Picking up on pickleball popularity: Growing program at the Y prompts court addition plans


Over at the Marco Y’s covered “airnasium,” there’s a whole lot of thocking and plocking going on. Those words come to mind when watching groups of pickleball players using paddle bats and “wiffle”-like plastic balls as they enjoy one of the country’s fastest growing sports.

The thocks and plocks are the sounds of paddles hitting balls in a game similar to tennis, but which is played on a smaller court and relies less on covering distance than on fast reflexes.

The most popular form of the game is doubles, which requires teamwork and anticipation.

“It’s about strategy and placement, and you don’t always need to hit the ball hard,” said James Carr. “That makes it fun for people of all ages.”

Carr, ironically, never played any other racquet sports in his youth, but picked it up about two years ago courtesy of lessons from the Y’s “Dr. Pickle,” Bart Thompson.

A combination of factors brings Carr back to the courts a couple of times a week.

“I do it for the social aspect; I enjoy it because it keeps me in shape, and I also like the competitive edge,” said Carr. “It’s also a bit of a chess game, because you can lob, hit short balls, serve hard or easy … just change it up.”

Thompson supervises round robin games at various levels Monday through Friday - intermediate and advanced players Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and beginners Tuesday and Thursday, all from 9:30 to 11 a.m. He gives lessons Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30. An indoor court is also available Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3:30.

James Carr swings into a full-blooded forehand.

“Men generally like to hit hard, but women are good at drop shots,” Thompson says.

That doesn’t mean styles between the two sexes are inherently different, however.

“My serve is my strongest shot,” says Janet Moses, adding that she enjoys the “great exercise” as well as being outside, playing.

“I like the quickness. It’s a fast game,” says Lynn Crane, who gave up tennis in favor of pickleball.

The snowballing interest in pickleball has prompted executives and board members of the Greater Marco Family YMCA to plan for more courts.

This will, of course, require additional funding, which is where John Riley steps in.

A Y member, as well as fundraiser advisor with his company, Riley Philanthropy, he says details are still being batted around.

“We’re already getting into fundraising, and have had a ‘lead’ donor gift already,” Riley says. “We’d like to raise the money this season.”

Location would be on Y ground flanking the north of the new building expansion to the organization.

Lynn Crane sets up to bat down a lob.

Dr. Pickle says the addition of courts is exciting as well as logical.

“It’s the future,” he says of the game, adding that his ideal scenario would be refurbishing the present courts in the airnasium as well.

This would give players the current option of playing under the airnasium’s roof, or out in the open in the new courts.

At the moment, about 30 players turn out for the twice-weekly sessions, but more are expected deeper into the season, possibly requiring split sessions, says Dr. Pickle.

For information on signing up, or for lessons, or for information about the wide variety of activities and programs for youth and adults, contact the YMCA at 394-2144 or visit marcoymca.org.