This guy is in quite the pickle

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Ken Scoggins used a little bit of social media and a lot of passion for pickleball to help get Siesta Key into the swing of things

By Jane Bartnett

Pickleball. It’s the fastest-growing sport in America.
For Siesta Key resident Ken Scoggins, it’s also a sport that this former professional croquet instructor wanted to make accessible to everyone on Siesta Key.
Scoggins, a lifelong tennis player, began playing pickleball about seven years ago.
“About a year ago, I decided to start a Facebook page called Siesta Key Pickleball,” said Scoggins, a former track standout at the University of Oklahoma. “The courts needed repair and you really had to bring your own net.”
So, Scoggins decided that he needed to find a way to encourage Sarasota County to make pickleball available to Siesta Key visitors and residents alike.
“I hoped to get 100 people to sign on,” he said. Before long, more and more people were posting and following. To give the page a boost, Scoggins decided to let followers of the Pickleball Forum Facebook page know about the Siesta Key page. And, like a lightning-fast serve, it took off.
“The county was watching,” Scoggins said. “They started saying to themselves, ‘We’ve got to do something.’”

Ken Scoggins is all smiles in his Siesta Beach pickleball setting. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

He was right — the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department did do something. On Sept. 18, the county began to create six new pickleball courts from the existing tennis courts that face Beach Road, at the edge of the Siesta Beach parking lot.
“The county gave up two of the four tennis courts and created six new pickleball courts on that space,” he said. Less than a month later, on Oct. 10, when the new courts opened, players discovered six newly resurfaced pickleball courts and two newly resurfaced tennis courts. All had pristine new nets.

“The courts are good as new,” said Scoggins.
Outdoor lighting was another bonus for players, making the courts available for play until 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, as of mid-January the Siesta Key Pickleball page had 1,300 followers. The success and popularity of the page continues to amaze its creator.
“I make sure that the page only has pickleball-related posts,” he said. “There are no ads here. That’s not what it’s about.”
After taking a break from playing a recent match, Scoggins talked about the game, the players who flock to the new courts, and why it’s a sport that he’s convinced is here for the long run.
“Players at the Siesta Key courts are welcoming to each other,” Scoggins said. “It’s the most accepting crowd I’ve ever been around.”

Scoggins delivers a serve. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

Although he is a high-level player, Scoggins said that he’s happy to play with beginners and players of all levels. “I just play my soft/dink game,” he said. “I don’t coach unless they ask me to.”
There are also many excellent players, he said, but emphasized his belief that no one should feel intimidated or not welcome at the courts. “Here, people just show up to play,” said Scoggins. “Those who want to have a competitive game can find it, but it’s also a welcoming place for those who are new to the game or play an intermediate game. You put your paddle down and meet new people. Pickleball is played casually here. You play to 11 points — that’s a Sarasota County rule. It’s four people on and four people off. Each game runs about 20 minutes. It’s a friendly crowd.”
Before relocating to Siesta Key in November 2022, Scoggins ran his own investment firm in Oklahoma and Texas. After stops in Seaside, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; and the Fort Myers area, he discovered Sarasota.
“The arts and the beaches were a big draw along with golf and national croquet competitions,” he said.
And although Scoggins played tennis for many years and excelled at it, the more inclusive sport of pickleball has become his go-to sport.
And it’s catching on with people of all ages. “It’s an easy game to learn and it’s easy to improve as you keep playing,” Scoggins said. “The older crowd started it but it’s going strong with young people, too.”
For example: On the Caravan PPA Tour, which is the global governing body of men’s and women’s professional pickleball, 16-year-old Florida resident Anna Leigh Waters is the youngest pickleball champion in history. Although pickleball is not currently an Olympic sport, there is strong speculation that it may one day be added to the games.
As for Scoggins, playing pickleball on the courts of Siesta Key is about as good as it gets. He enjoys the social aspect of the game, the people that he meets, and the fun.
“We’re bursting at the seams here already,” he said as he scanned the courts that were filled with players. “On a typical day we can have 57 people playing and waiting to get on the court.”
They are people who are in a good mood, to boot.
“I love Siesta Key. It’s a flip-flop kind of place,” Scoggins said. “How can you be angry and mad in Siesta Key? We’re here at the No. 1 beach in America.”

The six new courts are seeing plenty of activity. (photo by Jane Bartnett)
Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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