Pickleball growing in popularity locally as fans embrace sport
January 12, 2014 1:59 AM
by JULIE MARTIN

While he admits that it has a funny name, Bill Reynolds hopes that more in the area will soon be taking pickleball seriously — or at least finding out that the relatively new paddle sport means serious fun.

Reynolds, one of a growing number of players who gather several times a week at the YMCA in White Township to play the paddle sport, is looking forward to the opportunities the new outdoor courts at Kennedy King Park may bring.

“The possibilities and the idea of the folks that are playing now is to get as many people as interested in playing this game as we possibly can,” he said.

Players, he said, would like to reach out to the community, put on demonstrations, hold mini-clinics and even host small tournaments.

The players also will “beat the bushes” to help White Township raise matching funds to put toward the cost of court construction, Reynolds said.

Played single or doubles with a net that’s 34-inches high, the sport uses a Wiffle ball and draws upon elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

Pickleball was invented in the mid-’60s, and its unique name gives a nod to one of the co-creators dogs.

It’s become a popular sport with seniors in the area, but, Reynolds said, on a national level, the sport is becoming popular with those of all ages.

“For the people who hate exercise machine and swimming laps, this is the perfect game for them,” he said. “It’s perfect because they get their exercise, they have fun and there’s a social element to it.”

There’s also an element of competition. But, among local players, it’s a friendly one.

“Although it’s competitive, no one worries too much if a ball is too close to being out or in,” he said. “The team that played the ball will be given the benefit of the doubt.”

Reynolds, a retired coal miner, started playing pickleball several years ago when he and his wife, Wendy, wanted to start leading healthier lifestyles.

Pickleball was brought to the Indiana, he said, by seniors who learned of the sport while staying at winter homes in warmer parts of the country.

In other areas around southwestern Pennsylvania, something similar happened. Pickleball games are now played at YMCAs from Penn Hills to Hollidaysburg.

Some players even take matters into their own hands.

“People who are really bit by this and have the wherewithal to do so create it in their backyards,” he said.

And, with those in the area having pickleball courts in their own backyard soon, Reynolds hopes that many more around Indiana will reap the benefits of the emerging sport with a funny name.

“I can’t emphasize enough the health, wellness and socialization part of the game,” he said.

More information on pickleball can be found at the website of the USA Pickleball Association, www.usapa.org.

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