2017-07-14 / Front Page

What in the world is pickleball?


By Mike Maddock


Matt Urbiss goes for an overhead slam in a game of pickleball at Trenholm Park Tuesday night as his doubles partner Jeanne Stone looks on. 
Photo by Mike Maddock Matt Urbiss goes for an overhead slam in a game of pickleball at Trenholm Park Tuesday night as his doubles partner Jeanne Stone looks on. Photo by Mike Maddock What in the world is pickleball?

According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA, www.usapa.org), it’s a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping- pong. It can be played inside or outside on a badminton- sized court and a “slightly modified tennis net.” Participants in both singles and doubles matches play with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.

Pickleball was a game born out of boredom. Two dads created it to give their families something to do to fill those long summer days. Per pickleball lore, a congressman from Washington State, Joel Pritchard, and his friend, Bill Bell, a businessman, could not find a full set of badminton rackets for the court on Pritchard’s property on Bainbridge Island, Wash., so they grabbed some ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. Eventually, they lowered the net to 36 inches because they discovered it was safe to let the ball bounce.


Bo Bufford hits a forehand in his pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. 
Photo by Mike Maddock Bo Bufford hits a forehand in his pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Maddock A week later, a neighbor named Barney McCallum joined Pritchard and Bell, and the three created rules. They took much from badminton but kept the original purpose of the game which was to provide a sport the entire family could play together.

Since that little burst of creativity in 1965 near Seattle, the sport has grown exponentially. There are nearly 4,000 locations to play in the United States and Canada, and many European and Asian countries are adding courts. There are tournaments, player ratings, and leagues. The US Open Championships in Naples, Fla. were held in 2016 with about 600 players. In 2017, the tournament attracted over 1,300 players from more than ten countries.


Corinna Bufford lunges for a backhand volley in her pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. 
Photo by Mike Maddock Corinna Bufford lunges for a backhand volley in her pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Maddock But why...“pickle” ball?

According to the USAPA website, there are differing accounts on how the sport got its unusual name.

One such version was given by Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, who called it pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

McCallum said the game was named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would run off with the ball during matches. Some in the pickleball world are violently opposed to this version of the story. Apparently, Peggy Pritchard- Olson told a blogger the family didn’t get the dog until years after the game was invented, but who doesn’t like a good dog story?


Jeanne Stone reaches for a forehand volley in her pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. 
Photo by Mike Maddock Jeanne Stone reaches for a forehand volley in her pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Maddock How the sport got its name doesn’t really concern Columbia resident Carlos Anrrich. He just wants to see it continue to grow.

“I have always done sports, starting with swimming, then table tennis, racquetball, volleyball, bicycling, etc.,” says Anrrich. “ When I retired from USC in 2012, I was looking for a new sport that I, at my age, could enjoy both for exercise, recreation, and competition. I saw an invitation to play pickleball at Seven Oaks Park, so I went. I was immediately and passionately hooked. Soon after, I became a USAPA Ambassador and now spend four to six days a week playing, promoting, and fostering the sport.”

Anrrich says pickleball is definitely a great conversation starter.

“I do get a gamut of reactions ranging from the smirk to the serious query. The real inquisitive persons want to find out about it, so I hand them my business card, and I can speak minutes or hours about it.”


Carlos Anrrich serves in his pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. 
Photo by Mike Maddock Carlos Anrrich serves in his pickleball match at Trenholm Park Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Maddock It’s easy to see why Anrrich is so passionate about the sport.

“It’s a game of skill, patience, and intermittent slow and fast paces, which involves more arm reaction than sustained running. The paddles are easy to handle for both young and old players. There are players in their 80s and 90s who can still play competitively, and the younger ones are able to cover the whole court without much difficulty. It’s also a game young and old can play together.”

Anrrich says Columbia has pickleball courts at the Jewish Community

Center, Northeast YMCA, and Windermere Country Club along with three or possibly more private courts in local neighborhoods.


The Pickleball Guru (l), Prem Carnot, and Carlos Anrrich. Carnot will hold a pickleball clinic July 22-23 at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. 
Photo provided by Carlos Anrrich The Pickleball Guru (l), Prem Carnot, and Carlos Anrrich. Carnot will hold a pickleball clinic July 22-23 at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. Photo provided by Carlos Anrrich On Tuesday, July 11, Anrrich joined a group of Pickleball enthusiasts at Trenholm Park for some friendly competition.

To promote pickleball locally, Anrrich has invited Prem Carnot, the “guru” of the pickleball world, to the Columbia area for a clinic to be held at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center July 22-23 from 8:30 a.m.-11 a. m. An intermediate, semi-private class is also offered July 23 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Anrrich met Carnot in Madrid, Spain, a couple of years ago at a pickleball tour. Since then, they have become Facebook friends.

“I asked him if he would come to Columbia, and he generously agreed,” Annrich said.

For more information about the clinic and Carnot, visit www.eventbrite.com and www.pickleballhelp.com.

With the support of Paola Maoli, Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center director, and Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, Anrrich hopes one day to bring a USAPA sanctioned tournament to Cayce.

“ This sport is one that keeps you active and toned up,” Anrrich says. “It helps with coordination. It can be played both recreationally or competitively. The game tends to be equalized by certain rules and court features, so less skilled players are not dominated by stronger players.”

Anrrich says a pickleball starter pack costs around $200-$300 (even cheaper if purchased used), and a court can be portable and set up quickly in many places.

As Anrrich says, “The pickleball culture is one of good sportsmanship and friendliness.” So grab a paddle and a ball and become a part of the phenomena that is pickleball.

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