Keith Jackson Paddleball Profile By Dave Siegel
OK, let’s get you thinking. Who is the best father and son paddleball team in history? Wait, we must be politically correct. Who is the best parent and child team? Although I’ve been around the game for over 50 years, I admit I’ve not seen many such teams, but I’ll cast my vote anyway. Not counting Peter and Hank Grassi from my blog “The Incredible Day Howie Hammer and John Bruschi Met their Match,” Barry and Keith Jackson are by far the best. Barry Jackson is a Staten Island paddleball legend, one of the top Island players from the 70s through to the early 2000s. Keith is one of the elite big and small ball players in the game today and probably the best player ever to come out of Staten Island.
Barry introduced his son to the game at the tender age of five and by ten Keith was playing in the “men’s” games. As Barry nurtured him, Keith’s game improved by leaps and bounds through his teenage years, and they rose to become one of the most formidable teams on the Island. They almost always did well in tournaments, even off-Island. As is often the case with teams joined by blood or marriage, they were often very vocal with each other between points, but they meshed beautifully together during play. Once he got his driver’s license, Keith was off to new competition, mainly in Coney Island, but he remained a frequent partner of his Dad.
Keith’s game is highlighted by his deceptive power, which he unleashes with a compact swing, driving the ball with unexpected velocity. He is a multi-tooled player, with a large variety of shots, his favorite is to the right corner, which he can angle, kill or drop. He has excellent anticipation, is terrific defensively and his left hand is outstanding. I’ve seen him play since his teenage years and the most significant improvement is his mental toughness. In those early years, he could be beaten by him beating himself. But that is over and done. He now is not fazed by level of competition or the pressure of tournament play. Over the years, Keith has had several regular partners besides his Dad, among them Glen Winokur, Godfrey Brown, Troy Varsik, Greg Scarlatta and Adam Brodsky.
Keith still calls Staten Island his paddleball home where small ball is the game. He also plays occasionally at Clifton and he gets his big ball games at Bay 8th and Coney Island. Overall, he tries to play twice a week. Now in his mid forties, Keith is playing close to his peak, which actually is quite remarkable. His career has been marred by many injuries which have kept him off the courts for long chunks of time. He has had surgeries to his right shoulder (twice), left shoulder, left knee (twice), two back surgeries, and throw in carpal tunnel surgeries to both hands. That adds up to nine! He is now finally healthy and let’s hope it’s nine and done!
For those unaware of what Keith does in his spare time, he is a Doctor, actually a Dermatologist. For the past 14 years he has had a successful practice on Staten Island (trust me, the waiting room is always packed). Most of you also know that he was part of the three person team that saved the life of fellow paddleball player Tony Cascella when he was felled by sudden cardiac arrest two years ago. He also has quite a large family with 5 kids, ages 17 (twins), 15, 10 and 8. One of the twins, Shawn, a high school senior, is the top public school tennis player in NYC and has won a partial scholarship to Hofstra. Of course his proud father attends most of his matches. Keith is also a tennis player, plays racquetball and most recently has taken up pickleball.
We asked Keith for his take on the sport of paddleball and where it’s at today. He is concerned that there is a great deal of room for improvement in the overall behavior, particularly at tournaments and he feels that it is imperative that this happens for the sport to flourish. This is a belief held by many, and let’s hope that the present ongoing efforts being made by the outstanding paddleball leaders, as well as the paddleball community, reverse this blemish.