Welcome to Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, a series that takes you behind the scenes of life in Optima’s dynamic communities. Through intimate conversations with our residents, we’re exploring the diverse experiences, unique lifestyles, and vibrant cultures that flourish within Optima’s architecturally stunning buildings. Join us as we discover what makes living in an Optima community not just a choice of residence, but a way of life. In this conversation, we sat down with Jen Dole, resident and Pickleball League member at Optima Lakeview®.

How long have you been a resident at Optima Lakeview? What drew you there?

I moved to Chicago from Sacramento in November 2022 to be close to my youngest son who lives here — he dances with the Joffrey Ballet. And because I work remotely, I can live anywhere, so I chose Chicago as my new home. I had visited the city many times and was specifically looking for a place where I would find a sense of community, and the opportunity to get to know new people. What attracted me to Optima Lakeview® were all the events, the beautiful architecture and fantastic amenity spaces…including the pickleball court. That was a huge plus for me because I was an avid pickleball player in California and knowing I could play in my own building was incredibly appealing.

Can you tell us how the informal “Pickleball League” at Optima Lakeview came to be?

Since I didn’t know anybody when I moved to Optima Lakeview, I started by recruiting other people who might want to play. I did this by talking to residents who were using the court, and meeting people at building events like Wine Wednesday and gatherings for pet people. I met people who hadn’t played but were interested, and I started holding informal sessions on Sunday mornings. I would teach the basics and we would play. It’s such a social sport and everyone enjoyed getting to know one another, and getting exercise at the same time!

So our Pickleball League started organically. We formed a group on the Optima Lakeview app, and that brought in more people. And then, because we needed the ability to talk together more dynamically, we started a text group, which we recently moved to WhatsApp so we can accommodate both iPhone and Android users.

As more people got interested, Maike, the property manager, sponsored a training session onsite with a local organization called Toss and Spin. This sparked a ton of new interest and from there, we organized a tournament. It was so much fun! And because everyone enjoyed it so much, we’re having another one this month.

Intense tournament play on the beautiful indoor Optima court.
Intense tournament play on the beautiful indoor Optima pickleball court.

What does a typical gathering look like for your group, and how often do you meet?

Besides the tournaments, people simply schedule their time on the court through the Optima Lakeview app. In a good week, I play three or four times. Sometimes it’s a kind of “grab and go” game because we’ve all got other things to do, and sometimes we have time to stay around and chat or have a coffee. I also have a great group of women friends that I’ve met from an intermediate pickleball training I did at the local Y, and I invite them to play here once or twice a month. They love the facilities, especially during the winter when it’s challenging to find great indoor pickleball courts.

There are a number of us in the Pickleball League that take advantage of the outdoor courts in local parks. A few residents have their own nets, and we just set them up on the tennis courts. I love that we can still play together and enjoy being outside in a beautiful park setting.

How has being a part of the “Pickleball League” enhanced your experience as a resident of Optima Lakeview?
Today, I have a fantastic group of friends because of the Pickleball League. We go to dinner together. I’ve organized outings to see the Joffrey perform. The daughter of one of my friends recently watched my dog when I was out of town. We do each other favors. And we get to enjoy the camaraderie of pickleball and staying fit together. It is so lovely.

How does an Optima Lakeview resident get involved, and are there skill level requirements or open play for beginners?

The atmosphere of the Pickleball League is very relaxed and open, so any newcomer is welcome. The rules can be a little wonky at first and there is some fun terminology, but It’s very easy to learn, and a lot of former tennis players now play pickleball because you don’t have to be as athletic to enjoy the game and to excel. All of us in the League go out of our way to invite other residents in the building, and we love watching our ranks grow by the week!