WARSAW – Some of you may have heard of pickleball, and many of you have probably played some sports that blends itself into the odd sounding game. But those familiar with the game, which is quickly growing in popularity around the country, have developed a love affair with how easy it is to pick up, and just how addictive it can be.
Unless you don’t have arms or legs, pickleball can really be played by anyone. Age isn’t an issue, as a quick glance around the Warsaw Armory proved. Players in their 70s, or soldiers in their 20s were both hard at work, trying to get the neon wiffle ball to land inside the lines on the other side of the net.
For those who have never heard of the sport, here is a quick rundown. It is played much like table tennis, but one gets to stand on the table, figuratively, to play. Play can be done in singles or doubles, which play at the Armory was done mostly in doubles format. Standard equipment is very basic – the racquet is about the size of a racquetball racquet but the hitting surface is made of either wood or fiberglass. The wiffle ball used is just a tad larger than a tennis ball. The net stands roughly 24 inches tall on a court grid 44 feet long by 20 feet wide.
In order to score, the serving player must hit to the opposite court like tennis, and the ball returned. Pickleball does not feature rally scoring, as only the serving player can score for the team. Scoring generally goes to 11 to keep games crisp.
“The scoring really is the hardest thing to get,” began Mike Metzger, who organizes the Warsaw games and is a member of the USA Pickleball Association. “We have a lot of tennis players that come in here, and it just takes five or six times to get used to the scoring.
“We’re really open to helping anyone who wants to come try it out,” continued Metzger. “We’re not as organized as some of the bigger clubs, but we’re not built to be a huge club. Right now our group has about 15-20 regulars.”
The ‘Pickleball Phanatics’ as the Warsaw group calls itself made the Warsaw Armory its home after previously playing at the Warsaw senior center. Groups have also sprouted up in Syracuse and North Webster, and even the troops at the Armory have gotten in on the act, using the sport as part of its physical regiment.
“It didn’t take us long to figure it out,” stated SFC Jason Thoman, who worked up quite a sweat with three others from the Armory. “A couple of the guys watched some YouTube videos. We are a tight-knit group here, so it was easy to get everyone involved, even if they were terrible.”
The Warsaw group specifically plays Mondays and Thursdays from 1-3 p.m. and Tuesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. It costs just $2 to play, and no skill level or knowledge of the game is required to get onto the court.
“I play about three times a week, and heard about it from some who were playing at the senior center,” said Rita Savage of Warsaw. “I really like it here. It has helped lower my blood pressure, lower my cholesterol and I’ve lost over five pounds since I started playing. Majority of the group here was older than me, but they were in better shape than me and that motivated me to work harder. I played softball for 25 years and I’m having just as much fun playing this as I did playing softball.”
For more information on the game of pickleball, or where to find games in your area, visit usapa.org.