Pickleball picking up in popularity
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.
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.