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How a man's love for pickleball led him to coach prison inmates across the country

Roger BelAir of Edmonds has coached hundreds of prison inmates in the sport of Pickleball, from Washington State Penitentiary to Rikers Island.

SEATTLE — Roger BelAir just returned from a trip to California - not for theme parks or resting on sunny beaches, but to teach over 200 prison inmates the sport of Pickleball. 

Created on Washington's own Bainbridge Island, the sport has grown in popularity over the years since the 1960s. Not quite tennis but definitely not ping-pong, it's an activity that has attracted players young and old with a range of athletic ability. In 2017, BelAir transformed his love for the game into something much bigger after being inspired to contact the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, asking if he could come teach prisoners Pickleball. He has since coached at prisons across the country, including Rikers Island and Walla Walla's Washington State Penitentiary, interacting with inmates that some people may be too afraid to even talk to. 

Credit: Roger BelAir

Roger BelAir's efforts have been commended for having a positive impact on gang relations and morale, as well as promoting learning, teamwork, rule following, and good sportsmanship - all skills that inmates can use on the outside world upon their release. Roger joins New Day Northwest to talk about his experiences, why he chose to embark on this mission, and the people he has met along the way. 

RELATED: Pickleball, the country’s fastest growing sport, is also popular in this jail

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