Pick­le­ball pick­ing up in pop­u­lar­ity

Record Observer - - COMMUNITY - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — What is pick­le­ball? Most peo­ple haven’t heard about it, but ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Sports and Fit­ness As­so­ci­a­tion re­port, there were 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. who had learned to play the sport. Pick­le­ball orig­i­nated in 1965 in Bain­bridge Is­land, Wash­ing­ton. Its been played in Mary­land for years, but in the past five years, its taken off grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity rapidly.

To de­scribe it sim­plis­ti­cally, it is a cross be­tween ping­pong and ten­nis. It’s played in­doors or out­doors, on a mod­i­fied 20’ X 40’ court, much smaller than a ten­nis court. The net on the court is three inches lower than a ten­nis court net. It is played with a com­pos­ite or wooden pad­dle (not a racket), and a per­fo­rated poly­mer (wif­fle) ball. The game can be played as sin­gles or dou­bles.

“It’s not as rig­or­ous as ten­nis,” said Jim Fla­herty, who helped or­ga­nize the “Queen Anne’s County Crabby Pick­le­ballers” group in the county.

Fla­herty cred­its Kath­leen Slevin, who re­sides at Queens Land­ing, for bring­ing the sport to Queen Anne’s County. Both Fla­herty and Slevin agree, the group of 40 some Pick­le­ballers that prac­tice Mon­day and Wednes­day evenings at Mow­bray Park in Stevensville is more about so­cial­iz­ing and friend­ships than com­pe­ti­tion. The QA group is com­prised of both males and fe­males, rang­ing in age from 17 to 82.

The group re­cently hosted an open house, and train­ing ses­sions are be­ing planned.

Fla­herty said, “Very soon we’re plan­ning to have free train­ing ses­sions at Mow­bray Park be­gin­ning at 10 a.m. on a Satur­day.”

When Fla­herty ap­proached QA Parks and Re­cre­ation about pick­le­ball ear­lier this year, he said, “They didn’t seem to know any­thing about pick­le­ball, but they’ve helped mod­ify the ten­nis courts at Mow­bray to be jointly used for ten­nis and pick­le­ball, and other places in the county are be­ing sim­i­larly con­verted for mul­ti­ple use.”

Pick­le­ball tour­na­ments have been held in Eas­ton, Po­comoke City and Ocean City draw­ing play­ers from the East Coast with more than 150 teams play­ing over two days. Re­hoboth, Del., is build­ing a new com­plex with plans to spon­sor re­gional and na­tional tour­na­ments. Tal­bot County al­ready has in­door courts.

Ar­range­ments with Parks and Rec have in­cluded hav­ing space to play in­doors this com­ing win­ter, but de­tails of where have not yet been re­leased. The Edge Train­ing Academy in Stevensville has in­door courts that can be ar­ranged for lim­ited play time.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Jim Fla­herty at 443852-6285.

PHO­TOS BY DOUG BISHOP

Pick­le­ball play­ers hold their pad­dles and wif­fle balls at the ten­nis courts at Mow­bray Park in Stevensville dur­ing a weekly prac­tice ses­sion. From the left, stand­ing, Tim Marr, Jim Fla­herty, Scott Ja­cobs, Sally Wilmer, Kath­leen Slevin, Jean­nie Pope, Terri Buechs and Robb Cockey; kneel­ing, Kathy Ja­cobs, Cindy Bow­dren and Lis Cockey. They en­cour­age all who may have in­ter­est to come out and learn the game.

The of­fi­cial logo for the Queen Anne’s County “Crabby” Pick­le­ballers.

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