Pickleball makes a racket locally at recreation level
by Doug Gorman
When Fred Fahy introduced the racquet sport of pickleball to Coweta County just a little more than five months ago, he wasn’t really sure how it would go over.
After all, very few had ever heard of the sport that was first played in the 1960s, let alone tried it.
It didn’t take a very lengthy sales pitch, however, for Fahy, who first played the game in Florida, to win over a new collection of pickleball players.
Now, it has become a weekly obsession for some, with as many as 15 players of all ages and abilities gathering each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon to play on one of the two courts laid out inside the Coweta County Recreation Department Gym on Hospital Drive.
Husband and wife Charles and Julie Eastland are now regular pickleball players.
“There is a good sense of camaraderie and friendship,” Julie said. “We have been coming since March. “It good exercise and it really helps with endurance. It is really an easy game to pick up.”
Charles admits the first time he joined his wife for a pickleball game he wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into, but now he looks forward to the weekly games.
“I like that is on smaller court than tennis,” he said. “It still gets you moving. I had never heard of it before, but it is a lot of fun.”
Fahy is glad he brought the game to Coweta and now prefers it over golf.
“I was living in Florida,”he said. “Some friends asked me to come and play, and within a month I pretty much gave up golf. I was playing pickleball six or seven days per week for a couple of hours per day.”
Once he moved back to Georgia to be closer to family, he had trouble finding a game, often having to travel to LaGrange to find some competition.
Thanks to the help of the the United States Pickleball Association he was able to obtain a grant for nets and paddle. After convincing the Coweta County Recreation Department to let him introduce the sport to the community it has grown each week.
Pickleball incorporates many of the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Players hit something that resembles a whiffle ball back over a net that is slightly lower than one on a tennis court.
Because the court is small, play is usually fast with games being played to 11.
Most of those who come out on Tuesday’s play doubles, but many more experienced and a singles version of pickleball.
Many of the regular Tuesday players now have their own equipment.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in America, or so they say,” Fahy said. “I know a lot of seniors play it in Florida, but it is not just for senior citizens. I know there are a kids playing it in intramurals in college. It is really starting to get popular.”
Fahy is thrilled with the way pickleball has exploded locally since the first meetings in January.
“We started with one court and now we have two courts,” he said. “It’s mostly women who are playing on Tuesday’s right now, but we do have several men who come out and play,”
Fahy said teaching new players how to score might have been his biggest challenge since points are only awarded only when a team is serving.
“ When people are first starting out, they often forget the score. That is one of the biggest things new players have to learn how to do,” he said. “They have to remember the score.”
Jill McKnight said it can get a little competitive, but nobody takes the Tuesday morning pickleball sessions too seriously.
She can also see it growing into something even bigger.
“It used to be that we only had one court, now we are playing on two courts and you have to wait to play,” McKnight said.
Beth Callaway came out the first time because of the curiosity factor, now she plays almost every week.
“It’s fun, and it’s easy enough to pick up, but there is still some skill and competitiveness involved in playing the game,” Callaway said. “It easy to start playing.”
Roger Warren isn’t as worried about keeping score, but he does admit there are plenty of health benefits for the senior population.
“There is a lot of exercise, he said. “I have had some heart problems and this just makes me feel better.”
Orrane Javaley says she just likes hitting the ball back and forth and glad she discovered the game.
“I knew about badminton, but not pickleball. This is just good exercise,” she said. “I come out just about every Tuesday. It is a lot of fun.”
Still there is a room for the sport to grow.
“I would love to see it get even bigger,” he said. “All people have to do is come out on Tuesday mornings.”
PICKLEBALL GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
Dink — A soft shot, made with the paddle face open and hit so that it just clears the net and drops into the non volley zone.
Fault — A infringement of the rules that ends the rally.
Foot Fault — Stepping into or on the non volley zone while volleying a ball or while serving.
Half Volley — A type of hit where the player hits the ball immediately after it is bounced in an almost scope like fashion.
Let serve — A serve that touched the top of the net and lands in the proper service court. It is replayed without penalty.
Non volley zone — A seven-foot area adjacent to the net within which you may not volley the ball. The non-volley zone includes all the lines around it. lso called the Kitchen.
Poach — In doubles, to cross over into your partner’s area to play a ball.
Rally — Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams.
Service — An underhand lob used to put the ball into play.
Service number — When playing doubles either 1 or 2 depending on whether you are the first or second server for your side. This number is appended to the score when it is called. As in, the score in now 4-2, second server.