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​Pickleball: silly name, serious fun

Dayton has indoor and outdoor facilities.

​”I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” What parents haven’t heard those often times infuriating utterances?

But when dads Joel Pritchard — then a congressman from Washington State — and Bill Bell heard their children’s grumblings on a summer day in 1965, decided to do something about it. Utilizing a badminton court, ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, Pritchard, Bell and friend Barney McCallum set out to create a game that the entire family could play together. Pickleball was born.

For more than a decade, pickleball was predominantly played only in Washington with the first tournament being held in 1976 but pickleball has since expanded across the country and around the world.

Those who might want to give the uniquely named paddlesport a try in the Dayton area can do so in a variety of indoor or outdoor locations from YMCAs to community parks.

“It’s very popular with baby boomers,” said Jill Reid, senior recreation supervisor at the Washington Township Recreation Center. “But we’ve also had quite a few families come in, and it’s definitely an attractive family activity.”

Want to give pickleball try? You’re not alone as an estimated 200,000 people play in the United States alone. And while the name sounds a bit silly, those who play will attest to the fact that’s it’s seriously fun.

Hooked on pickleball

For Larry Virgilio, his pickleball passion began while watching the evening news.

“They were showing dedication of pickleball courts in Troy and I wanted to learn more,” Virgilio said. “I went up and tried it and fell in love with it right away.”

Virgilio has since become a driving force behind the growth of pickleball in the Miami Valley. He has consulted with local recreation centers and communities to create indoor and outdoor courts.

The game can be played on traditional tennis courts with some modifications and additional painted lines as the pickleball courts are smaller. Schoolhouse Park, in Centerville, Kennedy Park, in Kettering, Duke Park, in Troy, and Lefferson Park, in Middletown, are among the outdoor facilities that offer pickleball play.

Denny Noreikas, of Centerville, much like Virgilio, became a fast fan of pickleball.

“I used to play tennis but I just don’t have the stamina or the knees to keep up with it now,” Noreikas said. “Pickleball is a blast, my wife and I both play and our kids have taken it up now. It really is a lot of fun.”

According to Virgilio, those who play other racket sports, like tennis, racquetball or squash, catch on quickly to pickleball. Players range in age from children to those well into their 80s. Several local high schools offer pickleball as part of their physical education program.

Getting started

No longer just a regional sport, the USA Pickleball Association (www.usapa.org) promotes the growth and development of the sport, sponsors tournaments and helps players learn the rules and find places to play. The website lists indoor and outdoor facilities across the country, listed by state.

Want to find likeminded pickleball fans in the area? Check out the South Dayton Pickleball Club Facebook page — managed by Virgilio — for local events or to connect with others who want to play.

Pickleball requires some unique equipment as paddles have evolved from the original ping-pong version. Tennis Zone, Centerville, and Dick’s, in Huber Heights, both carry pickleball equipment. But you don’t need your own equipment if you want to give it a try at some local facilities, like the Washington Township Recreation Center, as they have wooden paddles to lend out.

The health benefits range from getting a good cardio workout, to improved hand-eye coordination and increased endurance. But beyond the fitness benefits, it’s just plain fun.

“It’s a very social sport,” Virgilio said. “Sure, like in any sport, some people are very competitive but you will also see people joking around and having a lot of fun.”

Contact this contributing writer at djuniewicz@gmail.com.

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