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Like so many couples, Michael and Leslie Gottfried were looking for a way to get fresh air and exercise during the pandemic.

photo: Joann Vitelli

The Buckhead residents noticed three pickleball courts had been built at their Midtown golf and tennis club, and they decided to give the sport a try, ultimately playing at the Atlanta Pickleball Center on the westside. Michael quickly became “obsessed,” with Leslie not far behind him. In fact, Michael became so enamored with the sport that he founded PCKL, which sells high-performance pickleball paddles, accessories and more – . For the couple, pickleball is a perfect fit for their busy schedules and a great way to stay active and social.

What really drew you to pickleball?

MICHAEL: It’s perfectly constructed for social interaction. The court is small enough that you can carry on a conversation with the people across the net from you; the games are relatively short; and while it’s fun to win, it’s fun to just play. It’s my preferred exercise at this point in my life.

LESLIE: It’s a quick hobby and good workout. Michael and I don’t get to do a lot together—we have two small children and we both work—but we both love to compete. And the best way to learn the game is to just get out there and do it. I joined a league in the fall, and it helped me get up to speed quickly.

What advice do you have for a novice?

MICHAEL: Get ready to get obsessed. For whatever reason, when you play once, all you want to do is keep playing. If you think you’ll play for an hour, you should probably budget two or three hours because you’re going to want to keep going.

LESLIE: If you don’t have a good couple of first tries, don’t give up. Give yourself at least 10 tries before you decide it’s not for you. And don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s easy to get into your own head about it. The trickiest part is learning about the scoring, where to stand and some of the techniques. You learn by playing.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

MICHAEL: I would say it is the most accessible form of adult competition that exists. Period.

LESLIE: It combines the best parts of physical activity and social interaction. You get that beautiful pairing, which for someone who doesn’t have a lot of extra time, is great.


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