Pickleball: Fastest Growing Sport Gains Ground in Northern Michigan

The key to getting regular exercise is finding something you love to do.

For some its dance, or cycling or something with a funnier name, Pickleball.

When we put the call out to learn what hobbies you hoped to learn this year, viewer Kendra Vandervelde chimed in saying she wanted to pick up the sport.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, according to the USA Pickleball Association.

And even in the dead of winter, you can find people filling the courts at the Cadillac Area YMCA.

9&10’s own Joe Buczek started three years ago, about the same time as Jay Simon.

Both were lifelong tennis players.

“It’s huge, we typically sometimes have 15 to 20 people waiting to get in a court play three courts across the basketball gym. Here we now started a competitive court too,” Joe says.

If you’re wondering what Pickleball is, maybe Jay can explain it.

“Playing Pickleball, it’s kind of a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong…it’s got some quirky rules but it’s very popular,” he says. “Then there’s’ this thing called the ‘no volley zone,’ or as its commonly known as ‘the kitchen.’ It’s a 7-foot area off the net…that’s what makes the game very unique, I think because the ball doesn’t bounce very high, it’s a little whiffle ball.”

Joe says at the end of the day it’s all about getting four people up to the net and volleying and making what they call the “ding shot” or the “short game.”

It’s not hard to understand, and anyone can learn to play.

“A good friend of mine never played any kind of racket sports ever, picked it up same time I did about three years ago and he’s won gold medals in singles and doubles in tournaments across the state, so if you’ve got any kind of athletic ability at all, you can get very good at it and if you don’t, it’s still a lot of fun,” Jay says.

While it is fast-paced, the badminton component comes with the size of the court. It’s a lot smaller.

That is part of the reason 75 percent of Pickleball players are 55 and older.

“For seniors, it’s great from a cognitive standpoint because your hand eye coordination, the ball comes quickly, but you don’t have to move as much, so there’s not as much running around it’s a lot easier on the joints,” Jay says. “But it’s still kind of fills that competitive Jones that a lot of people have even as we get older.”

But when you check out the demographics at the Cadillac YMCA, it’s a pretty diverse crowd.

“More often than not I’m the youngest player here on any given day, but they love having anyone come in,” Joe says.

All are welcome Monday Wednesday and Fridays. Players will show newbies the ropes at 9 a.m.

“It’s just kind of a drop in style,” Joe says. “Any skill level, you can come out and play, so don’t ever feel intimidated if you’ve never picked up a paddle before we will come and teach you.”

While there is certainly a competitive spirit, fun and friendship is what Pickleball is all about.

“Just coming here and playing with the locals is just a lot of fun, good people, I’ve never met a jerk in Pickleball,” Jay says.

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