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Can Recreation Reconnect The Digitally Divided?

Can Recreation Reconnect The Digitally Divided?

  • With technology and social media allure, the epidemic of disconnection is real. Can pickleball and family recreation save it? Kevin Richards, Founder of RECS - believes so.

 Amidst a fractured culture, where society and family time hinge at the mercy of social media allure, the epidemic of disconnection is real. Can pickleball and family recreation save it? Kevin Richards, Founder of RECS – believes so. RECS provides an experience where patrons “Recreate, Exercise, Compete, and Socialize” affordably and together, reinforcing family values where communities realign. We sat down with Kevin to discuss the future of recreation and the guiding principles behind RECS.

What made you decide to open RECS? What was your vision, and what do you think sets it apart? 

RECS stands for “Recreate, Exercise, Compete, Socialize.” I’ve been working on this concept since 2015. I’ve always loved both playing and watching sports, but I had grown weary of how much traditional sports had been swallowed by the big machinery all around us, sucking the joy out of what healthy recreation should be. Some friends and I enjoyed regularly playing a game we made up on a tennis court years ago with a soccer ball, basically “soccer tennis,” or as we came to call it, “sonnis.” It was the perfect mix of recreation, exercise, competition, and fun. It was a re-introduction to a game I had forgotten about – pickleball. Watching people play at the local park, I realized that the joy they were experiencing was exactly the same as my friends and I from our hybrid game, and the idea of a club built around a social, sporting experience came to me. From that day forward, I focused on bringing this vision to life.  

What did you do in your previous life? 

You could say I was a jack of all trades, master of none. I had some sales, some operations, and plenty of marketing experience. And I really was collecting experiences and trying to find my calling in life. I’m just so invigorated to have found it, and to see people in our club full of joy doing something so healthy and rewarding on every level is incredibly fulfilling. 

What would you say is the biggest misconception of recreation as a whole? How much do you think it benefits people of all ages in terms of escaping their devices?

I think the biggest misconception about recreation is that it is just for kids. The state of “playing” is critical to the human experience. We are hardwired to play games and sports, and the idea that this is something one should “outgrow” is not only false, it is dangerous. Playing keeps us young and should be treated as a priority. As for the device question, I like to call the experience we provide at RECS “analog connectivity.” You can’t be on your device while you’re playing, which is a gift in itself. The synapses in your brain that are connecting when you’re playing make you healthier and happier. It’s the antidote to the digital addiction that our society is grappling with.  

What is the Pickleball Culture like in Portland? Can you describe its unique style?

Portland has an amazing pickleball culture, which is due in large part to the proximity to Puget Sound, where pickleball began in 1965. It really incubated in the Pacific Northwest for a few decades and could be found in places like P.E. classes in schools, which is where I was first introduced to it in the 80s, just a couple miles from RECS, in fact. We are lucky to have pickleball living legend Steve Paranto, who was inducted into the third class of the Pickleball Hall of Fame in 2019, teaching at our club, along with so many talented instructors and pros, many of whom owe their start in the game to Steve teaching them how to play and improve. He is emblematic of the culture that you still mostly find in pickleball – extremely welcoming, encouraging, and joyous about the game and its benefits. 

What do you think the future holds for pickleball? And for Entrepreneurs in the space?

Because pickleball has such a low barrier to entry, is impossible to master, and can be played on any court really, I believe the growth won’t slow down for a long, long time. It’s just too addictive. You’re going to see more and more municipalities adding public courts and more indoor facilities popping up. It’s a gold rush right now, for sure, and it will be fascinating to watch the landscape evolve, but the good news is that it should become easier over time for people to find places to play that fit their lifestyle and budget. 

Any notable events coming up at RECS?

Once a month, we hold a “Challenge the Pros” night in which high-level players can take on a couple of the top players in the region or even in the entire country, for that matter. On Saturday, February 24th, our pros are teenage phenom Aidan Schenk and Senior stud Stefan Andren. If anyone beats the pros, they get their money back! (Note: nobody ever beats the pros, though!). We are also thrilled to host, for the first time, the Oregon Women’s Team Cup on Saturday, June 1st, which will feature the top female players drafted on six different teams. (We will also host the Oregon Men’s Team Cup on Saturday, October 5th, for the second year in a row). We’re also announcing our summer camp programs, which will be expanding beyond just pickleball this year into other fun games and sports as well.  

In addition to Hall of Famer Steve Paranto playing and teaching at our club, we have three more Hall of Famers whom we’ve awarded Lifetime RECS Memberships to:

  • Enrique “El Condor” Ruiz (class of 2019)
  • Wes Gabrielsen (class of 2021)
  • Norm Davis (class of 2021)

We are, in fact, big supporters of the Pickleball Hall of Fame, as the preservation and honoring of the game’s history and those who pushed it forward is important to keeping pickleball grounded in its roots, no matter how high it may climb.

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