Not many people take on a challenging new sport in their 80s. But Ralph Mondor started playing pickleball at 81 and is still an enthusiastic player as he approaches his 85th birthday. He introduced his daughter, Sue Reedich of Partridge Hill Road, to the game, and she has been working ever since to bring pickleball to Harvard.
Pickleball players wield short-handled paddles to hit a plastic ball over a net that is a little lower than a tennis net. The game has been described as a mashup of tennis, pingpong, and badminton; like those games, it can be played either as doubles or singles. Pickleball courts are roughly half the size of tennis courts. And, according to the USA Pickleball Association website, the rules are simple: “The ball must make it over the net, and don’t forget to smile.”
You can play pickleball either indoors or outdoors, Reedich told the Press in a telephone interview. She first tried the game on an outdoor court in Texas, where her father spends the winters. But since then she has regularly played indoors at The Mill Works in Westford.
Hoping to create an outdoor court in Harvard, Reedich drafted a letter to the Parks and Recreation Commission asking for permission to use one of the outdoor courts—either tennis or basketball—behind the Bromfield School. At its March 18 meeting, the commission approved marking the lines for two pickleball courts on one of the town’s tennis courts. The vote was three in favor, two abstaining. The commission deferred to Bromfield Athletic Director David Boisvert as to which tennis court would be used for the new sport.
The new pickleball courts will have their own nets, which players must set up for each game. Otherwise, they would need to lower the tennis net to pickleball regulation height, and then raise it again when their game was over.
Chris Holmes, who coaches girls tennis at Bromfield, said his main concern as a coach was that putting extra lines on a tennis court to mark the pickleball boundaries might sometimes lead to confusion for his players. But he said the decision for pickleball to have its own nets was a good one because constantly changing the tennis net height would be “a headache” for both groups of players.
Warren Avenue resident Bill Johnson, who is working with Reedich on the project, said in a phone conversation that the next step is to develop a plan for the layout of the courts. Johnson is one of the pickleball enthusiasts who play at The Mill Works, and he has volunteered to draw up the plans.
Reedich said she hopes, with the help of Johnson and the Harvard Lions Club, to apply for a grant from the Community Preservation Committee so the cracked town tennis courts can be resurfaced. She is also interested in working with the Council on Aging, because pickleball is a game that all ages can play. Just think of her father!