipment, the fledgling group also striped CLI’s parking lot to enable CLI’s consumers to play the sport right in the office’s premises.
“We wanted to extend our outreach to include pickleball to the disabled community. The first efforts toward that was striping the parking lot at the CLI,” said Krum.
He said unlike other sports, pickleball is unique because while it’s an incredibly easy sport to pick up, it’s a hard sport to master.
“Without a large investment we can get these people work in their hand-and-eye coordination. Get them moving more and get them involved in a sport that can be right here in their parking lot and they don’t have to travel anywhere,” he said.
Krum, who co-founded what originally was Paradise Pickleball Club of Saipan with his wife, Donna, in August 2020, said future plans include acquiring specialized wheelchairs for pickleball.
“Eventually, we will also include the wheelchair community because there are special pickleball games that involve specialized wheelchairs that right now are $2,500 each so they’re a little out of reach. The big thing right now is get this out for the disabled community and then work on acquiring these special wheelchairs,” he said.
CLI executive director Susan Satur said the PFNMI donation is like a breath of fresh air for the agency and their consumers.
“The Krums—Nelson and Donna—lined the court and they donated the equipment needed…next week they’ll teach our consumer how to play pickleball. It’s a wonderful thing because it will get our consumers outside and playing activities again,” she said.
Satur said that because of the recent local spread of COVID-19, they haven’t welcomed all their consumers back and since the onset of the pandemic, not all of them were able to play sports they usually took part on to follow COVID-19 protocols.
She said before COVID-19, CLI consumers were able to play basketball, volleyball, softball, and boca.
“Only half could come [because of COVID-19 protocols]. With pickleball it doesn’t matter. It’s non-contact and less people play,” she said.
Satur said everyone’s already excited to learn about pickleball. If plans don’t go sideways, CLI will be welcoming back its consumers on Monday, Nov. 22.
In a little over a year of existence, PFNMI has grown from five regular players to 20. It also now has three courts at the Church of Latter-day Saints along Middle Road and four courts on Capitol Hill.
With over 3 million players, pickleball is arguably the fastest growing sport in the U.S. and its popularity has spread all over the world as pickleball—with the recent recognition of the CNMI—is currently played in 67 countries.