Still in her prime
By JOAQUIN AGUILAR H&N Sports Reporter Mar 23, 2018
Penny English - Shirley Anderson
Genny Leathers - Connie Emerson - Corey Purvis-Linda McAdam
Some of the most successful athletes are the ones who can endure the most pain.
Shirley Anderson has gone through her share of anguish.
Anderson, 82, is the oldest member of the Klamath Basin Pickleball Association.
Though she is a Klamath Basin native, the cold chill in the winter is something she prefers to live without and for the last 12 years, spends the winter in Arizona.
She has tried every sport imaginable.
If you name it, chances are Anderson has done it.
She has played softball, basketball, downhill skiing, cross country, tennis, to name a few.
To Anderson, not competing in sports is not an option.
With age, and a several setbacks, she found a sport she now invests all her time in.
While playing on a tennis court one day in Arizona, on the court just to her left, she noticed people playing pickleball.
“I asked them what was pickleball. Everyone I talk to now asks me that, 'what is pickleball?' Well, you use a paddle rather than a racquet,” Anderson said. “I ended up liking it better than tennis. It grows on you and you get to the point where you're lost without it.”
Living in Casa Grande, Ariz., Anderson unintentionally encountered likely the most popular place to play pickleball in the country.
While in Arizona, Anderson thrills at playing with and against people from around the country and plays at Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, the location of the National Pickleball Championships.
The location has 32 courts alone.
She has become quite renown in the sport and has won two gold medals, several silver medals and recently finished with a bronze medal in the Palm Creek tournament with her partner Penny English.
But the sky wasn't always clear and baby blue for Anderson.
Three back surgeries forced her to quit skiing, a sport she became a national ski patrol senior.
She originally had spinal stenosis. After her doctor wanted to fix a disc in her back, she decided she needed to have an x-stop (Interspinous Process Decompression System) surgery.
To her dismay, the surgery did not fix her spinal stenosis when Anderson thought it would have.
A second surgery had to be done, but this time, her doctor did not properly insert the titanium implant of her lumbar spine.
“It hurt like heck. After a five-hour surgery, I still couldn't straighten up. She could have had a big lawsuit on her hands for what she did to me,” Anderson said. “I could have strangled that women but chose not to hold what happened against her. I think they moved to a different place.”
Anderson was lucky.
According to her new doctor, she was a step away from being in a wheelchair the rest of her life.
Finally, she had one last surgery to correct previous procedures.
Though she was unable to be as active as she was and had to give up many of the sports she loved, Anderson still did not give up pickleball after she had both her knees replaced.
Her first replacement was six years ago and replaced her second knee three years after.
After each knee surgery, it took her six months until she was able to play pickleball again.
“I have been in athletics all my life. My body is in good shape for an old lady. There are days when I don't do as well but I am still out there and loving the sport,” Anderson said. “I am still out here.”
To those who know her, Anderson's personality is what makes her standout.
She is the biggest inspiration at the Klamath Basin Pickleball Association.
Standing at 5-foot-3, she might not intimidate at first glance but is very aware on the court.
A Henley High School graduate, Anderson was in high school when there were no team sports and played intramurals.
To state the obvious, basketball was different in the 1950's.
There were six players on a team, three forwards and three guards.
A player could not cross the center line and had to shoot the basketball from there.
She has had her share of tales.
She tried water skiing once and during an exercise, hit her mouth hard and knocked out several of her teeth.
Growing up as a women was different as well.
She played slowpitch against men in regional tournaments and it was how many women made their living.
Anderson will turn 83 years old next month but shows no signs she will give it all up anytime soon.
She struggles with neuropathy in her feet but said she has no pain or discomfort in her knees.
“The Lord blessed me with being an athlete. I want to play as long as I can and will not stop doing this until I have nothing left. I am on a year-to-year basis,” Anderson said. “I have never given up sports and even when I had all those five surgeries, not once did I say I was done or that I would give up.”
“My mom gave me a glove and a bat when I was six years old and from there, I knew I was born to play sports. The people at the courts tell me I am their inspiration and they want to be like me someday. Humbly, I tell them they can. I tell them they will. People quit all the time. I chose not to because I will not let it stop me when I know I have so much more left to give.”