SIDNEY — The Sidney-Shelby County YMCA has found itself in a pickle and they couldn’t be happier.
The YMCA has dedicated hours and courts in its Schauer Gym for Pickleball, a craze that’s making its way across the country.
“Pickleball is a cross between tennis and ping pong,” said Greg Wilt, of Sidney, one of the organizers of the games. “The court has parallels to tennis as there is a net and service area. But it’s like ping pong because a paddle is used and a plastic ball (Whiffle ball).”
The game originated in the Seattle, Washington, area 50 years ago by Joel Pritchard, a congressman, and businessman Bill Bell. They were looking for a game for their entire family to play together, so they created a new game.
“But in the last two to three years, it’s grown,” said Wilt. “People started playing it here about a year ago.
“Former and current tennis players are taking it up,” he said. “I played tennis for years but because of a knee replacement, I can’t move like I used to.”
The pickleball court, he said, is one-fourth to one-third the size of a tennis court.
“There are outdoor courts in Piqua, Troy, St. Marys, Minster and St. Henry,” he said. “There’s no leagues or tournaments. Whoever wants to play just comes to the YMCA. I do try to organize it to make sure we have enough people for a game.
“You have to have four people,” he said. “We have people from Celina and New Bremen who come here to play.”
Scoring for the game, said Wilt, is simple. The first team to reach 11 points wins as long as they have a two point lead over their competition. The only time you can score a point is if you are serving the ball.
“There are three parts of the score,” said Wilt. “For example, with 3-2-1, the first number is the serving team’s score. The second number is the receiving team’s score. The third number tells which person is serving on the team.”
There’s a green line on both sides of the net, he explained, and that’s called the kitchen.
“You never hit the ball in the air in the kitchen,” said Wilt. “And you can’t step on it. You also can’t hit the ball in the air until there have been two successive bounces.”
Wilt says pickleball gives his a chance to play a sport while having a good time.
“I like to compete,” said Wilt. “If I’m going to work out, I’d rather it be in a competitive environment. I’d also rather do this (pickleball) instead of the treadmill or lifting weights.”
Wilt says the game also allows him to socialize with his friends.
“I have a lot of friends I played tennis with for 30 years,” said Wilt. “I’m getting to meet new people through pickleball. It’s also easier on the body if you have bad knees.”
Wilt said his grandson loves to play pickleball with him.
“I think an 80-year-old is the oldest person playing pickleball at the Y,” said Wilt.
Elaine Sweller-Snyder also likes the competitiveness of the game.
“The hardest part was learning how to do the scoring,” she said. “I really enjoy playing. I really like tennis because there’s not a lot of running. I read about this after I joined the YMCA in December and thought it sounded like fun.”
Mary Lou Holly has also joined the pickleball frenzy.
“I like the camaraderie of the sport,” said Holly.
There are two versions on how the game got its name. Pritchard’s wife, Joan, said she started calling it pickleball because the combination of sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where the oarsmen were chosen from the other boats’s leftovers.
But the story that most people like says the game was named after the Pritchards’s dog, Pickles, who loved to chase after the ball and run away with it.
Pickleball open play is available on Mondays and Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 7:30 to 9 p.m. They can have up to three courts of pickleball games going at the same time.
Anyone interested in playing pickleball can call witl at 937-726-4805 or the YMCA at 937-492-9134.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.