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Volley of the Dills

pickleball_groupPickleball pleases players at the Gilpin Community Center

by Patty Unruh

“It’s so fun, it doesn’t even feel like a workout.” “It’s good mental exercise.” “I enjoy the camaraderie.”

These were a few of the positive pronouncements made by pickleball players at the Gilpin Community Center a few days ago. Plainly, this pastime is so pleasurable that perhaps even Peter Piper would prefer playing pickleball to picking pecks of pickled peppers.

The game is a mix of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton and has been offered at the Gilpin Community Center (GCC) for about a year. Courts are open on Mondays from 9:00-11:00 a.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Senior members play for free. GCC members can play using their membership. Drop-ins are $4 for Gilpin residents and $5 for non-residents.

The game is played on a badminton-style court, 20 feet by 44 feet, with a net that is three feet high. GCC personnel noted that about 20 people play regularly, and play rotates among the group. The day I visited, three nets were in use for doubles partners.

The game emphasizes balance, agility, and hand-eye coordination. It’s a fun social activity for all ages and levels of fitness and may be used for a low-impact workout or an intense competition – whatever is desired. You can even go pro if you’re so inclined.

Equipment is simple – just a paddle and a ball. Wooden paddles are provided for newbies, but lots of players buy their own. The balls are perforated plastic, similar to Wiffle balls.

The Gilpin group’s number one rule is, “Hit the ball and have fun,” but they had a copy of The Official Tournament Rulebook handy, just in case.

Pickleball was started in Washington state and celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. At first, it was trendy mostly in the Northwest, but in recent years has gained in popularity across the U.S., including Colorado. Not only does GCC offer the sport, but the Nederland Community Center also has it, as well as other locations across the metro Denver area and Colorado. Roughly 150,000 people are playing nationwide. There is even a USA Pickleball Association and an International Federation of Pickleball.

The players at GCC were having a great time, smacking the balls back and forth with relish. The good-natured banter was also flying, along with plenty of smiles and encouragement.

Player Kevin Walsh was introduced to pickleball in late 2014 by Ken Adler of Rollinsville, who played at Nederland’s rec center. It occurred to Walsh that Gilpin residents would also enjoy the game, so he talked with GCC staff to see when it could be made available here. They listened, and now it’s really picking up in popularity.

Kathleen Schrader, another pickleball enthusiast, commented, “As soon as you walk in the door, you start playing, and when you learn it, you can help someone else. Everybody coaches everybody else.”

The game is just right for retirees; in fact, many of the Gilpin players are over 70. Tom Cowherd turned 75 on January 2. Sharon Perea just had her 75th on February 12, closely followed by Howard Roche, who turned 74 on the 17th. Dorothy Sweet will make 75 on May 28, while Kay Lorenz will reach 77 on August 4. Arden Buck has got them all beat – he will be 82 on March 14. Many happy “returns” to each one!

How did pickleball come by its intriguing name? A little research revealed that the game was reportedly developed in 1965 on an old backyard badminton court on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The children of two families were bored, so their dads put their heads together and invented a game. The game was fun and solved the boredom issue, but one of the families’ pets, a dog named Pickles, kept running off with the ball. Everyone was peeved with the perpetrator, but he did get the game named after him. Eventually, an official court was built, and the game caught on.

If this sounds like the perfect pastime for you, please plan to pop in and play!

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