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Players having a ball

Sat., Jan. 26, 2008

The game that sounds like something found in a grocery aisle is now at the Spokane Valley HUB.

Pickleball, a game that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, is played every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at the 66,000-square-foot facility.

“The game has no resemblance with pickles, that’s for sure,” said John Russell, who so far has played it twice at the HUB.

This twice-a-week offering resulted from Valley residents Elisabeth and Hugh Lewis’ desire to find a place to play after being introduced to it last June at the Senior Olympics in Louisville, Ky. “They were demonstrating the game there,” said Hugh Lewis, who along with his wife won a gold medal in archery at the Olympics. “We got to play and really enjoyed it.”

Unable to locate a permanent place to play, Elisabeth Lewis arranged to have chalk lines added to the tennis courts at Valley Mission Park last October.

“We played on Wednesdays, weather permitting,” she said. “We got to play several afternoons.”

In November, Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation and Valley Senior Center formed an agreement with the HUB allowing the couple to start the bi-weekly pickleball sessions.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” she said. “It’s a gorgeous facility.”

Easy to learn, pickleball provides fun and exercise for players of all ages. The smaller court enables senior citizens to get a workout without overexertion.

“There is not as much running as tennis,” Elisabeth said. “It’s a lot easier for seniors.”

“It’s great exercise,” said Gene Werden, a recent pickleball recruit. “And good for hand-and-eye coordination.”

There are currently a dozen people signed up to play and organizers hope to see participation double in the near future.

Elisabeth Lewis sometimes recruits by wearing her “Ask me about pickleball” T-shirt, purchased from the United States Pickleball Association Web site.

“Most people when they read it smile,” she said. “And they do ask, ‘OK, what is pickleball?’ “

She told Dewey Peterson about pickleball while playing table tennis one morning at the Spokane Valley Senior Center. He decided to try the game that same afternoon.

“I had never heard of pickleball,” said Peterson just before beginning his second week of play. “I was invited to play so I decided to give it a try. It’s fun.”

The game got its unusual name by the antics of a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who liked to hide in the bushes while waiting for a chance to steal away with an errant shot. Pickles was the dog of Joel Pritchard, the late congressman from Bainbridge Island. Mark Friedenberg’s book, “The Official Pickleball Handbook,” recounts Pritchard’s invention of the game. In 1965, Pritchard along with his friend Bill Bell created the game in his backyard to provide a sport for the entire family.

The game can be played in singles, doubles, or mixed doubles, using two or four players on a small 20-by-40 foot court. Lightweight paddles, slightly larger than a ping-pong paddle, volley the perforated wiffle type ball back and forth.

Scoring is similar to badminton where only the serving side gains points. The ball is served underhanded and each side must allow the ball to bounce once before the shot is returned. After the double bounce, the ball can be either volleyed or played off the bounce. The first to eleven points wins.

“It’s a great way to stay healthy and active,” said Elisabeth Lewis said. “If you’re joining us for the first time, don’t sweat it. We’re still learning. If you want to watch the ball go by that is OK.”


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