GROVE- One of the fastest growing sports in the United States with one of the strangest names has made its way into the Grand Lake area in recent months.
The sport of pickleball, a game that combines elements of tennis and badminton, is now being played several times a week at the Independent Baptist Church at 11th and Grand.
Invented in Seattle in 1962, pickleball is played on a court measuring 20’ by 44’ with fiberglass or wooden paddles and a wiffle ball.
The game was brought to the area by Jerry Tadlock, who moved to Grove from Utah eight months ago. Tadlock has been playing pickleball for over seven years and has competed in the Senior World Championships three times.
“Once people learn this game, it’s addictive,” Tadlock said. “It’s a subtle game but you can also really smash the ball. It’s a simple game to learn, but there’s a lot of strategy involved.”
Since moving to Grove Tadlock has joined forces with the local YMCA, which is currently holding open sessions at the Independent Baptist Church gym two to three times per week. Butch Christy, Branch Director for the Grand Lake Family YMCA, is already a convert to the new sport, even if he was skeptical when Tadlock first approached him.
“I thought it was crazy,” Christy said. “Then I went online and saw that it looked like a lot of fun, and it really is. I’m used to playing tennis, but this is something different.”
“It’s a much faster game [than tennis] because it’s smaller,” Tadlock said. “It’s a nice social thing as well as real, real good cardiovascular exercise without a lot of running. And anybody can play.”
In addition to being a sport for the entire family, pickleball is also cheaper to play than most sports. The biggest expense are the paddles, which can run anywhere from $25 to $100.
“A complete set up with four paddles can be had for less than $350,” Tadlock said.
Though it’s most popular in the western part of the country, the sport is rapidly expanding in places across the country and around the world, with approximately two to three million players in the United States alone.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in the U.S.,” Tadlock said. “It’s in pockets. If it’s being played in your area, then you know about, but if it’s not, then you probably have never heard of it. Out west it’s part of the P.E. curriculum at most major universities.”
Currently the YMCA is holding open sessions in order to drum up interest in the sport.
“What we want to do is get enough people involved that we can have leagues and tournaments,” Christy said. “We’re just trying to find an activity that promotes physical fitness and is a good family activity.”
The open sessions are currently being held on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. Beginning October 2 sessions will also be available on Saturday mornings from 9-11 a.m.
For more information contact Butch Christy at the YMCA at 918-786-5774. To find out more about pickleball, visit www.USAPA.com.