Pickleball has conquered community parks, cable television and is scoring big with the population and staff at California Medical Facility (CMF).
Roger BelAir, known as a pickleball pioneer, volunteers his time to teach the sport in prisons. He visited CMF on May 4 to bring pickleball to staff and the incarcerated population.
The effort was captured by television and film producer Daniel Ostroff, who is working on a documentary focused on BelAir and his passion for pickleball.
Pickleball fosters physical activity, improves mental health
Pickleball combines tennis, table tennis and badminton. According to BelAir, pickleball has a way of breaking down barriers, accessible to players of all ages and backgrounds. The sport also fosters sportsmanship and promotes exercise. All this positively impacts mental health and wellness, helping the incarcerated population successfully rehabilitate.
“Here in recreation, what we are trying to do is elevate physical, social and mental well-being by connecting people to something larger than themselves. In this case, a pickleball community,” said Recreation Supervisor Jeremiah Holland.
Laughter, encouragement and healthy competition filled the CMF Gym as staff and the incarcerated population learned pickleball.
“For a moment there, when I was playing pickleball with the incarcerated population, we were just people. I wasn’t a Warden, they weren’t incarcerated folks. We were all just people in a gym playing pickleball and we had a great time,” said acting Warden Daniel E. Cueva.
Pickleball is on the rise and CMF leadership is thankful the documentary crew and BelAir chose their institution as one of the locations for the documentary.
This is one more step on the rehabilitative path of the California Model.
Story submitted by Lt. P. Gonzalez
Photos by Richard Tan, Television Specialist