WALLA WALLA — Pickleball — according to some sources the fastest growing sport in America — has arrived in Walla Walla.
Forty-four players competed in a two-day Walla Walla YMCA-sponsored Pickleball tournament last weekend with more than half the competitors coming from outside the Walla Walla area.
High-caliber players with a 4.5-level ranking, to those testing newly acquired skills in their first tournament, filled four courts in nearly continuous play at the YMCA with men’s and women’s doubles one day, and mixed doubles the next.
A notable feature of the tournament was the skill level ranking of the players with no deference for age with players ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-70s.
Participant Frank Street, 73, from Spokane Valley, has played the game for 11 years.
“My goal is to win the national championship in my age division,” Street said. “I’ve been there twice, but want to go back and win.
“There is a 94-year-old player, Jess Glouster, who plays with our group at the Hub, so when someone says they are too old to play Pickleball, I let them know about Jess,” he said.
For many players, Pickleball is an addictive sport.
Linda Mitchell, 66, from Meridian, Idaho, said that she is a dancer and would like to return to teaching dance, but she is now addicted to Pickleball and no longer has time for dance.
What is it that makes this game with a silly name addictive? It might be the happy pop the wiffle ball makes as it comes off the paddle, or that it is easy to learn and can be successfully played together by both old and young alike, or the camaraderie of doubles play, or for adults who enjoy the thrill of competition it may be the focused outlet for that desire.
For anyone who has played either ping pong or tennis, Pickleball is recognizable as a morphing of these two games. It is played on a court about half the size of a tennis court with a net and hard paddles similar to those used in ping pong.
It can be played as a friendly slow game, or as the player’s skill level advances, a fast and rigorous competition.
There are those who enjoy the stepped up demands of singles play, as well.
It was Dave Gibson, 65, a transplant from Eugene where Pickleball was already popular, who formally introduced the sport to this area with a Pickleball class through the Walla Walla Community College Quest program several years ago.
The class attracted a small group, but it was not until a year and a half ago that others — some of them racquetball players looking for a new challenge — joined for regular play in the upper gym at the Y.
Before long, the YMCA recognized the growth potential of the sport and the play was moved to the larger main gym.
Open play sessions are now available on three courts Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.–noon, with approximately 30 regular players making Pickleball part of their weekly activity at the YMCA. Outdoor Pickleball courts are also available to the public with tennis courts that have been striped for play at both Menlo Park and at Pioneer Middle School.
For more information about Pickleball, including videos of championship games, the rules of play, and the upcoming schedule of tournaments, check the official Pickleball site online at www.USAPA.com.
WALLA WALLA YMCA PICKLEBALL TOURNAMENT
Men’s Doubles 3.5-4.0
Dave Gibson/Andy Myers, Walla Walla, vs. Bill Chott/Wayne Parsley, Yakima
Champions: Dave Gibson/Andy Myers, 11-2, 11-1
Men’s Doubles 3.0-3.5
Mitch Mitchell/Rudy Whittaker, Meridian, Idaho, vs. Frank Street/Terry Kawamoto, Spokane Valley
Champions: Frank Street/Terry Kawamoto 11-9, 4-11, 10-12, 15-9
Shirlene McMillan/Lynn Syler, Clarkston/Ruston, vs. Nancy Kress/Susan Anfinson, Walla Walla
Champions: Shirlene McMillan/Lynn Syler 11-2, 11-4
Mixed Doubles 3.5-4.0
Mike Wagner/Lynn Syler, Ruston, vs. Andy Myers/Susan Anfinson, Walla Walla
Champions: Mike Wagner/Lynn Syler 8-11, 11-7, 11-5
Mixed Doubles 3.0-3.5
Reuben Ojeda/Peggy Raymond, College Place/Helix, vs. Frank Van Vlymen/Margee Van Vlymen, Blanchard, Idaho
Champions: Frank Van Vlymen/Margee Van Vlymen 11-5, 13-11