The Lebanon Pickleball Club was born in unusual circumstances: its founder had never played the sport.
“I like organizing stuff,” explained Kaynor Heineck.
Fortunately, once she played pickleball she discovered she really liked the sport. Since its creation about 18 months ago, the club has grown to about 33 members.
During the summer months, the club plays at Century Park, across the street from the Boys & Girls Club, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.
Pickleball is a racket sport and could be considered a cousin of tennis.
“The joke is that pickleball is where old tennis players go to die,” Heineck said. “You don’t have to run as far or as fast.”
Pickleball is played on a smaller court with a lower net. Whiffle balls (hard plastic with holes) are put in play with small wooden paddles. These paddles are similar to ping-pong paddles, except they are larger and do not have a rubberized face.
The sport also has a low cost for entry. A basic pickleball racket can be purchased for $15. One that is more than sufficient for club play can be purchased for $50 to $70. As with anything else in life, the sky is the limit for those willing to pay more.
The doubles version of the sport requires very little running and is great for providing moderate exercise. Singles pickleball provides a more strenuous workout. The exercise was part of the attraction for Mark Donnelly, who joined the club in March.
“I cut back on my work hours and needed something physical to do,” Donnelly said.
He quickly discovered that he loved the sport and had an aptitude for it. He used an online tool – Pickleball Finder – to find a club to play with on a recent trip to Santa Rosa, Calif.
The sport is a natural for couples. Jan Diamantine joined with her husband, Tom. She didn’t previously play any racket sports.
“The people that do are naturally good,” she said.
For them, the friendships are the key to the club’s success.
“It’s such a good group of people, such camaraderie,” Jan Diamantine said.
For Rosemary Riggs, pickleball played a much larger role in her life over the past year. She is fighting a serious health issue, the details of which she wants to keep private, although she describes it as terminal.
During the hardest part of her treatment over the winter, thoughts of the summer pickleball season kept her going.
“Getting back on the court was a bucket list item for me,” Riggs said. “I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back on the court again and I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to stay. This made me work on myself to get back out here.”
The fact that Riggs is back on the court for now brings great satisfaction to her fellow club members, who describe her as their most valuable player.
At this time, the club plays on courts drawn in chalk over the top of the tennis courts at Century Park. Heineck said there are plans in place to create permanent pickleball courts at the park.
During the rainy winter months, the club moves inside at the Boys & Girls Club. Heineck is very thankful for the club’s support and is proud that pickleball is the first adult recreation program to be officially sponsored by the club.
While the sport has obvious appeal to older players, it is also a great introduction to racket sports for younger players. The club is working to build a youth chapter and anyone who would like to help a youngster get involved in the sport is invited to contact the club.