At age 61, the study of pickleball led Glynis Worthington to earn her doctorate

At age 61, the study of pickleball led Glynis Worthington to earn her doctorate

Anna Flanders /

Most people start planning for retirement when they’re 61 years old. But not Glynis Worthington. She’s thinking ahead to her next career and how she’ll utilize her new Doctor of Education from the University of Northern Iowa. 

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “I think going for the doctorate was my way to keep going with my story and not having life stop.”

Worthington has spent five years working toward her Doctor of Education in the Intensive Study Area of Allied Health, Recreation and Community Services. Like with any doctoral student, her dissertation has been the result of countless hours of hard work. The topic? The experience of adults ages 50 and older when playing pickleball doubles. 

Worthington spent an entire year reading as much as she could about flow theory — when someone completely loses themselves in an activity. At first, she was skeptical of the idea, but it was the best way to account for the addictive nature of pickleball. After spending so much time researching, she became convinced. She’s now looking forward to finding more people to discuss flow theory with and sharing some of the new ideas she has.

“The idea that I was challenged to the point where I have confidence that I may be able to contribute to flow theory at the theoretical level says a lot about UNI and the people I learned from,” said Worthington. 


For the most part, Worthington has stayed away from playing pickleball to keep her research objective. She estimates she’s observed more than 200 hours of people playing pickleball. Her study showed the pickleball players were experiencing higher levels of flow than have been previously recorded in professional studies.

Worthington dedicated her dissertation to her late father who she believes could have had a higher quality of life in his own retirement if he’d been participating in sports. She hopes the results of her study can have a positive impact on many.