The Congressional Pickleball Caucus welcomed pros to Dirksen for some early morning action.

The Congressional Pickleball Caucus, formed last May, usually plays Wednesday mornings in the top floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. “Gotta catch people in the morning. The day starts quick and goes late,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said.

But on Tuesday morning, the caucus welcomed local professionals and leaders within the game to play and talk about the future of the burgeoning sport.

Capito tries not to bring the baggage of governing headaches onto the pickleball court. She prefers to use the fast-growing sport as “a release” and to build personal relationships across the aisle and across chambers.

“With the modern day Senate, there are not that many opportunities for people just to get to know each other,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told POLITICO between matches.

“We’re already a naturally competitive body here, but it’d be fun to have that competition in pickleball and not constantly the fight for an ideological end,” he said.

Sens. Capito, Tillis, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) played doubles with four professionals from D.C. Pickleball Team, the newest squad to join Major League Pickleball. Capito got tips on her serve technique from professional Riley Newman and was eager to put them to use.

Lawmakers held their own, from the regulars like Capito to first timers like Lummis, who got the hang of it within an hour. Advocates for the sport cite the low barrier for entry and multigenerational appeal as key to pickleball’s growth.

Jacobs picked up pickleball, like many Americans, during the pandemic as a way to see her family safely outdoors. Her mother is the main pickleballer in the family and made the whole family matching shirts. How competitive is the Jacobs family on the court? “OMG, so competitive,” she said.

She intends to use her new skills and knowledge of the game in her next match against her mother.

The Congressional Pickleball Caucus is hoping to up its game with real markings on the multipurpose tennis and basketball court where they play. Tillis says they’re talking to the Senate Rules Committee (which includes Capito as a member) about doing away with the slippery tape that is currently marking the court.