No island is an island when it comes to pickleball

Fri, 04/29/2022 - 2:00am

The fastest growing sport in the country is called pickleball.
Ok, really. Can you take anyone seriously when they pronounce they are “headed out to play pickleball?”
Well, it turns out that a recent visit to the island’s school gym on a raw Sunday afternoon demonstrated with one glance that the name is perfect.
For pickleball was born when one of the inventors of the game selected the name, a moniker given in the sport of crewing to “a weaker, mis-matched crew pulled together at the last minute from extra rowers that didn’t make their original team boat (hence a pickleboat).

And that’s the beauty of the game. I didn’t see a hodgepodge of rowers in a crew boat, but I did see a genuine cross-section of the island laughing out loud and playing their hearts out on three courts set side-by-side, smiles galore. Old and young, fit, and those working to become more fit, all trading the couch for an hour of genuine belly-laughs and exercise. It’s a sport that is easy to learn and fun for mixed groups, no matter the age, gender, or skill of the players.

Recreation Director Dave Sniffen says “Pickleball has really taken off on Block Island. Last summer we had groups playing five days a week on the Rec department nets and we’re hoping to paint more lines on the tennis courts to accommodate the huge popularity and demand.” This winter, it moved indoors from Ball O’Brien Park and the school gym on Sunday afternoons has served as “home court,” and people crave the social and competitive fun.
Pickleball experienced a whopping 21.3 percent increase in participation from 2019 to 2020, the highest of any U.S. sport with upwards of 4.2 million now playing. It is a sport that is referred to as a mix of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, played with a paddle and an easy-to-whack equivalent of a Whiffle ball on either an indoor or outdoor court that is the same size as a badminton court, but with a much lower,
modified tennis net. It is a sport for all ages and skill levels, that can be played as either doubles or singles, is easy to learn, and as I saw firsthand, comes with an amazing and welcoming culture and community of people. No wonder it’s found a warm welcome on Block Island.