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Young or old, tall or small, Pickleball is a game for all
by Unsie Zuege
Jan 28, 2012 | 1468 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Beginners soon become experts. Lee Carlson of Chanhassen, at left, prepares to serve the ball. The Chanhassen Rec Center sponsored a Pickleball demonstration Monday morning. Carlson’s partner is Bob Ferris of Victoria. Their opponents across the net are Carol Ferris of Victoria and Dick Berg of Chanhassen.
Beginners soon become experts. Lee Carlson of Chanhassen, at left, prepares to serve the ball. The Chanhassen Rec Center sponsored a Pickleball demonstration Monday morning. Carlson’s partner is Bob Ferris of Victoria. Their opponents across the net are Carol Ferris of Victoria and Dick Berg of Chanhassen.
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Start lining up.

From what they say, Pickleball is incredibly easy to learn, and maddeningly addictive.

Pickleball has come to Chanhassen.

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it.

It’s like ping pong on steroids, or downsized tennis.

It can be played by singles or doubles, on a badminton-sized court (or one-fourth of a regulation tennis court). Players hit a perfo-rated plastic ball with paddles over a net, 34 inches high (two inches lower than a tennis net).

It’s extremely popular in Florida, Texas, and Arizona where it can be played on outdoor courts year-round. It’s also become popu-lar in northern climates. While many of its followers are snowbirds who first picked up the game down South, it’s also played in schools as part of physical education programs.

In According to Richard Carter of Bloomington, also known as the Pickleball Man in Minnesota, and editor of www.minnesotaPickleball.com, it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

HANDS ON DEMO

Chanhassen’s Park and Recreation Department had a free demonstration Monday at the Chan Rec Center. In addition to a half dozen experienced players from Eden Prairie on hand to coach and teach the game, nearly a dozen people from Chanhassen and Victoria attended.

Jerry Maas of Bloomington downplays his swell title of Pickleball Ambassador, but he does make a good one. He’s upbeat, ener-getic, and eager to share Pickleball information and facts. Maas, 75, plays in Bloomington and helped get the Eden Prairie Pickleball club started two years ago.

On Monday, he provided an overview of the game, the fundamentals, keeping score, and then commenced hands-on demos, as-sisted by members of the Eden Prairie Pickleball club.

Among the newcomers were Jim and Carol Hersman, Frieda Olin, Dick Berg, Jeff Conradi and Lee Carlson, all of Chanhassen, and Bob and Carol Ferris of Victoria.

As they split into teams, Carter provided insight from the bleachers on why the sport has caught on so quickly.

“It came to Minnesota two years ago,” Carter said. “A couple guys had come back from vacation where they picked it up and they started playing it up here. It’s grown exponentially since then. Today there are more than 400 active players in Minnesota, and we’ve got clubs in Bloomington, Woodbury, Eden Prairies, Minnetonka, Apple Valley, St. Paul.

BABY BOOMERS

Asked why it’s caught on, Carter, 61 pointed to himself.

“I played racquet ball,” Carter said. “Five years ago, Mayo Clinic told me I had to stop. On the other hand, Pickleball is on a smaller court and you don’t have to move over as much territory. You get a good workout, and you don’t have to be tall or imposing to be good at it. It’s one of the few sports that men and women can play at equal skill levels so it’s really popular with married cou-ples. A lot of times, it’s the wife who brings the husband and gets him started.”

Paul Olson, 61, an avid player from Bloomington, used to play tennis

“But I had problems with my knees,” Olson said. “I used to play two times a week, and it would take days for the swelling to go down. But I can play Pickleball three or four times a week, with no swelling or pain.”

Another reason Pickleball has really grown among baby boomers is “we’re the generation before video games,” Carter said. “We grew up playing games outside, riding our bikes. We want to stay active even if our body parts don’t cooperate.”

In addition to getting out the word at community recreation centers, Minnesota Pickleball wants to promote Pickleball at medi-cal clinics and health-care providers.

Carter points out that Pickleball provides the kind of activity that is good at reducing obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

“Hardly anyone can run four miles, but once people start playing Pickleball, they’re hooked. They keep it up.”

Another aspect is the socializing.

Maas points out that each game plays to 11 points, providing enough time for a good workout, then enough time to rest on the sidelines while another team plays. And during that resting time, “there’s plenty of time for conversation and getting to talk to other players. And the cost is nearly nothing.”

Maas knows of several couples who used to play a round of golf several times during the week. They’ve all taken up Pickleball, he said, citing not only the lower cost, but the exercise benefits.

ALL AGES

Both men point out that one of the best things is that all ages can play together.

Olson described playing in the Eden Prairie community center. A few high school kids came in, waiting for the court to free up. They played Pickleball in high school phy ed, so they were invited to join in a game while they waited for basketball.

“They were amazed at what they didn’t know,” Olson said, and laughed. “They were surprised that the old guys had some tricks up their sleeves. It really opened their eyes. But that’s what’s wonderful about it. Any age can play, and be good at it.”

“The magic of the game,” Carter said, “is the underhand serve and the no volley zone. That way, someone can’t stand at the net and dominate. It takes finesse and some agility.’

“In fact,” Olson chimed in, “one of Minnesota’s top five players is a woman. She drives the guys nuts with her game. She’s so fast and quick. It’s not so much the high speed of the game but that you build up your skill, and that’s the draw.”

OPEN PICKLEBALL 

WHEN: Tuesday and Thursdays, 1-3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Chan Rec Center gym, 2310 Coulter Blvd.

HOW: Equipment is provided

Use Rec Center Punch Card or pay the daily fee.

* Senior Rate /$2.75

* Resident/$3

* Non-Resident/$3.50

Info: Chanhassen Rec Center at (952) 227-1400

What it is

USA Pickleball Association 

Mission: The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was organized to promote the growth and development of Pickleball, not only on a national but an international level. This organization provides players with official rules, tournaments, rankings and promotional materials.

Facts: 

* Played on a badminton court with whiffle-style ball and paddles. 

* Originated in 1965, in a family driveway.

* Named for originator’s family cocker spaniel “Pickles” who chased stray balls.

* The USAPA is a nonprofit corporation. It is governed by a board of directors

* The board is committed to promote Pickleball among players of all ages, sponsors and sanctions tournaments and clinics, ranks players, communicates via e-mail and newsletters, and train of all levels of players. 

* Pickleball is North America's fastest growing sport. 

Info: www.pickleballmn.com
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