When Deb Harrison was born, she was the boy her dad always wanted.
“I was my father’s boy. After two girls, he wanted a boy,” Harrison said.
In the athletic arena, she sparkled.
That she was able to accomplish so much is amazing.
“I barely survived,” she said. “I was three months premature,”
But survive she did.
Maybe because of her tough time as a baby made her such a strong competitor.
Harrison played field hockey, basketball and softball at Walpole (Mass.) High School.
The 1966 graduate was named class athlete at the school.
She then journeyed to the University of Massachusetts where she captained the field hockey team and was elected to the United States Field Hockey team from 1968-72.
Upon graduation, Harrison didn’t journey far from competition. She just moved to the sidelines as a coach.
“I’ve always been a coach,” Harrison said.
Among the places she coached and taught were Chatham (New York) High School, Pine Manor (Mass) College, Mount Holyoke (Mass) College and the University of Bridgeport (Conn).
Harrison continued to give lessons in tennis and other racquet sports while operating a jewelry store on Cape Cod for around 20 years
She lived temporarily in Fort Myers.
It was there, she found a sport that would change her life forever.
She was introduced to pickleball.
In 2004, she visited friends in The Villages. The community was fast becoming a hot bed of the sport she had seen in Fort Myers.
“The beauty of the game is people who have never played sports can get into pickleball,” Harrison said. “It’s easy to learn, but is hard to perfect – just like golf,”
Enamored by the pickleball program in The Villages, she returned to Fort Myers and put her home and business up for sale.
Harrison moved to The Villages in 2004 and moved to the community permanently in July of 2005.
The resident of the Village of Briar Meadow South has won several trophies and medals at events across the nation since that move.
She hopes to remain involved in the sport of pickleball in one capacity or another.
“There are a lot of players better than me. As I get older, I’m not as sharp as the 30-year-olds, ” Harrison said. “I still love the game and still play well at it. I do more teaching than playing at this point. I’m probably in the top 20 or 30 percent.”
Despite cutting back, Harrison still spends 20-25 hours a week on the court.
“My basic core and soul is court related,” she said. “If I couldn’t do it, I would lose my soul.”
Harrison said she is learning the sport every day.
“I’m learning all of the time,” she said. “I am always adding weapons to my quiver. I am a big thief. When I go to nationals, I always steal from the better players.”
Pickleball is not Harrison’s only vehicle of recreation.
“The three P’s are my addiction – pickleball, ping pong and poker,” she said with a laugh.
Harrison has several instructional videos on YouTube under PicklePong Deb.
Harrison travels across the country promoting pickleball, but now it’s on someone else’s dime.
“ProLite is sponsoring me to do workshops,”
Harrison said. “They pay my travel and lodging to go to major tournaments. It’s on their bill. They send me all over the country.”
Harrison didn’t pick up pickleball until later in life, but you can bet that if there is serious pickleball going on she’ll be there in the middle of it in one capacity or another.