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Monday, February 27, 2017

Pickleball Makes the News in Brevard

Good news and a good day...

The Transylvania Times recently featured pickleball play at the Transylvania County Recreation Center.

Ginger Newman goes for a backhand during pickleball play Tuesday at the county's Recreation Center. (Times photos by Michael Rogers)
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports nationwide and is alive and well in Transylvania County.

Once an oddity, it has exploded across the country in popularity. Courts and clubs are springing up from California to Florida, and there's an active national organization that hosts competitions and provides instruction and support.

Many communities are building courts and complexes to include specific venues for pickleball.

Pickleball is like a crossbreed of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It is a racquet sport played with a solid paddle slightly smaller than a racquet ball paddle and a Wiffle-like ball. There's a distinctive "thwack" sound as the ball is volleyed between and across courts. It can be played as a singles or doubles game. The rules are easy to pick up - similar to tennis, but there are some differences.

The pickleball court is similar to a doubles badminton court.

The court is 20 by 44 feet for both doubles and singles.

The net is 36 inches on the ends and 34 inches at the center.

There are right and left service courts and a 7-foot non-volley zone called the "kitchen."

It's not difficult to convert a tennis court or a badminton court to accommodate a game of pickleball, with a tape measure and some tape.

The game was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Trying to entertain their bored families, former State Rep. Joel Pritchard and friends attempted to set up a badminton court but couldn't could find any shuttlecocks, so they improvised using a Wiffle ball, lowering the badminton net and creating paddles from plywood. Although some sources state that the name "pickleball" was in honor of the family dog, Pickles, according to Joan Pritchard, Pritchard's wife, the name came after she said it reminded her of the "Pickle Boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats."

Pickles, the dog, came two years late and was named for the game, but it is a good story.

Relatively low-impact, pickleball is family friendly and has been a big hit with the senior population. In the beginning, it was senior citizens who played the majority of pickleball since it puts less stress on the joints than tennis.

However, it has caught on and gained in popularity across the spectrum - from children to seniors.

High schools and colleges now include it in their PE programs.

John Jessen and Paul Aaron really love pickleball. The sport is also really taking off nationally and locally, with several locations in the county to play.

It is predicted the sport will have about 8 million players by 2019 and current efforts are underway to create an organized, national professional circuit.

National tournaments and clinics are being held across the country, and there is a Pickleball Channel on Youtube and lots of instructional videos.

Locally, there are no public pickleball courts, but pockets of "pick-up" courts and private clubs offer an opportunity for play.

The Brevard Health and Racquet Club and the Connestee Falls community offers court play. Key Falls Inn rents out its tennis court, and The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club has indoor play.

Transylvania Parks and Recreation allows players to tape off courts at certain times.

A local Pickleball club is also in the process of being formed.

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