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Pickleball growing in popularity


by Neil Simpson

Pickleball is the game with the strange name that the majority of people still don't understand. Quite simply, it's like tennis played on a badminton sized court with an oversized ping pong paddle and a net just slightly lower than a tennis net.

 

 

 

 

Who plays pickleball? More than 150,000 are now devotees and the number is growing rapidly. Boys and girls, men and women have all taken to the game but it seems to have found its niche with seniors who are tired of exerting themselves on a tennis court but still enjoy friendly, fast-paced competition.

How did pickleball come to these parts? Charles Kuehn, who bought a house in Tanglewood in 2005, went back to Virginia in the summer of 2006 and was invited to try a game of indoor pickleball. He tried it, liked it, researched it and returned to Tanglewwood with a fire burning in his belly. He was determined to get the game started in his own community.

 

 

 

Not sure how to go about it, he talked to some of the movers and shakers who led him to the park's owner, John Greytak. After a few meetings with Greytak, Kuehn bought $600 worth of equipment, got permission to set up two temporary courts on the outdoor dance floor and within a month of being back in Tangledwood was "selling" the game to everyone he met by carrying his wooden paddle and whiffle ball with him.

Those who took the time to ask got the full story. Soon, Greytak picked up the tab for the equipment and a small group of players was meeting three times a week. The game grew in popularity and Kuehn grew bolder in his efforts to add another dimension to Tanglewood's sports facilities.

Another series of meetings convinced Greytak that permanent courts were needed. Would there be two, three or four courts? The park owner didn't want to build more than would be used, but from his house across the street from the temporary pickleball facility he could see that it was gaining followers quickly.

By the spring of 2007 the plans were in place and in the fall, four fully fenced courts were built. Unfortunately, there was a slight problem with the height of the nets but Kuehn was able to chase down the contractor before he drove away. The kind fellow returned on the Sunday to make the needed adjustments and the courts opened on the Monday.

From his first time playing the game to seeing his dream fulfilled took less than 15 months. On March 19, 2008, the courts were named the Kuehn Courts "Dedicated to Charles Kuehn, The Founder of Pickleball in Tanglewood."

In the early days, eight wooden paddles, part of the original equipment purchase, were used. As players caught onto the game they started to look for lighter paddles which they ordered over the internet. Today, a wide variety of paddles can be seen on the courts; graphite, composite and aluminum.

The Tanglewood Pickleball Club now boasts a membership of more than 140 dedicated players who compete in a variety of leagues within the park as well as meeting for friendly encounters where the name of the game is fun.

Tanglewood has a very successful travelling team and several players have done well in local and regional tournaments. This summer, they will be represented at the National level by several of our players.

Hats off to Charles Kuehn for making pickleball a reality in Tanglewood and a new passion for many of our active seniors. "Build it and they will come." It couldn't be truer than with Tanglewood's pickleball courts.

Tanglewood will be holding the league South Central Florida Pickleball League "shootout" on Monday, March 4, starting at 10:30 a.m.

The "Heartland Games for Active Adults" Pickleball Tournament will also be held at Tanglewood on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16. To register, contact Lauren Redick of the South Florida State College Community Education Department at 784-7388 or by e-mail at CommunityEducation@southflorida.edu. The registration deadline is Feb. 22.

 

HERE ARE SOME PICKLEBALLERS HAVING SOME FUN...ENJOY!