Pickleball’s popularity blossoming in Tri-Cities

Pickleball is a rapidly growing sport in the United States, taking elements from badminton, tennis and table tennis to create a sport that is both fun and tiring.

“I’m all about the growth of the sport,” said pickleball ambassador for the Tri-Cities Anna Walters. “It’s a great sport for any age. It’s easy to pick up and it’s like tennis where it gets more complicated with more strategy.”

When looking at a pickleball court, it looks quite similar to that of tennis, but without the alleys.

It does, however, closely resemble a doubles badminton court. The inner courts that extend seven feet out from the net are non-volley zones, also known as the “kitchen” and the outer courts are divided by service lines.

“We are hoping it grows more,” Walters said. “We have a solid core of about 30 people.”

The net hangs 36 inches from the ground on the poles and 34 inches at the center.

Joel Pritchard — who would later serve in Congress and as lieutenant governor in Washington — invented the game in 1965 when he came home from golfing to find his family bored.

They set up a badminton court, but could not find a shuttlecock. Pritchard had the idea to lower the net and played with a perforated plastic ball.

He also fabricated some wooden paddles out of spare plywood he found in his woodshed.

How did the name come to be pickleball, though?

According to Pritchard, “The name of the game became Pickle Ball, after I said it reminded me of the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

There is also the theory that the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, used to chase the ball around the court and that the name stuck.

Since then, the sport has taken off.

The United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established in 2005 and there are many tournaments around the country.

You can find all of the tournaments, rules and how to play the game on the website.

Locally, Kingsport has recently lined the new outdoor pickleball courts at the V.O. Dobbins Center and has taken a big step in progressing the game in this area.

“Lines mean that the city of Kingsport sees pickleball as a viable sport in the long term,” Walters said. “These lines are the basis for growth and give the pickleball community the opportunity to enhance the recreational landscape of the Kingsport community.”

The group at V.O. Dobbins meets on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. on the outdoor tennis courts.

There will also be a beginners class July 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the V.O. Dobbins tennis courts for those interested in learning how to play.

As a testament to how much the game of pickleball is growing in the area, the Crown Colony neighborhood — a private community off 11W in Kings- port — recently refurbished the tennis courts. With much interest among some of the residents, one of the tennis courts was converted into a pickleball court.

“I’m grateful for past efforts, I’m confident in the present and I’m excited about the future,” Walters concluded.

You can reach Walters via email at waltersanna4@gmail.com.

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You can reach Tanner by email at tcook@johnsoncitypress.com.

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