Pickleball proves to be a ‘dill-ight’ for Dartmouth resident

Apr 9, 2024

Dartmouth’s Michael Lipp, 70, has been an athlete all his life. 

When Lipp retired from his teaching job at Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical School, he realized his sport of choice — swimming — and his gardening hobby were not the best ways to meet people when much of it is completed solitarily. 

“I really need people in my life,” Lipp said, which is why when a friend of his wife suggested he try wheelchair tennis, he didn’t hesitate in getting started. 

Having been diagnosed with polio as a child, Lipp has needed braces and crutches to walk, but with good reflexes as well as hand-and-eye coordination, he was excited at the prospect of this new opportunity. 

“I was ecstatic that I was able to move around in a chair much faster than I had been able to move before I had polio as a child,” he said. “I walked with the brace and I walked with crutches and now I’m in a wheelchair and going faster than I’ve ever gone.”

But Lipp didn’t stop at wheelchair tennis, eventually he tried out wheelchair pickleball and fell in love with the sport, which he’s been playing now for the last six years.

“You get to be around a lot of happy, healthy people and you get to meet a lot of people,” he said. “It’s a great way to socialize and get exercise and then be competitive.”

Lipp has competed in a number of competitions during his time in the sport, including the U.S. Open in Naples, Florida back in 2022. Winning a number of medals, he was able to secure a sponsorship with Selkirk Sport, a pickleball equipment manufacturing company. 

Also among his favorite accomplishments is being named the 2022 Bay State Male Athlete of the Year.

Lipp said his accomplishments keep his confidence up, but come night time, he sometimes begins to second guess himself. 

“I’m trying to rule out the negativity that comes with caring about a sport and wanting to do your best,” he said.

In terms of the accessibility of the game, Lipp said there are slightly different rules for wheelchair users, including the allowance of a double bounce given the limitations of moving side to side in a wheelchair. The pickleball courts are also designed with slightly bigger dimensions.

When traveling the country to participate in tournaments, Lipp has played wheelchair-only tournaments, hybrid tournaments where one partner uses a wheelchair and the other doesn’t and also as the only player in a wheelchair.

Lipp said when designing a pickleball court that is accessible for wheelchair users, the entrance gate must also be considered. Sports wheelchairs are made much wider than most wheelchairs in order to prevent tipping or other accidents during game play. Sometimes the gate for pickleball courts isn’t large enough to accommodate the size of the wheelchair.

Having been a Dartmouth resident all his life, Lipp said, “I feel happy that I can represent our area as best I can and I'm proud to be sponsored by Selkirk Sport.”