Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 20, 2014

Pickleball, anyone?

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Bob Stacey is looking for a few area churches with enough space to set up small courts for pickleball, a sport many in the area have never heard of.

Comparing pickleball to tennis, Stacey said the relatively new game is played with “one-third the size and one-third the speed” of the traditional sport, and seems well suited for older players. Stacey said 11 local players have already embraced the game at the Ashland YMCA, where pickleball is played from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays. Speaking to members of the Ashland Rotary Club on Monday, the coach said he hopes to expand pickleball to league play if he can find a few local churches with space for the 20-by-40-foot court.

While pickleball may not be well known here, Stacey said it has gotten quite popular in Southern “snow-bird” locations such as Florida. “The Villages has 102 pickleball courts,” he said.

Stacey explained pickleball began casually in Washington state during the 1960s, when a couple used “beach paddles” and a wiffle ball to amuse themselves. The name of the game came from the ball’s owner, their dog, Pickles, who chased the ball as they played.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, “Pickleball is a fun game that is played on a badminton court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a whiffle ball) and wood or composite paddles. It is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.”

Stacey said he hopes to see pickleball move into the local community.

“My goal is to see how many churches have a gym where they could put a 20-by-40 court,” Stacey said during Monday’s lunch meeting.

“My goal is to see church-league competition,” he said, adding he has a pair of portable courts that can be set up for demonstrations if anyone is aware of a church interested in learning more. Noting the number of youth sports programs available through area churches, Stacey said formation of a church pickleball league would benefit adults within the community.

“The pickleball thing has become very contagious,” he said.

Stacey spent the majority of his time with the Ashland club discussing the upcoming Kentucky Senior Games, and encouraging involvement for those 50 and older.

For more information about the games, visit nsga.com or kentuckyseniorgames.org.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.