Great Name, Great Game
Played indoors or out, simple to learn and tough to master, pickleball is a game for anyone of any age and any skill level – no kidding! And this fast-growing sport is making fans and friends of folks all over the country. So fast, in fact, that the spring pickleball tournament at Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation has doubled in size to meet demand.
But wait… what’s this pickleball thing anyway? Glad you asked! Simply put, pickleball is a court sport, like tennis or badminton, that’s played with paddles and a ball that’s a bit like a whiffle ball. Sounds good so far. But what’s it like to play?
“It’s fun, and it allows a high level of competition in a less-physically taxing game,” said Aaron Cheeks, athletic coordinator for adult sports at Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s Revolution Sports Academy. “It lets a tennis player or badminton player to still play, but without as much movement.”
There’s less emphasis on the serve in pickleball, and there are generally fifteen to twenty hits between points in this fast-moving game. But make no mistake, this isn’t just your grandparents’ pickleball, though…
“No, we’ve gotten quite a bit of interest from young adults, too,” added Cheeks, “so much so, we’re considering adding a younger age bracket for the fall tournament.”
“It’s not an ‘old people’ sport, but it is one that older people can still play and be competitive at,” said Richard Osman. He and his wife have been playing pickleball for two and a half years, and he’s a USAPA ambassador for the sport.
Osman says along with the short learning curve, and the opportunity for tournaments and higher level competition, it’s the social aspect of the game that makes pickleball one-of-a-kind.
“If you’re playing doubles, you’re with three other people in a much smaller space than in tennis,” said Osman. “You’re spending twenty minutes wth them, then mixing it up again. And it’s lot of exercise and a lot less of a time commitment than an actual tennis game or a round of golf!”
According to the USA Pickleball Association, there are over 2.5 million pickleball players and 150,000 indoor and outdoor courts in the US, with at least one location to play in every state. Lucky you, there are at least five Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation locations that routinely serve up pickleball or host seasonal tournaments, including indoor play Betty Ray Thomas, Revolution Park, Mallard Creek, and Marion Diehl recreation centers, and outdoors at the Tuckaseegee Recreation Center.
And the department is planning on 8 pickleball courts at the new Clarks Creek Community Park on Huck’s Road (in the University City area). Construction on this park and the courts are scheduled to begin in late spring, with completion and a grand park opening anticipated for spring 2018.
That’s a lot of pickleball!
Ready to play?! The spring tournament date is May 20 and 21st at the Dilworth Tennis Courts at the Tom Sykes Recreation Center. Registration through e-parks 2.0, or by calling Revoluton Park Sports Academy at 980-314-1355.