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Pickleball A sport for all comes to the Pocket By Monica Stark

editor@valcomnews.com

The CBS “Early Show” called it a sweet sport with a sour name. Pickleball. What is it? According to the USA Pickleball Association, it’s a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but it can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, pickleball is played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. It’s a game that’s played with a paddle and a plastic ball. And ask Pocket resident Heman Lee all about it. He’s hooked. The lifelong tennis player picked up the pickleball paddle in January and is now teaching lessons at ACC Senior Services. Heman welcomed the start of spring, teaching an outdoor pickleball lesson, the first of hopefully many in the Pocket area. About 20 people signed up for the first lesson and Heman is hopeful to come up with a schedule soon. Because of the sport’s growing popularity, Linda Revilla, program director at ACC Senior Services, described the excitement regarding the courts at ACC as follows: “When Heman approached us, we jumped on it because, here we have this (basketball) court. We have outdoor lights, too. And we knew there’s a growing demand and it’s very exciting to be the first outdoor pickleball courts in Sacramento.” Heman and some friends painted new lines on the pavement and brought out portable nets when they got the green light. Though Heman had never heard of the sport as of January, he’s come to really enjoy it. Speaking about how he got started playing, he said, “I heard about it from my friend Jennie (Fong). I’m an avid tennis player and I never heard of pickleball, so she Valley Community Newspapers, Inc.

just mentioned there’s some game that’s like mini tennis. And I said, ‘Oh, that sounds really good, mini tennis.’ So, I went down (to the Wackford Community and Aquatic Complex in Elk Grove) the first week of January and I think after that day, I was hooked. It’s really fun,” Heman said with a chuckle. “You see, I love playing tennis, but I can’t with my elbow,” Heman continued. “After 50 (years of age), you can’t serve like you used to. And then, I play pickleball and I don’t even have to wear my wristband or my elbow pad or my knee brace or all this stuff that all my other senior friends wear because they still play tennis. Pickleball is so much easier because the racket weighs half of a tennis racket.” He also said the sport is much easier on one’s knees because of the smaller size of the court and because the distance a plastic ball travels is a lot less than that of a tennis ball. “The court is only half the size of a tennis court. If they serve it underhanded, they only have to run 15 feet and they are only covering 10 feet on each side, so it’s a lot easier on your knees and joints and stuff.” Having played tennis almost his entire life, Heman said he has noticed a lot of tennis players convert to pickleball. “Some aspects of the game are the same, like the forehand and the backhand; the strokes are similar. But, it also has aspects that are more like ping-pong. What we’re teaching (at the time of the interview) is something that’s a soft shot. You don’t have to hit it hard to win. There are a lot of good players that just use soft shots. There is more strategy involved than tennis now because tennis now is more of a power game. (Pickleball) has more of a mental aspect to it, which I like. Seniors can play and husbands can play with their wives.” Karen Alfsen is the USA Pickleball Association ambassador in Elk Grove. Besides getting a following

Players give a high-five after a pickleball match at ACC.

there, she’s facilitated the start of the sport at ACC. She spoke with the Pocket News about the reasons why the courts got started at the Wackford Community and Aquatic Complex in Elk Grove. “In our area, there are few public courts. One has to travel to Auburn, Folsom, Discovery Bay, Modesto, or Rio Vista to find a public court. For that reason, the Cosumnes Community Services District agreed to stripe three public indoor courts at the Wackford Community and Aquatics Complex.” Further describing the distance some people drive to play pickleball, Heman said, “There are a lot of seniors that will go all the way from Grass Valley, Auburn, Cameron Park, all down to Folsom just to find people to play with. It’s a whole social community and there are groups of seniors that get into an R.V. and go to different tournaments, like Florida is a real hotbed. But, the closest on the West Coast is probably Arizona with the senior communities. But I started it here because there’s really no public place to play pickleball within the city of Sacramento. Mondays I go to Elk Grove; Sundays I go to Folsom. The only other place you can play pickleball is if you belong (to a senior community).” So if you are interested in learning more about pickleball at ACC, call Anna Su at 393-9026, extension 330. ACC is located at 7334 Park City Dr., www.accsv.org.

Photos by Monica Stark

These players enjoyd pickleball at ACC.

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www.valcomnews.com • April 2, 2015 • Pocket News

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