In the Middle
While on tour this summer, country pop singer-songwriter phenom Maren Morris and her band set up a travel pickleball court in the middle of a parking lot in between cities.
Written By: Laura Gainor
Photos: Rachel Deeb
September/October 2022 Issue of Pickleball Magazine
Pickleball has reached mega-star status. Film and television icons, music artists, professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball legends, and billionaire power couples have fallen in love with the sport.
Most recently, country pop artist Maren Morris has jumped on the pickleball train, making the sport a part of her team’s daily routine while they are on tour throughout the U.S.
Morris, 32, and German DJ-producer Zedd’s 2018 collaboration “The Middle” is a six-time platinum smash hit. In August, the duo released a new single titled “Make You Say.” Morris has a collection of music awards and accolades, including Female Artist of the Year, Song of the Year for her triple-platinum, Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” Best Country Solo and Best Country Song for “My Church” and many more. Morris’ third album “Humble Quest” released in March.
Recently, Pickleball Magazine caught up with her to talk about her love for the sport. We learned of Morris’ participation in June when she tweeted that the tour’s pickleball court was set up in a parking lot next to the tour bus.
“We played a couple of games before it was time to go do our show,” she recalls. “Even though in the photos I look like I’m dominating, I actually lost that game. I absolutely love pickleball, and it’s such a fun story as to how we were able to include the sport in our national tour this summer.
“I was adamant about pickleball becoming a trend for my team while we were out on tour. I went on Amazon and bought a ton of equipment so we could set up a travel court at each venue throughout the duration of our tour! It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever played on a real pickleball court,” Morris laughed. “It would be so nice to get to play on a real court once the tour is over!”
And just like that, the great sport of pickleball caught on with Texas-born Morris and her team. The first travel court they created was at a tour stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Since I was still getting to know the crew members who were new to my team, pickleball was a great way to get the crew together and bond over a game that is entertaining and social in nature,” she says. “It was a great way to get to know each other!
“It’s just fun to walk past after a few hours and see the crew playing and they’ve picked up their own game. It makes me so happy it’s caught on and maybe they’ll go home and play during the week when they’re off the road.”
Morris, who has a 2-year-old son with musician husband Ryan Hurd, admits that at first she had no idea how to play. But she googled the basics and got some games going. At the beginning, it was mainly the band members who played. Since the crew is often busy setting up and tearing down the stage between cities, they join the fun once they get a break or their job is complete.
“My husband hasn’t played yet, but I know he’d pick it up so quickly,” Morris says. “I picked up tennis during the pandemic, which then bloomed into pickleball. I play tennis with Ryan often and I’m sure he would love pickleball.”
With pickleball’s similarities to tennis, Morris was surprised by how different the two sports actually are. “I thought it would be more intuitive, similar to tennis,” she explains. “But the paddles are so big. You have to hit the balls really hard because they’re full of air. It takes a second to get your swing.”
Morris even designed custom paddles for her team: “A few weeks before the tour, we found a website that allows you to upload your own artwork to create custom paddles! We were able to upload our album artwork onto a paddle for our band and crew. The paddles arrived before the tour started and were great quality—and it was awesome they matched the rest of the tour’s branding!”
Will there be an official tour paddle available to the public? “While we don’t have plans to add our pickleball paddles to our merch shop yet,” she says, “that is definitely something we will consider in the future!”
Since her tour has taken her across the U.S., Morris has had the opportunity to play pickleball at some premier destinations. “Gilford, New Hampshire, was a spectacular area to set up a court backstage. Even without a pickleball setup it’s a magical backstage venue,” she says. “It sits right on the lake. When you travel to these incredible venues you can play pickleball anywhere! It’s such a dream.”
She adds, “I can see why the game has grown so quickly, especially these coastal regions where you have beautiful courts to play on. Some of the tennis courts are converting to pickleball, which makes it that much easier to pick up the sport!
“Pickleball is extremely easy to pick up. So, you don’t feel daunted about playing a new sport. You can learn at any age, and comfortably. It’s also highly addictive—you can work up a sweat or just chill and play at the net. You can play doubles or singles. The time flies by because you’re so in the zone.”
To follow Maren Morris on tour, visit marenmorris.com where you can purchase tickets for a city near you!