Maine Living at its Best
Do you love finding new ways of squeezing out every last “drop of fun” Maine living has to offer? Been searching for healthy activities to make a long northeast winter more enjoyable? Ever heard of Pickleball?
Don’t worry, me neither…that is until about 3 months ago when my wife notified me that, together, we were doing a free “Pickleball clinic” through the Portland Recreation Program. You can imagine my questions- not to mention the confused and cynical reaction I had when she told me this news!
3 months later, I am now a self admitted “addict” to this incredibly fun and easy to learn game. Let me tell you why.
As I’ve said many times in the past, I love living in Maine. I’ve been here my entire life and I can honestly say there’s very little I don’t like about being here. It’s such a great
place to live and do business.
One of the few things I do find challenging about Maine living, though, is finding ways of making the winter go by quickly. Outside of activities like skiing and snowmobiling (which I do enjoy), it can be a bit of a challenge to find new and fun activities to do during the cold season- especially indoor activities.
Pickleball is often described as a cross somewhere between badminton, ping-pong, and tennis.
2 to 4 people can play this simple but fast paced game. It can be played either indoors or outdoors and is played on a court similar to, but smaller than a regular tennis court. Age groups and athletic abilities vary greatly and just about anyone can quickly learn to play the game. It’s also extremely inexpensive to play. All you need is a paddle, which can be purchased for as little as $18.
Pickleball in New England
In recent years Pickleball popularity has definitely begun taking root. Local TV news stories like WCSH’s Fit at Five story and newspaper articles in The Boston Globe and The Portland Press Herald have been popping up on a regular basis.
More and more Pickleball clinics are being developed, and Maine people are becoming more familiar in general with the sport. The game appears to be gaining traction with the more active Maine living “lifestyle.”
For current Maine Pickleball locations and schedules, check out the USAPA’s Maine scheduling link.
My Intro to Pickleball
When my wife first mentioned the game to me, the first thing that caught me off guard was the name. When she told me about our upcoming “Pickleball” adventure, I said “Pickleball? What the heck is that?”
Ok, I might have used a slightly different word than heck, but I’m sure you get the picture.
So, reluctantly, I agreed to go to the 10 week intro clinic and give this thing a try.
3 Months and 30 Pickleball Sessions Later
I have to tell you, this game is SERIOUSLY fun. It’s probably the most fun sport/game I have played in a very long time. I am downright hooked on it. I also get disappointed when I can’t play.
Pickleball is fast paced and rarely dull. A 2 hour Pickleball session will fly by in what feels like mere minutes. You’ll be having so much fun that you literally don’t even realize that you’re getting great exercise.
A Quick Learning Curve
Learning Pickleball is extremely fast and easy. Within an hour or so of playing for the first time, most people can confidently jump right in and play with opponents for real. I’ve watched as 70+ year olds with no racket-sport experience, have picked up a paddle and start playing the game in a matter of minutes.
And this isn’t a sport just for the young of body either. Quite the contrary. Pickleball is a serious sport in the seniors communities. There are hundreds upon hundreds of established court systems in retirement communities throughout States like Florida and Arizona.
And believe me when I tell you…they can PLAY!
For the last 12 weeks I have been playing 2 nights a week with an organized group of Pickleball players at the South Portland Recreational Center.
The average age of this group of players is probably somewhere around the 60 mark.
I am 42 years old, and consider myself to be in at least relatively good shape. I have always been fairly athletic and adapt to most activities or sports quite well.
There are several players in this group, well over the age of 60, who I fight hard to keep up with. These guys know the game well. They love to play, and aren’t afraid to teach the younger and newer players like myself what this game is all about.
These past 12 weeks have been an incredibly fun and humbling experience.
I guess it’s true what they say- better respect your elders!
According to sources like sportsknowhow.com Pickleball has actually been around for more than 45 years. The story of how the game came to be is rather amusing, actually.
In 1965 two congressmen from Washington State were looking for a cure to a bad case of summertime boredom, for their kids. In an attempt to do so they decided to encourage the kids to take advantage of an existing badminton court behind one of the family’s homes.
Using a hodge-podge of handmade wooden paddles and a typical “wiffle” type plastic
ball, the kids and the dads started batting a ball around and playing together. Soon enough, game rules developed. So did a healthy addiction for the game.
Before they knew it, a new game had been born. Pickleball.
One Seriously Strange Name
The tools for the game and the court to play it on had been established. “But what about that crazy name”, you’re probably wondering?
One of the two founding families had a Cocker Spaniel. The dog, who found it quite amusing to steal the wiffleball in the middle of play, would grab the ball then run off and hide it in the bushes. I guess this didn’t please the players too much. They were constantly yelling at the dog to bring their ball back.
Yep, you guessed it. The dogs name was “Pickles”.
Today, there are estimated to be more than 100,000 Pickleball players in the US alone. The sport is growing at a tremendous pace within all age groups including children. It can even be found being used in school gym programs for kids.
The game is also played in many parts of Europe as well.
Indoor and outdoor courts can be found in just about any part of the country. Check out the USAPA Location & Schedule page to find the nearest organized game near you.
Also, for a ton of great general information about Pickleball, including rules, playing tips, video clips and information about equipment visit the USAPA website, when you have a moment.
I truly hope you give Pickleball a chance and check out this wonderful game. I have a feeling you won’t be able to “put it down” if you do!