- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - The Carver Community Center is bringing something new to its indoor courts, and it’s serving it up with extra pickle.

Pickleball is a cross between a few games, including tennis, ping pong and whiffle ball. Players use smaller, sturdier rackets that resemble ping pong rackets and a whiffle ball, following rules similar to tennis.

The game is now available to play on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Carver Community Center for $3 a session, and seniors can purchase a season pass for $20 that lasts until September 2017.

Kokomo resident Rae Alley heard about the group while playing tennis at Highland Park earlier this year. She’s always looking for fun things to keep her active, and pickleball is right up her alley. It’s similar to tennis, but the serves are faster, she said.

Alley visits the Carver Community Center every Tuesday and Thursday to play pickleball, and she said it’s helped her improve her tennis skills, but it’s also helped her meet new people.

“This is a great group,” Alley said. “They’re friendly and welcoming.”

Alley said she usually likes playing volleyball and tennis during the summer, but during the winter it’s nice to have somewhere like the Carver Community Center to play indoors.

According to the U.S.A Pickleball Association, the game was invented by three people - Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. The trio came up with the idea in 1965 on Bainbridge Island in Washington. The official story behind the name is it came from Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who would chase after the balls while the three men played the game with their families.

The website includes information on the spelling of pickleball - one word, lower case - as well as proper attire and, of course, the rules.

Donta Rogers, program director for the Carver Community Center, helped bring the game to the center in early November. Rogers learned more about it by playing it with students after school at the center. The game was so fun he decided to reach out to the Kokomo YMCA’s pickleball group to coordinate a joint program at the center.

Rogers is glad for the cooperation between the center and the YMCA, he said, because it helps bring programs to the community.

“We’re all working together now,” Rogers said. “It’s exciting.”

Rogers worked with players, including Tom Poppas, to figure out the best times for people to play. Because most players in the group are retired, the middle of the day is an ideal time for them.

At first, members of the group would arrive early every Tuesday and Thursday to tape off two pickleball courts on top of one of the center’s basketball courts. After a few weeks, the center allowed them to leave the tape down, and Poppas said it saves them at least half an hour every time they play.

Rogers said soon they’ll spread the courts out to allow for a third court because the group has continued to grow. The courts are similar to tennis courts, except they are much smaller. A regulation pickleball court is one-fourth the size of a tennis court, and the net is lower than a tennis net.

Poppas is a dedicated pickleball player and has been since he first saw the game five years ago at the Senior Olympics in Cleveland, Ohio. He has been attending the National Senior Games in Indiana for years, and when he saw a new game on the schedule he was intrigued.

“Your hand-eye coordination as you get older isn’t the same,” Poppas said. “It’s just a little slower option.”

When he introduced the game to his racquetball buddies, they were excited to give it a try. Since then, Poppas has seen the group’s skill increase steadily.

Poppas plans to attend the National Senior Games in Evansville again next summer, though he said nobody else in the group qualified for the games as far as he knows.

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2htMIZZ

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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