Meet the Bings - Australia's first couple of pickleball
Pickleball devotee Keith Bing discovered the “addictive magic” of the sport within hours of jetting into sunny Florida in 2012.
He and wife Sharon had returned to live in the US after spending more than 25 years working and travelling abroad.
Their first stop was visiting a college buddy of Keith’s at The Villages retirement community near Orlando.
The friend insisted that Keith immediately join him for a game of pickleball: a blend of tennis, badminton and table tennis, and the fastest growing sport in the US.
It was the last thing Keith felt like doing.
“I was completely jet-lagged and all I wanted to do was have a conversation and go to bed,” he said.
“But being a good guest, I went to the court and within 10 minutes I was totally hooked.
“The shots and the angles, they all did something to me. It was the most fun action activity I’ve ever encountered.
“Since then, it has been all about pickleball and I’ve played it virtually every day.
“If it wasn’t for that trip, we wouldn’t have discovered pickleball.”
Funnily enough, the same friend had tried to get Keith into tennis back when they were in college.
“I played three games and that was my tennis career over,” Keith laughed.
But pickleball was a revelation for Keith, whose long sporting life had involved playing and coaching basketball, softball and field hockey in the US and Europe.
“Nothing has ever been as addictive as pickleball,” he said.
“I believe pickleball creates a magical chemical brew in our brain; it’s something about the sound of the game, its pace of play and the face-to-face volleys at the non-volley lines.
“I don’t know if it’s pickleball, but I’ve lost 50 pounds (22.6kg) since I started playing.”
His enthusiasm for this new sport spilled over to Sharon, also a field hockey and softball player and coach. Together they dove deeper into the game; learning from, making videos and playing with, pickleball professionals in the US and Europe.
Keith went on to win seven medals at international tournaments and to become an IPTPA Level 2 coaching and teaching professional, while Sharon has also played and won in high-level competitions.
In 2015, they moved to Australia, where they had lived on and off after discovering Noosa during their travels in the 1990s.
Since their return, Keith and Sharon have been passionate advocates for pickleball and continue to work hard to elevate the sport in Noosa and beyond.
“We started at a bitumen playground in Noosaville with three willing and adventurous friends and we now have a full-time pickleball program going at the Noosa Leisure Centre,” Sharon recalled.
The Bings have also created a business dedicated to giving people an introduction to pickleball, helping them and PE teachers and other sports coaches gain a solid understanding of the sport, as well as helping the game with a funny name grow and thrive in Australia.
Keith and Sharon run clinics for players and instructors, and they consult on everything pickleball; from court design and equipment through to etiquette and tournaments.
Sharon said pickleball allows people of all ages to have fun while improving their fitness.
“Pickleball is a sport that grandparents can introduce to the grandkids rather than the other way around,” she said.
“It’s great to see the smiles on the grandparents’ faces when they’re playing their grandkids, and how happy everybody is.
“You can almost count the years coming off their age.”
She recalls an 81-year-old man asking her if he could learn to play. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
“He’s still going strong; he’s entered a singles tournament and he’s just loving it, so any age can try,” she said.
In their quest to grow the game, the Bings have linked with Halcyon to offer coaching clinics to home owners on purpose-built pickleball courts at the Halcyon Greens, Halcyon Glades and Halcyon Lakeside.
“For seniors, I see no other sport or exercise that is so positive for your physical fitness, mental health and social life,” Keith said.
“Those three things lock in to create something addictive.”
They both love the sand and surf, and for Keith, the beach is a place to clear the head and rejuvenate the spirit.
“If you ever have troubles or you’re feeling down about something, just go out in the ocean,” he said. “It’s a great cure.”
“Or,” he added, “go play a game of pickleball.”
More information is available on the Bings’ website: www.noosapickleballacademy.com.