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Karen Adragna Walsh: I’m all caught up in pickleball craze

Do not be mistaken; pickleballs were not conceived like the doughnut-hole concept. No miniature round pickles ever evolved from pickles.

Pickles can be sliced and diced. A pickleball, on the other hand, does not resemble an actual pickle in any way, shape or form. There is no green, no juice and no elongation. And pickles, whether sweet or dill, need only one person to benefit from their consumption.

So what the heck is pickleball? News flash: Pickleball is a racquet sport and not a food source. Therefore, you won’t find pickleballs on grocery shelves near the condiments. Relish that thought.

Also, don’t be confused with squash, another food that shares its name with a game, this one played with a rubber ball.

Remember the childhood game of pickle-in-the–middle? No connection here. There is no threesome, no middle player. Pickleball is a court game played with the skills of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. The racquet, or paddle, is larger than a Ping-Pong racquet. A wiffle-style ball is used on a court shorter than a tennis court. The game can be played as singles or doubles.

Pickleball first originated in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, as a fun sport to be enjoyed by the entire family. Folklore says Pickles, the family dog of one of the co-creators, was the source for the naming of the game. But further investigation leans toward the rowing world, where a pickle boat, one of the slowest vessels in a race, helped to launch the name.

I was first introduced to the game in The Villages in Florida. Now I’m hooked and play at least three times a week. What is the attraction? It is a game conducive to the over-50 crowd, because the playing field covers less territory than tennis. And the speed of the ball is approximately one-third less than the speed of a tennis ball. What does this mean? It gives participants with arthritis, joint replacement and limited mobility a better chance to compete.

Pickleball is a great workout that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors. It is one of the fastest-growing sports to sweep America. Some senior centers, schools, fitness centers, tennis clubs and even churches have opened their doors for play.

The trouble is, there are not enough courts to accommodate such a rise in popularity. To help solve this dilemma, bringing aging playgrounds back to life is a start. The resurfacing of existing tennis courts with the ability to lower the nets and redraw the lines for pickleball is a cheap win-win situation.

For instance, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park has tennis courts that are never used to full capacity. Therefore, converting a few courts for pickleball would be greatly appreciated.

JFK Park in Blasdell is a fine example of pickleball heaven. Two pickleball courts were added with windbreakers on the fencing and a shelter from the sun. A picnic table was also installed. The addition of two portable toilets has greatly increased the comfort level. There is also talk of adding two more courts. Hurray!

Since playing the sport, new friendships have been made, my weight management is better controlled and I’m having tons of fun. Pickleball matters! So, serve it up and pass it on.

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