5 Pickleball Tips From Ultramarathoner Michael Wardian
Plus, indoor and outdoor places around Arlington where you can pick up a paddle and get in on the action.
If you’ve heard of Michael Wardian, you probably know he’s one of the most driven, dedicated and down-to-earth distance runners around. The Arlingtonian has won the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in Washington, D.C. six times, run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (the World Marathon Challenge), and competed in more than 150 ultramarathons. Most recently, he ran the Chicago and Boston Marathons on back-to-back days in October, and completed 150 miles (36 laps) at Big’s Backyard Ultra.
And he has no shame when it comes to talking toenails.
However, earlier this year, Wardian started dabbling in a new sport that might be a little gentler on his feet: pickleball. The game, currently enjoying an explosion in popularity, is a nearly 60-year-old racket sport (played with a paddle) for two or four players. Wardian took an interest after a friend invited him and Wardian’s kids to play at a country club in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
“We ran out to Walmart, bought some cheap paddles and played,” Wardian said in an email to Arlington Magazine. “I fell in love the first time we played, and within days was playing three to four hours per day.”
Wardian is a prolific record-setter—he holds the fastest known time for running around the Capital Beltway and the fastest time in the World Marathon Challenge, for starters. Thus far, signs point to yes that he’ll apply that same proclivity for audacious goal-setting to this sport, too.
“What I love about pickleball is similar to what I love about running,” Wardian says. “There is a low barrier to entry; it is simple to learn but hard to master; and if you put in the work, you get the results.”
In keeping with his most generous nature, Wardian shared his top five tips for playing pickleball like a pro:
How to Master Pickleball
1. “Serve. It is more important to get your serve in than to hit a hard serve. Service errors are unforgivable.”
2. “Down the middle solves the riddle. When in doubt, hit it in the middle—especially in doubles, as it forces the players to talk and that can lead to errors.”
3. “Patience. I suck at this, but you have more time than you think. Use it, and you will hit better shots.”
4. “Aim big, miss small. Aim for big spots on the court, and if you miss you will still be in the court.”
5. “Dink. You need to learn to dink. It is all about control, and hitting it is easier than you think.”
Where to Play Pickleball Near Arlington
Carver Community Center — Three courts are available on Thursdays from 6 to 8:45 p.m. // 1415 S Queen St., Arlington
Lubber Run Community Center — Two courts are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to noon. Four courts are available 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays. and 1-5 p.m. Saturdays. // 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington
Thomas Jefferson Community Center — Three courts are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. One court is available Monday through Thursday 2-8:45 p.m. and Saturdays from 2-5 p.m. Adults must have a membership or pay a daily visit fee to access drop-in opportunities. // 3501 2nd St. S., Arlington
YMCA Arlington Tennis and Squash Center — Beginning Dec. 10, six courts will be available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Check website for the most up-to-date court times. Face masks required if not vaccinated. Full privilege and pickleball memberships available. // 3422 13th St N., Arlington
Lubber Run Community Center — Four courts are available daily from sunrise to 10 p.m. // 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington
Walter Reed Park — Six courts on the tennis courts are available daily from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Three courts on the basketball court are available daily from sunrise to sunset. Make a reservation or check availability. // 2909 16th St. S., Arlington
This post has been updated to reflect the most current information on area pickleball courts.