Jessica Holbrook CantonRep.com staff writer – Jun 23, 2019 at 5:15 PM
Here’s the skinny on one of the country’s fastest-growing sports.
On a sunny Friday morning, Stadium Park in Canton is filled with the rhythmic thwacks of balls hitting racquets.
Members of the Hall of Fame City Pickleball Club fill the park’s dedicated courts, pairing off for friendly doubles games.
“It’s addictive,” said Roxane Binkley during a break between matches.
Binkley discovered the game a few years ago on vacation. She’s been playing since.
“It’s really grown,” she said. “A lot of people would ask ‘what’s pickleball?'”
“Not anymore,” added Sue Rice.
Pickleball — often described as a mix of tennis, badminton and ping-pong — is one of the world’s fastest growing sports, according to the USA Pickleball Association, which governs the sport.
The game was founded in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three dads looking to entertain their bored kids one summer. The origin of the name pickleball is unclear, with one account saying its based on the pickle boat in crew and another saying its named after a family dog.
Regardless of how it got its name, pickleball grew and spread throughout the country. The sport had 3.1 million players in 2017, a 12 percent increase from the previous year, according to USAPA.
It’s no different in Stark County.
“It’s really grown at a phenomenal pace,” said Joe Harold, a board member of the Hall of Fame City club.
The club was founded late last year. It now has about 140 members who get together for tournaments, drills and friendly pick-up games. The club also holds free clinics for beginners and works to spread the word about the sport.
The club would like to see Northeast Ohio become a premier place for pickleball, he added.
Stark County has no shortage of indoor and outdoor courts for players — about 18 locations — and in recent years, municipalities have converted underused tennis and shuffleboard courts into pickleball ones.
North Canton this spring turned its tennis courts on Glenwood Street SE into four pickleball courts.
“It’s kind of becoming huge,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Werren, ward three.
The new courts have proved popular. On weekends, it’s not uncommon to have a line of players waiting for their turn, she said.
If the sport continues to grow, the city could upgrade the area from four playing surfaces to eight, she added.
What is pickleball?
“I would call it giant ping pong,” Harold said.
According to USAPA: Games are played on badminton-sized courts, 20 feet by 44 feet, with a 34-inch to 36-inch net in the center. Players use composite wooden paddles about twice the size of a table tennis paddle and hit a perforated plastic ball, similar to a Wiffle ball. Games can be played by either singles or doubles.
“The game is fast. It’s tactical, strategic. There’s power and finesse, a whole lot of things going on,” Harold said.
Pickleball is easy to pick up — basic paddles cost about $60 to $70 — and can be played by all ages. The game doesn’t need a gender divide, as men and women compete well against each other, he said.
Those who are interested in the sport can join the club at the courts — a schedule of play and tournaments is on the website at hofcpickleball.com
Pickleball is popular with seniors because it’s less strenuous than tennis, with a shorter court and less ground to cover, but in recent years has begun attracting younger players, he said.
“You can be amazed at the hands and the feet of people you might have thought were too old to play this game. And they play it really, really well,” he said.
Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @jholbrookREP.
Content retrieved from: https://www.cantonrep.com/news/20190623/pickleball-courts-in-stark-county-are-growing-as-is-sport.