Posted May 25, 2018
Want to Be Active and Trendy? Try Your Hand at Pickleball
As you can image, McCormick is a golfer’s paradise. Not many neighborhoods come with an outstanding golf course in their backyard, after all. But while we’re all about golf, we also cater to various other active lifestyles. Which is why we’re known for our amenities like parks, trails, as well as tennis and basketball courts.
Pickleball, however, may be one of McCormick’s best-kept secrets. This trendy sport is wildly popular, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find outdoor pickleball courts in Port Orchard, unless your friends have one in their yard. At McCormick, you can play pickleball any time. There’s a court at Mary McCormick Park and it’s buzzing with activity rain or shine. With so many of your neighbors hooked on this game, you’re likely to find a match partner at whatever skill level you are.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, there are at least 15,000 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts around the country. Schools, YMCAs and community centers are getting in on the action. The estimated number of U.S. players was 2.5 million in 2016 — so if you’ haven’t tried this hot sport for yourself, you’re definitely missing out.
What exactly is pickleball and how do you get started? Here’s a quick orientation.
Born in Our Own Kitsap Backyard
First, we’d be amiss to not proudly mention that pickleball was born on our very own Kitsap Peninsula. We have our Bainbridge Island neighbors to thank for what is now a sport with national tournaments and pickleball organizations worldwide.
It was sheer serendipity. Joel Pritchard, former Washington state congressman and lieutenant governor, and his friend, local businessman Bill Bell, were looking for something to do for their families one weekend back in 1965. The Pritchard property had an old badminton court but they didn’t have all the necessary equipment. Undeterred, Pritchard and Bell got the families playing with ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball with holes. After a while, they found that lowering the net to 36 inches worked better. The next weekend, another friend was introduced to the game — and soon, the three men were busy creating rules for the game. Who knew this improvised weekend pastime would become a bona fide sport just a few years later? Not to mention an international one within a few decades?
What the Buzz Is About
What makes pickleball so enticing? It’s a sport all ages can enjoy. The court is smaller, so there’s less running, plus you’re not pounding on the ball as much as you would with tennis or racquetball. Since pickleball requires strategy, you’re not only getting exercise but also keeping your brain sharp. And — possibly the best part — pickleball is a very social game. Unless you’re the competitive type, that is. In that case, you can compete and acquire rankings. In fact, Port Orchard’s own Gregg Guidi is one of 400-some men ranked in the highest category (5) in the United States.
A combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, pickleball can be played outdoors or indoors. The net is like one you’d find at a tennis court, with some modifications, and you can play singles or doubles. All you need to get started at McCormick is a partner, a pickleball paddle (which is lightweight and larger than a ping-pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racquet) and a pickleball (which resembles a whiffle ball because it has holes).
As with anything, die-hard enthusiasts wear special apparel, but there’s really no need to worry about that — play in any athletic wear that makes you feel comfortable. One thing that’s a must, however, is shoes appropriate for the court. Protective eyewear is recommended.
If you want to give pickleball a try, just stop by Mary McCormick Park and watch your neighbors play for a bit. We’d be willing to bet that if you ask, they’ll also happily give you a short introduction to the rules. You can also read all about the game — rules, equipment, etc. — on the USAPA’s website. Once you’re hooked, don’t be afraid to venture past McCormick. There’s a popular pickleball court in Gig Harbor, just a few minutes away, at Sehmel Homestead Park.
If you want to play indoors, the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties’ Silverdale and Gig Harbor branches both have indoor courts and drop-in games for members. Local enthusiasts also often play indoors at schools around North Kitsap and you can find out more on the Kitsap County Pickleball Facebook page.
Many player says that once you give pickleball a try, it’s easy to get addicted. How lucky that you can just take a stroll and get into the game right in your neighborhood, any time want?