Heritage Christian School soon to be Steamboat's latest pickleball spot

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— It’s not a sport your local high school is likely to be competing in for the state championship, but the name alone is enough to perk up ears and turn heads.

But make no mistake, pickleball is growing in Steamboat Springs, and thanks to a grant from LiveWell Northwest Colorado, students at Heritage Christian School soon will find out what it’s all about.

There is a Steamboat Springs Pickleball Association, which formed shortly after locals started using the courts at Howelsen Hill in 2011 for the sport that looks a lot like badminton, only with paddles and balls.

Intrigue in the sport has grown steadily since then, and interested players can compete at places like Howelsen, The Lowell Whiteman School, the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and, with the implementation of the grant, at Heritage Christian’s gym in the very near future.

“It’s going to be totally new for the students,” Heritage Christian physical education and health teacher Sharol Lanning said. “I don’t think we have anyone who’s ever even played it. It’s a lifetime sport. We have smaller class sizes and this is something I can teach them, and they’re going to be able to play this until their 70s and 80s.”

It’s that idea, Lanning said, of providing students and the community with a safe avenue for a “lifetime sport” that she thinks LiveWell jumped on with the opportunity to fork over the dollars. LiveWell’s vision is “a healthy community to live in for all,” its website says.

And Heritage Christian is no stranger to the organization after being voted as Routt County’s Outstanding School of 5210, LiveWell’s healthy eating and physical activity campaign.

Lanning received the grant a few weeks ago and wasted no time using about $945 to order all the necessary equipment: racquets, balls, four nets and, thanks to an anonymous donation from a Pickleball Association member, permanent lines will be installed on the gym floor.

Lanning is relatively new to the sport herself, but after playing with her father, who was visiting from Arizona, she got hooked.

“I played badminton competitively in high school and it reminds me a lot of that sport,” Lanning said. “I just like how it’s not all about being quick and fast. Any skill level can play it. That’s why I think it’ll be good for the kids.”

Good for the kids and the community, she said. Once all of the equipment arrives and Heritage Christian’s gym floor is outfitted for the game — shortly after Christmas is the target date — open gyms and community tournaments can be held there.

Pickleball Association members already have committed to coming in and teaching Lanning’s classes — which can range from four to 13 students — how to play the sport. She hopes the students will get hooked just like she did.

“They’re intrigued on what it’s going to be,” Lanning said. “I’m just so excited to give them something new.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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