Wheelchair pickleball player Michael Lipp wins championships
NEW BEDFORD — After 36 years teaching kids at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, wheelchair pickleball player Michael Lipp is now scoring in tournaments across the country.
“I love the camaraderie and meeting so many healthy, happy people,” Lipp said. Now 60, he’s been playing for five years since retiring in 2016 as he was looking for a social activity and a hobby that wasn’t solitary.
A gardener and avid swimmer who has twice competed in the Save the Bay swim, he said his wife introduced him to wheelchair tennis after hearing about it from a man she met at a meeting in the Rotary. “She told him that I was a very good table tennis player but that I had never played in a wheelchair,” he said of his wife’s meeting with John Pelletier.
Lipp had polio as a toddler and said he ruled out playing any sport that involved running, but Pelletier encouraged him to try tennis anyway.
“I went to Dartmouth indoor tennis and sure enough after about a year and a half I could move without any thought and started playing tennis well,” he said, adding that he uses a sports wheelchair that does not tip over.
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Lipp, who is also involved with the Fairhaven Tennis Association, now competes in wheelchair tennis tournaments, including a recent one in New Jersey. However, soon after, Lipp and Pelletier decided to learn pickleball as well.
The sport is growing the fastest in the United States, with more than 4.8 million players and a 12% increase over the past year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Now, pickleball is about to be added as an official Olympic sport at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.
“You can play at any level and have fun while staying fit,” Lipp said.
Kenneth Pottel, director of the Fairhaven Pickleball Association. said they now have 284 members and 440 newsletter subscribers.
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Lipp said he enjoys being part of the Fairhaven Pickleball Association. “I can’t say enough positive things about the band,” he said.
“Ken (Pottel) and Joyce Pottel are the community organizers for this great game. What they have started will have a positive impact on Fairhaven and the region for years and years to come.”
The association promotes a sense of community, offering other social activities such as bike rides and potlucks and potlucks, he added.
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Before Fairhaven got its pickleball courts, Lipp said he played in Lakeville where he thought the competition was better, but now that people are playing so much in Fairhaven the competition is heating up, he said. he adds.
More than 20 new courts have also been added to the Fairhaven area, including some in Fort Phoenix and an indoor court, Southcoast Pickleball, will open August 20 at 4 David Drown Blvd., in the old roller rink.
Although Lipp said he likes to play “Fort”, it can get a bit windy at times, so he’s looking forward to trying out the indoor courts.
Competing across the United States
The only difference between a standing player and a wheelchair player is that a wheelchair player gets two rebounds, according to Lipp, who said it’s also the same rule when playing tennis.
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“I also like competition. I have participated in many tournaments as the only wheelchair player and won several medals.”
He competed at the US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida last April, winning a silver medal in singles against wheelchair players only and a bronze medal in doubles.
Now Selkirk, a renowned pickleball equipment company, is sponsoring Lipp for the next two years. It will serve as an ambassador and advocate for their brand.
“Since I did so well and beat everyone I faced from the United States at the US Open, I think I have the right to say that I am the best wheelchair player of the United States right now,” Lipp said.
“The man who beat me is from Montreal.”
Recently, one of Lipp’s preschoolers he taught at GNB Voc-Tech (Matt Morris) is now in his twenties and is one of his most favorite people to play with.
“Any age person can play this game and can join forces, young and old,” Lipp added.
Standard-Times writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.