Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pickleball may be next popular local sport

Published May 1, 2013 - The State Port Pilot, Southport, NC

Marty Smith is a USA Pickleball Association Ambassador and his territory is Brunswick County.

“My goal is to get as many people as I can out to play pickleball,”
Smith explained. “I want to go after the older age group so they can get out and get some exercise in order to get the juices lowing and live longer.”

Pickleball originated in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, when a group wanted to play a game of badminton but could not ind a shuttlecock. So they lowered the net and fabricated some plywood paddles and started playing on the badminton court with a Whifle-like ball.

The court is 20 feet by 44 feet, compared to a tennis court that is 36 by 78. Experience in tennis, badminton and ping pong is helpful, as there are similarities with those sports.

“Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the USA and you are going to have seniors' quality of life improve as a result of getting more exercise,” Smith said. “We have more pickleball players in Brunswick Forest than tennis players, even though tennis courts outnumber pickleball courts six to four.”

Smith, a resident of Brunswick Forest in Leland, said games there started with eight or nine players; now there are more than 40 participating.

Senior Games demo

The North Carolina Senior Games will include pickleball as a sanctioned event starting in 2014. At the Gator Senior Games opening ceremonies held April 3, six residents of Brunswick Forest were on hand to demonstrate the sport.

Many of the Senior Games participants gave the sport a try. Mary Comer, an Oak Island resident, was among those at the Senior Games opening and she invited Smith to conduct a similar demonstration in Oak Island.

Local interest

Smith, Tim Camden, Jim Gautier and Vicki Shockley, all Brunswick Forest pickleball players, gave a repeat of their Senior Games demonstration at the tennis courts in Oak Island on April 18, attended by about 30 Oak Island residents. Again, there was interest in pursuing the sport.

Among the participants was Rebecca Squires of the Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, who helped arrange the event. Squires said if there is enough interest in pickleball the department would consider providing some facilities.

Joe Meissner from St. James attended to learn more about the sport, and plans to check out the possibility of getting a pickleball facility there.

The sport
The used is a perforated plastic ball similar to a Whifle ball. The game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

The net is a couple inches lower than a tennis court net, and the paddles are oversized ping pong paddles made of plywood, aluminum or graphite. The game can be played with two or four players.

In 1972 pickleball was incorporated to give the game a hub and keep up with the demand for paddles, balls, nets and other gear. Pickleball is played throughout the world through community groups, physical education classes, YMCA, retirement communities and other venues. There already are over 100,000 players in the United States alone.

When tennis and badminton players ind it dificult to navigate the larger courts, the next step is pickleball, where there is not as much running required.

Local beginnings

Smith provided background on how pickleball courts were made available at Brunswick Forest.

“Nancy Holly, a Florida resident from The Villages, where pickleball is a big-time sport, was purchasing a home in Brunswick Forest and she convinced the developer to include pickleball courts in the tennis complex.

Pickleball is played everyday at Brunswick Forest and three days have been scheduled for group play—Sunday morning, Monday and Wednesday evenings. “The group play is more social than competitive,” Smith observed.

Adding the game to Senior Games should be a real boost to increase the number of players and facilities.

Contact person

Marty Smith has offered to conduct pickleball demonstrations for other communities and organizations interested in learning more about the sport. He can be contacted at 703-928-1619 or

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