Colleen Springborn is one of Southern Saratoga’s dedicated Pickleball players, who has gone above and beyond the role of member, and transformed into a beloved volunteer.
She wasn’t always into Pickleball. At first, her exercise routine was minimal.
“I would come in and use the treadmill, watch Regis and Kathy Lee and then I would go home,” said Colleen.
A few years ago, she had to take some time off to recovery from a few surgeries. When she returned, she witnessed her first game of Pickleball and she was immediately hooked.
“I didn’t know what it was at the time, so I asked,” said Colleen. “They said that someone would be here teaching on Monday night, so I signed up.”
Four and a half years later, she’s here, helping the sport grow.
When Pickleball first started at the Southern Saratoga YMCA, there were only 30 to 40 people who were interested in playing the game. But just last year, they had around 120 people who wanted to learn the game.
“People would come in and want to learn how to play, but it was hard for them to come in and join a game with people who already knew how to play,” explained Colleen. “There was no one to teach them.”
That’s when Colleen stepped in.
Although Colleen doesn’t consider herself a teacher, she takes the time to teach new players the rules and basic techniques so they can hold their own on the court.
She worked with YMCA staff members as an ambassador for the players, recently becoming an official Member Ambassador, as part of a program started by Membership Director, Aaron Ditch.
“The reason I work at the YMCA is because of great people like Colleen Springborn,” said Aaron. “Colleen volunteers by organizing programs like Line Dancing, helps teach Beginner Pickleball, organizes socials events and acts as a conduit between the Y and our Pickleball players, all without fanfare. It takes a special person to want to do those sorts of duties and Colleen has that special talent.”
She has taken her role as a volunteer very seriously. She lobbied for more gym space and more times to play, allowing the sport to reach its full potential.
“There’s always a line of people waiting with their paddles for a chance to play. That gets quite frustrating,” said Colleen. “So we’ve been working with Mike Scidmore to get more gym space.”
Her role as a member advocate never stops.
“She’s the energizer bunny of volunteers,” said Mike. “She just keeps going and going.”
That’s not all. Colleen also spearheaded a social gathering for Southern Saratoga Pickleball players that they call “The Social”.
“It gives people a chance to meet people off the court. It kind of breaks the tension,” said Colleen. “When you know someone socially, it’s kind of hard to get mad at them on the court.”
At each Social, they have anywhere between 8 and 70 people, and Colleen was even able to make a connection from her past.
“It’s a funny story,” smiled Colleen. “I was talking to a fellow player at The Social and he never comes to the socials. Never talks much. So I asked him what he did before he retired and played Pickleball. He said he coached tennis and soccer at Shaker.”
That’s when everything clicked.
“I said, you were my husband’s soccer coach,” laughed Colleen. “And then it dawned on me because I keep an e-mail list with all the names. So I asked, ‘Were you ever a teacher?’ He said yes. I said ‘At Southgate School in Colonie’? He said yes. I said, ‘I was your 5th grade student.’”
Its 50 years later and Colleen has played with this gentleman for over a year. Now, she knows him as Ray. Back then, she knew him as Mr. Nunez.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Colleen. “My mother actually has a photo of us from back then. I’m going to bring it in and give it to him.”
Not only has Pickleball brought people from her past, but it’s also connecting her with people in the present.
“My grandkids made fun of me when I was telling them about the game,” smiled Colleen. “They said it was an old people’s game. So I got my daughters and grandkids to come in and play.”
Colleen laughed at the memory.
“Of course, it wasn’t as easy as they had expected,” smiled Colleen, remembering her victory. “They have been in a couple tournaments since then. It’s not always cool to hang out with grandma, but now we have something to do together.”
Thanks to the Y, Colleen has found a new passion that she can share with her friends and family alike.
“It’s friendly here. It’s a nice place for people to get together and physically do stuff,” said Colleen. “The staff has been nothing but kind and cordial. They really want to make it so that it’s the best it can be.”
Colleen’s efforts are not only supported by the staff, but she also has the support of her fellow Pickleball players.
“I am very thankful for the handful of players that have always pitched in and been there to help me with what ever I needed at any time, because I could never do all this by myself,” said Colleen. “I really enjoy what I do and I am happy I have the opportunity to do it.”