Can the fastest-growing sport in America help heal a broken heart and create a community for marginalized groups?
“Everybody comes. Everybody is welcome. And that diversity and that inclusion is like really important to us. And I think in pickleball, there hasn't really been a landing spot for that. And we're trying to create that with this adaptive pickleball program,” said Matt Detkas of the Cincinnati Tennis Foundation.
“Their mission coincided with my heart and my passion. So we've partnered here to really try to make a difference,” said Larry Blundred, author of Ollie Otter series. Read the article on WCPO to understand more and hear how Ollie Otter began.
Read the article here about how Ollie Otter is paving the way for inclusivity for differently-abled kids in Cincinnati who want to play pickleball!
Kyle Yates has come a long way in his pickleball career when, at age 16, he was embarrassed to share with his friends that he discovered and loved pickleball in southwest Florida! Now, 10 years later, he ranks among the best in his pickleball "class" nationally and just managed a major tournament in Atlantic City, where I met Kyle and his team. Find out more in this 3 minute interview. Feel free to share/forward.
Catch my latest podcast with Lani Lomax as she shares her roles with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission and her drive to expand pickleball access to all ages and groups. Find her favorite substitute word for when she gets especially frustrated and her best advice for pickleball players.
Pickleball is a sport for everyone. That’s the message a Cincinnati author and pickleballer wants to share with children and others who may read his new book.
Ollie and His Pickleball Friends Return Home is the follow-up to Larry Blundred’s first children’s book, How Pickleball Saved Ollie Otter, which published in early 2021. Both books feature colorful illustrations by Artist Gabe Fuller depicting critters from around the world.
“I am dedicating the new book to those who strive to be confident, positive and resilient, despite personal or physical setbacks, either permanent or temporary,” Blundred said. “To people who push and persevere despite coping with some form of adversity or challenge.”
The book’s characters are inspired by people Blundred has met while playing pickleball across the U.S. Peyton Panda has attention deficit disorder. Sammy Sloth uses a wheelchair. These characters and others overcome challenges to play pickleball and encourage others to join the game.
Publication of the second book has been delayed by a paper shortage, but the book can be pre-ordered here. Discounts may be available for purchasing both books.
Blundred began playing pickleball and writing about the sport in 2019 while coping with his wife’s terminal cancer diagnosis. The couple had written two books together while she battled a brain tumor. Donna Blundred passed away in August 2020. He wrote the first Ollie Otter book for her.
“Pickleball was just what I needed physically, mentally, socially and emotionally and I wanted to share that with others,” Blundred said.
Earlier this year, I began drafting a second book based on the adventures of Ollie Otter. This time the inspiration came from a different source. Actually, two.
I met Mathias (age 16 at this writing), his brother and mother through Crossroads Church. Mathias plays tennis and basketball from the seat of a specialized wheelchair. He motors with strong hands and arms. He was born with no legs. He soon will be teaching and guiding younger boys and girls who – in our narrow thinking – are limited in what they can do athletically.
Back in February 2021, I was competing in a pickleball tournament in St. Petersburg, Florida when I was inspired again by a fellow player. He played with two prosthetic legs and played well indeed! We watched and applauded as our spirits were lifted by his love of the sport. I thanked him after his matches but did not ask for his name. I took his picture during one of the matches to remind me of what pickleball is all about!
In my forthcoming second children’s book, you’ll meet four new critters who give life to the theme of overcoming fear and adversity. You will see, most importantly, the pivotal role that Ollie Otter, Pauly Penguin, Robby Racoon and Wally Wallaby play – upon returning home – to encourage others and remind them that Love Always Wins!
I am dedicating the book to those who strive to be confident, positive and resilient, despite personal or physical setbacks, either permanent or temporary. To people who push and persevere despite coping with some form of adversity or challenge. They may have been born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AHDH). They may be born without or have lost an extremity in a war or accident, or struggle with their vision or hearing. They may have lost strength in their legs and rely upon a wheelchair. They may have lost a job or a loved one. But they have not given up on life. They approach life – and sports – with smiles and energy. You see them on the tennis and basketball courts and running races. You may in the future see them on pickleball courts more frequently.
They may be playing pickleball now. We are just not aware of it. In the future, pickleball as a sport may have a more collective plan and means to engage and support those that “thrive” in a wheelchair, young and "older."
I hope the book I’m completing now will increase awareness of this need and trigger an increased level of support at the local and national level. I have immense respect for those that play sports with zeal and confidence, despite a disability or challenge that we perhaps consider a challenge, but they do not.
If you would like to be notified when pre-ordering for the new Ollie Otter book opens, provide your name and email address below.
The Pickleball Librarian is passionate about pickleball and books.
He also appreciates the background of a good story. While reviewing How Pickleball Saved Ollie Otter, he pointed out how Author Larry Blundred channeled his grief into writing the story.
“How Pickleball Saved Ollie Otter by Lawrence Blundred is a fun story about lonely animals around the world making new friends. However, the backstory and deep meaning is very powerful,” he wrote on Facebook.
The video review is available to watch on Facebook.
Copies of the book may be purchased here.
A coloring page activity sheet is now available for fans of pickleball and the book How Pickleball Saved Ollie Otter.
Children are asked to find and count the pickleballs hidden in the picture, which can also be colored. The printable activity sheet is available on the activities page.
How Pickleball Saved Ollie Otter is the story of four critters who become fast friends and learn that pickleball is for everyone, regardless of age, size or where you’re from. The book was released in hardcover and paperback editions by Winters Publishing in December 2020.
Recently, I saw the movie "Charlie St. Cloud" for the first time. One of my favorite parts was when star Zack Efron repeats an E.E. Cummings poem, called “Dive For Dreams,” to co-star Amanda Crew.
The poem is about taking chances and trusting your heart, as is the movie’s theme. You really have to see the movie to understand the context of the poem; nonetheless, it has a powerful message. The poem reflects the core of what the critters in my book—and all of us "non critters"—are seeking and needing: hope, purpose, and dreaming beyond the present.
Here is the poem:
dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)
honour the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)
never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for god likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)
Children's book author from Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a heart to encourage children young and old through his books.