Features - Pickleball - Bray, Renee - 8-15

By Phyllis Hodges

If you think pickleball is popular only among the older set, think again. According to the USA Pickleball Association, this multi-generational sport, created in 1965, has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.

Consensus among historians is that three creative guys at a social gathering on Bainbridge Island (Washington) were looking for ways to keep the kids occupied. They put together sports equipment available that included a whiffle ball and pingpong paddles, and the rest is history. While the sport has the strongest following among seniors, kids love it and it is now taught in schools throughout the country. The USAPA estimates there are more than 150,000 active players in the U.S.

What makes players of all ages flock to this hybrid sport? The court is smaller than a tennis court, so it is easier on the knees and elbows; the rules are simple so it is easy to learn; and it can be played indoors or outdoors.  It is still played with a whiffle ball but paddles now are somewhat larger than those used for pingpong.

The sport came to life in Sun City Center after a couple of forward-looking gents—Don Van Gelder and Walter Cawein—visited pickleball courts at The Village early in 2001 and proposed it for SCC. Construction of courts began in June and the first players hit the courts in December that year.

There have been ten presidents of the Sun City Center Pickleball Club. Currently, it is Renee Bray, who started playing soon after she moved here two years ago from Rochester, New York.  Until a recent injury, she sometimes played twice a day–even though she was working full-time as a global program manager for Hewlett-Packard.

“We have a lot of social events, including a monthly brunch at the courts,” Renee said. “We are planning a 50th Anniversary Tournament this fall to commemorate the sport’s anniversary.” She says there is a lot of camaraderie and compassion among the club’s 240-plus members. The numbers translate into heavy demand for the courts, so much so that the CA is considering two new courts for next year. Renee credits the club’s beginner classes for boosting the membership since nearly all new people who go through the classes join. The clinics are led by Bernie Cole, the club’s current secretary, who busily runs winter classes twice a week.

The CA’s four courts at the Sports Complex on Pebble Beach South are open for club members 7 to 11 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Other CA members are allowed on the courts from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Sunday when it is open all day.

For club information, contact Renee at toldjaso56@hotmail.com or 585-315-1740.