Powell: Pickleball newest fitness craze at YMCAPublished 2:25pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By Darla Bilton Powell, Niles-Buchanan YMCA
Since January 2012, the Niles-Buchanan YMCA has offered the newest and hottest racket sport that has swept the nation and the world. This fast-moving and downright-addictive game, according to local players, is fun for all ages and skill levels.
“It’s crazy fun,” says Andrew Pfeifer, YMCA member from Berrien Center. Pfeifer describes himself as a former golf junkie.
“I’d rather be playing pickleball than golf,” says Pfeifer. “A fellow golfer will know that really says something.”
According to the USA Pickleball Association’s (USAPA), pickleball originally began in 1965 when Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard with his family and friends gathered around their old badminton court for a game. Unable to play due to lack of workable equipment, they improvised by cutting down handles of the damaged rackets.
Finding a handy perforated plastic ball they commenced playing, following their version of badminton rules. The Pritchard’s cocker spaniel, named Pickles, became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because it was, after all, Pickle’s ball. And that is how the game got its name.
In 1972, the sport was officially formed. In November 2009, the first USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages was held in Buckeye, Ariz. Today, a softball-sized whiffle ball and wood or composite paddles, larger and longer than a ping pong paddle are used. Prices begin at $25.
The YMCA supplies all the necessary equipment needed; though many of the regular players have chosen to bring their own paddles, according to pickleball player Jennifer Gillette, of Niles.
About eight to 20 people show up for the many times reserved for the use of the Y’s gymnasium for pickleball. There are usually two classes offered most days; early morning and afternoon classes.
Many times, the players are found playing longer than the slotted time when the gymnasium isn’t busy.
“We’re here until they kick us out,” says Greg Barney, another regular pickleball player, from Niles. “Playing is a great stress reliever. It’s exercise without feeling like exercise. It feels like fun.”
Many players speak of the positive results of playing the game several times a week after the past few months. Increased fitness is just part of the benefits many of the players have mentioned. A spirit of camaraderie and friendship seems to have blossomed over the many games of pickleball they have played together.
“We all seem to be losing weight and getting in better shape. I’ve lost 30 pounds,” Pfeifer said. “It’s a great group of people. There is a lot of laughter. More laughter than any sport I’ve ever played.”
“We get players from many fitness backgrounds: tennis, golf, volleyball and Ping- Pong,” Pfeifer said. “What ever the age, men or woman, it doesn’t matter the skill level.
“We welcome newcomers. We’ll teach them the ropes and help them along,” he said.
For more information about pickleball, contact the YMCA at (269) 683-1552.
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