Pickleball (PB) is the fastest growing sport in the world at the moment, with over eight million people playing it in the US alone, and projections point to a 100 percent increase in the number of people playing every two years.
Most pickleball players describe the game as a mixture of tennis, badminton and table tennis. PB is a game that spans generations from alphas to baby boomers.
In the United States, popular celebrities who play pickleball include Justin Bieber, Bill Gates, Emma Watson, Kelly Rowland, Ellen DeGeneres, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The only celebrities known to play PB in the Philippines are the Zobel de Ayala family.
There are people in my village who play pickleball, and I was invited to join. I must say, this game is quite addictive. Our coach Lorena informed me that Nancy Cornejo, a singer, was planning to organize a celebrity tournament for PB.
I recently caught up with After Image’s award-winning singer, who sang my favorite songs “Habang May Buhay” and “Next in Line.” My objective was to interview him and help him promote his vision for the first-ever Celebrity Pickleball Tournament in the Philippines by bringing other celebrities on board.
Gossip Girl: I heard you recently won a PB tournament.
Vency: Yes Giselle, I recently won a silver medal for the 55+ singles category at the 2023 PPF Invitational at the Tivoli Royale covered court. My doubles partner Alan Hermano won the gold medal.
Gossip Girl: How did you learn this game and what made it so addictive?
A tennis friend who had been bugging me to try pickleball for over a year finally got his way last June 2023 and brought me to the Welcome Pickleball Club where I learned the rudimentary skills to be able to play. I was in two minds whether I liked it or not at first. After 2 more sessions, I realized I liked it and was more interested in furthering my skills, so I took clinics at different pickleball locations. There is something special about pickleball that makes it really addictive, is that it is quite easy to learn how to play the game, but it requires a lot of dedication and discipline to advance your skills, and that challenge Brings you back for more.
Gossip Girl: I heard you influenced the creation of PB Court for veterans. tell us about it.
Wensi: I played tennis at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) during the pandemic and became friends with most of the tennis players there. When they decided to put a roof on and convert the shell courts to hard courts earlier this year, our President, Rommel “Abe” Abesamis, had enough foresight to suggest and actually add pickleball courts to the proposed construction of the facility . With the help of Congressman Onyx Crisologo, they received funding and approval from the DPWH to move forward with the project. Thus, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center-Upper House Tennis and Pickleball Club (VMMC-UHTPC) was born. Construction began in mid-2021 and we are ready to open any day soon. Luckily, I was the only pickleball player Abe knew and I was offered the position of director of the pickleball courts. I was hesitant at first, knowing that being new to the game might raise a lot of eyebrows, but the board was adamant that I be the one to take the spot, so I took the plunge. VMMC-UHTPC is home to 2 tennis and 3 pickleball courts that comply with international surface standards.
Gossip Girl: Which Celebs Play PB, and Why Do You Think They Play It?
Wensi: To date, I only know two other celebrities who play. Dion Castillejo and Kuya Tirso Cruz III. Some celebrities like Solenn Heussaff and Anne Curtis play a similar game called paddle. But I am sure this number will increase soon, especially now that I am at the helm of VMMC-UHTPC. As soon as the facility opens, I’m hosting a pickleball clinic for many of my celeb friends, including you, Giselle. That’s why I added you to the celebrity group chat in messenger so that when the courts open, I can start training you and all the celebs in the group chat like Ice Seguerra and other singers in the group chat. Your column is also my way of reaching out to other celebrities and non-celebrities interested in trying the sport. I’d like to tap all my famous friends, but honestly, the easiest people to teach are the ones who have a background in racket sports, so off the top of my head, Piolo Pascual and the Legazpi brothers (Zoren and Kier). Maybe they will become fantastic pickleball players due to the fact that Piolo is a great badminton player and Zoren and Kier are excellent tennis players. If I can teach at least 6-8 celebrities how to play pickleball, I plan to hold a celebrity pickleball exhibition in the first quarter of next year. It doesn’t have to be a tournament. I want to promote the sport, what better way than involving celebrities to attract more people?” People interested in learning PB can contact my coach Lorena on 09163425976.