Pickleball is the newest racquet and court sport and its popularity is soaring. Its origin is credited to a group of Washington state dads trying to entertain their bored children over the summer.
Since March 2010, when the number of places to play was fewer than 1,000, the number of sites has more than tripled to nearly 3,400 sites, accommodating almost 10,000 courts. Already, Idyllwild has three pickleball courts and a cadre of enthusiastic players.
Nearly 62 new pickleball locations are added each month, according to the USA Pickleball Association. A google search of the sport’s popularity quickly found stories from Minnesota’s Twin Cities; Denton, Texas; Cape Coral, Florida; Denver, Colorado; Clearwater, Florida; Georgia; North Carolina; Arizona; and Richmond, Virginia. There are more than 200 sites in California already.
Pickleball is a racquet sport, similar to tennis and badminton, played with a plastic ball. Men and women of all ages play. The USAPA believes the majority of pickleball players are more than 60 years old. One of Idyllwild’s players is in her 80s.
Idyllwild can thank Barry Wallace’s passion for the local growth. Wallace, a long-time raquet sport coach, teacher and player, and his wife arrived in Idyllwild in May 2013. Within a year, he was discussing with Robert Priefer how pickleball courts could be placed on the former tennis court at the Idyllwild Community Center site.
His fervor included writing to the Town Crier and offering free lessons to interested beginners.
Last Saturday, all three courts were providing fun to six doubles teams and more players patiently waited on the sidelines for their turn.
Doris Dillman has been playing for six months. “I can still be athletic, but it’s not like tennis,” she said.
Ron Perry’s emails keep players alerted to the court times Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday usually around 8:30 a.m. “Everybody has a good time, just playing. There’s no arguing about whether the ball was in or out,” he said. And it’s good activity. Perry has lost weight since he began playing.
The pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court and measures 20-feet-by-44-feet. The same court is used for both singles and doubles play. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a 7-foot, non-volley zone in front of the net (referred to as the “kitchen”). A game goes to 11 points.
Wallace, a former national champion, oversees the games, but only plays now to fill in a doubles team, and teaches and promotes the sport. For beginners, there is box at the Idyllwild Community Center site with spare racquets and balls. Although it is locked, Wallace encourages new players to give him a call 714-721-0145.
Nanci Killingsworth began playing just three months ago, and said, “A friend called me. Now I’m part of the community of pickleball here. They came together from all around Idyllwild,” she said, smiling.
Doris Lombard also affirmed the camaraderie and friendliness of the participants, and she admitted, “I’m competitive and like to win.”