Jared Dieffenbach is referred to as the “Pickleball Ambassador of Prince George County,” and it is a title he wears proudly.
“It’s an easy game to learn and a whole lot of fun to play,” he said. “It’s very social since most people play doubles on a court about half the size of a tennis court. So far, I’ve played games with players from age 13 to age 86 and both were good and very competitive. The game attracts a lot of former and current tennis, ping-pong and racquetball players. Me, I played some tennis and quite a lot of racquetball in my younger days and still playing some racquetball now, but pickleball has become my favorite sport.”
What is pickleball? It apparently is a mish-mash of tennis, badminton, ping-pong and wiffleball that actually has been around since 1965.
“Three men — Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard, along with his two friends Barney McCallum and Bill Bell — had returned to Pritchard’s Bainbridge Island home near Seattle after a morning round of golf,” Dieffenbach said. “They found their kids bored and complaining they had nothing to do. There was a badminton court on Bainbridge’s property, but they couldn’t find the birdies or rackets. They had ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball, so they lowered the badminton net and began hitting the ball back and forth over the net similar to playing doubles tennis. They all loved playing it, and, soon, the adults were playing the game every day. Rules evolved and wooden paddles were made slightly larger than ping-pong paddles.”
Dieffenbach claims pickleball is the fastest-growing recreational sport in the nation now, with a plethora of tournaments at the local, state and national levels. There also is talk of making it part of Virginia’s Senior Olympic Games.
As for the name, there are several variations of its origin. Dieffenbach said his favorite version is the one claiming it is named after Pickles, Pritchard’s dog who would grab any ball hit in his direction and run with it.
Dieffenbach said when he first heard about pickleball, he tried to ask around, but no one knew anything about it. Then one day three years ago, who kayaking on the Appomattox River, he asked a friend about it. As it turns out, that friend had heard of it and said he had been invited to a beginner’s lesson on pickleball at a church in Midlothian.
“I went with him on that Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, and I’ve been playing ever since,” Dieffenbach said.
Dieffenbach’s dedication to the sport has resulted in him being deemed Prince George’s pickleball ambassador.
“I work closely with the Prince George County Parks and Rec Director who is very supportive in efforts to grow the sport,” he said. “Tennis courts can be modified with blended lines and nets lowered two inches to play pickleball.”
Games usually are played on Tuesday and Friday mornings at the Prince George Central Wellness Center in Disputanta. Dieffenbach also said Chesterfield County has a pickleball program, with eight courts currently in place and another 12 on the way.
In Prince George, the next Pickleball Open House will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 9 at the Wellness Center, located at 11033 Prince George Drive. There will be a beginner’s clinic, and all equipment will be provided. For more information, call (804) 458-6164 or send an email to email@example.com.
Kristi K. Higgins can be reached at 804-722-5162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.