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Posted on Jun 28, 2016

The ‘family sport’ of pickleball picks up steam in Quincy

Stay out of the kitchen, Dave Rossing warns.
No, he’s not a dietitian. He just follows the rules and, paddle in hand, expects you to follow them, too. And also, don’t get high.
After all, pickleball is a game where you serve the ball underhand. No need to toss it high in the air.
Pickleball is an offshoot of tennis but played in smaller-sized court, with light paddles instead of racquets and with plastic dimpled balls instead of the fuzzy tennis ones.
In pickleball, you play to the best of 11 points, winning by at least two. And also, you can only score when you serve.
Lastly, all points have to be scored without approaching the net or the area adjacent to it.This area is also known as ‘the kitchen’ in pickleballese.
Rossing also noted that, at pickleball, you can be a star when you’re 9 or when you’re 90.
“In Havasu I have an 83-year-old playing who’s better than me” said Rossing, who splits his time between Lake Havasu, Ariz., and Quincy.
Pickleball has a reputation for being easier on the joints and bones than its more famous cousin. A pickleball court is about the width of the serve court in tennis, the space where the ball has to land after a serve.
The paddles are a little bit bigger than ping-pong paddles, and really light.
That does not mean, Rossing says, that pickleball is an old person’s sport.
“It’s a family sport,” he said. “But a lot of seniors have found it a very fun thing to do.” Quincy’s own Elma Omlin is almost 90 and she played until last year, Rossing said.
Rossing started pickleball lessons in Quincy’s Lauzier Park last year. About 21 people showed up throughout the summer. This year, lessons started in early June and so far about eight people have shown up, Tuesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m..
The game is addicting, said Pennie Omlin, a retired former employee at Desert Sun Dental and wife of Elma’s nephew, who smacked the dimpled ball with a paddle while the Quincy wind howled around her.
“Why do you think we are out here in this awful wind,” she asked. Wind is often no friend of pickleball and its light paddles and balls, Rossing explained. Still, the trio showed up and encouraged more people to stop by.
It helps that the serves are underhand, otherwise, players would spend most of their time chasing the ball around the greater Grant County area, he said.
Pickleball equipment can be a bit pricey, with the lower-end paddles costing about $35-40, while others cost around $80.
“The weight makes the difference,” player Tom Snyder said. The lighter the paddle, the pricier it is. The heavier the racquet, the harder you have to hit the ball, not a plus in pickleball.
“It sounds backwards, but the heavier paddles, the ball just doesn’t go off ‘em as quick,” said Snyder, a retired physical education teacher who started playing pickleball last year.
With the population aging, pickleball has found adepts at both indoor and outdoor courts. SInce the courts are smaller, players don’t have to run as far as in tennis to catch up to a ball.
“It allows us to be active and outside and it’s a little more user-friendly on the body,” Rossing said.
Not too friendly, Omlin said with a laugh, showing a heavy wrap around one of her knees.
AIling knees aside, pickleball is pretty gender-friendly, Snyder said. Men may be stronger than women but that doesn’t carry much weight in a game where lighter is better, and where no one is allowed in the ‘kitchen.’
Pickleball is fun, says Synder, as it gets people socializing and exercising. For him, though, the pull of tennis is still quite strong.
“I would rather play tennis,” he said. “but pickleball is great.”

By Sebastian Moraga, sports@qvpr.com

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