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YMCA offers opportunities to play pickleball

4:41 PM, Oct. 14, 2013  |  Comments
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Pickleball fever has arrived at the Stevens Point Area YMCA! In case you haven't yet heard of this crazy new game, it's time to catch up because pickleball has become the fastest growing sport in North America.

What is pickleball? Think tennis, but you serve underhand. Think badminton, but the net is a lot lower.

The U.S. Pickleball Association, USAPA.org, calls the game a "highly contagious, progressive and incurable disease" that is sweeping the nation, especially in Florida, Arizona and other places where a growing population of aging baby boomers are looking to stay active. While the game is fun for all ages, it has quickly become the game of choice for seniors because it doesn't require the same mobility as tennis.

Pickleball was introduced in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle as a backyard family game on a badminton-sized court - 44 feet by 20 feet - with a 34-inch net. The inventors used wooden paddles and a whiffle ball that happened to belong to the family cocker spaniel. Because of his habit of running after stray balls and hiding in the bushes, "Pickles" became the game's namesake.

The sport is a mix of table tennis, paddle tennis, badminton and tennis. It is a great fit for seniors because it is very easy to learn, doesn't require the mobility of tennis, and uses an underhand serve. The smaller court also creates a social atmosphere, and playing doubles and/or mixed doubles is promoted.

Here in Portage County, new converts to the sport have started playing pickleball at area outdoor tennis courts, and now, as the weather changes, the Y's gymnasium is providing an opportunity to bring the game indoors. Starting in September, we have been opening the entire gym for pickleball for a couple hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The Y provides all necessary equipment, or players can bring their own.

Always up for something new, our Y staff has been having fun trying out pickleball. I thought I would mention that, as of press time, I was undefeated. But as my wife pointed out, that would probably open me up to some unfortunate comparisons. Something about pickleball being particularly popular with seniors and me being closer to that status than most of my coworkers.

Whatever your age, hope to see you soon on our new pickleball courts!

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