Pickleball is fun for all ages
Need a sport that people of all ages can play? Looking for a sport that is family friendly? Searching for a sport that is good exercise without overdoing it? Pickleball is the answer. Pickleball? Yes, Pickleball.
Mexico resident Nancy Smiley discovered Pickleball on a trip to central Florida. “I loved it the first time I played it,” Smiley said. “When I came back to Mexico, I wanted to keep playing it so I spoke with a few friends and we started looking for a place to play.”
Smiley and her friends found Tom Fischer and the Mexico YMCA more than willing to help. Thanks to their generosity, there are two Pickleball courts currently set up at the YMCA. While the largest group currently plays on Monday and Thursday mornings from 10-11:30 a.m., the YMCA has also designated 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays for open play. Usually, however, at least one of the the courts is available any time and open to anyone wanting to learn to play.
On a recent Monday morning, six dedicated Pickleball players gathered for a day of fun and laughter. The players, including Smiley with the most experience, come with a variety of levels of experience, including one player who started playing just two weeks before. The quick-witted, good natured banter flew back and forth among the group as they set about rotating games of doubles and singles Pickleball.
The doubles games quickly gain a rhythm of play that is mesmerizing. “It's about the volley,” said Smiley. “The game is fun when both teams are able to return volley after volley.” The smaller playing surface allows for easier movement for the players resulting in better game play. The games ended with the traditional touching of the end of the racket handles in a show of respect.
One singles game in particular pitted sister against sister. Susan Atkins and Nancy Oliver's game carried a familiar old bet: loser does the dishes. The back and forth contest was filled with sly 'drop' shots and several hard hits but, in the end, Atkins came out the winner. Both sisters were smiling afterward. “It's not about wins or losses,” Atkins said. “Granted, I like winning, but it's about having fun.”
The entire group was quick to emphasize that there is always room for more players. They see it as an opportunity to mingle and build friendships. “We are always willing to welcome anyone who wants to play,” group member Barbara Parker said. “It doesn't matter how much they know. We can teach them how to play.”
Created in Washington during the summer of 1965 by Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, Pickleball has seen a recent growth explosion propelling it to the fastest growing sport in the United States. There are local, state, national, and even international, Pickleball organizations that even sponsor championships. Near Orlando Florida, one community proudly boasts 108 Pickleball courts.
Pickleball combines aspects of tennis, badminton, and ping pong and is played on a 20x44 feet court with a 36 inch tall net. Players use wooden or plastic racquets to bat a wiffle ball back and forth. The initial underhand serve must travel diagonally and bounce in the opponents service area. Points are scored only by the serving team. Whichever team scores 11 points first (and is leading by at least two points) wins the game.
So why is it called 'Pickleball?' The origin of the name is debated among players. One group holds that the Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who, whenever a loose ball would come his way, would take the ball and run off with it. (The original Wiffle ball used was a favorite toy.) Another theory is that the name stems from a crew (rowing) term meaning a patchwork group made up of different parts.