Ken Darby and Harry Watson Hill play pickleball Wednesday morning at the Pegasus Street courts in Brunswick. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

Anyone looking to fill their social calendar with friendly competition and low-impact exercise may want to check out the new sports craze, pickleball. The game has recently swept through the Midcoast and is noted “as the fastest growing sport in America” by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

Several Maine towns are embracing the pickleball trend, including Bath, Brunswick, Falmouth and Portland, to name a few. To those unfamiliar with it, the organization USA Pickleball describes the sport as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

Wednesday morning, over 40 members of the Midcoast Pickleball Association gathered at Brunswick Landing to get their blood pumping and socialize with their peers on the pickleball court. Pickleball Association Ambassador John Coray said the club started out as a small group of 30 senior citizens in 2018 and has grown into 340 enthusiastic members of all ages who meet each week to take lessons and compete.

“It’s great for retirees who want to keep their physical fitness and mental skills going, but this year, I am seeing families coming out to play as well as middle-aged and younger adults,” he said.

Pat Savolt, 70, began playing over a year ago after moving to Maine and needing a way to meet new people.

“It’s good exercise, it’s not a lot of stress, and I’ve made so many good friends here,” Savolt said.


Patty Irish and Joyce McPhetres play pickleball on Wednesday. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

Pickleball enthusiast Thomas Beote enjoys the game because of the ease of proficiency and sociability.

“I play pickleball because I’m good at it and I like making friends,” he said.

Coray said newcomers are drawn to the sport because it is a quick study and not as physically demanding as tennis because the courts are smaller and the ball and paddle are lighter.

The average paddle weighs between 6 and 14 ounces, and the average pickleball weighs around 0.78 ounce. The pickleball court, measuring 44 by 20 feet, is far smaller than one tennis court measuring 78 by 36 feet; four pickleball courts can fit onto one tennis court.

Another draw to the game is the low cost. Pickleball paddles can be purchased based on skill level from $25 to $250.

Coray said the association maintains eight outdoor courts it renovated after getting permission from two separate apartment-complex owners on Pegasus Street and Neptune Drive. Club members offered to revamp two old basketball courts and tennis courts that had fallen into complete disarray — and raised $8,000 to do so. The courts are available to pickleball members during the day and Brunswick Landing residents in the afternoons and evenings.


The Pegasus courts before they were renovated by the Pickleball Association. Courtesy of Rick Powell

Club President Rick Powell, 69, said members are so dedicated to the game they play outside during the winter when it is 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Members will snowblow and shovel the courts, grab their rackets and go, he said. Despite their enthusiasm, Powell said members are anxiously awaiting the opening of Brunswick’s new recreation complex — a project funded by the town that will house eight indoor pickleball courts.

Coray said the club offered to raise $25,000 for the town to put toward the new courts and in turn were invited to participate in the design process. Coray said by the end of the month, they will have reached their fundraising goal.

Powell said the new indoor courts will draw even more community members to the game. So far, he has seen players as young as 3 participate and has heard local schools are now adding the sport to their physical education classes.

“You quickly realize how fun and exciting pickleball can be and how quickly you can improve, and then you’re hooked!” Coray said.

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