July 17, 2013

Young and old in Portland area catch pickleball fever

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Yvonne Kingsley, 64, of West Baldwin, returns a volley while playing pickleball at Sunset Ridge Golf Course in Westbrook on Friday, July 5, 2013. Pickleball is a game similar to tennis, played with oversized ping pong paddles and a plastic ball like a whiffleball on a small tennis court with a 34-inch net.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Additional Photos Below

SWEET SPORT, SOUR NAME

When, where to find a weekly pickleball game:

Blackstrap Road, West Cumberland: Thursday, 9 to 11 a.m.

Shaw Gym, Gorham: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon.

Consolidated School, Kennebunkport: Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m.

Carpentier Park, Sanford: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 5 p.m. to dusk

Sunset Ridge, Westbrook: Weekdays except Thursdays, 9 to 11 a.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Friday, 6 to 8 p.m.

Alfond Youth Center, Waterville: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Fryeburg Recreation Fields: Monday, Thursday, 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.

Old Orchard Beach Rec Center: Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m.

 

Games are generally to 11 points – win by two. If other people are waiting for the court, games are capped at 8.

You can play singles, but doubles is much more common.

"It's a perfect game for people who still want to stay active," said Rita Moore, 67, of Falmouth. "There's just enough moving around."

Moore, a retired school administrator, noticed the marquee (Pickleball -- Stop In!) outside the old Plummer school in October. Because she has friends who played the game in Florida, the name resonated.

She liked it instantly. "A big piece of it is how friendly and encouraging everyone is," she said.

Sunset Ridge in Westbrook hosted a tournament in mid-June that drew more than 50 pickleballers from all over the state, including an 83-year-old man from Belfast.

"I never realized the capacity of pickleball," said Scott Mann, the golf pro at Sunset Ridge. "There's a craze about it."

Mann agreed to a makeover, putting down permanent lines and nets to transform one of Sunset Ridge's three tennis courts into four pickleball courts. He will waive the $2 drop-in fee during an open house from 9 to noon Saturday for anyone who wants to try pickleball, and he's considering converting another tennis court into four more for pickleball.

For the first time, pickleball will be in the National Senior Games, scheduled this month in Cleveland. Last fall in the Maine Senior Games, 68 players took part.

"I actually stopped taking registrations, as it was our first year and I wanted to make sure it was successful," said Jo Dill of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

SENIORS CAN BEAT THE YOUNG

Nationally, pickleball has grown from fewer than 800 venues three years ago to more than 5,500. Ruth Rosenquist, media relations chair of the USA Pickleball Association, estimated the number of U.S. players at more than 120,000 and said the game has spread around the world.

Rosenquist, speaking from her home in Arizona, said she also sees growth among younger players.

"It is so multi-generational," she said. "A 20-year-old and a 70-year-old can compete at this game, and the 70 can beat the 20. That's what's fascinating to me, just because of the experience and the strategy that goes into it."

Wayne Martin, who teaches physical education at Windham High and is the school's tennis coach, learned pickleball at the University of Maine-Presque Isle in the early 1990s and has been teaching it for at least 10 years.

"They love it," he said of his high school students. "It has kind of the same rules as badminton as far as scoring, although tactically, it's different."

Martin and Matt Perkins, Windham's football coach, are five-time defending champions of the school's annual intramural tournament. They finished second in last month's event at Sunset Ridge.

"I think you'll find a lot of schools do teach it," said Martin, whose three children learned pickleball in New Gloucester's school system.

ABOUT THAT ODD NAME

Pickleball traces its origins to Bainbridge Island, Wash., where two families with bored children in a mid-1960s summer came up with a variation on badminton when they couldn't find shuttlecocks but had a Wiffle ball. Gradually, the net got lowered, wooden paddles replaced badminton racquets and the no-volley zone took shape.

As for the name, the USA Pickleball Association's website includes a fanciful story about the family cocker spaniel chasing the ball and hiding out in the bushes. Yes, the dog's name was Pickles.

Rosenquist of the pickleball association admitted that the dog tale is far-fetched. A more likely version comes from a member of one of the two founding families, Joan Pritchard, who in a newspaper column likened the borrowing from different sports to "the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats."

Whatever the origin, pickleball seems to strike a whimsical chord that seeps into the action, which rarely gets heated.

"You can spend most of the game laughing," Rosenquist said. "That's part of the attraction."

 

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Teams of doubles compete during a pickleball match at Sunset Ridge Golf Course in Westbrook on Friday, July 5, 2013. Pickleball is a game similar to tennis, played with oversized ping pong paddles and a plastic ball like a whiffleball on a small tennis court with a 34-inch net.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A pickleball player gets ready to serve while playing at Sunset Ridge Golf Course in Westbrook on Friday, July 5, 2013. Pickleball is a game similar to tennis, played with oversized ping pong paddles and a plastic ball like a whiffleball on a small tennis court with a 34-inch net.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Dan Heckathorn, 50 of Gorham, returns a volley while playing pickleball at Sunset Ridge Golf Course in Westbrook on Friday, July 5, 2013. Pickleball is a game similar to tennis, played with oversized ping pong paddles and a plastic ball like a whiffleball on a small tennis court with a 34-inch net.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer



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