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Jan papi
2018-05-19 12:48:43

I'll Try Anything Once: Pickleball

If the weather cooperates, people with paddles descend on the tennis courts in Lakefront Park to take part in what those who play call "an addiction" - pickleball.

As the character "Coach" said on an episode of the sitcom "The Goldbergs": "Do not be fooled by its comically-delightful name. Pickleball is a serious sport."

And Prior Lake Pickleballers - say that five times fast - take it seriously. When there is good weather, players overfill the eight courts that can be set up on Lakefront's tennis courts. Often, there's a rotation set up for who can play.

I joined the organized chaos on the suggestion of pickleballer Charlene Burck who promised that "almost everyone who tries it comes back for more."

Pickleball began in 1965 after a family became bored one afternoon and tried to set up badminton, but the shuttlecock was missing. The family improvised with a Wiffle ball, lowered the badminton net and used planks of plywood as the paddles.

It was named after a "pickle boat" which is the last boat to return with a day's haul of fish. The family later named their dog, Pickles, after the game they'd created.

The game is an amalgamation of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Players use paddles similar to table tennis on a court similar to badminton and use rules similar to tennis. Right now, Prior Lake pickleballers play on tennis courts but are hoping the city will set aside some funds in the future for designated pickleball courts.

I went in fairly comfortable with the concept. I played a bit of tennis in high school, even briefly for the varsity team during a tournament - though that was only because actual members of the varsity team were unavailable for a reason I can't remember and I ended up bringing down my doubles partner (sorry, Jenny).

Since then, however, I had played quite a bit recreationally and I believe I've improved, though it's easy to improve when your skill level starts at zero.

So, I headed to Lakefront Park on a Monday morning. I was given a brief description of the games and rules by a pickleballer named Dennis and then I was thrown into the mix.

And I had a great time.

It was like tennis but with a bit more control and less running, which if I were to design a better version of tennis, it would definitely include those components. You serve the ball diagonally across the fence and players return each volley, trying to "defend the line" that's about two feet away from the net on each side. Everyone was encouraging and friendly and the appropriate amount of competitive.

It was definitely still exercise, as well. My face turned beet red, as it does with literally the smallest amount of physical exertion or mild embarrassment or if I get a little too warm, which might have alarmed some of the other players. A man on another court yelled to my doubles partner Dennis to "get that girl some water, my gosh."

But I was alright.

I played four games of which I lost three - though to be fair, I forgot how to score points for the first two. Most methods of game play dictate that only the serving team is able to score so I was very confused when after I had worked my butt off for a couple rounds, each team still had zero points.

At the end of the games, a man insisted I drink some water and I went on my way back to the parts of my job that do not consist of playing pickleball.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. In fact, I'm planning on dragging my fiancé to Prior Lake on Saturday morning to play again. It's very fun and I'm all about switching up the physical exercise every once in a while because running on the treadmill sucks (but so does running outside; running just sucks).

I work out in the mornings and so it'd be nice to, every once in a while, switch out the regularly-scheduled programming for something that feels less like working out and a bit more like socialization.

Tune in next time to see what I'll try at least once and until then, tell me what to do.