Pickleball makes Westside Community Center debut - participants welcomeEver wondered what it would be like to play a game where you hit a whiffle ball with ping-pong paddle over a tennis-court net?
Pickleball - “the most popular sport you've never heard of.”
So reads the slogan on the USAPickleball Association (USAPA) website.
And now Westsiders are about to have a place close to home where they can try it.
Starting Wednesday, Feb. 12 from 1 to 3 p.m., pickleball will be a free, twice-weekly opportunity at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St. The other scheduled day/time is Friday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30.
The court will be set up in the center's gym, with paddles and balls also provided. Players don't need special apparel, other than sneakers and “loose clothing,” said Bill Morr, operations manager for the Community Center.
It was Morr who came up with the idea of offering pickleball. He was led to it by the coincidence of one, his wife (a former tennis player) taking up the slower-paced sport in a recent comeback from bone cancer; and two, finding pickleball equipment unexpectedly stored at the center - the result of an apparent donation before he started his job there about a year ago.
Invented in the state of Washington in 1965 when partying friends subsituted ping-pong paddles for missing badminton rackets, the game has evolved so that now the playing area looks like a miniature tennis court (about 60 percent its size and with a net six inches lower). The paddles are still ping-pong style, only larger, and a whiffle ball is used.
The scoring is like that in badminton, with points only won on serve and a two-point margin needed for victory. Service rules are also like badminton in that the serve (underhand) has to go diagonally to the left or right half of the opponent's side.
A unique rule is that the ball must bounce once for the service return - and for the shot playing it back - before it can be hit in the air. To avoid tennis-style smashes at the net, there's a non-volley zone (also called the “kitchen”) that goes back seven feet on either side of the net.
“It's slow enough that you don't have to be a tremendous athlete,” Morr elaborated. At the same, he noted, the paddles can be used to put various types of spin on the whiffle balls so as to make the bounces tricky.
Doubles or singles can be played, although the Community Center will focus on doubles so more people can play. Also, to speed up games, they will go to seven points instead of the standard 11, Morr said.
The sport is not unknown in Colorado Springs. A city pickleball association recently had a tournament at the downtown YMCA, Morr plans to invite its members to check out the Westside setup.
Both he and Westside Community Center Director Dick Siever added the hope that the unusual sport will attract new people to the center. “We were excited to find the equipment,” Morr said. “This should be fun.”
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