By Nichole Smith
Pickleball is currently the fastest-growing sport in the United States, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. It might be a sport you’ve never heard of, but in the early days of the pandemic, it spiked in popularity across the nation as people searched for fun outdoor activities. The number of participants continues to climb as more and more people find themselves unable to escape the game’s allure.
Mrs. Melody Sinopoli, a kindergarten teacher at Montverde Academy, found herself intrigued by the game at the beginning of the pandemic when folks in her neighborhood began to play at Pear Park. Not long after that, she began playing with a friend at another friend’s warehouse that has a court. They needed more players, so she asked Mrs. Melyssa Tomlinson, Mrs. Andrea Tannehill, and Ms. Jodi McDaniel to join them. These four teachers from MVA would soon embark on a pickleball journey that is now a part of their weekly routine.
“I like to stay active and try new things,” said Ms. McDaniel, a 2nd-grade teacher, “so when the girls invited me to be their fourth player, I quickly agreed. I immediately got hooked on the game and prioritized our weekly play.”
“They all called me Coach,” said Mrs. Sinopoli, “because I taught them how to play.”
In the beginning, none of them knew how to play very well, but now, after about a year and a half of playing two or three times a week, they each have their own unique skillset that makes them unstoppable.
Not only do Mrs. Sinopoli’s teammates refer to her as Coach, but they also refer to her as Serena because of her powerful serve.
“You have to be really careful with [Mrs. Sinopoli] because she can make it from one side of the court to the other in a second. She is always doing trick shots,” said Mrs. Tannehill, a 3rd-grade teacher.
Mrs. Tannehill is the power hitter of the group. “I just hit it pretty hard a lot of the time,” she said. “I’m not really good at sports, so I like that I’m kind of good at it because I’ve never been good at a sport before. I like winning.”
Mrs. Tomlinson, another 3rd-grade teacher, is known by the pickleball group as Spider-Woman. Her youthful energy teleports her across the court, leaving her opponents bewildered as they question how she acquired her superhuman ability to be in multiple places at once.
Ms. McDaniel has the superpower of being left-handed. She hits the ball at different angles from what a right-handed player would do, making her an incredible threat on the court.
Pickleball provides them with an opportunity to explore their competitive side while also getting great exercise. “It’s fun. It’s a stress reliever. We all have off days, but we laugh about it and have fun with our friends,” said Mrs. Tannehill.
“I always look forward to playing with these ladies and have really enjoyed getting to know them better,” said Ms. McDaniel. “Not only is pickleball good exercise, but it’s great for camaraderie and laughs!” Camaraderie and laughter are certainly key ingredients in being a team of great teachers.
“One of my goals,” said Mrs. Tomlinson, “is to get more people involved at school. I’ve always said I think it would be fun to play with people in different divisions.” Coach Kelly Golden, Mrs. Gina Mobley, and Mr. Yordin Robinson have played with the group at various times and have also had their share of laughter and fun.