Pickleball: There’s a new game in town | SkyHiNews.com

Pickleball: There’s a new game in town

Autumn Phillips
Sky-Hi Daily News
Fraser, Colorado
In this file photo from 2009, Betty Jo Chapman prepares to serve while playing pickleball in the Fraser Valley Elementary School.
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

Because Pickleball is still so obscure, devotees are forced to describe it in terms of other sports.

“It’s somewhere between tennis and ping pong,” said Dick Chadwick. “But it scores like volleyball where only the serving team can score.

“It’s like playing ping pong, standing on the table.”

The official Web site for the USA Pickleball Association describes the sport as “mini tennis.” The court is 1/3 the size of a tennis court (more like a badminton court), but the skills are the same as tennis – developing a strong forehand and backhand, hand eye coordination and hitting balls at an angle to get the point.

In fact, tennis players take to the game quickly, and many switch over later in life once their knees, hips or shoulders can no longer handle the impact of a full court tennis game, Chadwick said.

Gary Harris, former principal of Fraser Valley Elementary School, is a life-long tennis player who made the switch to pickleball because of his shoulder.

“He’s an outstanding tennis player,” Chadwick said. “But he can’t play anymore. He’s the best (pickleball) player we have.”

Pickleball has seen growing popularity in Grand County this summer as a group of players meet every Monday and Wednesday at Fraser Valley Elementary School to better their game or try it for the first time.

They hold paddles that look like oversized ping pong paddles and hit a ball (that looks like a smaller, denser wiffleball) back and forth over a waist-height net.

Pickleball was created in 1965 in Seattle by U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard in his backyard. The game is named after Pickles, the family dog that chased errant balls when they went out of the court.

“People have tried to change the name over the years,” Chadwick said, “but the name stuck.”

Dick Chadwick brought the game to Grand County three summers ago. He lives part-time in Tabernash and spends the rest of the year in Arizona, where Pickleball is popular.

According to Chadwick, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, especially popular in 55-and-over communities and RV resorts on the West Coast, Arizona and Florida.

The Villages retirement community in Florida has 96 pickleball courts and features the sport prominently on its Web site.

But looking at the turnout on Monday night, it’s also a game for the young. More than 20 people where on the court Monday, of all ages – children to senior citizens. The one thing they all had in common – they were all laughing.

Perhaps because of its obscurity, Monday night’s game lacked the serious edge that tennis matches sometimes hold. People were playing hard, but the atmosphere was light hearted.

Duncan and Betty Dickey were introduced to the sport in Tucson at a 55 and over RV resort in Tucson.

“We are tennis players and thought it would be easy, but it’s not,” Duncan said. “There’s more wrist in this game. It’s more of a finesse game that’s really won at the net.”

The Monday and Wednesday night games are sponsored by the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District.

Players pay $1 a night to participate, which covers the electricity used at the school and equipment and administration costs.

All equipment is provided by the rec district and when the new recreation center opens in December, there will be two pickleball courts, Chadwick said.

When the Dickeys started playing in Fraser last summer, there were four couples who played regularly.

With more than 20 people showing up to play on Monday night, Duncan said, “we’re waiting for it to blossom into a real club. We’re half way there.”

– To reach Autumn Phillips call 887-3334 ext. 19600 or e-mail aphillips@skyhidailynews.com.

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