Michael Healy’s first foray into pickleball came after a group of colleagues at Bloomin’ Brands that play regularly asked him if he wanted to join them.
Executive: Michael Healy, 46. He’s senior vice president, global supply chain officer and brand strategy for Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands, which includes Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Aussie Grill. His role involves overseeing the company’s global supply chain, including planning, sourcing, food safety and logistics strategies for domestic and international markets.
Diversion: Healy plays pickleball regularly with colleagues and family members, a sport that involves players using paddles to hit a Wiffle-like ball over a net.
A touch like tennis: Healy’s first foray into pickleball came after a group of colleagues at Bloomin’ that play regularly asked him if he wanted to join them. They had asked him for a few months before he agreed, deciding he needed the exercise. “I had no idea what it was,” Healy says. “People had said it’s a mixture of ping pong and tennis, and you have to go see it to really understand it.”
Learn the ropes: In advance of his first time playing with the work group, Healy wanted to prepare. He ordered some paddles on Amazon and went out to the tennis court in his neighborhood with his wife and son to give it a go. He also watched some YouTube videos to try to figure out how to play. His colleagues told him about the rules and gave him some tips, too.
Group growth: Once he started playing in June, Healy was hooked. Now he plays most weeks with his work crew on Tuesday nights. The group has expanded to include eight to 10 people, and Healy says his Bloomin’ Brands pickleball group is inviting other colleagues to join, too. “I think as the world continues to open up and as we get into the spring, I imagine more people will come out,” he says. “We have a long list of people we ask.”
Family fun: Pickleball has also continued to be a family affair. Healy regularly plays with his wife, teenage son and teenage daughter, usually on Sundays. “Now I play with the folks from work once a week and then my family once a week,” he says. “It’s pretty fun for all of us.” Those are two real benefits of the sport: a variety of people can play it, and the basics are easy to learn. "All types of people can play,” Healy says. “You can pick it up quickly and have a good time even if you’re not a good player or a super athletic player.” It’s also good for both young and old players, he says.
Social network: For Healy’s main exercise, he rides his bike, so he likes the fact that pickleball is more social than some other sports. Tennis is more spaced out, but with pickleball, Healy usually plays doubles and the four people playing are closer to the net and better able to talk to each other. “For me, it’s the social aspect of it that’s really enjoyable,” he says.
Colleague connection: Healy says his work pickleball group brings together a variety of different departments at Bloomin’ Brands and gives the colleagues a chance to interact outside of work. It’s also given him an opportunity to learn more about the company. “I’m in supply chain, but we’ll have supply chain folks, operations folks, finance people, beverage directors, we have accountants — we have a pretty good group from the different functions at Bloomin’ Brands,” he says.
There to win: Healy doesn’t plan to participate in a professional pickleball tournament anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his pickleball playing seriously. “I’m a fairly competitive person…when we get a foursome of people who have been there a while, even with family, we’re all there to win,” he says.
Live to learn: As his pickleball journey continues, Healy looks forward to learning more about the game and improving on certain techniques. He says, “I like playing people who are a lot better than me because that’s the way you learn the most.”
Spread the word: In the coming years, Healy expects pickleball to become more popular. There are even some statistics that point to it being the fastest-growing sport in America. Healy has become a pickleball ambassador of sorts, taking friends out to play who haven’t experienced the game before. The usual result? “They’ve gone out and played and loved it,” he says.
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