Makayla Khamduang recalls taking a peek at the new tennis courts at Riverside Park’s new outdoor fitness center on Thursday. Only problem: the courts are not for tennis.
“I saw it and thought it should be tennis,” said Khamduang. “Then I found out it was Pickleball. I wanted to try.”
Logansport’s pickleball enthusiasts announced the opening of the first outdoor pickleball courts in the county during Thursday’s opening ceremony. Pickleball, a combination of tennis, table tennis and racquetball, has grown in popularity locally and across the country in recent years.
Outside the outdoor courts, pickleball players could only play in the mornings when the Cass County Family YMCA courts were specifically reserved for that sport. People with early jobs struggled to find time to play.
“Pickleball has been hidden at the YMCA for many years,” said Richard Dexter, who has played pickleball at Logansport for eight or nine years. “Y members have been playing it for many, many years, and this is the first opportunity we’ve had to introduce it to the general Cass County public. We’re excited about that because we think once the public can see and play it, it will expand and Logansport will have a chance to add a few more places.”
Logansport Parks director Jan Fawley said local pickleballers have been requesting outdoor courts in recent years. She said the new outdoor fitness center at Riverside Park is the perfect location for the courts because they’re in a more mature area of the park that’s farther from the kids’ play equipment.
“I know the people who are playing need more pitches,” she said. “I would like to play more courts at some point, but this is a start.”
Fawley mentioned an idea of eventually building an eight or twelve court complex that could accommodate pickleball players more and potentially host tournaments. She said this could be an option for Houston Park at some point in the future.
Like many areas across the country, Pickleball has a loyal following in Cass County and seems to be growing in popularity.
Dexter estimates that there are at least 30 people who regularly play pickleball at the YMCA. Logansport-based pickleballer Steve Clary said he thinks the number could be closer to 60 or 75 people.
“It’s grown quite a bit in the last four or five years alone,” Clary said. “I’m relatively new. I only started playing in October, but that’s why I played five or six times a week to try to catch up.”
Clary first played pickleball about four years ago. At that time he knew eight or nine people who played regularly. He had to stop playing because he worked in the mornings, but he has recently returned to the sport.
Clary said playing the outdoor courts will be more difficult than the YMCA courts due to wind and weather, but he’s up to the challenge. After all, the sport was invented on an outdoor badminton court.
Pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965 by Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell. According to the USA Pickleball Association, the two men invented the game to entertain their bored children.
Pritchard and Bell concentrated play around a badminton court on the property, but they had no shuttlecock supplies. Instead, they used table tennis rackets, the badminton net, and a whiffel ball to create a new game. Pritchard, Bell and their friend Barney McCallum decided rules for the game the next weekend.
Pritchard’s wife Joan reportedly gave Pickleball his name. She was inspired by pickle boat competitions with the team’s non-runners that would take place after the main crew races at her college.
The game slowly gained popularity as more and more people learned about it. The USA Pickleball Association surpassed 10,000 members for the first time in 2015. At the end of 2021, the USA Pickleball Association had over 50,000 members.
Clary encourages people in the community to try pickleball. He said it takes a lot of practice to get better, but it’s gratifying when you see progress.
“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” he said. “Don’t be intimidated by other players. It’s good to watch the better players play, but again, don’t be intimidated. Just go out there and try to find people who are about your level – and there are a lot of them out there – and just practice, practice, practice. Do not be discouraged.”
Khamduang was excited when she and her boyfriend were invited to play with another group, but said she struggled to learn quickly because it was confusing and frustrating to learn the game and the rules of tennis at times differentiate.
“It’s not the same as tennis, but they’re similar,” she said. “Some people think pickleball is like tennis, but it really isn’t.”
Regardless, Khamduang said she would like to play again.
Pickleball is played somewhat similarly to tennis but has its own set of rules and standards that are different from the other sports.
One of the main differences is the paddles. Pickleballers carry medium-sized racquets that resemble large ping-pong racquets rather than tennis racquets. Additionally, all serves must be underhand, and teams can only score by serving.
Another difference between the two sports is the no-volley zone on pickleball courts, also known as “the kitchen”.
“You can’t volley the ball in that zone,” Dexter said. “You can ground it in there, but you can’t volley it. We call it the kitchen because when you go in there to get a groundstroke when a person gently lays it over the net, you have to go in there and dig it up. Get out of the kitchen, because maybe the next ball will be in the air. If you’re in there and you hit (the ball while it’s still in the air) that’s a mistake.”
As in tennis, the ball must always stay inside the court. Pickleball also retains the double bounce rule, which requires the ball to bounce at least once on each side before it can be volleyed.
Clary and Dexter both said pickleball is a great activity that everyone can get involved in. Clary spent over $100 on a new paddle, but Dexter said new players can buy paddles for $15 to $20. For a good recreational paddle, Dexter recommends people pay between $35 and $50.
“People should know it’s a great activity,” Dexter said. “You can get your pulse racing, work up a little sweat and have fun at the same time.”