Super Senior International Pickleball Association
Polly Unger
Surprise, AZ
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I have loved sports ever since I can remember! Growing up in OH, baseball was my favorite and attending games was a treat for my family.  My dad caught foul balls from Pee-Wee Reese and Hank Aaron.   One of my big regrets is he let me play with them and I lost them in the weeds. 

I attended Jr High through college in Albuquerque, NM.  Highland High had a terrific PE dept & Girls Athletic Ass. sponsor, headed by Elvira (Tiny) Vidano.   The 7 HS competed in: volleyball, basketball, softball, field hockey, speed a way, table tennis, and badminton. I played A LOT of table tennis, and that is when I believe my quick hands and spins developed.

Title IX wasn’t passed until after I graduated from UNM, so our teams weren’t treated anything like the men’s teams. Twenty years after I graduated, UNM awarded us our athletic letters for volleyball, basketball and softball.

In the summers, I played shortstop on the best fast pitch teams in the city; the Jokers and then the Teenies. I was the MVP at a Memorial Day Tournament in Albuquerque and the Grants-Milan Invitational Tournament, but haven’t played since.

My dad taught me how to play tennis when I was in HS.  That’s how I learned to anticipate so well.  I decided to try an individual sport, so tried out for the tennis team.  I played the #4 position & won the first trophy earned by a UNM women’s player. 


I have always wanted to be a PE teacher so that was my major in college.  When I graduated, I was hired by the Window Rock School district on the Navajo Reservation where I taught 7th and 8th grade girls for 4 years.  Next I moved to Roswell, NM, and taught at the HS for two.  Wickenburg was my last stop where I taught PE for 32 years. Most of my career was teaching 6-8th. At all three locations, I coached volleyball, basketball, and softball.

Nearly every year, I attended PE workshops and conferences.  In the late 80’s, pickleball was taught at one of the sessions. I really liked it and added it to my curriculum.  Because the wooden paddles handles broke when dropped and the balls cracked too often, the school bought molded plastic paddles and I collected “dead” tennis balls for play.  Earl Hill (Hall of Famer), gave a demonstration at my school and introduced me to Keith Bisel.  Keith was the BEST teacher and for many years brought friends to work with my students (all day for 2 weeks in the Fall and 2 Spring).  (He didn’t see how the students could play with my equipment, so began bringing his own for the students to use). It’s very rewarding to know that some of those same students are playing in tournaments in the Surprise area. 

I’ve lived in Surprise, AZ since ‘93.  In 2012, I discovered a group of 3.0 ladies who played at the Surprise city courts.  They soon suggested I go play with the 3.5’s. My competitive juices began flowing again.

I became hooked on tournaments in 2013 and every year since!  I’ve learned & won at least two medals with: Phil Arrino, Cynthia Helfrich, Norma Kaping, Bob Carl, Debbie Belanger, Debbie Forrester, Jean Marsh, Judy Graves, Suz Liley, Carol Cooper, Rita Weihe, & Dean Loveland. Wayne Muggli helped me a lot when I was transitioning from a 4.0 to 4.5.   Other helpful lessons were by Gigi LeMaster, Dee Ahern, & Mary Kozak.


My most memorable tournament was at the 2019 Grand Canyon/AZ State Games.  I saw that Hall of Famer, Mark Friedenburg needed a partner. I thought about it for several days before garnering the courage to ask him. He said okay, but that I’d have to play tough. I’ve never been so proud of a medal, a bronze!  Yoda couldn’t have been a better partner. He helped me to relax, suggested simple strategies, and let me play my game. It was a once in a lifetime experience, which I will never forget.

Another very memorable tournament was in Albuquerque at the 2019 Natl Sr Games. I’m not a 5.0 player, so am not fond the age only ones.  Sandy Scanlan  & I had never partnered before, but we beat a 5.0 team for the bronze medal. Sandy is a very positive competitor and wouldn’t let us lose.

My third highlight was playing with Rodney Grubbs (Rocket), at the Dual in the Desert this year. Poor Rocket didn’t have a chance since I played so poorly, but was so nice.  I hope to play with him and redeem myself someday.

Only one thing could take me away from pickleball and is being a Grauntie to my two nearly four grandnephews, Leonard and Sheldon.  Their parents let me be a big part of their lives.  I prefer playing pickleball in Surprise, but they are why my permanent address is now in Colorado.

Pickleball is really fun and challenging to play, but the BEST part has been all the friendships I’ve developed.  I love going to the courts to visit and play with everyone. I’m thrilled to see how the sport is growing and I can say I am officially an addict!

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