Kevin McCarthy: The Godfather
Like seemingly everywhere along the shoreline, pickleball has exploded in popularity in Westbrook. One of the people responsible for spreading that popularity is Kevin McCarthy, known as “The Godfather of Pickleball in Westbrook.”
Six years ago, Kevin’s brother gave him a pickleball lesson. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement.
“I took one lesson, and I haven’t stopped playing since,” Kevin says.
Pickleball is a racket sport that has exploded in interest over the last five or so years in Westbrook, as well as the surrounding shoreline towns. It’s become popular among all ages, but it’s particularly a hit with older people who wish to stay active with a fun game that is easy to pick up and learn. Because pickleball courts are half the size of a standard tennis court, they’re often overlaid on existing tennis courts, though some towns have begun adding courts dedicated solely to pickleball.
Shortly after moving to Westbrook, Kevin was a part of efforts to bring the sport to town. The town built two courts in 2019 and another in 2021, thanks to a generous donation from the Westbrook Foundation.
“At first, I think some people on the boards didn’t really know what pickleball is, but the program has grown tremendously in Westbrook in a few years, and now you can’t drive by without seeing people [playing the sport],” Kevin says. “The town was really helpful, and there’s even some people who work in town hall who have taken lessons and become avid players themselves.”
Kevin considers himself an advocate for the game; one person even told the Harbor News, “He’s the Godfather of Pickleball in Westbrook.”
“It’s grown tremendously over the years. I think during COVID is when it really exploded with people picking it up,” Kevin says.
Kevin estimates that between April and October, he is at the courts in town five days a week, supervising the Westbrook program as well as teaching lessons through the Parks and Recreation Department.
“I’m an ambassador for USA Pickleball. Basically, I introduce people to the sport and help find them places to play. I’m also a certified pickleball instructor,” he explains. “We really have a great program here in Westbrook. The more I got involved, the more I wanted to do.”
Asked what he likes most about the sport, Kevin says that beyond the obvious — that it’s a fun way to get some exercise — it’s also fun for all ages.
“Sometimes I think there’s a stigma that only older people play it, but that’s not true; it’s fun for everyone. It’s really easy to pick up,” Kevins says.
More than anything, Kevin says the game is also a way to meet people in the community.
“It’s a great and very social sport. You really meet a lot of people through it. I’ve probably met 200 to 300 people through pickleball alone,” Kevin says.
Kevin was born in New Britain and spent most of his adult life in Farmington. He moved to Westbrook in 2017 after he retired.
“I always loved the Connecticut shoreline. When I was younger, my grandmother had a cottage in Madison, and when I retired, I wanted to move down toward the water. I’ve loved it ever since,” he says.
Before he retired, Kevin taught physical education at a special education school.
“I loved teaching, and I like that I still get to do some teaching with pickleball by being an instructor,” Kevin says.
In his retirement, he has kept busy as a motorcycle safety instructor and a caddy at The Players Championship.
“I’m soon to be a grandfather for the first time, so I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time with my granddaughter,” Kevin says. “I’ve met so many wonderful people since moving to Westbrook; it’s a very inclusive town. It’s a great community with a lot of activity going on.”