For young and old, pickleball offers solid workout



In Bar Harbor, pickleball players are on court from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Mount Desert Island YMCA (21 Park St.). Newcomers and experienced players are welcome. For more info, contact Bonnie at blundq@roadrunner.com.

In Bar Harbor, pickleball players are on court from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Mount Desert Island YMCA (21 Park St.). Newcomers and experienced players are welcome. For more info, contact Bonnie at [email protected]

Everyone knows regular exercise is a component of good health. But not everyone wants to sweat it out in a Zumba class or dodge traffic for a morning jog. For these people pickleball might be the answer.

What’s pickleball?

Pickleball is played on a badminton-size court, uses a modified tennis net and combines the elements of those two games with those of ping-pong. It can be played as singles or doubles. Players use graphite or wood paddles to strike a plastic ball with holes.

“It’s basically half-court tennis,” explained Bonnie Lundquist of Bar Harbor. Lundquist and her husband, Arnold, are two of the 10 or so pickleball players playing regularly at the Mount Desert Island YMCA in Bar Harbor. They play from 1:30-3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Another group has been playing in Ellsworth. Friends in Action opens the gym at the Moore Community Center for pickleball from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both groups welcome newcomers as well as experienced players.

The pickleball story began in 1965 when three dads in the state of Washington used improvised materials to create a game to keep their bored children entertained. Those dads no doubt had as much or more fun than the kids. How the game got its name isn’t clear; one theory is that a family dog named Pickles liked to chase the errant balls.

From that modest beginning pickleball has gone on to be played not just in the United States but also in Canada, Europe and Asia. The USA Pickleball Association, which was organized to promote the game, says pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

In Ellsworth, Friends in Action offers pickleball from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the gym at the Moore Community Center (133 State St.). Admission is free. Newcomers and experienced players are welcome.

In Ellsworth, Friends in Action offers pickleball from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the gym at the Moore Community Center (133 State St.). Admission is free. Newcomers and experienced players are welcome.

Why the popularity? One reason is that the game is suitable for people of all athletic abilities.

The small size of the court and a 7-foot zone on each side of the net where players are prohibited from volleying the ball levels the playing field.

“You don’t have to be in great physical shape to play,” Lundquist said.

Her husband, who played tennis when younger, agrees.

“It’s fun, but it’s not overly demanding,” he said.

Still, the game is fast-paced. A pickleball travels at about a third of the speed of a tennis ball yet the short court requires a player to have quick reflexes.

It’s competitive, but most of the local players keep the game low-key.

“I like the physical activity,” Lundquist said. “I don’t care about winning.”

Donna Brignull and her husband, Roger, started playing pickleball in April. The camaraderie between players and the friendships that develop are part of the fun, she said.

“I’m getting exercise and enjoying doing it,” Brignull said.

Pickleball is especially popular among seniors. Many of the players interviewed said they first learned the game in Florida, where pickleball rapidly is replacing golf as the favorite game of retirees. According to Roger Brignull, one Florida retirement community, The Village, is the epicenter of pickleball activity, with more courts than any other single location on Earth.

The low impact of pickleball makes the game suitable for people with certain disabilities. Chris Cherry, a 73-year-old from Ellsworth, plays at the Moore Center. A stroke victim, Cherry said playing the game helps with his recovery. He decided to give it a try after seeing the game played.

“I was surprised that there was a team sport that I actually could play,” Cherry said. “That’s a good feeling.”

The retired truck driver said his balance and eye-hand coordination have improved since he began playing pickleball. He wears a leg brace while on the court.

“I can’t run, but I can defend my territory,” he said proudly.

pickleball mdi ymca mgGetting started in the game doesn’t require a major expenditure.

“Basically, you just need to have sneakers,” Lundquist said.

Given the welcoming atmosphere of the two pickleball groups, borrowing a paddle might be possible for those wanting to see what the game is all about. Regular players will want their own. Paddles start at about $40 and can cost as much as $150. The size of a regulation paddle is roughly between that of a ping pong paddle and a tennis racket.

Eye protection is optional but recommended, Lundquist said. Protective goggles can be purchased online from the many retailers catering to pickleball players or from the local optical shop.

Balls are about $10 for a six-pack. The YMCA and Moore Center provide nets, but those wanting to have their own portable net for a court in their driveway can purchase one for about $160.

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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