Pickleball: The most popular sport you’ve never heard of

Posted Jul 24

Why do people love pickleball?

By Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — What’s the big dill about pickleball?

The sport, a cross between ping pong, racquetball and tennis, has grown 34 percent since 2014. About 3.3 million Americans over the age of 6 played pickleball at least once in 2018, according to a Sports and Fitness Industry Association 2019 report. Courts are popping up across Northeast Ohio: in Avon, Brecksville, Cleveland Heights, Lyndhurst, Mentor, Parma Heights, Parma and Rocky River.

Let’s get to the bread and butter of the sport: “There are no pickles involved,” said Philip Saunders Jr., a Lakewood pilot who started playing after his wife picked up the sport at the YMCA.

Pickleball players thwack a ball across a smaller version of a tennis court. It’s an easy to learn, competitive, fun sport, devotees say. And you can continue to play later in life.

Saunders Jr. said he used to play tennis, and other team sports.

“This isn’t as bad on my knees,” Saunders Jr., 60, said of pickleball. “You still get the good workout.”

“I’m as competitive as all get up,” he said. “If you’re keeping score I want to win and it’s something that I can still do against younger personnel or older personnel and win.”

Kerissa MacKay, a 39-year-old international trade consultant living Lakewood, said she had been an athlete — running track and playing volleyball — her entire life and want to continue to play sports later in life.

She tried rugby, but suffered concussions. She tried cycling, but had a couple near misses with cars. So she picked up pickleball earlier this year.

“Pickleball offers everything. It’s easy on my body. It’s social, and I can do it, like I said, for the next 30 or 40 years. Glad I found it. Now it’s my sport,” she said.

The married mom of two said she has played pickleball with her 4-year-old and her 70-year-old father.

She said she likes that you can play the game all year long in Cleveland — when the weather is nice, you can play outside, or take it inside when it gets chilly.

Rich Abston, of Strongsville, starting playing pickleball six years ago, and became an instructor about three years ago.

He’s seen the sport pick up tremendously since he first took up a paddle.

“I tell everyone just to give it a shot. You’d be amazed about how much fun it is. With me, I was reluctant to try, but once I tried, I was hooked,” he said. “You can play socially, recreation, just laugh and have fun with your friends or you can take it to another level and play competitively.”

Here’s where to find a pickleball court near you.


Content retrieved from: https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2019/07/pickleball-the-most-popular-sport-youve-never-heard-of.html.

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