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Relishing their sport

Pickleball at Ashby Ponds attracting enthusiasts

Created date

March 26th, 2013

If you can t beat them, join them. And then beat them! That s exactly what pickleball players at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., plan to do. Earlier this year, community member Joe Mihm introduced his neighbors to pickleball, a sport which, according to the USA Pickleball Association, is growing faster than any other sport in the country. Invented in 1965 by U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum, pickleball is played by more than 100,000 people on at least 5,000 courts nationwide. Once you play, you re hooked, Joe says. Pickleball develops reflexes, coordination, and is a good aerobic exercise. It s appealing to people of varying physical ability because it can be played as fast or as slow as you like.

The mutt of all sports

Created as a backyard family game on a badminton-sized court (44 by 20 ) with a 34-inch net, the first pickleball players used wooden paddles and a whiffle ball that belonged to the Pritchard family cocker spaniel, Pickles. Because of his habit of running after stray balls and hiding in the bushes, Pickles became the game s namesake. Pickleball can best be described as a mix of table tennis, paddle tennis, badminton, and tennis, says Joe. It is easy to learn because it uses an underhand serve. The smaller court creates a fun, social atmosphere, especially when playing doubles. Joe felt the sport would be a great addition to the many activities offered at Ashby Ponds when he moved there in 2012. Each Wednesday, Ashby Ponds pickleball players travel to the gym at the Galilee United Methodist Church, in Sterling, Va. They were glad to have us, says Joe. It s a great set-up.

Importance of ' teamwork

Supporting Joe in his efforts, neighbor Bill Walker is thrilled that the sport s popularity is taking hold at Ashby Ponds. Like Joe, I also played pickleball before moving to Ashby Ponds, says Bill. I would play three days a week and was lucky to play against some very skilled players. When Joe approached me with his plan to bring the game here, I was behind him 100%. In addition to playing, I enjoy teaching people who are just beginning. It s nice to see them continue to play and improve. Both Joe and Bill enjoy sharing their love of the game with their neighbors. In February, the pair held a pickleball open house to provide the community an opportunity to see the game up close. It s one thing to describe the game to someone and quite different to see it in action, says Joe. There are many reasons why pickleball is so popular, and one of the most important reasons is because it is so much fun. To anyone who may have concerns about their ability to play I assure them that pickleball is definitely a game that is easier to play than tennis, says Bill. We play with two players on a side, just as doubles in tennis, so it is easier to cover the smaller court. Anyone with reasonably good hand and eye coordination can play, as long as they have some mobility to move around a bit on the court.

Everyone s welcome

Ashby Ponds enthusiastic pickleball group hopes that any community members interested in playing will come and join their group. It s a great time with a tremendous group of people, says Joe. Everyone is welcome.