Marblehead resident serves up for charity… and gold

At the age of 80, Marblehead resident Dr. Ron Plotka won a gold medal at the US Open Pickleball tournament in Naples Florida. (Ryan Vermette)

MARBLEHEAD — Town resident Dr. Ron Plotka has done a lot in his life. He played football for 15 years, and tennis for close to 40. He was a renowned dentist for 50 years who now owns a toothbrush company. He even became a certified pickleball coach roughly a year and a half ago. But winning a gold medal at the most recent US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida at the age of 80? That certainly takes the cake for Plotka. 

“That was one of the better sporting experiences of my life,” he said. 

The entire event, which took place from April 16-23, drew roughly 33,000 spectators and 3,000 players. Plotka beat out 15 other participants to win the 80+ Singles division tournament, to his own surprise.

“The night before I had a little dream that I won, and I woke up and said ‘Nah, I could never win this, it’s impossible,’” he said.

But after seven hours of matches in 92-degree weather, and some ice packs to soothe his legs in between games, he proved himself wrong. Plotka, who said he had never played singles before, felt like he was in a certain Sylvester Stallone blockbuster film because of the way his final match went. 

“It turns into a ‘Rocky’ game,” he said. “We’re hitting back and forth. He’s not missing, I’m not missing.”

On his final serve, Plotka hit the ball as hard as he could, and the rest was history. He credited his conditioning as a major factor in the win. In the year leading up to the tournament he exercised, stretched, and did other types of conditioning to keep his body in peak shape. Exercise and healthy eating, he said, can keep your body functioning at a high rate for a long time, no matter your age.

“My message is that if you keep in shape and you eat well, you keep your mind mentally active, spiritually good, you can do anything you really want to do,” Plotka said.

In addition, Plotka doesn’t stop his love for pickleball at playing and coaching. He is also a board member and advisor for Play for a Cause, a nonprofit organization that raises money for a variety of charities by putting on different sporting events, including pickleball, that are donors participate in. 

They recently held an event raising money for autism, and in June, they will be at Ipswich Country Club to raise donations for wheelchair pickleball and breast cancer. Pickleball has steadily been on the rise in the U.S and is the fastest-growing sport in the country, particularly due to the social and recreational aspects it can provide. Because of this, Plotka said, they got the idea to combine a social sport with a social cause.

“We figured ‘You know, this is such a great sport (pickleball), and a lot of people have never given to charities before, or never participated,’” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to raise money for these charities.”

In a world that currently has a lot of uncertainties and tension, Plotka finds happiness in a sport where he has made friends with people whose ages range from 30 all the way to 60 and older. He says it’s a perfect way to bring people together to enjoy themselves.

“I can truly say I’ve never enjoyed a sport more than I have playing pickleball because of everything it’s bringing to me and my family,” said Plotka. “With all the craziness going on in the world, this is a bright spot. This is a real, shining bright spot that gives you the opportunity to think positively and bring people together that think positively.”


More Stories From Marblehead