What do pickle ball and “Game of Thrones” have in common? Eitan uses the analogy to describe pickle ball as the “most addicting game” he’s ever played. One game (or episode of Thrones) and you are hooked. He first experienced pickle ball as part of a Lifetime Sports class at Berkley High School in 1998. At the time, he was an avid basketball player and continued to be one for several years. But back problems and the physical stress of basketball brought Eitan back to pickle ball and it has become his number 1 sport. In addition to playing here in Ann Arbor he’s also competing against some of the best younger players in the area at places like the Ann Arbor Y and Royal Oak. But he says Ann Arbor has a reputation now for having a good coalition of players, and that the level of play here at MLM has greatly advanced since he began playing here a little over 3 years ago.
When Eitan started playing the game seriously after arriving in Ann Arbor, he says what made it difficult was “playing the game the wrong way for about a year or so.” He was a slammer. He could hit it hard and got by, winning over less proficient players. But, as he began playing against “better players” he realized he had to play the “small game,” – that is learn to play at the net and dink and to learn how to hit the 3rd shot drop down, which is probably the hardest thing to do. He would advise any beginning player to learn how to play the game “the right way” if they really want to get good at the game. He stresses that hard shots are easily returned by good players. He explains the 3rd shot drop down as the “greatest equalizer” in the game, and compares to the 3 pointer in basketball. He says, ‘that’s why they have the kitchen.” He thinks the lob shot has a 50-50 success rate at best, against good players. He adds, “I think it can be effective when everyone is dinking, and it’s not advertised. That’s when it’s most effective.”
Pickle ball is “the most fun sport I’ve ever played,” says Eitan. He says, “It’s very addictive and very social. Getting to know the people is one of the greatest things about the game.” Eitan then brought up a bias that he sees in the game, and that is the tendency for higher level players to avoid playing with people below their level of play. He understands this and concedes that even he wants to play several games with players at his own level. But, he says there is a “better way” to handle this situation. The top players should look at the game as a give and take between bettering their own games through competition, and also looking at their own roles in helping others learn the game by engaging in matches with less competent players – giving them a chance to learn and to improve their games.
Eitan says he has been most positively influenced in life by his younger brother and his wife. He says “I always wanted to do things for my brother, and that brought a lot of fulfillment to me.” He gives his wife credit for a lot of things that have made him a better person. He says that she told him that he “waited way too long to propose to her” – 2 and half years. They have been happily married for 5 years and are hoping to have children soon.
Eitan loves the outdoors, not in a hunting/fishing way, but experiencing the beauty of it. He’s seen all the national parks in Utah, mentions the vast beauty of the American West and the inspiration of the oceans. He hopes to see, among other places, Hawaii.
Eitan was born on a kibbutz in Israel, where he lived the first 10 years of his life. He believes the experience taught him a degree of self-reliance and a good work ethic. He says he was making “good money” at age 16 working in construction, and continued that work after graduating from high school. He has owned his construction company for the past 6 years
Eitan says, “It’s pretty special. It’s amazing how fast I was able to make friends through the game of pickleball.”