By Hana Papaco
Pickleball has quickly become a popular downtime activity at the Court Street Fire Station in Cromwell, Connecticut thanks to Jaimie Clout, a firefighter and city recreation leader. Clout always has exercise and wellness on her mind. After all, she’s the city of Bristol’s Aquatics Supervisor in addition to being in the fire service for more than 20 years.
When tasked with finding new activities for the firehouse’s health and wellness plan, pickleball came to mind. She brought the idea to Lieutenant Brett Hallden, who was already familiar with the sport even though the City of Cromwell currently does not have courts. Clout knew pickleball could be played year-round in the station with simple setup and take down when calls come through. In addition, she knew the sport’s learning curve wouldn’t intimidate for her fellow firefighters. Once approved, Clout brought a portable net to the station and set up a playing space.
It didn’t take long for play to heat up.
“We are all extremely competitive,” said Lt. Hallden. “It doesn’t matter if it’s cards, cooking or pickleball.”
Pickleball has given the firehouse a fierce activity to look forward to but has also helped their ability to work as a team. Every call their station receives is viewed as a must-win; and the firefighters bring that approach to the pickleball courts. Playing pickleball alongside a teammate also translates to their work. Lt. Hallden touched on the OHSA “two in, two out” rule where no fewer than two firefighters can enter an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere while two others must be outside the IDLH space in case of an emergency within. “We all need a teammate,” said Lt. Hallden. “Pickleball helps continue to build our relationships as well as our non-verbal communication.”
Pickleball has strengthened the camaraderie of the Court Street Fire Station. Lt. Hallden had been the longstanding champion of their station but was finally dethroned by Clout.
“This is the only time I can beat the Lieutenant and not get in trouble,” Clout said. Lt. Hallden also recalls playing a doubles match where his opponents’ quick wit and banter (possibly about the Lieutenant’s wardrobe choice of hot pink shorts), made him laugh so hard that he teared up and couldn’t even hit the ball.
Although their station’s play has created fire within themselves, Clout looks to spread the sport throughout their community. “We want to create an interdepartmental competition and get the community involved where community members can come out and play against the top firefighters.”
Clout and Lt. Hallden have expressed how pickleball has helped keep the culture strong and positive and that there’s no indication the passion for the sport will dissipate at the Court Street Fire Station anytime soon.