Pickleball is good exercise and fun


CRESCO -  What sport is played with a wooden or graphite paddle, a wiffleball and is the fastest growing sport in America? It’s pickleball, of course!
Now for the next question - what the heck is pickleball? In summary, it’s bigger than ping-pong and a bit smaller than tennis, but can be played on a tennis court with smaller boundaries. The scoring goes by one up to 11 points, and there are two players on each team.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three dads (Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum) who were searching for new summer activities for their kids. The website usapa.org notes that there are two stories of how the sport got its name.
Story one: According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”
In story two, Barney McCallum noted the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.
Although the sport has been in existence for over 50 years, its popularity throughout the United States has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, especially in Cresco.
In December 2016, Mark Johnson and his wife, Brenda Steffens Johnson began playing pickleball at the Cresco Fitness Center and encouraged others to join.
“We kind of got pickleball going in Cresco last December,” Brenda said. “The guys at the fitness center (Bill Caffrey and Rick McCarville) did a nice job of figuring how to put in the pickleball courts and nets  (at the gym). They taped the dimensions at first before painting them in this spring.
“Jeff Tomlinson of Decorah also helped us by coming over to Cresco to teach lessons at the Fitness Center, and we helped him,” Mark said.
Brenda noted she and Mark first started playing pickleball in Arizona a couple years ago and became quick fans.
“Soon after we started playing it, we really liked it,” Brenda said. “Pickleball is huge in Arizona.”
“According to the Internet, it’s the fastest growing sport in the United States,” Mark said. “Pickleball has been played (during P.E. class) at Crestwood for many years.”
Since the beginning of May 2017, Brenda, Mark and several of their pickleball friends have been playing at Evans Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As of early August, Brenda noted there are 38 local people on the pickleball e-mail list, although not everyone plays every week. 
There is no cost to play, and anyone of any age is welcome. Currently, the players range in age from 28 up to 85.
Mark Johnson said the camaraderie drew him to pickleball.
“I really like the social aspect of the sport,” Mark said. “It gets people outside doing a fun activity. I’ve read that about 70 percent of the players are retired people.
“It gives people good exercise and keeps them active,” Brenda said. “Anyone of any age can play pickleball, and it’s an easy sport to pick up fast. It’s not as hard on your body. One of our oldest players is Jerry Wilson, who is 85.”
Shirley Weber, who is a regular at the pickleball court, said she was taught by Mark Johnson.
“The first time I played it, I was hooked,” Weber said. “I love the sport. Volleyball was my favorite sport until I started playing pickleball.”
Another player, Amy Farlinger noted, “I like the activity of the sport and the camaraderie you have with the players. It is also really good exercise for anyone.”
Doug Gosnell, who has played the sport in Cresco since May, said, “Pickleball is more exciting than ping pong because you can run around more, but it’s not as strenuous as playing tennis. It’s a good workout, and it requires more thinking and quick reactions.”
Mike Wooldrik, who lives in Arizona but comes to Mabel, Minnesota, in the summer said he first started playing the sport while living in the southwest and he became a fan of the sport right away.
Ron Downing, who works at the Cresco Fitness Center, said that earlier this year, he taught the sport to kids in third through sixth grade at the Fitness Center and they immediately loved the sport. 
Downing is hopeful the sport can be offered by the Cresco Park and Recreation Department as a summer sport for students next year.
Downing added that anyone who is interested in learning more about the sport can contact him at the Cresco Fitness Center at 547-3443 or come to the tennis courts at Evans Park at 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to play with the group.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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