ROCHESTER HILLS >> Bob Dunn and Scott Janisse happened upon pickleball like so many others have — quite by accident.
Dunn of Rochester Hills was bringing his mother-in-law to the Older Persons’ Commission for therapy. He’d walk the track above the pickleball courts while waiting for her.
“It happened to be during a tournament week, that’s how I know it’s exactly three years ago. I saw people down here wailing on the ball and “Wow. I’ve got to get some of that,’’’ Dunn said.
“Ever since then I’ve been in love with the sport, I gave up racquetball to play it.’’
Dunn and Janisse (Bloomfield Hills) were partners in the Michigan Senior Olympics men’s pairs pickleball competition this week at the Older Persons’ Commission. While in the past they’ve won medals, this week they came up one win short.
“There’s a lot of good competition,’’ Janisse said. “Every year it’s getting better and better.’’
After playing for just three years, they are good ambassadors for the sport growing in popularity with all age groups.
“If you’re a racquet sport person and see this, you automatically think that looks easier than it is. Then you get on the court and start to realize I’ve got a lot to learn and that’s what draws you in even more. There’s a lot of shots to learn and a lot of them are not really easy,’’ said Janisse, a former tennis player.
You don’t have to have a racquet sports background to play but it might help.
“I think more so than anything, it just flows right in, it’s a natural progression as you get older,’’ Janisse said. “It’s nice because you don’t have to move so far to get to the ball like tennis, it’s a little slower than racquetball, there’s a lot of pluses for age related.’’
Both of them took easily to pickleball in a short time.
“Because it’s a wiffle ball that doesn’t bounce like most people are used to with tennis balls or racquet balls, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up and then the ball is going to bounce slowly,’’ Dunn said. “So when you start playing you get better so quickly as your brain adjusts to the bounce of the ball. And it’s so much fun you feel like, ‘Oh I’m getting really, really good.’ it’s intoxicating feeling.’’
Both of them play about three or four times a week, but are considered part-timers.
“There’s a joke among some players if a person only plays six days a week they’re called a part-timer,’’ Dunn said. “You’re not a full-timer until you play seven days a week.’’
Dunn would like to play more but he is also the pickleball coordinator at Life Time in Troy.
He’s seeing more younger people getting addicted to pickleball.
“Some of the basketball players are upset that we’re taking over some of their court space, so they stayed and played and fell in love with the sport. It’s really catching on with the younger group,’’ Dunn said.
One reason is the level of competition can be so good so quickly.
“In a center you have the recreational players that are more fun, but they still get to a level where they compete with each other but it’s more fun,’’ Dunn said. “Then you get to a level where it’s a little more aggressive competition where winning and losing means a little bit more. For people looking for that, there are a great number of people who can play that. It’s tremendous because there are so many people playing now you can find all levels of competition.