Sports

A-pickling they will go

 

When it comes to pickleball in Sequim, there are only two rules, says player Dave Herndon: “Have fun and get the ball over the net, in that order.”

There’s more to the logistics, but that attitude seems to fit most of the Sequim Picklers, an inclusive group of pickleball players. Players describe the sport as a cross between pingpong and tennis. It was founded in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by U.S. Rep. Joel Pritchard and friends. The game uses a tennis-sized net on a badminton-sized court with a smaller wiffle ball and paddles. Players go to 11 points with only the serving team allowed to score. 

Driving by Sequim Community School, you might have seen the Picklers’ growing group of 50 members playing 9 a.m.-noon, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the rain or snow or worse. Some say that if there’s ice on the ground, they’ll wait for it to thaw and squeegee it off and play on. 

“You become addicted to it,” said newcomer Patt Richardson.

She plays almost seven days a week but she’s not alone. One of the Sequim Picklers’ founders, Kathy Mahnerd, said some of the group love the sport so much they painted lines in their driveways to play even more. 

The love for pickleball is deep in Sequim and started about four years ago with Mahnerd, Diana Herndon, Jan Tatom and Nancy Spence before quickly growing from once a week to more often. With permission of the Sequim School District, they’ve used the west side of the community school’s playground and have up to five courts and 20 players going at a time. 

Winners stay on the same court after a match but players switch partners each time, which can add a new dynamic to games with up to 10 or more people waiting to play next. 

Tatom said any age and level of ability can play so long as there’s no swearing or loss of temper.

“This is a fun place to be,” she said. 

In the winter, the club moves inside to the Sequim Boys & Girls Club on Saturdays or Sundays and hosts an annual tournament to benefit the club. 

The picklers’ $15 annual dues help pay for nets and balls. They try to be good stewards, too, by weeding and maintaining the courts and the area nearby. 

Diana Herndon said the sport is relatively inexpensive to play — newbies just need a paddle to start. Many members have extra paddles and are willing to share so you can get a feel for the right paddle for you, too. 

Pickleball players speak up

As Sequim’s pickleball numbers grow, so do the nation’s. The USA Pickleball Association says it is the fastest-growing game in the U.S. Local players said some clubs in California and Florida host more than 1,000 members. 

Katinka Nanna, another newcomer to the sport, said there is a slight learning curve but there are plenty of good teachers in Sequim. 

“The more you play against better players, the better you become,” she said. “Each time I play, I feel more confident.” 

Richardson agrees about the learning curve. 

“People who have it done it a long time make it look easy with backhands and dinks (soft hits) over the net,” she said. “At first I tended to hit it too hard or miss totally but everyone you play with makes you feel good.”

While Sequim’s members are mostly retired or of retirement age, the level of competition doesn’t waver. 

Nanna said she’s amazed at the amount of people in their 50s through 70s playing.

“It’s a great activity to keep you agile and another great way to keep up your hand and eye coordination,” she said.

To gauge her level of activity, Mahnerd wears a pedometer while playing to see how many steps she takes. It goes upward of 7,500 steps per session. 

Herndon is trying to cross the generation gap and promote the sport to her grandsons. 

“It’s a game Grandpa and Grandma can play with them and be competitive against them and win,” she said.

There isn’t a battle of the sexes going on, either. 

Jack O’Brien, a player from Port Angeles, said it’s the one sport he’s played where the men can’t overpower the women. 

Typically, Sequim Picklers stick to doubles matches. 

Dave Herndon said singles is harder on the body but playing doubles allows more people to play. 

“Unlike tennis, it’s a paddle sport people with bad knees and elbows can play,” he said. 

Get in a pickle

The Sequim Picklers are part of USAPA and it’s not uncommon for travelers to look up the group and join in. On Aug. 24, the group hosts a clinic — details to come.

 

Pickleball is played at SARC and Sunland in Sequim and at the Elks Park, Jefferson Elementary School, Port Angeles Senior Center, Vern Burton Recreation Center and the YMCA in Port Angeles. 

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