Kevin Booth will be competing at the USAPA National Championships in Arizona in November.
The newest sports craze not only has a funny name, it is also easy to play -- and addicting. By all accounts, the vast majority of people who pick up the paddle become rabid enthusiasts. “My friends know not to call me on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, because those are pickleball days,” says enthusiast Sandy Garza.
The game is played with an over-sized pingpong-type paddle and a wiffle ball across a low net on a small (44 x 20 ft.) court. It’s a cross between badminton, tennis and pingpong. There are only three basic rules, making it simple to learn. “It’s a low-impact, user-friendly sport,” says pickleball guru Phil Dunmeyer, “It provides more exercise, with more volleys and less running than tennis, and is easier on the body.”
Dunmeyer, now 75, was a teacher and principal in TUSD for 37 years, and played tennis four to five times each week. A friend in Arizona introduced him to the game. He was hooked, and never looked back. He is credited for bringing the sport to Tustin, and estimates that he has introduced over 1,000 people to the sport, giving free lessons and encouragement, and all but “maybe two” returned to play.
The game has caught on, with an average of 120 to 150 players on the courts each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Players range in age from eight to 82, and come from wildly diverse backgrounds. They may play singles, doubles, or mixed doubles. Some players are more competitive, and continue on to tournaments, while others enjoy recreational play. The first world tournament was held in Barcelona last month, with over 20 countries represented. Tustin will be represented at the national tournament, to be held in Arizona in November.
Seven years ago, the group of enthusiastic players reached an agreement with Tustin Unified to place eight permanent and two temporary public courts on TUSD property. The district owns and maintains the courts, and players contributed to pay for striping, nets and equipment. Dunmeyer gets up at 4 a.m. to set up the courts, even providing loaner paddles for newbies. Each court is designated for beginner to advanced level. A player simply lays down a paddle by the net to rotate in.
And the name? According to legend, the creators of the game had a dog named Pickle. Every time a ball would go out of bounds, and Pickle would go after it, they would say, “that’s Pickle’s ball.”
Want to play? Wear tennis shoes, and show up at 7 a.m. at the courts, behind A.G. Currie Middle School, off Red Hill and Sycamore in Tustin.
Audrey Andrade, a dentist, backs up Candy Traeger, a lawyer, in a friendly pickleball game against retired law enforcer Molly Molt and health educator Donna Osuna.