The funniest pickleball game in the world
Pickleball has been getting a lot of notoriety because it fulfills so many of the needs and desires of our busy and complicated lives. It’s an oasis of exercise, enjoyment and socialization.
Besides being fun, why is Pickleball so popular? The rules are easy to learn. It’s low-impact, nonstop exercise — perfect for people of all ages. There is no boredom in Pickleball play. During rallies, the ball is struck once every one to three seconds, and the rallies might last as long as 20 to 35 hits. It can be played indoors, but our favorite locations are outdoors at some of our lovely parks.
The social aspect is high. Doubles is what’s mostly played. You partner up with folks you don’t know, and they become your friends. Those friends also become your opponents, so bonhomie is common, and in/out ball calls friendly and fair. And, when one is waiting to play, discussions of all kinds take place with those waiting with you. You get to know many people more deeply than one would normally expect in a competition sport.
Equipping oneself or family is not expensive: decent court shoes, a paddle (there are good secondhand and good, inexpensive composite ones for sale), and a hat. Nets can be found in locked boxes at the courts where we play. Lessons can be had from free to an hourly fee.
Southern Oregon Pickleball Association and our foundation, SOPF, came into being four years ago. We saw the need for places to play, indoors and outdoors, times to play, making instruction available, and diversifying the player population. We could not grow this sport with our existing demographic (average age 68 years).
One of SOPA’s visions is to get youngsters on board, get pickleball into middle and high schools, and have the schools offer it as a varsity sport. One of our volunteers has started Youth Involved In Pickleball Play. YIIPP volunteers will be approaching schools and organizations for participants and sponsors to ensure no child will be left on the sidelines because they cannot afford a paddle, good court shoes and balls. YIIPP will also provide instruction.
Teaching the youngsters has other growth benefits. The parents bring their kids to pickleball, see how fun it is, and will want to join in. Because pickleball is a tiered sport, that is to say, one is ranked according to ability, age is not a factor; we see grandparents playing with their grandkids (me included). I can’t imagine seeing three generations playing a competitive game of soccer, baseball, football or volleyball.
One of our player sources has been the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In 2018, I was talking with a friend, and she began telling me about OLLI. What flashed into my mind was our own Southern Oregon University-based OLLI. She thought it would be a good idea if we taught pickleball there. I applied, and we began teaching.
After a long COVID hiatus, this fall semester will be our fourth time teaching. We instruct 1.5 hours per day for 5 days, normally teaching 16 folks with four instructors. We have had a great relationship with the OLLI players — so much so that after instruction, they join our player ranks all over the valley and become SOPA members.
We have assisted people from Grants Pass and Klamath Falls in starting their own clubs. We’ve taught at Ashland YMCA summer camps, at the middle school level in Talent, at SOU, at the V.A. in White City, and at Lithia Park every Wednesday morning.
We have received permission to use and teach at the North Medford High tennis/pickleball courts. One of our directors has gotten permission for Medford Parks & Recreation to build 12 dedicated courts at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park and is in the process of raising $350,000 to pay for its construction.
We’ve line painted 10 courts in Ashland, Medford, Jacksonville and Central Point. SOPA and SOPF have donated nets to Lithia Park, Chuck Roberts Park in Talent, Pheasant Meadows in Jacksonville, Don Jones Park in Central Point, and Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.
In June, SOPA’s knock-it-out-of-the-park event was our fourth sponsored tournament where two of our directors headed up an impressive three-day competition that attracted over 300 participants and earned SOPA/SOPF a good start toward the construction money needed for the 12 dedicated courts and over $1,200 in donations for local fire relief funds.
On our website, www.sopickle.com, you will find the names and contact info of our local instructors.
Jack Methot is president of the Southern Oregon Pickleball Association.