GLASGOW – Every Thursday night, about a dozen people gather in a Glasgow Parks and Recreation Department gymnasium to play pickleball, a sport commonly described as a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong.
Jason Ford, a recreation supervisor at the department who oversees the pickleball sessions, said the sport has grown in popularity nationally in recent years.
The department began offering pickleball in the fall to provide unusual activities for the community alongside more common sports such as volleyball and basketball, Ford said.
“We like offering things that not everybody offers,” he said.
Pickleball is essentially a smaller-scale version of tennis with a lower net and smaller paddles that players use to whack a ball similar to a wiffle ball back and forth.
Much of the game’s appeal comes from being a scaled-down amalgamation of other racket sports, Ford said.
So far, Ford said, the pickleball program has been well-received in Glasgow, with anywhere from eight to 16 players coming out each Thursday to play.
“I really think it’s had a warm welcome,” he said. “We would actually like to get a league started. … Right now, it’s just open gym.”
Nationally, pickleball has proven attractive to a wide range of people, particularly those over 55, because the sport keeps players active without being exhausting and doesn’t require a great deal of athleticism, he said.
According to Ford, Joel Pritchard, then a congressman from Washington state, invented pickleball with some friends in 1965 after attempts to find a shuttlecock for a badminton game were unsuccessful.
Joan Pritchard, the congressman’s wife, named the sport after the “pickle boat,” a term used for boats that are manned by oarsmen who were not chosen to crew other boats.
“I guess without coming out and saying it, she was inferring that it was for people who weren’t fast enough for tennis,” he said.
Dustin Mustread of Bowling Green played pickleball for the first time Thursday night with his friend Lance Gatewood. Mustread said Gatewood invited him to play and he thought he’d give it a try.
Mustread and Gatewood already play racquetball through a Bowling Green Parks and Recreation program when their schedules allow.
“I’ll try to split it up with him this year, so … if he drives to Bowling Green, I’m going to drive to Glasgow, try to make it fair for us,” Mustread said.
Mustread said he enjoyed pickleball after his first time playing it.
“It’s like pingpong to me. Like pingpong and tennis and … it’s fun. And it’s easy to learn,” he said.
Gatewood is new to the sport as well, having played it only a handful of times before, including once with Glasgow’s parks department.
Gatewood said he learned about pickleball from his father, who is a fan of the sport, and has grown to enjoy it himself.
“It’s a nice-paced sport, you know. It’s not real fast-paced, it’s not real slow so you get good exercise and good competition,” he said.