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Queen of NE Florida Pickleball – Verna Griffin
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Queen of NE Florida Pickleball – Verna Griffin

- edited by: Cathy Curtis

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Meet Verna Griffin who brought the sport of pickleball to the beaches over 14 years ago

“Once you start, you will realize why you don’t want to stop”, Verna Griffin says with a chuckle. I can tell you first hand, she is so right. I proudly mentioned to her I had worn out my first pair of actual pickleball shoes after playing for over a year. It’s amazing how I find myself constantly thinking about the game, technique, strategy, shots, watching YouTube videos, etc. I finally booked a private lesson with Verna a couple of weeks ago after 4 other friends I know had all taken lessons from her to improve their games.

Our official pickleball ambassador at the beaches, this spry 70’s-something woman has been taking the phrase OMG -from not “oh my God” to mean ONE MORE GAME! since 2010. Verna was officially crowned Pickleball Queen and the Jarboe courts were dedicated and named for her by Mayor Elaine Brown and Neptune Beach former Police Chief and now City Manager Richard Pike back in 2017. Since 2009, this Neptune Beach resident has energetically promoted, taught, and advocated for pickleball. PPR (Professional Pickleball Registry) certified, she used to be employed by the Beaches Senior Center and was able to use the courts at Jarboe, South Beach, and Donner but now teaches on private courts off Gate Parkway, occasionally showing up at a beach court for a social game or two. 

“Covid brought lots more players to the game and back then we had major safety protocols at Jarboe during that time and no cases of Covid”, she says. Today, you can find open courts and games at Jarboe day or evening, Donner off Mayport Road is known for “bangers” or more aggressive and advanced players but Verna says all kinds are there now. South Beach has 4 courts and you can bring your nets out to Isle of Palms where the tennis courts are marked off for pickleball and used 90% of the time for the game.

You’ve heard about it if you don’t already play the game, the fastest-growing game in the world, and Verna has taught thousands of people from ages 5 to 92 to play this fun, social, fast-paced game. “Come out, take a lesson from a certified instructor, find a free clinic, and try the game. I want more young people to play this game, it’s a selfish reason because when I’m gone we will still have pickleball going. It’s one of the reasons I like to teach this game. The more people I teach the more people I get to play pickleball with”. Verna adds; “The best thing in the last 14 years has been the social aspect of the game, more competition, better players all the time”. Verna also mentions that for her, it is easier to teach an older person than a younger person because of her 2-hour lessons, an older student has a better attention span.

If you want to learn more, ask a question, take a lesson, and join the fun, Verna can be reached at her website: pickleballbythesea.com and pickleballbysea@gmail.com

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2 Responses

  1. I learned and worked with her and became a Pickleball ambassador 11 years ago. Taught me that the sport is for all and make everyone welcome to the sport.

    1. Dennis, I’ve heard from students young and old who have nothing but high praise for Verna as a coach & as a person. We are all better in our love of the sport because of Verna.

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