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Pickleball growing rapidly in Anthem and nationwide


Courtesy of Anthem AZ Pickleball

Pickleball, one of the country’s fastest growing sports with the sour-sounding name, has arrived in Anthem and taken root. Last November, the Anthem Community Council approved the use of the roller hockey rink in the Anthem Community Park for pickleball play. Court lines were painted, and now the rink is available six days a week, 6 a.m.-12 p.m. Portable nets, balls, and paddles are available for loan at the Anthem Community Center.

Since approval, Anthem “picklers” have grown from a small, dedicated group to over 150 players. Pickleball courts have also been added to the tennis venue in the Country Club to help address the sport’s growing popularity within the Anthem community.

What’s pickleball, you ask? Pickleball is a sport in which two, three, or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules similar to tennis, with a few modifications.

Pickleball was invented in the mid-1960s as a children's backyard pastime but quickly became popular among adults as a fun game for players of all levels. The game started during the summer of 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, at the home of then State Representative Joel Pritchard who, in 1970, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the State of Washington. He and two of his friends, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, returned from golf and found their families bored one Saturday afternoon. They attempted to set up badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. They improvised with a Wiffle ball, lowered the badminton net, and fabricated paddles of plywood from a nearby shed.

Although some sources claim that the name ‘pickleball’ was derived from that of the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, other sources state that the claim is false, and that the name came from the term ‘pickle boat’, referring to the last boat to return with its catch. According to Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard's wife, the name came “after I said it reminded me of the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. Somehow the idea the name came from our dog Pickles was attached to the naming of the game, but Pickles wasn't on the scene for two more years. The dog was named for the game.”

The USAPA,, is the governing body of this sport. It estimates that there are now over 400,000 players actively playing pickleball, and that number is rapidly growing.

When playing pickleball, each player will need a pickleball paddle, which is smaller than a tennis racquet but larger than a ping-pong paddle. Originally, paddles were made only from wood; however, today’s paddles have evolved dramatically and are primarily made of lightweight composite materials, including aluminum and graphite. Players will also need a net and a pickleball. The ball itself is unique, with holes through it like a Wiffle ball and there are different ball models intended for indoor and outdoor play. The court is one-third the size of a tennis court, 44 ft. x 20 ft., basically the same size as a badminton court.

Pickleball in the Phoenix area is growing rapidly. Because of its popularity amongst the 55 and over set, the Sun City area is home to some of the best pickleball venues in the state. Many of the Phoenix recreation centers now host weekly indoor pickleball sessions, and attract players from all over the area. Phoenix has become home to many USAPA sanctioned local, regional, and national tournaments, and the 2015 National Pickleball Championships will be played in Casa Grande this coming November.

In Anthem, the players and the community recognize the popularity of the sport, and its unique multi-generational characteristics, and are actively looking to find a permanent home for the sport. The player’s group has formed a club, to better communicate with the players, address and adapt to opportunities and growing pains, and to manage a busy schedule of practice and playing times for all playing levels.

The players now host a Web site, to help promote the sport within the Anthem community. Visit the Anthem AZ Pickleball Web site for schedules, training tips, and more information.