Pickleball players come from all different backgrounds including tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Photos by Katrina Margolis
By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Every Wednesday, from noon to 3 p.m., the gymnasium of the Wellesley Recreation Department reverberates with the noises of pickleball. For the past five years, pickleball has been gaining notoriety and popularity within the U.S., and Wellesley is no exception.
While most of the players on Wednesdays are seniors, David Hack hammers home that, “it’s not just tennis for old people.” David and his wife Suzanne live in the Northeast for half of the year, and then in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for the remaining six months. About a year and a half ago, they began to pick up the sport, which combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. They have been playing ever since.“We played tennis 40 years ago,” Suzanne shared. “However, this court is much smaller and so it’s a lot less running. That is really attractive to a lot of older folks who tend to have bad knees, bad hips, things like that. It’s wonderful exercise!” she added.
The game draws people from all backgrounds, and David explained that he has fun trying to figure out those backgrounds through people’s styles. “If someone gives a strong two-handed backswing you can pretty much tell they come from tennis,” he explained. “We play with one guy who used to play badminton and he has this amazing overhand hit. They all have different skills.”
The game was invented in 1965, but has been picking up steam within the last five years. Recently, the Belmont Recreation Center installed permanent nets for pickleball. “The sport is growing. I guess the parks and recreation feels more like they can invest in it,” Suzanne said. An ambassador for the United States Pickelball Association works in Belmont as well, so he keeps players up to date on local tournaments or what the open gym schedules are. While the group changes as weeks go by, the Hacks say they do see a number of familiar faces.
“You have to serve underhand, so you don’t have the threat of the super 100 mile-per-hour serve, and so the ball gets in play,” David explained when asked about the differences between pickleball and tennis. “Also, you cannot volley the return on the serve. There is a two bounce rule, so the serve has to bounce and the return has to bounce. It’s good because the ball gets in play, there’s no reason to try to go crazy with your return serve.”
Despite its popularity with an older population, pickleball has a following of players of all ages. Players of all skill levels are welcomed in Wellesley.