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Super Senior: Larry Seekins is Billings' biggest pickleball evangelist

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Posted at 6:13 PM, Apr 08, 2024

It’s been called the fastest growing sport in America, with an estimated 36.5 million people playing the game of pickleball at least one time.

Larry Seekins has had a lot to do with the popularity it has enjoyed here in Billings over the past two decades.

“I love to teach the game because it has meant so much to me,” says Seekins.

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Larry Seekins

He has been credited with bringing the sport here to Billings in 2003—the father of pickleball in the Magic City.

“Well, if I’m the father then my wife is the mother,” he says. “My wife saw an article in the paper that said they are teaching pickleball a block away from our house at a school and we went.”

It would become his passion.

“I’ve had a blessed life, I will tell you. And pickleball is one of the things I credit with saving my life,” he says.

He got serious about the sport following a heart surgery when he was working for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington.

“I found that if I played pickleball three times a week, I maintained perfectly. And that was 35 years ago. And look at me now,” he says.

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Larry Seekins

At the age of 80, you can find him on the court nearly every weekday afternoon. He’s won too many medals to count over the years and has played with some of the game’s best.

And he’s taught some of the game’s best.

“I’ve taught over 3,000 people how to play this game, and I’ve taught six national champions, of which five of them are from here in Billings,” he says.

Jill Branch is one of the many people taught by Seekins at the YMCA.

“Six years ago, he taught me, and he warned me that it would be addictive. And it is,” she says.

Branch is president of the Billings Pickleball Association, which now has around 250 members.

“I know sometimes things are crazy in his life, but he has always got time to come here four afternoons a week and then Friday night. I don’t know where he gets the energy,” Branch says.

A true evangelist for the game of pickleball, Seekins is always happy to talk about the benefits, even when he’s not playing.

“There are 10 main things for staying alive,” he says pointing to one study. "Exercise was important. Close relationships and social integration were the two top ones and guess what? In pickleball, all those are vital. How about that?”

“It is a great sport for relationships. All the people out here, they like each other. They enjoy each other, and that’s a very powerful thing,” he says.

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