As a kid, Ernie Medina, Jr., was always involved with racquet sports. Maxing out at a lofty height of 5ft 6in, he was always shorter than most of his peers, so popular sports like basketball and volleyball didn’t suit him, but with parents who were tennis players, he started playing tennis at an early age, and table tennis even earlier.
In the mid-1980’s while in college, he worked as a teacher’s assistant for Laura Fenton Kovanda, and added racquetball to his list of racquet sports he loved to play. When his mom, Loida, introduced him to pickleball in April of 2016, it was love at first dink.
Pickleball fits in nicely with Ernie’s professional career as well. He studied health science, health promotion, and lifestyle behavior change at Andrews University (undergrad) and Loma Linda University (LLU) where he earned his masters and doctorate in health promotion and preventive care. After graduating in 1993, Ernie worked for 21 years at Beaver Medical Group working with patients who, because of certain lifestyle-related diseases, needed to change their habits, especially in physical activity, nutrition, stress management, and smoking cessation. Ernie was always organizing various physical activity events for his patients, such as hiking, bicycle riding and yearly physical activity challenges.
In 2015, Ernie came back to LLU and joined the faculty of the School of Public Health, where he now helps to train and educate the next generation of public health specialists. His research interest is in physical activity and is currently part of the first dissertation on pickleball. Ernie is also known as the “Pickleball Evangelist” and is using pickleball to impact health. With his position at Loma Linda University, he teaches pickleball as part of a summer day camp for overweight kids called “Operation Fit.” And he also holds pickleball introductory clinics to various departments and programs for faculty, staff, and students on a regular basis.
Because of his public health and lifestyle medicine background, Ernie sees pickleball as a major public health intervention to get communities moving and fight lifestyle related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. These are some of the top-10 causes of death in our country, and Ernie sees pickleball not just as a fun and social activity but a public health solution for our healthcare system.
Ernie does take time to play pickleball and now that he has aged up into the 55+ category, he’s looking to play more senior tournaments such as the Huntsman Games and SSIPA tournaments. This tireless dynamo also organizes and runs several tournaments, including the Halo Halo Cup, LLU Homecoming Pickleball Tournament, and Loma Linda Pickleball Club’s winter and spring tournaments. While he enjoys coordinating tournaments, his first love is playing with and teaching newbies and creating more “pickleball addicts”. Since 2016 Ernie has been a USAPA Ambassador, and is proud to continue to serve as the Ambassador for Loma Linda.
When he looks back on the last four years, he’s amazed to see how pickleball has impacted both his personal and professional lives. And while his wife and daughter don’t play (they stick with running and mountain biking), his 3 siblings play, as well as a growing number of extended family members. One of his goals for 2020 is to get his 82-year-old Mom qualified and entered into the National Championships. And, while his late dad, Ernesto Sr., who taught him tennis and table tennis, never had a chance to play pickleball due to a stroke 15 years before his Mom was introduced to the game, Ernie looks forward to the day when he will meet his Dad again and challenge him to a game of pickleball.