Pickleball grows in appeal at Sellwood Park

INCLUDES VIDEO Find out where players – some of them coming in from outer East Portland – are heading to play Pickleball; a fast-growing sport for all ages and abilities …

People from the Parkrose, Hazelwood, and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods regularly travel west, to Sellwood Park, to play games of Pickleball in special courts, temporarily set up in an unused Portland Parks & Recreation tennis court.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A simple backyard game created by three dads to entertain their bored kids on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965 – now called Pickleball – is still gaining players, especially in Sellwood Park.

According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), Pickleball is a proper noun, and thus is capitalized. But, how this game got its name is disputed. There is some agreement that the game may have been named for a crew rowing team, or perhaps for a family dog.

It’s played by either two or four participants, and is described as a mix of ping-pong, badminton, and tennis.

It doesn’t take much to be a Pickleball player, says Henrik Bothe, showing off his new club T-shirt, and holding his paddle and a ball used in the game.

Nevertheless, Pickleball has evolved into a popular sport, now with official rules, and played around the world. Four Pickleball courts neatly fit into the space of one regulation-sized tennis court.

The equipment required is: a Pickleball paddle – it looks like an oversized ping-pong paddle; a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball; and a low net.

As we arrived to see the sport being played on a sunny spring afternoon, the activity on all four courts was lively. But, most interesting to us was the fun players were having – with smiles and laughter all around.

Arriving to witness the sport being played on a sunny afternoon, the activity with four courts going, was lively. But, most interesting was seeing the smiles on the faces of the players – and, hearing their laughter as they played.

“I’ve played this for almost four years now,” said PDX Pickleball Club “volunteer ambassador and energetic evangelist”, Nisa’ Haron.

Former tennis player, and now Pickleball ambassador, Nisa’ Haron returns a serve.

“As a life-long tennis player, when a volleyball player friend suggested giving this a try, I told her that I didn’t like the name; it sounded silly, not serious,” recalled Haron.

“Indeed Pickleball is not a serious name; but as you might know, all of us tennis players are elitists,” Haron said with a sly smile.

“At any rate, I tried it – I bought a paddle, and loved the game,” Haron told East Portland News.  “And now, I am not only the USAPA Ambassador for Inner Southeast Portland, but I’ve been promoting the game everywhere. Before the pandemic I started Pickleball in Malaysia; and I’ve also played in Thailand, Tokyo, Singapore.”

Local resident Cathy Owen says she’s enjoying learning how to play Pickleball.

A game for all ages
Any age group can play, Haron asserted. “So grandparents can play with their grandchildren and still enjoy the game, because most of the time we play doubles. And, it’s easier to learn and play than tennis! A lot of tennis players of stop playing because of injuries, but they can still enjoy Pickleball.”

Noted graphic artist and improv comedian Gary Hirsch serves, in this Pickleball set.

Promoting permanent courts
Locally, about 100 PDX Pickleball Club members get together – not all at the same time! – not only to play the game, but also to promote the sport, and teach newcomers how to play.

Since the club was started in 2016, they’ve lacked permanent Pickleball courts. Now, players mark off four areas in a tennis court, and set up temporary nets to play games.

“Our next project is to work with Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) to resurface abandoned tennis courts for Pickleball players; our pilot project is here, in Sellwood Park,” stated Haron. “So, we are collecting funds to help resurface unused, or underused tennis courts, to put in six dedicated Pickleball courts.”

People of all ages, and physical abilities, come together to play Pickleball.

To learn more abut the PDX Pickleball Club see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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