Meet USA Pickleball’s new Marblehead ambassador

Lisa Spinale has been appointed the first ever USA pickleball ambassador for Marblehead. She started playing in 2019 and has been a tireless advocate for the sport in town, pushing for more courts and playing time. Spinale helps run the nonprofit Marblehead Pickleball ( As ambassador, her role is to promote pickleball and work with residents and the town to build programs.

She recently answered some questions in an interview with the Current.

Newly-appointed USA Pickleball Ambassador for Marblehead Lisa Spinale with players at the Seaside courts. COURTESY PHOTO

How were you first introduced to pickleball? 

In August 2019, my good friend Wendy took me to the COA where they played indoor pickleball. The game was easy to learn, good exercise and played with friendly competition. I took it up immediately. Pickleball courts were opening in September of that year at the Veterans Middle School and that’s where I met Joe McKane, Bryce Suydam and Buck Grader, the founders of Marblehead Pickleball. 

Can you share an example of how pickleball has impacted your life?

When COVID hit and the world as we knew it shut down, pickleball was the activity that kept me engaged. A small group of six players on Edgewood Road set up a portable net outside for the rest of the winter and we played whenever possible. Because it was outdoors and the sport allows for safe, social distancing, groups began playing at Veterans and players could make and maintain social connections. It truly was one of those things that helped me and many others get through those dark days. 

How often do you play? 

It’s a daily activity for me. I play two hours and I can be found in the afternoon talking to players about their ideas and concerns.

How has pickleball affected your physical health and fitness?

It’s the catalyst for achieving my daily exercise targets, and also helps my mental health. It’s a sport for mind and body. Aside from all the physical and psychological elements of a competitive sport, pickleball is a very social sport. There’s always a lot of laughter and chit chat during games and conversations among players on the sidelines who are waiting to rotate into the next game. 

What are some social benefits of playing pickleball?

Pickleball has opened new doors to friendships and more community involvement in Marblehead. Uniquely, pickleball is a sport where players are partnering and competing across all age groups. And because it’s so socially engaging, it’s a wonderful opportunity for different age groups, who might never have interacted much otherwise, to connect and share in each others’ lives. That’s what builds a community; shared experiences and shared ideas. The bonds I have formed on the court are unparalleled, providing a unique camaraderie.

What have you accomplished before and since being appointed ambassador?

Meeting Joe Buck and Bryce shaped my involvement in Marblehead Pickleball. As the sport exploded, Marblehead needed an ambassador, as our nearby towns have had for years. I was encouraged to apply for the volunteer position by my peers. Joe McKane set up to heighten awareness of the explosive growth of pickleball in our town and to help supplement the costs to the town of providing public facilities for the sport. encourages all players who utilize any of the Marblehead public courts to make a donation. Joe has retired from running the organization and Cheryl Patten and I have taken the helm. In cooperation with Marblehead Recreation and Parks Department, the organization has funded the resurfacing of the Veterans courts, paid for cross fences at Seaside Park and purchased portable nets. Next on the list is the installation of protective bumper guards on top of the chain-link cross fences. 

What advice would you offer to a new pickleball player?  

There are many certified teachers to help you learn to play. There is a rapid learning curve and you will be rallying in no time. Join and email me. I am working with Marblehead Rec and Parks to offer free introductory days at the courts. Also email me at with questions. 

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about pickleball?

There is so much laughter when playing and it reduces and releases stress. I just love how pickleball has fueled friendships beyond the courts. We were strangers that became friends. At the courts we share stories, swap tips, laugh, show pics on our phones, talk about our vacations, have nicknames for each other and acknowledge milestones. We deeply care for each other. It has fostered a sense of unity and support in Marblehead. I have never seen such participation in any sport across such a wide range of ages from kids to seniors. I also anticipate it being a high school varsity and JV sport in the future.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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