“Beyond the Net” is a series of articles and photos about how Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball has added to the quality of life for people of all ages, abilities and socioeconomic levels.
Beyond the Net: the Pummills
In September 2016, Sean & Marcy Pummill moved to Steamboat, looking for a new set of careers and for the best place to raise their son Brody. They owned a business in Salida, CO, and thought, “We’ll give it 6 months. If it doesn’t work, we’ll move back.” Steamboat had what they were looking for: the job opportunities were so great in Steamboat, great schools, Steamboat Ski Resort, and the Tennis Center, which they had visited many times. Sean and Marcy had started playing pickleball the year before in Salida and were obsessed with the game. Having such a wonderful amenity was definitely a big reason to choose Steamboat as their new home.
A few days after Sean moved to town, he walked into the Center to play and struck up a conversation with Loretta Conway, who was working behind the desk. She introduced herself and said that she and her husband Bill were going to take over the business in a couple of weeks. She asked if Sean knew of anyone who might want to teach pickleball, and Sean replied that he would love to. Sean had taught geography at the college level and loved teaching; why not also become a pickleball instructor part-time and see where that went? Sean started in October with one intermediate drill. The local players gave Sean a chance and liked his upbeat and gentle style. They found that his drills were fun and his advice helped them become better players. From there, Sean spent five years creating a program that started with one drill and a few private lessons to a thriving division of the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center which includes drills for all skill levels, private lessons, 7 open play sessions, 3 coaches, camps, tournaments, and children’s programs. Sean had found his new career: he was now the Head Pickleball Pro at the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center. It was the perfect marriage of teaching, creating new games (aka drills) and his favorite sport. Because the Center existed, and because Loretta and Bill Conway believed in him and gave him the support and freedom he needed to create and build these new programs, he was able to create a new career for himself and a home for his family.
As the summer weekend open plays got bigger and more popular (current record: 85 players over 4 hours), Marcy Pummill volunteered her time to help Sean organize the players. What started as a volunteer position in 2018 slowly grew into a small side-gig where Marcy was running tournaments, helping Sean with programs, and working behind the front desk. The Conways had seen Marcy volunteering and had offered to pay her and to allow her to grow in her responsibilities and tasks. She continued to work for the Steamboat Ski Resort, where she had started working in 2018, and at the Center as well until March 2020. When the ski resort shut down, Marcy (like everyone else) didn’t know what to do. Luckily, the Center opened outdoors in May 2020, and Marcy asked if they needed more help. She started working at the Center as the afternoon lead for the summer camp and loved it! She had worked as a public educator and naturalist at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, MO and had created an after-school science club for an elementary school in Lincoln, NE while she was in graduate school, and had missed being around children. When the ski resort asked if Marcy would like to come back to work, this time with a raise and promotion, Marcy first asked the Center if they had any full-time work for her once the camp was over. In return, Loretta asked if she would like to be the new Assistant Business Development Director, since this position had just opened up. Marcy couldn’t believe it! She had wanted to work in an administrative position at the Center for years, but didn’t think it was possible! And now here the opportunity was in front of her; she couldn’t pass it up. She said yes, and later, in January 2021 she became the Business Development Director. Marcy had found her new career.
Meanwhile, Brody Pummill had been in the afterschool ROGY tennis program, the summer camps, and growing up in the tennis and pickleball world since he was 4 years old. Literally, Brody feels like the Center is his second home. He has received many generous scholarships from both the Steamboat Tennis Association and the Steamboat Springs Pickleball Association, and even a private scholarship from Peter and Kit Paulin! Recently, Brody got 2nd place in the 2021 Winter Shootout in the 3.5 division, and he plans on competing more as he gets older. Brody is truly a 2-sport athlete: he plays both tennis and pickleball, and finds that both sports complement each other. Brody wants to be a professional pickleball player when he grows up, and “living” at the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center will help him on his path to his own career in court sports!
The Pummills’ story would not have been possible without the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center (STPC), the Conways’ belief and trust, and the support and love of the community. The Pummills are a living example of how the STPC changes lives and is a vibrant, positive influence in beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO.