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In A Pickle

August 17, 2012, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

In A Pickle

What do you get when you combine an oversized ping-pong paddle with a whiffle ball? You get one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. The game is starting to hold serve in Sioux Falls.

They hit the court early in the morning at Menlo Park; relishing the idea of playing Pickleball.

"I'm convinced it's going to be the next Olympic sport," laughed Pickleball player Julie Seaverson.

Think of Pickleball as a courtside condiment to tennis.  It's played on a smaller surface, with wooden paddles instead of rackets.  The balls are plastic with holes, whacked over a slightly lowered net.  But the intensity level is just as high.

"We just started last Christmas down in Arizona and just fell in love with it, it's the best sport ever," Seaverson said.

Because the Pickleball court is shorter and narrower than tennis, the ball tends to stay in play longer.

"So, a little less running, but the opposite is there's a lot of activity at the net. So that's fun. Real speedy, so it's a game of strategy and position," Pickleball player Dennis Finke said.

The learning curve isn't steep for Pickleball. A beginner can pick-up the techniques and strategies right away. And because Pickleball is less taxing on the body, it can be an ideal sport for all ages.

"I like it because I think young and old, and I mean old, some of my favorite Pickleball players are really elderly, but they're so good! So I think anything that keeps you young is a good thing," Seaverson said.

Pickleball dates back to the mid-1960s when a Washington state family decided to make some tweaks to their backyard badminton game.

"And the reason they call it Pickle is because once and a while, somebody would miss the ball and their dog's name was Pickle, so they said Pickle, go get the ball.  And that's how it started, just in a backyard," Finke said.

Nineteen states now host Pickleball tournaments.  And players think it will also be a big hit here.

"Sioux Falls is a real tennis hotbed, so this is a natural off from tennis," Finke said.

Another difference between Pickleball and tennis is, whereas in tennis, you serve the ball overhand, in Pickleball, you serve underhand.  And you only get one chance to get it over the net.  But you have an infinite number of chances to really tick-off your teammate.

"This game is all underhand, it's real wristy, like racquetball, so you don't get hurt very easily," Finke said.

An underhanded approach to having fun and staying fit; playing Pickleball is cool as a cucumber.

You're invited to join the Sioux Falls Pickleball players for games every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:00 at Menlo Park.  They also play a couple of times a month indoors at First Christian Reformed Church on East 26th Street.

For more information about Pickleball, click here.

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