Jim Webster: Pumped for pickleball

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Pickleball is not an Olympic sport (yet) and it is not played with a pickle. But there are many people in Steamboat who are pumped to play pickleball. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and it is now getting traction at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Pickleball is played with a hollow plastic ball with holes in it. A player uses a racket similar to those used in table tennis, but bigger. Usually it is played in doubles format over a net in an area about one-third the size of a tennis court. It can be played inside or outside. It is particularly appealing to older people who want a game in which they can be competent fairly quickly. It promotes physical activity but is easier on the joints than tennis. It can also be a great activity if you have had a “medical event” and are looking for some exercise, rehabilitation and socialization.

Jay Readinger is an ambassador for the U.S. Pickelball Association in Steamboat and he has been teaching the game at Colorado Mountain College as well as promoting the game locally at CMC, Howelsen Hill and The Lowell Whitman School. Carol Baily, a member of the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame, has been working with a small group of pickleballers for more than a year on Wednesday afternoons at the Tennis Center. Readinger estimates there are about 50 pickleball players in Steamboat at any given time.

Over The Hill Gang has recently taken an interest in supporting the sport. A drop-in arrangement has been set up at the Tennis Center at 3 p.m. Fridays, and the Tennis Center is considering a Sunday playing time, as well.

The Tennis Center has primarily been a tennis facility, but President Jim Swiggart and head pro Bill Conway are supportive of catering to pickleballers and maximizing court utilization. The fact that the game appeals to an older player who may have previously given up tennis, squash or racketball could mean incremental revenue for the Tennis Center. Conceivably, pickleball could rival tennis in a few years.

Over The Hill Gang, the yet-to-be-formed Steamboat Pickleball Association and the Tennis Center will sponsor the inaugural Steamboat Pickleball Mixer on April 27. They are hoping for about 40 players, some of whom may come from Silverthorne and Denver.

I, for one, am pumped for pickleball in Steamboat.

Jim Webster

Steamboat Springs

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