Finding themselves in quite a pickle

Pickleball picks up speed at Ashby Ponds

Created date

September 17th, 2019
Leading and organizing more than 75 neighbors, Roy Murphy (left) and Lou Rodriquez enjoy the socialization and exercise pickleball provides.

Leading and organizing more than 75 neighbors, Roy Murphy (left) and Lou Rodriquez enjoy the socialization and exercise pickleball provides.

According to a report by NBC news this past April, “Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport you’ve never heard of.” 

However, for community members at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., the sport is very well known and appreciated. In fact, the number of people playing the popular sport has grown tenfold since it was first introduced in 2013 as one of many community clubs. Now, more than 75 people enjoy camaraderie, physical fitness, and fun, meeting weekly on Ashby Ponds’ own pickleball court.

It’s a similar phenomenon across the U.S. The USA Pickleball Association reports that in the last six years, the sport has witnessed a 650% increase in players. 

Ashby Ponds community member Lou Rodriquez is not surprised. 

“The best part, and one reason I believe that the sport is so popular, is that you don’t have to be at a certain level of physical fitness,” he says. “Almost anyone can play and enjoy themselves.”

Lou, along with two neighbors, Roy Murphy and Dave Bauer, provide education and assistance and organize weekly pickleball sessions.

“Roy and Lou really cultivated the program and made it what it is today,” says Dave, the most recent addition to the coaching trio. “All of the pickleball players appreciate their efforts and have a great time while enjoying some good exercise.”

Mutt of all sports

Invented in 1965 by U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum, pickleball was created as a backyard family game. 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 Roy. “It is easy to learn because it uses an underhand serve.”

In the fall of 2017, based on the exponential growth of the pickleball club, Ashby Ponds inlaid pickleball markings into the floor of the multipurpose room in the Great Oak Clubhouse and purchased netting, paddles, and balls. 

“It’s one of the best courts I’ve ever played on, and I’ve been to many across the local area,” says Roy. “I believe its addition to Ashby Ponds is a big reason for our group’s growth.”

“Having our own indoor court is a real boon,” says Lou. “We can play 12 months a year. In 2018, we played 160 days. We are on track to meet or beat that number this year.”

Prior to the installation of the flooring, Ashby Ponds pickleball members traveled to the nearby Galilee United Methodist Church to play. Members still make the trip every Wednesday to play with church members.

Something new

Another reason for the exponential growth of pickleball at Ashby Ponds is the sport’s ability to draw in people who have never played before. In fact, the majority of players at the community had never played prior to arriving at Ashby Ponds.

Lou began playing shortly after moving to Ashby Ponds in August 2015. The same is true for Roy, who moved in November 2015. 

“My favorite part about pickleball is the combination of exercise and socialization,” says Ray.

“The social network created from playing pickleball together is vital to the popularity and enjoyment of the sport,” says Lou. All are welcome, and all will find someone who matches their skill to play with.”

Like Lou and Roy, Mona Smith never played pickleball before arriving at Ashby Ponds. She’s now played for almost two years.

“I never even played a racquet sport,” she says. “It’s been such a wonderful way to exercise and a great way to socialize. I’m having so much fun. But the best part is that at a recent bone scan, my bone density has improved. Pickleball is also so good for hand-eye coordination.”

My Truong agrees. “I never played before either,” she says. “I started eight months ago and am really enjoying the sport. I feel like a little girl again, running around so freely. It feels good and is such a fun game.”

Something for everyone

Each pickleball session is organized by type of play or skill level. At each session, at least one of the three leaders is present to ensure safety and offer playing advice.

Recently, the regional pickleball ambassador visited Ashby Ponds to watch the members play and provide new tips and safe play advice. 

“The good news is that we were doing everything we were supposed to do,” says Roy. 

Each week, Lou sends out an email with open play times and sessions. Often the emails also include links to YouTube videos on a variety of pickleball-related topics such as where to stand, how to serve, and warm-up exercises.

“We are grateful to Ashby Ponds for helping and supporting our sport,” says Lou. “It’s a great partnership.”

And the players are thankful to Lou, Roy, and Dave for their continued support.

“Our community of pickleball players is very friendly, honest, and supportive,” says Mona. “Roy and Louis are excellent, patient teachers. I’m thrilled that pickleball is a part of our lives at Ashby Ponds.”