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Jan papi
2018-08-16 13:21:15

Pickleball: latest racket in town

HILLSDALE - What do you get when you combine badminton, tennis and ping-pong? Pickleball - a paddle sport that's catching on in Hillsdale with new courts ready for use.

Thanks to some local aficionados in the sport, two courts are available on the site of the former Hillsdale College tennis courts near Academy Lane.

Ken Cole and his wife, Brenda, started playing the sport about eight years ago when a local couple, Sheri and Rick Piper, taught them the game.

"My goal is to help provide exposure of the game to the Hillsdale community," Cole said.

It goes back to when the four friends stayed in the same recreational vehicle resort park in Florida and played with many other people that stayed in the park, too.

"The park had two courts at that time, but now it has 10 and they hold an annual tournament every January," Cole said. "For a couple of years I have been working with the Exchange Club of Hillsdale to build a couple of courts for pickleball and on June 30 of this year, the two courts at the College were completed."

Through his connections, Cole, who works part time for the college, said the college made available the old tennis courts, while the Exchange Club provided 85 percent of the funding and he and his wife provided the remaining 15 percent. A Toledo, Ohio firm, The Courtsmiths, converted half of two tennis courts to two Pickleball Courts.

Cole said the game was invented in 1965 and has been around for more than 50 years.

The game is played indoors or outdoors on a court similar to badminton with paddles, not rackets, made of graphite, composite or wood, with no holes allowed in the paddles. The ball is made of a hard plastic and has many holes, similar to a wiffle ball.

Singles or doubles are played, but generally it's a doubles game, Cole added. Play is to 11 points with the win by two points, and points are only scored by the serving team. The receiving team and the server must both hit their first shots off the bounce. After that, the ball can be volleyed.

To make pickleball a game of finesse and strategy rather than just raw power, a no-volley zone was instituted within 7 feet on either side of the net. Within this zone, the ball must bounce before it is hit.

The history of the game goes back to when two families invented the game on an asphalt badminton court. No one could find the shuttlecock, so the dads improvised with a Wiffle-type ball. Since the kids found it difficult to hit the 3-inch ball with the lightweight racket, the dads made wooden rackets that resembled ping-pong paddles. As the game evolved, it was determined that players could hit the ball on the bounce as well as out of the air. The net was lowered from 5 feet (badminton height) to 3 feet (tennis height).

The next problem to solve was how to keep the family dog from taking the ball. Pickles, the cocker-spaniel, would fetch the ball and hide in the bushes. The game was therefore named after him.

Monday night, the Coles and the Pipers held a first-time clinic at the new courts, which drew a dozen interested players.

"We have seven who haven't played before, so tonight we are covering the basics for beginners," Cole said. "It will give exposure to the game and give them a feel for the paddles."

Another clinic is planned for 6 p.m. Aug. 20. Those with experience are teaching the rules at no charge.

"There's no fee," Cole said. "The college was gracious enough to give us the space, so we'll use it until the space is utilized for their indoor turf building when that's done some five years from now."

Cole said paddles are sold online or at sporting goods stores like Paddletek in Niles.

He said each game can last from 10 minutes up to a half hour. Partners are rotated so that the more skilled can help with those learning.

Among those attending the first clinic, Barry and Karen Hill said they came because they like to learn different sports. While they like to play tennis when they go to a cabin up north, pickleball appeals "because scoring is different and the game is quick and fast.

"It's fast paced and you do get a really good aerobic workout," Karen Hill said.

Michelle Rogers, who is the Coles' daughter, said she likes the underhand serves. Jane Scholl said the smaller courts and rules are something she'll have to get used to.

Brenda Cole, who started playing in 2010, said the game has really caught on in Florida.

"There will be 60 people each morning ready to play," she said. "It's a very social game - you can hear laughing and talking."

The job now is to promote the courts and make as many people as possible aware the courts are available, Ken Cole said.

"Once we get it going, I think it will take off here," Cole said. "We will be playing here till the winter."