Pickleball is an ever-growing sport that has become popular for people of all ages, and it is gaining momentum at the YMCAs in Mocksville and Clemmons.
Scott Spillman, who is the Associate Executive Director at Jerry Long, said it has 25-40 people play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We’ve been doing for a little over a year,” he said by phone. “We had a couple members approach us about interest in it and wanted to get it started out at Jerry Long. It started out with just a couple days a week. It started out with two courts. Now we have three courts with people waiting to play.”
Kim McClure, who is the Executive Director of Davie YMCA, said there are 15-20 people who play on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10-noon. There is also a group 4-8 of Livestrong cancer survivors who play on Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9 p.m.
According to her, people range in age from 12 to 80. Jordan McCallister, who is 12, and her brother Alec, who is 14, regularly play on the two courts that are set up on the basketball court at the Davie Y.
“It had a good group, and to be honest I did not know much about pickleball before I came here,” McClure said. “So I started asking BJ (Hunter), our older adults’ coordinator, what was happening, and she informed me that it’s pickleball and it’s really a game for all ages, which to me is one of the best things that I see when I go back there.
“We have a strong group of our older adults, who primarily are playing it, but at times we have a group of young individuals who come in, too. And for me to see the two generations just come to together has been great.”
Pickleball, which has nothing to do with a pickle, was invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Wash., by fathers Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum.
It’s a sport that combines the elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It’s played with a paddle that is much larger than a table tennis paddle and a plastic ball. It can be played as singles or doubles, but it is most commonly played as doubles. And pickleball is played inside or outside on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.
The serve must be underhanded serve, and a person can only score points while they are serving. The server starts on the right-hand side, and with each subsequent point on serve, players switch from left to right. If a server loses the point while serving, it is a side out, much like in volleyball. The first opponent to 11 points is the winner, who must win by two points.
It is a fast-paced game with varied levels of expertise. That has helped it explode in popularity across the country and at the Jerry Long YMCA in Clemmons and the Davie YMCA in Mocksville. According to ww.usapa.org, there are over 400,000 people across the country playing the sport.
Bob Nibarger, who is the District Ambassador for pickleball in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, credits the internet with its rise in popularity in the Triad.
“I think my personal feeling on that would be social media,” Nibarger said. “I think there’s a lot of people that have Facebook accounts and those sorts of things. It’s promoted a lot. I do a website called northcarolinapickleball.net, which has subscribers on there where you can subscribe for email updates and that sort of thing.”
Judy Collette, who is a 75-year old member at Davie, helped start pickleball there.
“I was just adamant,” she said. “I said BJ, ‘Let’s please try to get pickleball started here at the Y in Mocksville.’ She said, ‘Where actually had you seen this?’”
She said she was taking some Modern Western dance classes at Jerry Long, and she noticed people playing and started to get interested. She started as a fill-in and familiarized herself with it.
“I started enjoying it to the point, I was like, ‘Oh, gee,’” Collette said. “ ‘I’ve got to get over here and discuss that with some of our leaders at the Y here in Mocksville.’ It took a while, but we got it off the ground, got it started. And everybody was real interested, somewhat.”
One of the people influenced by Collette’s bringing it to Davie is 65-year-old Mike Fahey, who retired about a year ago.
“I saw the game played when I was visiting out of state when I was visiting my grandchildren in Ohio,” he said. “I did a little research online. It really looked to be a lot of fun.”
Fahey has come to love the sport and is happy to teach the techniques of the game.
“It seemed like anyone who’s played for the first time really enjoyed the game,” he said. “We took time to make sure people got used to playing, got comfortable playing. And there’s some people here who are pretty competitive. For some of us that really go at it, we really enjoy the game.”
Sande Parrish, who is a 65-year retired teacher from Vienna Elementary, said she knew nothing about it when she retired 16 months ago. She started getting active at Jerry Long.
“The first thing I did for a year, because pickleball wasn’t there, I didn’t know what pickleball was,” she said. “It wasn’t there.”
She instead started in deepwater fitness. She said she first saw pickleball on the news and went to Spillman about starting it at Jerry Long. She said he told her it was already in the works.
“I just loved it from the first day, and I became obsessed,” Parrish said. “It was three hours three times a week.”