You’ll never see a sour face on the seven pickleball courts at the Life Fitness Center, Bettendorf.

On any given day, the center is a hub of activity for 45 to 50 pickleball players, who are on the courts by 7:30 a.m.

Randy Wince of Davenport has created special events, competitions and gatherings that enhance the community atmosphere for players on and off the courts.

Wince, retired from Northwestern Bell, is an event planner at heart. When he worked at Northwestern Bell, he was the go-to guy to set up birthday parties and other celebrations.

Now he applies his knack for engaging others and enhancing the community of his fellow pickleball players. Every month, there’s a celebration: For example, earlier in March, Wince orchestrated a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. “I’ve had 55-plus people for every party,” he said. “On St. Pat’s, we had 75.”

Wince underwent back surgery sometime before he began playing pickleball in March 2018. He says pickleball has helped his recovery, both mentally and physically.

One day, after kidding around that players needed to compete for WWE-type belts, Wince decided to bring in belts. Now players in both A and B divisions compete for traveling belts. Winners wear the belts for a week, and then they go on to other winners.

For smaller trophies, players play for keeps.

Mary Kurtz of Bettendorf who has won national tennis tournaments, has played pickleball for two years. She played tennis for 50 years, and says it’s the people who drew her to pickleball. “It’s the camaraderie,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Most of the morning pickleball players at the center are retired. Wince says that’s indicative of the sport in general: 43 percent of pickleballers are ages 55 or older, he said. It's considered a family sport, and everyone is welcome to play regardless of skill level.

“If I hadn’t found pickleball, I would’ve had to find another job,” said Kurtz, who is retired from working the front desk at the center.

When you walk onto the courts, you’ll see various fitness levels of players, many of whom are slender and muscular.

Both Kurtz and Wince say it builds strengths and burns calories. One of the oldest players, in his middle 80s, is “super-strong on the court,” Wince said.

Life Fitness Center members play free. It’s $4 for non-members to play. Spectators are welcome. “The fitness center absolutely has been a big part in helping (pickleball) grow,” Wince said, adding Crown Trophy has helped with prizes.

In addition to the courts at the Life Fitness Center, players enjoy the sport at courts throughout the Quad-Cities. For more information, call the Life Fitness Center at 563-344-4119, find Wince on Facebook and Instagram or email the Quad-Cities Pickleball Club at qcpickleball@gmail.com

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

Load comments