Ambassador Series – Ron Tugwell
Location: North Virginia, Fairfax County
Ron Tugwell is a life-long sports enthusiast and coach. We are glad to have him in the pickleball “family” now! Enjoy!
How did you get into pickleball?
I’ve been involved in sports all my life. I coached baseball. My son played professional baseball. I played tennis, but I’ve had 2 knee replacements in 4 years. After the last knee surgery, I tennis-ed out, and started playing golf. It was tough to learn and hard on my knees. Then about 7 years ago I visited my parents who live in a retirement community. They played pickleball and I started hitting around with them. I got hooked, went home and found places where it was played. I play pickleball now 4-5 times a week. My wife and I both play. We get to know people better playing pickleball than when we played tennis. We enjoy organizing pickleball parties and we travel with it. I played at Naples (US Open). It’s nicer traveling with pickleball than with golf. Pickleball is my passion. The appeal of the game is that it is easy to learn and fairly inexpensive.
Why did you become an ambassador?
I was approached by Helen White, Asst Regional Mid-Atlantic Director, outside DC. She’s great! She asked for help with the Mid-Atlantic Tournament, so my wife Peggy and I jumped in and helped. Peggy and I like to travel and play together, and we like to help, so we jumped at the chance to become ambassadors. We work together as co-ambassadors. We handle a lot of calls and have a lot of visitors to the places that have pickleball.
Highlights of being an ambassador? Accomplishments?
Helen, Peggy and I work together to get more people playing pickleball. Two years ago, 20% of folks who took our classes stayed with it. Today, every class is full, and they often have played already and have already bought a paddle. The growth includes younger folks ages 30-50. Pickleball is also being introduced in public schools. We introduce pickleball at local middle schools for the first-time last year.
We just finished hosting a City Open Tournament in DC. We also had the 10 best pickleball pros, like Tyson McGuffin, Irina Tereschenko and Joey Farias, come to do exhibition play. Three stayed around after to do clinics. We filled 260 slots for a 3-day clinic.
What challenges have you encountered in getting pickleball into communities?
I know pickleball will grow. My wife and I are both educators, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that the game is 80% practice and 20% play. Most folks are 3.0 level and not seeking to improve much. It’s sometimes hard to get folks to do skills and drills.
We are behind on providing enough facilities for the demand for the game. There are no dedicated courts within 50 miles except Fredricksburg. Pickleball is big in pockets of Maryland. In the DC area, there are more indoor courts. We have heavy competition with other activities. Fairfax County wants all facilities to be multipurpose. A number of facilities are small and some have tile floors, like one site near Arlington which is not so good for pickleball. There are 220 tennis courts in Fairfax County, and only 20% are being used. We are looking into one perfect location, easy access in the DC area. It has 11 tennis courts that no one uses, with 2 that have pickleball lines. We are working hard to convince the county athletic board to consider expanding pickleball in this location.