- Associated Press - Saturday, April 14, 2018

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Pickleball has been a hit since the Hastings Parks and Recreation Department introduced the game late last year.

Ryan Martin, Hastings recreation superintendent, added pickleball to the city’s recreation offerings in November.

“We heard it was popular in other towns,” he told the Hastings Tribune . “Pickleball wasn’t a thing here in Hastings. I also heard that seniors play it a lot - not that it’s a senior game strictly, but seniors seem to play it a lot. There also are young adults too that play it, but not as many as there are seniors playing.

“We’re always looking for more adult programs because we have a ton of youth programs. I figured ‘Hey, this would be a great opportunity to add another adult program to what we currently offer throughout the year.’ “

The game is played with a wiffleball and paddles that look like table tennis paddles but are the size of a racquetball racquet on a court smaller than a tennis court.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game gets its name from Joan Pritchard, wife of pickleball creator Joel Pritchard. She started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

Joel Pritchard created the game with other friends in 1965 when their families were sitting around with nothing to do. They played a game with table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball on an old badminton court.

Two pickleball courts are set up in the Community Center at 2015 W. Third St. The Parks and Rec Department promotes Wednesday and Friday afternoons as pickleball hours because that is when regulars show up most often, usually around 1:30 p.m.

“If somebody wants to start coming in the morning, they are more than welcome to,” Martin said. “Usually our gym is open.”

He said the game is popular with tennis payers.

That includes Ron Haase, who started playing pickleball not long after the Parks and Rec department introduced the game in Hastings.

It’s something the 69-year-old and his wife, Dusty, can do together. They play just about every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon.

“It was a good game that seemed to be geared around older people,” Haase said between games on Wednesday.

Martin encouraged Haase and other tennis players to play pickleball at the community center next time they were rained out.

“We showed up, we played and I really liked it,” Haase said. “This is just a good variation of (tennis), but not quite so much running. It’s a game that requires a little bit of quick reflexes but not a huge amount of running, especially when you play doubles like we’re playing here today because two people can easily cover the court with not more than a step or so in either direction. It also is just good physical exercise. It’s something to get out and do to keep us alive.”

Martin said anywhere from two to a dozen people show up to play each time.

First-time players show up all the time. Often it’s Haase who shows them the ropes.

“It’s not unusual to have somebody new every week, sometimes,” he said. “So we’re teaching the game a lot, but we get some players who are really, really good; some tennis players who have come in and are expert tennis players and they’re really good at this. We’ve had younger people come in that are very aggressive. So we have some really, highly competitive games but then we also have lots of games that we’re just out there having fun batting the ball back and forth.”

Wednesday happened to be the first time playing for Jane Miller of Hastings.

Haase taught her the game as they defeated Diane Mullen and Jim Duval in a match.

“I like it,” Miller, a former tennis player, said afterward. “It’s fun. I might have to come back.”

It was her friend, Linda French, who also was playing Wednesday who encouraged Miller to play.

“Another friend of mine played pickleball and said it was fun,” Miller said. “I probably didn’t think it would be as much moving, but this is pretty good.”

As the weather warms up the Parks and Rec Department looks to add two outdoor pickleball courts at the Carter Park tennis courts.

Haase said he is looking forward to not as many strange bounces as players get off the Community Center tiles.

“Once you get used to it it’s fair,” Haase said. “Everybody gets those. We take it in stride. Some points are just because of the tile and that’s all there is to it.”

Martin hopes attendance grows to the point that the city maybe has a pickleball league.

The Parks and Rec Department has two wiffleballs and four paddles available to pickleball players.

Martin said many of the regulars bought their own paddles.

Regulars can help teach newcomers how to play.

“Shoot, I can even jump outside my office and show them,” Martin said.


Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com

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