Pickleball Gains Popularity

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COLUMBIA - Carole Kennedy said it started when Skip and Jerri Deming came back to Columbia after a trip to Arizona, excited to teach their friends a new game.

"We started with just four or five people, and the more we played the more addicted we became to it and the more we began to get our friends involved," Kennedy said.

The name of the game: Pickleball - a sport popular among older athletes no longer able to play tennis.

Pickleball players and tennis players have to share courts at the different parks throughout Columbia.
Columbia Parks and Recreation workers painted lines on the tennis courts specifically for pickleball, but pickleball players said they want their own.

"We get along with the tennis players but I'm sure they don't like their courts lined with our yellow pickleball lines."

In the city of Columbia's proposed Capital Improvement Plan for next year, the Parks and Recreation Department proposed to spend $50,000 dollars to build pickleball-only courts in Albert-Oakland Park.

The department's Planning and Development Superintendent, Mike Snyder, said construction will begin in 2014.

The new courts would replace the sand volleyball court. Snyder said the volleyball court is underutilized, and was only put there to fill in until the department could find a better use for the space.

Kennedy said her group, the Show-Me Pickleball Group, has around 50 people on its e-mail list. She said they play multiple times a week, most months of the year.

The group holds beginner sessions and indoor sessions throughout the week. Kennedy said players rarely missed a day last summer, even when temperatures reached up to 100 degrees.

"We're a tough group."

Kennedy said people interested in getting involved should check out the group's Facebook page. Kennedy said players from as far as Fulton come to play with them each week.

For those wondering where the game's name comes from: A Washington state congressman invented it with his family in 1965, using pingpong paddles and wiffle balls. They dubbed the game pickleball because their dog, Pickle, continually ran off with the ball.