Friday, June 14, 2024
HomeUncategorizedPicking a Pack of Pickleball Players’ Minds

Picking a Pack of Pickleball Players’ Minds

Pickleball is all the rage. You might say it’s a pretty big dill. It’s been around since the mid-60s, but numerous online sources report that the sport has grown by over 150% over the last three years. Major League Pickleball was founded in 2021. Schools are incorporat­ing the game into physical education classes. Picklemalls and Pickleplexes are popping up everywhere around the world to offer dedi­cated indoor courts for the beloved sport.

And yet, the lack of pickleball playing op­portunities along the north shore area is quite jarring.

“There is not one indoor dedicated pickle­ball court between the Canadian border and Minneapolis,” Melissa Grover, member of the Duluth Area Pickleball Association, told me. The Association’s mailing list reaches hun­dreds of pickleball enthusiasts who struggle to find places to play throughout the long Minnesota winter.

“We’re frustrated,” Susie Lannon, pickle­ball enthusiast, said. “But we’re hopeful.”

Susie reached out to the Northshore Journal to report the dill-ema in the hopes of drum­ming up ideas to solve the lack of plac­es to play. She became hooked on the game when she was unable to find racquetball play­ers to play with.

Such is the pickleball community that Su­sie was welcomed immediately into the fold. It’s a common occurrence that LuAnne Milt­akis, the third pickleball amigo gathered to talk to me about their concerns, can verify. “It’s social,” she says of the sport. “I’ve met wonderful friends of all ages.” Melissa con­curred. “You show up with your paddle, you don’t know anybody, and you’re invited in.”

Pickleball is inclusive in more ways than one.

The equipment is minimal. You need shoes, a paddle, and a ball. A pickleball is like a wif­fleball, but lighter. You can find them online for around $10 for a 3 pack. My new pickle­ball friends have glow in the dark pickleballs. They don’t want a thing like nighttime to stop the fun. When the game was first played, a ping pong paddle was used. These days they have developed “honeycomb cores” and “carbon friction surfaces.” You can get a ba­sic paddle starting around $30.

It transcends age. Three generations could easily be found on the court together. LuAnne laughed about playing with some friends who are 75+. “They’re just crazy good,” she said. “They’re very accurate.” On the other end of the spectrum, the young men who came to the court where I was getting a lesson were quite impressive. I was told it was only their second time playing.

Also, it’s accessible to people of all abilities. “It’s like tennis but less run-y,” said Susie. “But it’s still a fantastic cardio workout. I personally have lost weight and toned up a lot.”

My ears perked up at the “less run-y” part of Susie’s description. They had been asking me if I’d like to go play after the interview since the start of the interview. I’m out of shape and didn’t want to embarrass myself, but also was warming to the idea from the enthusiasm the three ladies exuded while we talked. I decided to try to be a cool cucumber.

I followed them to the court and, while they were setting up, I noticed it was quite a bit smaller than I thought. You can fit four pick­leball courts in one tennis ball court. Playing with partners, it’s a lot less ground to cov­er. The net is also a little shorter, making it slightly easier to lob it over to the other side.

Melissa let me use one of her very ex­pensive paddles. Thank goodness, I needed all the edge I could get. We began to volley back and forth; rules being explained as the ladies took it easy on me and encouraged me every time I hit and even when I missed the ball. They said I was pretty good. I think they were just being kind. I was, however, having a blast.

“I don’t know anyone who’s ever tried pick­leball and not loved it,” Melissa Grover had told me before the game. I played for may­be fifteen minutes. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s easy to see how one can become so ded­icated to pickleball. “Dedicated is too small of a word,” Susie said. “We’re crazy.”

So now I’m wondering, like Susie and her friends, what kind of pickleball opportunities could be created if all the local pickleball lov­ers put their heads together. “Maybe there’s a pole building out there,” Susie shrugged. “Or a county owned building.”

There’s also an opportunity for investment. Indoor courts charge an average of $7 an hour and there is little worry that they wouldn’t fill up quickly. Melissa mentioned how great it would be to have a venue set up like the Duluth Curling Club. A restaurant, drinks, courts, equipment to use/rent, tournaments, lessons… the pickle possibilities abound.

I really like the idea of a pickle palace. I would totally buy a t-shirt that said “Pickle Palace.”

What ideas do you have? Susie Lannon would like to hear from you! You can reach her at susielannon@gmail.com.

Thank you, Susie, Melissa, and LuAnne for the fun evening and free pickleball lesson!

Feel free to reach out to me at sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com with any news we should news about!

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