Pickleball For All Brings The Community Together

P.E. Teacher Laura Mahn Says It was her “field of dreams.”

Laura Mahn, a dedicated PE teacher at Avalon Elementary School, believes that Pickleball For All was her “field of dreams.”
Laura Mahn, a dedicated PE teacher at Avalon Elementary School, believes that Pickleball For All was her “field of dreams.”

Laura Mahn, physical education teacher at Avalon Elementary School in East Naples, gets excited about the game of pickleball, not just because she loves sports and pickleball is fun, but because it brings people together.

“I learned pickleball about 20 years ago,” says Laura.  “I have been a P.E. teacher for K-12 for 30 years.   When I relocated to Naples I rediscovered the game.  And when I heard about Pickleball For All, it was my ‘field of dreams.’”

When Jim Ludwig introduced pickleball to Avalon Elementary, a Title I school, it opened up a whole new social aspect for the kids, their parents and the teachers as well.

“The game equalizes the playing field for everyone,” she explains.  “People of all skill levels can play.  People of all cultures can play.   There is no age discrepancy; an 8-year old can play a 60-year old.  Unlike soccer, which requires eight or ten people to play, pickleball only requires two or four people.  And the game even equalizes genders: boys and girls can play each other.

Pickleball also offers an opportunity for exercise and socialization for children and adults with handicaps.

“We had a child who was born without legs who played,” says Laura.  “Collier County got him a sports wheelchair that can move sideways as well as forward and backward.   You should have seen the look in his eyes when he played.

“Imagine parents at Pelican Marsh who might have a child with downs syndrome or autism.  That child can enjoy the physical activity of pickleball and interact with other children.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or lack of money you have, you have a game that everybody can play.

“In our economically-challenged community in East Naples, it has given people a new outlet for their friends and family.  That’s the investment, whether it’s a park or a school.    It’s an investment in the community.”

Laura also teaches residents at Crown Pointe in East Naples, offering lessons every Saturday morning at 9 a.m.    There are ongoing games at the East Naples Community Park and players are friendly.    Don’t be afraid to ask if you can watch or even join in.    If you don’t have equipment you can rent a racquet and whiffle ball for $1 at the community center and use one of the pickleball courts free.

“The scoring pretty simple,” explains Laura.   “It’s like ping-pong.   Game is 11 points, you only score when you serve and you have to win by two points.”

“I even know a woman who plays twice a week who has had two total knee replacements.”

“PICKLEBALL really is FOR ALL.”

Click below to hear Laura Mahn talk about how pickleball brings people together.

Jan Kindl Believes that Giving Back is Her Social Responsibility

Donating to Pickleball For All Makes Her feel Like Santa Claus

Jan Kindl - Teksoft Ventures
Jan Kindl – Teksoft Ventures

Jan Kindl, Chicago resident and Naples seasonal resident, is a dynamo.    She is CEO of a multi-million dollar company, Teksoft Ventures in Chicago.   She has a busy life: she runs two homes, has a restaurant entrepreneur boyfriend, plays pickleball and still finds time to help others.

Jan started Teksoft Ventures in 2001.   The company implements software to large corporations and then trains hundreds of their employees on how to use the software.    She oversees her own twenty-five employees as well.

As a humanitarian and a professional, she feels that it’s important to give back to the community.

“Every business owner has choices: where they fund from a social responsibility.  I want mine to have a big impact,” says Jan.

She is involved in several charities in Chicago including Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Hospital.   She has compassion for helping people who need help.     She realizes that she is fortunate that she is in a financial position to give and fulfil her compassion to help others.

She realized she needed more exercise and fun

But all work and no plan…..well, you know the rest.   In 2006 Jan realized that she needed an extra-curricular activity, something to get her away from her desk and computer, something active and fun.

“In 2006 I spent the summer in Southwest Florida.   And I was bored,” she says.  “So I googled it.   I found badminton and went out and bought a racquet and went to a center in Ft. Myers to play.  While there, someone told me about pickleball and I tried it.   I never picked up the badminton racquet again.  Pickleball is more social, requires less running to get at an adequate skill level and takes less time than golf.    You’re standing by the net and when you get hit there’s no impact – so it’s not as fearful as tennis.”

She found her thing in pickleball and is now a high-rated player, playing as often as she can.

She decided to help the AMI Big Cypress Kids

When Jan learned about AMI Big Cypress Kids, an educational and vocational school for children convicted of non-violent crimes, she had to reach out to them.   She donated money for a basketball court to give them something physical to do with all their energy.

“I wanted to see them get off the couch and get away from television and video games, to do something fun and constructive,” says Jan.   “The center is out in the middle of the Everglades so there’s not a lot they can do out there.  Plus another concern of mine is childhood obesity, so they go hand in hand.”

Then she learned about Pickleball For All

Jan Kindl with Jim Ludwig
Jan Kindl with Jim Ludwig

When she learned about Jim Ludwig’s Pickleball For All project at Avalon Elemementary School in East Naples, she offered a donation to help pay for the equipment and asked Jim if he could reach out to AMI Kids.   She asked Jim if they could also use their basketball court for pickleball.  Of course he said ‘yes and yes.’

“I wanted the residents at AMI Big Cypress Kids to have more use of the basketball court,” says Jan.   “They fell in love with pickleball.   They can plan basketball AND pickleball on their court, so it’s a multi-use court now.”

“Her donation allowed me to be able to purchase new paddles and wiffleballs and leave them behind when we introduce the sport to schools and groups,” says Jim Ludwig.  “Previously we had been using donated, old paddles, sometimes wooden ones with broken handles.  I didn’t want to take those to the kids,” says Jim.

“It has worked out extremely well.   I hear the kids at AMI Big Cypress are still very enthusiastic about pickleball.  When I see that basketball court out in the middle of the Everglades…it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

“When you help others, you feel like Santa Claus,” says Jan.  “It’s a great feeling.”

Watch her video below