Pickleball may seem like a new sport, but it’s been around since 1965. It was invented on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Wash. Three dads — whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities — are credited for creating the game. There are a few stories about how pickleball got its name. The most widely circulated credits the name to the creator’s dog, Pickles, who loved to chase the ball and run away with it! The USA Pickleball Association sums the sport up nicely: “Fun, social and friendly. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.” Right now there’s a lot of pickleball happening in Fillmore County.
Players gather from Harmony, Preston, Spring Valley, Lanesboro, Fountain, Canton and Wykoff. Annette Johnson from Spring Valley shared, “I wanted to learn how to play pickleball as a retirement goal.” She took a couple classes in Rochester before she hooked up with local players. “They were welcoming and eager to teach me how to play.” she said. The game is her “happy place” as well as fantastic exercise.
Barb Eickhoff, from Fountain, is a newbie to pickleball and loves it. Not only because it’s fun, but because it’s engaging and reactive. You literally have to be on your toes. In fact, pickleball is great for sharpening balance and reflexes which tend to decline as you age. She also extolled the helpfulness and friendliness of the local players.
Speaking of age, a lot of older folks enjoy pickleball, but don’t be misled. I was blown away by the superior health and fitness of these local players. Dennis DeKeyrel from Harmony would love to see younger people get involved and be active. He said, “It’s much easier to start and stay fit in your 30s before things start to fall apart.”
Dennis was the catalyst for getting pickleball started in Fillmore County. He started playing around 2014 in Rochester. He purchased a portable net, paddles and balls for use at the Harmony Community Center. The city of Harmony is very generous with the use of the gym in the community center. It’s great to have an indoor space in winter and in the summer when the temps get hot and sticky. There are outdoor courts in Spring Valley, Harmony, Lanesboro and Preston. It’s nice to see empty tennis courts being used for multiple purposes. Preston’s newly resurfaced outdoors court is superb and can be used for tennis and basketball as well as pickleball.
So, what exactly is pickleball? Here are the basics from the USA Pickleball Association:
•A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.
•Played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net.
•Played with a paddle and a ball that is similar to a wiffle ball.
•Played as doubles or singles.
•Can be enjoyed by all ages and skill levels.
Pickleball is also easy on the pocketbook. You can get a high quality beginner paddle for under $50. Of course, once you fall in love with pickleball, you’ll want all the fancy gear!