Portia Langley: Pickleball Pioneer

Portia Langley, Program Supervisor at Ebster Recreation Center, was recently featured as  a Pickleball Pioneer in a Pickleball Newsletter. Here is a copy of her interview.

How and when did pickleball come to Decatur Rec?
Pickleball was started at Ebster Rec. in January of 2015. I was familiar with Pickleball from playing it as recreation sport in college at Fort Valley State University. When I was told I would be allowed to create programs for the gym at Ebster, I immediately thought about pickleball and about how I could get the program into Decatur. I wrote a snippet on our Decatur Active Living blog about pickleball and was approached by a resident who was a member of the USA Pickleball Association. He informed me of a USAPA grant for two free pickleball nets and we applied. Once we received the nets, we began playing once a week at Ebster gym. The Champion newspaper ran a short story about pickleball coming to Decatur and we slowly began to grow. The following year, I was asked to add another day of play and we began playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Ebster gym. Now averaging 30-40 players a month, we added a third day last year. We now play pickleball 3x a week at Ebster. We also added painted lines and barricades to accommodate the growing sport.

Tell us why pickleball and Decatur pickleball players are so special? 
Pickleball was a lot of fun when I played in college. I remember everyone participating and it didn’t matter that it had a funny name.

Being naturally athletic, I enjoyed playing basketball, softball and volleyball, but pickleball was different. You can really talk to your teammate when playing doubles which creates a more relaxed environment, and that’s the case with Decatur Pickleballers as well.

Many of our our players are retired, but we also have 30 somethings on their lunch breaks, visitors in town just for the week, people who have flexible work schedules, and other city employees who join us for play at Ebster. The atmosphere is fun with friendly competition and conversations throughout the hours of play. I think Decatur is unique in that way as well the gym itself. Ebster is a state of the art gymnasium with tinted windows and barricade partitions separating the courts.

How long have you worked for the City of Decatur Recreation Department?

I’ve worked for the City of Decatur for 5 years and was brought in while Ebster Rec. center was under renovation. Ebster Rec. center officially reopened in May 2015.

Are you a native of Atlanta? If not, what brought you here? 
I was born and raised on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I left St. Croix to attend college in Georgia and I’ve been here ever since — in Atlanta for 18 years.

What do you enjoy outside of work? 
Outside of work I enjoy performing on my stilts around town as well as thrifting and photography.
I also play pickleball in my spare time in Clayton County and East Point, GA. I registered for my first pickleball tournament in August and I’m headed to the State championship games in one week.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?
People may be surprised to know I enjoy sci-fi shows including Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

Tell us about your family.
My family is mostly back home in the Virgin Islands. I visit my Mom and family at least twice a year if I can. My Dad moved to Georgia from St. Croix and has lived here for over 30 years.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I encourage people to come out and try the game of pickleball. It’s so much fun — once you try it, you’ll want to play again! The sport is for all ages and we love for people to come out to Ebster gym and give it a try.

Pickleball Schedule at Ebster Recreation Center:
Tuesday and Friday, 11 am – 2 pm
Wednesday, 2 – 6 pm ( until 5 pm during youth basketball season)
Residents: Free
Non-residents:  $3



One Response to Portia Langley: Pickleball Pioneer

  1. Colleen Mae Williams says:

    Thank you for this article on Portia Langley! She continues to do great things in Atlanta. Friends and family on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands are extremely proud of her!!

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