Disputanta, Virginia: Social Butterfly Discovers Pickleball

Kristi Higgins, progress-index.com

If you haven’t been asked to play pickleball, yet, more than likely you will be, soon. Former Prince George County Elementary School principal and my friend, Robin Pruett, loves the sport and the social aspect of it. Robin commented, “The beauty of pickleball is how you can play at several different places in the tri-cities area, but you don’t have to pay membership dues. And, I have made the best of friends.” Robin invited me to play, so I thought I’d give it a go.

When I arrived at the Prince George County Central Wellness Center, I was assigned a partner, Vicki Robinson, from Prince George. Vicki shared, “I’ve been playing for ten years come this summer. Mike Roberts, the Sandston Pickleball ambassador, introduced me to it. I had a heart attack on Dec 17, 2013 while on the pickleball court. They ended up putting two stints in me. I was back at it within six months and haven’t stopped, since. I’m going to build my own pickleball court in my yard.”

Prior to attending, I read that pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Having played varsity tennis, owned a ping-pong table and hit a birdie a time or two, I felt extremely confident I would do A-OK.

Vicki provided basic knowledge to get me started. One of the first rules she pointed out was to, “STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!” The “non-volley zone” is the 7-foot area that extends to each sideline located directly in front of the net. Vicki, also, informed me that the right and left service courts are utilized just like in tennis.

Pickleball can be played on a modified tennis court or can be laid out on any flat surface using court tape to create the boundary lines.

I think the pickleball paddle resembles that of a racquetball paddle in size, but has the look and feel of a ping-pong paddle. And, the ball is like a wiffle ball which has holes.

Vicki and I volleyed with our competitors, Carol and Bill Traylor from Prince George, for a few minutes to warm up. Vicki was very encouraging and said, “I believe you’re ready.”

It is not a difficult game to play, but it took some time to learn where to stand during the serves and to stay out of the damn kitchen. After about the fifth time I was told by Vicki that I was in the kitchen, again, I told her, “Well shucks, I missed my chance at makin’ a sandwich!”

The pickleball definitely does NOT bounce as high as a tennis ball. One time, I was determined to hit it, so I dove for it like I was playing volleyball! I wiped out and landed on my knee. Robin, while laughing, of course, snapped some photos of my glorious moment. However, my new loyal and trustworthy partner, Vicki, was by my side in seconds. I do believe she would have given me mouth-to-mouth or beat my chest, should I have needed it!

The Traylor duo conquered 11 to 5. Bill told me they have been married for 45 years. Jokingly, I told them they had an unfair advantage, since they probably know each other’s move even before they know their own.

I played one more game victoriously with the pickleball ambassador of Prince George County, Jared Dieffenbach. Once, when the ball hit him in the neck, I commented, “This is a dangerous sport! He went right for your jugular!”

Marty Moran, a PG County Parks & Rec employee, started pickleballin’ on October 31, 2017. However, she does not play, at this time, because she has a shoulder injury and is waiting for her doctor to give her a green light. Moran commented, “In the meantime, I babysit the others. I chart the scores at the tournaments and keep them playing by lining up the next teams to hit the court.”

Marty was instrumental in getting PG County Parks & Rec to donate medals for their “fun” tournaments.

Mark Haley, former city manager of Hopewell, shared, “Jo kept bugging me to get down and play pickleball. When I retired in September of 2017, I did and have been playing since then. Local governments like the sport, because it has limited capital. And, the opportunity for sports tourism is huge! Players can go all over the place to compete in tournaments.”

Jo Turek, former director of Recreation and Parks for the city of Hopewell shared, “We introduced pickleball in about 2013 with a couple of workshops and invited people to play at the Hopewell Community Center. Then, PG County Parks & Rec wanted to start their own pickleball, so we suggested they host some workshops, and, it’s flourishing. Pickleball is for all ages; teenagers and college students play during spring break and summer. It’s, also, for all sizes, doesn’t discriminate and anybody and everybody can play.”

Jo added, “The Virginia Senior Games for age 50 and up were held, last year, at the Richmond Raceway Complex and had over 30 courts set up for over 400 players.”

I highly recommend pickleball! It was a lot of fun and wonderful exercise. You might feel like you’re swatting at flies at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Dieffenbach shared, “We welcome the community to our Pickleball Open House on March 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. held right here at the Wellness Center.”

For more information, email Jared at dieffenba@yahoo.com. The PG Wellness Center is located at 11033 Prince George Drive in Disputanta. Check them out on Facebook at PG Pickleballers.

Kristi K. Higgins, also known as “The Social Butterfly”, recently joined the Progress-Index newsroom staff. Kristi, who writes about her experiences at various community events, will be contributing her insights and perspective, as well as sharing stories of human interest, for Progress-Index customers. She can be reached at khiggins@progress-index.com or 804-722-5162.

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