Pickleball a barrel of fun for Andes players
It’s a hybrid of racquet sports, a unique combination of badminton, ping-pong and tennis. Invented in 1965 by two fathers, Bill Bell and Joel Pritchard, looking for a diversion to slow the whining of their bored children during a summer in Puget Sound, pickleball was named for the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, a frisky cocker spaniel who loved racing onto the playing court and stealing the ball as the children played.
A sport growing im-mensely in popularity throughout the world during the past decade, pickleball has taken root in Delaware County. A small but growing cadre of pickleball enthusiasts, take to the courts each Sunday morning in Andes. Up to 16 local patrons meet for a morning of spirited competition, great exercise, and all-around fun.
The action takes place at Andes Central School. With the arrival of warm weather, the pickleball gang polishes their game on the tennis courts behind the school. During the winter months the ACS gymnasium hosts the pickleball fun.
Two members of the Andes contingent will take their game to a bigger stage when they compete in New York State’s Empire Games from June 6-8. Peter Lederman and Jeff Ditchek, both of Andes, will be competing in the men’s doubles in the 60-64-year-old age category. Lederman and his wife Linda also plan to try their hand in mixed doubles at the National Senior Games held later in the fall in Rochester.
It was Lederman who was the driving force behind the local pickleball interest. An avid tennis player for most of his life, Lederman loves racquet sports. Lederman’s high school tennis team won the NYC championship, and he played number 1 singles at Buffalo University many years ago. But, as the years passed, Lederman found the area of the tennis court more and more daunting and difficult to navigate, and feared the thrill of racquet competition might become a thing of the past. Then he discovered pickleball.
“The decreased size of a pickleball court is a great equalizer,” laughed Leder-man during a break in the action on Sunday. “If you still have your reflexes, you can continue to experience the competitive thrill of playing tennis. Pickleball has every shot of tennis except the overhand serve. The backhands, ground strokes, drop shots, the chip and charge, all that stuff is almost the same.”
A simple paddle game, pickleball is played with wooden paddles that resemble large ping-pong paddles. The court is badminton size and the net resembles a tennis net. Players strike a perforated, slow moving ball that looks like a Wiffle ball.
Several factors account for the explosion of pickleball interest throughout the land. The game can be played by people of all ages and is a great introduction to racquet sports for youngsters. Minimal equipment needs means minimal costs, another huge plus.
The social aspect of pickleball competition is another positive feature, especially for adult competitors. The confined court size encourages a constant chattering and bantering with loads of laughs and a continual hum during indoor play. “Pickleball is a great social activity,” noted Dan Flora.” Our group is like a little social club that welcomes anyone who is interested in playing,” Flora continued.
A great workout, pickleball is an excellent form of exercise. “Playing on Sunday provides a fabulous full body stretch,” explained Flora. “In my work I sit a lot during the week. It’s great to have an athletic activity to look forward to on the weekend that goes beyond moving the lawn,” he chuckled.
You will find three attributes that are unique to pickleball that you won’t find in any other racquet sport. First, the serve position allows servers to keep one foot inbounds and one foot out-of-bounds. That rule had its origins in the Pritchard’s backyard where the game was first played. An inconveniently placed tree in the yard, limited serving space on one side of the court, so the standard server rule with both feet out-of-bounds used in tennis was modified to allow one foot inbounds on a serve.
Pickleball also uses a double-bounce rule. To prevent the serving team from dominating the net after each serve, pickleball rules require the ball to bounce before the receiving team and the serving time volley the ball the first time. After the two one-bounce volleys, the ball may be sent over the net out of the air.
Finally, a pickleball court utilizes a no-volley zone. To better emphasize finesse and strategy, rules prohibit pickleball players from striking the ball in the air in an area making up the first seven feet on both sides of the net. Players cannot strike a ball in this zone unless the ball has first bounced off the floor.
Servers strike the ball underhanded, not overhanded as in tennis. The ball is struck without bouncing it on the floor and directed diagonally to the opponents’ serving zone. Points can only be earned by the serving side when an opponent fails to hit a return or hits the ball out-of-bounds. After scoring a point, the server continues to serve but alternates the serving court. The winner is the first person to score 11 points. Winners must win by two points.
The Andes pickleball gang plays year-round gathering each Sunday morning at sometime between 10:30 and 11 a.m. As one visit attests, this is a fun-loving, welcoming group eager to share the joys of playing their sport of choice with any and all interested parties. If you’re curious and might want to play give a call to Peter Ledermen or just drop by and join the fun.