Thomas Smith is in a pickle and he couldn't be happier. The Delta resident is so enthusiastic about the game of pickleball he is now teaching the basics in a two-session clinic titled "Pickleball 101."
Pickleball, he explains, combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, and is suitable for most ages, from children to seniors.
"This game is sweeping the nation right now," Smith said. "It's huge."
Bill Heddles Recreation Center has joined the rage by offering pickleball pickup games and a pickleball league. It is also the site of the "Pickleball 101" clinic.
Smith said he'd been participating in senior circuit classes at the rec center regularly when fitness coordinator Gary West mentioned the rec center would soon be offering pickleball. Once Smith started playing, he was hooked. He plays pickleball eight to 10 hours a week, often traveling to Montrose and Grand Junction to increase his playing opportunities.
"I lost my leg a year ago," he said, "and this game has been a godsend for me. It's helped me develop balance, coordination and timing. This game has been very healing for me in so many ways.
During his clinic he shares the rules of the game, discusses the court and equipment, teaches serving, scoring, returns and shots, and outlines the basic strategy. Over and over he stresses the number one strategy: "Keep your eye on the ball!"
Pickleball is played on a badminton-size court laid out either on the floor of the rec center gym or on the tennis courts just east of the rec center. One tennis court can accommodate two to four pickleball courts.
Two to four players use a large rigid paddle to hit a whiffle-type ball over the net. On either side of the net a non-volley zone is designated the "kitchen." A player may only play a ball in that zone if it bounces in there first.
Games are played to 11 points, but as in ping pong you must win by a margin of two points.
Why pickleball? According to the USA Pickleball Association website, the game was named for Pickles, the family cocker spaniel of one of the co-inventors of pickleball. The dog used to chase stray balls and then hide in the bushes.
"Pickleball is fun, it's healthy, and it's easy," Smith said. "It's good for all ages because it requires less endurance than tennis or racquetball."
Smith plays in a league with a couple of players who are in their 70s and one who is in a wheelchair. Grandparents, parents and young children can play together.
Pickup pickleball games are played Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. at the tennis courts, weather permitting. In bad weather the games are moved indoors to the rec center.
Smith is also willing to teach another two-session clinic upon request. Just call the rec center to express your interest.blog comments powered by Disqus