I’ve always enjoyed tennis, ping pong and badminton, so I couldn’t resist the invitation to join a group of pickleball players this week at Settlers Park.
I’ll definitely play again.
The game is a cross between those other three net sports — played with a supersized ping-pong paddle and a baseball-sized Wiffle ball on a badminton-sized court (20 feet wide by 44 feet long). The scoring and server rotation are a bit funky, but the actual game play is fairly simple. Much of the game is played on quick-reflex shots from the no-volley line, 7 feet from the net.
“As you saw today, you can be playing in 5 minutes,” Kathy Getto of Meridian said, “and then it takes a lifetime to perfect.”
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More than 300 people belong to two Boise-area groups: the Boise Area Pickleball Association and the Boise Pickleball Club. They play outdoors on tennis courts with pickleball lines (they need to lower the net to 34 inches in the center) and indoors at the YMCA Homecourt facility in Meridian (mornings only).
The Mountain & Meadows Pickleball Club in McCall has another 61 members.
Pickleball is particularly popular with seniors, including many who have transitioned from tennis. Pickleball is easier on the body because there’s less court to cover (doubles is the most popular version) and less impact in the strokes (serving is done underhand).
But at a recent Boise-area tournament, a 10-year-old participated and a 15-year-old reached the final. Women form a large percentage of players.
Groups play every day in the area and welcome newcomers.
“Everyone helps everyone elevate their game,” Getto said. “We all want to help everyone be as competitive as possible, learn as much as possible and laugh as much as possible — and it does make you laugh.”
Nick and Tami Leach, who live in Nampa, started a business targeting pickleball players: Simply Pickleball (firstname.lastname@example.org). They sell pickleball gear and provide lessons.
They got into the sport in Wyoming while trying to find a recreational activity to enjoy. They taught themselves and thought they were “really hotdogs,” Nick said, until they went to St. George, Utah.
“That’s where we got schooled,” Tami said.
“We didn’t know that was the Mecca,” Nick said. “We’d never played outside. ... We went home licking everything.”
The players are trying to increase opportunities for pickleball players in the Treasure Valley. They’re working with the city of Boise on an eventual dedicated pickleball facility and have gotten pickleball lines added to many tennis courts.
But they do face some resistance. They recently taped lines on two tennis courts at Settlers Park. On Monday, those lines were gone.
“We feud with the tennis players,” Nick said.
Which is odd, since many pickleball players also are tennis players.
“A lot of tennis players, myself included, as we get into our 60s and 70s and beyond, it seems like this has become either a dual sport or a conversion-type sport,” said Robert Sweetgall of the Mountains & Meadows club.
For Treasure Valley court information and scheduled play, go to the Places to Play tab at USAPA.org. It includes contact information for various locations.
To play with Mountains & Meadows, contact Robert at (208) 634-1491 or Laurie at (208) 315-5195.