The Villages near Orlando, Florida, a virtual mecca for pickle ball players, is where Rick first played the game. His parents live at The Villages and Rick was visiting them sometime “around ’08” when they encouraged him to try pickle ball. After playing just one game, he loved it right away. But he was primarily focused on badminton at the time, and was also playing a lot of tennis.
In Ann Arbor, Rick was teachng badminton at the Y, but then started a pickle ball program at the Y and started playing more himself. He first played at Mary Lou Murray (MLM) about 3 years ago and now pickle ball has become Rick’s favorite game. He says, “ It’s much more fun than tennis ever was.” He also adds “I just love the thinking aspect of it.” He says it is a subtle game involving lots of strategy. Another reason Rick likes pickle ball is that he can compete with a lot of the younger guys, whereas in tennis he was no longer able to do that. Like many of our better players, Rick began playing pickle ball as “a slammer,” but soon learned it was not a game of strength. He says, the small game, the dinking, is the way to score. It’s a game of finesse.
Rick says the most difficult part of the game for him has been learning to relax, especially when he is playing against better players. He says, “I get tense and then overcompensate, and swing too hard.” He stresses the importance of being calm on the court, taking a breath, and letting the ball come to you. He enjoys playing with all levels of players, but believes the only way to improve is to compete against better players. He says he finds the players at MLM are “just amazing people, just the nicest people. I like the older people, they all have very interesting stories.”
Rick is now 55 years old. He grew up in San Jose, California, graduated from high school in Philadelphia, has a degree in Finance from Penn State, and a MBA from Frostburg State University in Maryland. After living in Howell and working in banking for several years, Rick and his wife moved to Ann Arbor about 4 years ago. Rick is now working for General Motors in Detroit where he runs the Dealers Sales Systems. He’s in charge of 4400 dealers across America. He anticipates retiring in maybe 5-6 years. He already owns a place in The Villages, as well as a home in Brighton. He and his wife reside in a downtown Ann Arbor condo. Their balcony affords them a nice view of Ann Arbor, including the Big House. The Langfords are the parents of three children; a 24 year old daughter, Maria, soon to be married, a son graduating from MSU this year, and another son in undergraduate school at MSU. Rick says his life is all GO-GREEN.
Apparently, something in Rick’s make-up attracts him to “downtowns.” He hopes to be able to live for one entire year in Manhattan. He says, “I love it. I don’t know why.” He agrees it is congested and very expensive, but says above all , “it’s fascinating.” He compares his downtown Ann Arbor condo life-style to that of New York, just on a much smaller scale.
Rick loves pop-music, and volunteers at The Ark, but says he really likes all music. Yes, he drives a GM car.