National tournament or for fun, just give her a paddle

Lynnfield’s Margot Kreplick Bloom – like many – had some time on her hands during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Then, she found something that “put a smile on my face.”

That was pickleball.

“I was playing four times per week because there was nothing else to do until I went back to work,” Bloom said.

Bloom, 59, was a tennis captain at Marblehead High in 1982 and later at the University of Rhode Island. That said, those close to her understand her interest in pickleball.

“I’m a racket-sport player. I’ve just always enjoyed it,” Bloom said. “Most people decide they’re going to play one or the other (tennis or pickleball)… but my tennis friends will tell you my game has improved because of pickleball because you’re seven feet away from the net and people are drilling balls at you, so, you’ve got to have quick reaction and coordination.”

She’s quite good, too. In July, Bloom captured a bronze medal in the Senior Games, a two-week national tournament played in Pittsburgh every two years.

“I didn’t even know it existed,” Bloom said.

That was until she played in a tournament in New Hampshire. Despite snagging silver that day, the player who won gold, Lauren Delong, asked her to join her in Pittsburgh.

The rest was history.

“It was just crazy to see the athleticism,” Bloom said. “It was really cool to meet these athletes. It was intense.”

Her week didn’t stop there. After returning that Saturday morning, she played at a pickleball event at Fenway Park the same night.

“I just wanted to say I’ve played pickleball at Fenway Park, you know?” Bloom said.

Like lots of the country, she’s hooked on the sport. According to USAPickleball.org, the sport grew in 2021 to 4.8 million players in the U.S.

“[With] the young kids that are playing right now, it will be a varsity sport in college or high school. It’s exploding with this young generation,” Bloom said. “Mainly because it’s a blue-collar sport. You don’t have to be a member of a club, you don’t have to take private lessons, or spend an arm and a leg.”

“The wiffleball balls you use are, like, three or four bucks, and they can last weeks depending on how badly you smash it,” Bloom said. “And you can get by with a $50 paddle.”

She added it’s a great way for people – of all ages – to remain active.

“Whether you know the rules or not, just to have something in your hand during physical activity is huge,” Bloom said. “Good for society to become creative with new things…. It’s a sport for life.”

It’s also just plain fun.

“No one is miserable on a pickleball court,” Bloom said. “They’re always smiling and having fun, and you’re always meeting people.”

It’s true. Bloom now has friends in Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii.

“‘Let’s start swapping numbers. You’re in Massachusetts, you’re in New Hampshire, you’re in Vermont, you’re in Maine.’ We’re just a crazy group,” Bloom said. “I’m in sales right now for work, so you never know where you’re going to be. It’s instant friendship.”

Whether she’ll play more tennis or pickleball in the future remains uncertain. Bloom said her heart is in both, so she’ll let her body decide.

Either way, there will be a racket in hand.

“[I’m] laughing and having fun,” Bloom said. “You’re hitting a ball over a net.”